Developer Appreciation Week – Adventurepro Games LLC (Dungeonmans)

I want to get this out of the way. I do not own Dungeonmans, I’ve never played it, and I’ve never even watch streams or game play videos. All I know about it is what it on the Steam store page, and as far as I know Adventurepro Games LLC has not put out any other games.

So if you’re wondering why I’m giving this developer a shout out, well, that’s only natural. Although I appreciate a well-made game as much as any gamer, there’s something I appreciate more, and that’s bringing gamers together to do good.

The reason I appreciate Adveturepro Games LLC is their work on Hunger Clock.

For the past three Novembers, Adventurepro Games LLC has facilitated a charity drive in which gamers can do a real life quest to donate a bag of food (around a $10 donation) to a family in need via a local grocery store, and be rewarded with a key for one of several rogue-like games donated by their respective developers.

Other than on the page itself, and on a few Reddit threads posted while it was going on, the event didn’t seem to get a whole lot of attention. In spite of that, they keep going every year, sending rogue-like lovers on a quest to make the world a better place, one brown bag at a time.

Developer Appreciation Week – Soldak Entertainment (Din’s Curse)

I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of respect for people that don’t seem to care what anyone thinks of them. They are proudly and unabashedly who they are, and you can just tell they’re absolutely satisfied with living their life.

I feel like Soldak Entertainment is the developer version of those people.

Although Soldak Entertainment wasn’t formed until 2004, their website reminds me of late 80s RPG games. In a time where there are a lot of titles released with more attention given to how the game looks and sounds than to how it plays, it’s rather refreshing to see a developer not give a hoot about graphics or sound design and just focus on making a damn good game. In fact, they are so confident that they’re putting out good games, they release demos of every single one of their titles.

Zombasite is the most recent game released by Soldak Entertainment, and if it weren’t for the date in small text on the bottom, you’d probably never come close to guessing this was a 2016 release.

Although I own four of their games and associated expansions (some I’ve even purchased twice!), I’ve spent the most time with Din’s Curse – a very simple ARPG as far as story is concerned. Where it isn’t simple is in the breadth of game play options, class systems, and a procedurally generated living world. There is always something important to do – and if you wait too long, you may find someone else has taken out that big bad before you bothered to show up.

Although the actual core game play is textbook ARPG, there is so much going on, and so much depth to the class systems that it really feels like an endlessly replayable game. Multiple difficulty levels and a plethora of options that can be applied to make things even more challenging means that players of any skill or experience can find a combination that works for them. There’s so much here to enjoy, even if it’s dressed in virtual rags.

With five games under their belt, and their newest title Din’s Legacy releasing out of Early Access later this month, it doesn’t look like they’ll be changing their style anytime soon, and for that, I salute them.

Developer Appreciation Week – Howling Moon Software (Verdant Skies)

I’ll be really surprised if someone doesn’t take this opportunity to give some love to Concerned Ape, developer of Stardew Valley. That game may very well be solely responsible for the PC revival of agriculturally focused life sims. It’s a game I personally enjoyed very much, not having had any experience with the genre previously, and inspired me to seek out other titles in the same vein.

I purchased Verdant Skies during the 2018 Steam winter sale pretty much on a whim, and it was one of the rare games that I installed and started playing right away. I loved the idea of a futuristic, science-focused take on the genre, and I was intrigued to see where it would take me.

Now, I read the description, but let’s be honest, diverse is a buzzword that very often means very little. However, when Howling Moon Software says that Verdant Skies features a diverse cast of characters, they mean it.

While someone more cynical than I could claim they built the characters by checking off diversity boxes one after another, I was impressed not only by the racial diversity, but the diversity in gender and sexuality, and the backstories which dealt with issues of self rarely seen in gaming.

It may not seem like much, but I feel that making a game like Verdant Skies in the post-#GamerGate culture is an act of bravery, and a commitment to the team staying true to their inclusionistic ideals. It makes me a little sad that I have heard so very little about this game – that it hasn’t seemed to attract a strong and vocal fan base, because although the game itself isn’t perfect, there is so much about it that is absolutely vital in today’s gaming landscape.

Whatever Howling Moon Software comes up with next, as long as they are staying true to themselves, it’ll be a day one, full price purchase for me. I want to support them in their vision, and I want all gamers to feel represented in what they’re playing.

Developer Appreciation Week – Tiny Speck (Glitch)

I have been blatantly ignoring all the #Blaugust2019 content suggestions thusfar, but I am so here for developer appreciation week.

Developer Appreciation Week – August 18th – August 24th: This one is specifically targeted at the gamers among us, but could be re-purposed to talk about any industry. The idea is to give appreciation for some of the folks who have created the things that you love. In the past we specifically talked about publishers and game studios that create the games that we are enthralled by, but it could be authors or artists or anyone who creates something that you love. It is a good time to give some thanks.

Belghast – Tales of the Aggronaut

I probably could have done a full month of entries appreciating all the great quirky developers who have come and gone, but I really feel like I need to start with a game, and a developer, that is no more.

Although the folks at Tiny Speck have gone on to do pretty great things (like creating Slack), I firmly believe that Glitch was probably the very best thing they ever did.

Glitch was a browser-based MMO with a focus on cooperation that ran (mostly in alpha and beta) from 2009 – 2012. Sadly, I didn’t discover it until April of 2011, but for a year and a half, Glitch was absolutely and completely a home for me.

Just a few months later, I was invited to be a player-representative, known as a Greeter, for Glitch, and I jumped at the chance. Rather than a traditional tutorial, Glitch had an experienced player pop into an instanced starter world to show new players the basics.

I spent countless hours happily gathering, growing crops, and petting pigs (which I may or may not have frequently named with porcine puns on rap names, like Piggy Smalls and Ham Master J). I worked on so many projects with huge groups of other folks, trading resources, and working towards common goals. I studied skills, and worked towards achievements, and made so many friends.

My Glitch Profile still exists after all this time.

Sadly, Glitch closed in December of 2012. Normally, that would be the end of the story – online games have a habit of just vanishing. But what Tiny Speck did after the closure of Glitch is what really impressed me.

Glitch is Dead, Long Live Glitch
Art & Code from the Game Released into the Public Domain

Instead of just tossing all the work they put into the game, they released a huge portion of it into the public domain. It encouraged fan projects like Children of Ur, Eleven, and Odd Giants. Although none are playable at the moment, I choose to believe that Ur, the world of Glitch, is not gone, but just sleeping, and I am hopeful that the generosity of Tiny Speck will allow me to someday visit the fantastic world they created again.