Eureka! The brightest ideas in indie gaming

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Great ideas are exhilarating. When we have them, we turn them over and over in our heads like glassmakers folding molten silica, shaping our glowing gems. They stick to us. But then comes something agonizing: actually realizing them. Doubt and fear creep in. What if it doesn't work? Experimentation is risk.

Brave independent game developers have the freedom to take that risk, and we love when they do. After witnessing a magnificent indie showing earlier this month at PAX Prime, we gathered a list of the boldest new ideas being crafted by indie studios. Some of these games were new to us only weeks ago, while others have been forming for a while, but they're all built on ideas we're excited to talk about.

Among The Sleep

 

What is it? A first person horror game that takes helplessness to a new level
What’s the hook? You play as a two-year-old baby in a spooky, empty house and points beyond
Who’s making it? Krillbite Studio, out of Hamar, Norway

The latest trend in horror games is to go against the grain of the long-standing trope: kill all the bad guys to win. Offerings like Amnesia and Slender limit the player’s power to affect their environment, in some cases stripping it away almost completely, to create a sense of helplessness and leave you only with the option to flee and/or hide (and/or die horribly.) Among the Sleep takes this trend further by putting you in the shoes (well, booties) of a child so young, you couldn’t even defend yourself if you came across a .50 caliber machine gun. I can’t wait to be that baby. T.J.

URLwww.krillbite.com/atsETA When it’s done.

Antichamber

 

What is it? A deceptively simple first-person puzzle game
What’s the hook? The most tenacious, infuriating obstacle you’ll face throughout the game is yourself
Who’s making it? Alexander Bruce

An exit sealed by a clear, impermeable barrier. A chasm that’s impossible to jump. Stairs going up and going down but both leading back to where you began. Frustrated? That’s the first clue that Antichamber has caught you in a trap of your own design. It takes your assumptions about how the world works and turns them against you.

In order to navigate its warren of Möbius hallways and impossible spaces, you’ll need to disassemble your own logic and rely on experimentation and intuition--environments are left deliberately stark to remind you that the barriers are actually in your own head. Solutions are dazzlingly simple, and lead to bursts of exhilaration as Antichamber shows you over and over again how to defeat the most insidious enemy of all: the creature of habit. LD

URLwww.antichamber-game.comETA 2012

Cortex Command

 

What is it? A 2D sidescrolling shooter
What’s the hook? Metal Slug in a destructible sandbox with high-fidelity physics
Who’s making it? Data Realms, headed up by Dan Tabar

In the roughest way, Cortex Command is Terraria and Red Faction rolled up with the satisfying ballistics of Metal Slug. It has the most granular physics you’ll see in a 2D game - and part of the joy of playing it is delighting in the hilarious physical accidents that arise when rocket shuttles, grenade launchers, bipedal robots, and buried gold all share the same planet. The other layer of fun comes from the concrete bunkers you build yourself: nesting your control node (a brain in a jar) deep underground, then defending it with a team of droids you arm yourself feels like being the commander of a sci-fi ant farm. EL

URLdatarealms.comETA Launching soon on Steam

Clockwork Empires

 

What is it? A 3D steampunk city-builder
What’s the hook? Dwarf Fortress made modern, with hints of Lovecraft
Who’s making it? Gaslamp Games, the eccentric Canadian creators of Dungeons of Dredmor, our favorite indie game of 2011

Dwarf Fortress, wondrous and intricate as it is, has some inherent barriers to entry. A few games have attempted to modernize the ASCII classic with mixed success, but none arguably found a way to make DF user-friendly while still preserving its penchant for producing horrific, hilarious fail states (see: Boatmurdered).

There’s every sign that Clockwork will find this balance, partly by pursuing a more original steampunk context that DF’s spirit can comfortably inhabit. Lovecraftian horrors will crawl over Clockwork’s world: cultists, scientists-gone-mad, sea serpents, even Elder Gods themselves. Atop this, Gaslamp is contributing technically-impressive procedural building technology that’ll allow for personalized factories, cathedrals, dwellings, and other structures as your 18th-century colony churns on. Check out our recent preview for more. EL

URLwww.gaslampgames.comETA Q4 2013; “When it’s done”

On the next page: four-sided cowboys, asteroid chucking, and hull breaches...