Showing posts with label Independent Dreamcast Publisher. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Independent Dreamcast Publisher. Show all posts

Orc Face Games: New SEGA Dreamcast Indie Game Publisher from HarleQuest! Developer

The Kickstarter for Ross Kilgariff's 3D Dreamcast dungeon crawler HarleQuest! may have launched on April Fool's Day 2023, but it is quite clear from the community hype surrounding it that it is definitely no joke. Back in January, we asked Junkyard readers to tell us their most anticipated indie release as part of our Top 25 Dreamcast Indie Games poll, and HarleQuest! won out unanimously, receiving 80% of the total vote.

As the release of HarleQuest! draws closer, and our mitts frankly perspire at the prospect of getting a physical CD copy of the game in them, the universe (or rather, Ross!) has thrown us a curveball with regards to how the publishing of the game will now be handled.

Originally WAVE Game Studios were announced to be producing all the physical versions of HarleQuest!, but Ross has now chosen to self-publish the game through his brand new indie development and publishing studio, Orc Face Games. On Twitter, the brand new Orc Face Games account tweeted the following:

"Hi everyone! With the recent decision to self-publish HarleQuest! for the SEGA Dreamcast, we have started Orc Face Games - a new development and publishing studio! Stay tuned for a video announcement next week, along with the results of our recent Dreamcast indie game survey."

The survey that Ross is referring to in this tweet is one he put out at the beginning of the month, which asked a variety of questions that aimed to "gain a better understanding of the people who play independently made Dreamcast games in 2024". It's a great sign that Ross has looked to the community for feedback when setting up this new studio, and I'll be intrigued to find out what the consensus is from those who voted in the video he'll be putting out next week on his YouTube channel.

We reached out to Ross to get the scoop on everything Orc Face Games…

DCJY: Great to chat to you once again, Ross, and congratulations on the new venture! What can the Dreamcast community expect from Orc Face Games going forward?

Ross: As a publisher, our top priority is to build trust with developers. We live in the indie/homebrew community daily and want to do our part to help developers actually get things over the line into a polished physical release at a reasonable cost. A little down the road we will offer help with every aspect of development including funding, our 3D engine + tools, creative (art, music, sound, branding), porting... but for now we're looking to team up with developers who have an existing game or demo in the works and want to get the physical version made and into players' hands. In any case, if you're a developer at any stage, please reach out to us! We'd love to hear from you even if it's just for a chat!

That sounds great. Obviously HarleQuest! will be the first release from Orc Face Games, but do you have any plans for future titles that you can let us in on?

There is a concrete plan for what's happening after HarleQuest! and it involves a full 3D remake of an indie Megadrive/Genesis game for the Dreamcast. We know exactly what that's going to look like and it's going to be insane! After that, we will be starting a larger project again with a new IP which is still in the early stages, but it'll be bigger than HarleQuest! - that's all I'll say on that for now! As a developer, our focus is finishing HarleQuest! and making it the best game possible.

We’re certainly excited to get our hands on HarleQuest!. For those who missed the Kickstarter, where can they pre-order a copy? 

HarleQuest! pre-orders are now up on the Orc Face website for anyone who missed the Kickstarter! The site is still pretty simple but it works. We'll spruce it up a little before the HarleQuest! launch. In the meantime, you can visit [the Orc Face Games website] to pre-order the game in your preferred region style.

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I look forward to seeing Orc Face develop into the next big-deal Dreamcast indie publisher. With an experienced developer like Ross at the helm, passionate developers could really get the help they need to help get their games pushed out to the community at large. With that in mind, I wish Ross the best of luck with this new studio. You can follow both him and Orc Face on Twitter for updates.

Are you excited to see what the future holds for Orc Face Games? Let us know in the comments below, or on any of our usual social media hangouts.

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Review: Postal

For gamers of a certain age, Postal is a powerfully evocative title. Those who played it will not have easily forgotten their experience, and indeed, even those who haven’t played the game (myself included until recently) will likely recognise the name due to its notoriety. At its core this is because the entire raison d'être of Postal is to entertain its players through on-screen representations of unflinching gratuitous violence. Not violence in the context of a justifying purpose, or under circumstances that bear no semblance with reality, but remorseless mass shootings by a lone gunman.

Therefore, understandably, Postal will not be to everyone’s tastes. However, even those who find the game hard to stomach may have some appreciation for its developers who, whether intentionally or not, pushed back against those who sought (and still seek) to stifle the artistic freedom of game creators. Developed by Running With Scissors and originally released for PC and Mac in 1997, Postal arrived in the midst of ill-founded outrage directed towards video games by self-appointed moral arbiters and sensationalist sections of the media. Rather than focusing their ire on any of the other obvious causes of society's ills (say massive global inequalities, persistent unemployment, or chronically underfunded public services), the narrative being pushed by some was that video games were an exceptionally dangerous source of moral corruption. Within this context, Postal struck a defiant tone. 

A mere 25 years on, Postal has now finally made its way to the Dreamcast, thanks to the meticulous work of Dan Redfield, who took on the challenge of porting the game after Running With Scissors released the source code to the public in December 2016. When the original developers jokingly asked for a Dreamcast version to be produced, I seriously doubt that they expected this outcome: a near flawless port running at a solid 60 frames per second, packed with features, and published professionally in a physical medium. The latter aspect is down to Norwich-based WAVE Game Studios, an outfit who have quickly cemented their reputation within the Dreamcast scene since publishing their first title for the console, Senile Team’s Intrepid Izzy, in August 2021.

Ok, enough with the pretentious preamble, what about the game itself? For those unfamiliar with it, Postal is an isometric shooter, with a smattering of top-down sections, in which the player takes on the role of an unnamed protagonist (simply referred to as ‘Postal dude’). As alluded to above, the premise of the game is quite simple: you roam from level-to-level taking down as many enemy combatants as possible. And although it isn't a prerequisite for progress, the player is presented with ample opportunities to slaughter seemingly innocent civilians too. There really isn’t a great deal of plot: each stage is preceded by a cryptic and often foreboding message, presumably stemming from the pen of the main character, which along with the visuals suggests that Postal dude is gripped by some kind of madness. This lack of plot depth doesn’t necessarily detract from the game though—the no-nonsense approach is focused on dropping you straight into the action and keeping you on your toes at all times. This lends itself nicely to short bursts of gameplay, and the dry sense of humour that occasionally rears its head ensures that the mood isn't as depressing as the subject matter might suggest at first glance.

To facilitate your mission, Postal dude is equipped with a range of weapons with varying characteristics (range, damage, shot frequency), from the low-powered sub-machine gun, through to the more outlandish and spectacular napalm launcher. As with any shooter the aim is to hit your targets while avoiding taking damage. On the face of it, the gameplay of Postal can appear to be quite invariable and a little shallow. On the easier modes it can certainly be played in a mindless manner, with your character capable of tearing through stages while soaking up incoming fire to little effect. However, at its heart, the gameplay is rooted in strategic thinking – something which becomes mandatory if you wish to progress in the harder difficulty settings. Making careful use of terrain, being mindful of your inventory, and deciding when to fight and when to run, all need to be brought into play if you want to actually do well.


The Dreamcast commercial indie scene enters a 'Golden Age'

When Sega pulled the plug on the Dreamcast in 2001, few would have predicted that our beloved little white box would still be pushing out new titles 20 years later. Flicking through the pages of the multitude of gaming magazines that were vying for market share at the time, readers were presented with a journalistic consensus that the Dreamcast was well and truly dead (note: for younger members of the audience, magazines were bounded sheets of paper with writing and artwork printed on them).

Of course, by industry standards, this assessment was bang on the money. The gaming reporters may well have known that a trickle of official releases would continue to see the light of day for a few more years, or had an inkling that a sizeable portion of the Dreamcast’s enthusiastic fanbase would continue to support homebrew projects, some of which could conceivably be released in physical form on a small scale. In the terms of reference that mattered to the industry and the wider public though (revenue, profit, audience size), the writing had already been on the wall for some time.

Where it all began...

Although by these standards the Dreamcast's new releases are still undoubtedly small fry, the commercial Dreamcast indie scene has been through an astounding boom in recent years; one which is becoming hard to ignore. The tongue-in-cheek opinion shared amongst Dreamcast fanatics for many years that "the Dreamcast is a current gen console" is getting less and less absurd by the day. What began with the release of Cryptic Allusion’s Feet of Fury in 2003 (more info here) has snowballed to a point where 14 indie games were released in 2021. Furthermore, there are as many as 30 Dreamcast games forecast for release on a commercial basis in 2022 and beyond - a figure that is edging close to the 50 or so officially licenced releases seen in Europe in 2001, and which far outstrips the 9 released in 2002.

Of course, the rocketing quantity of releases doesn’t single-handedly uphold the claim that we’re in a “golden age” for the Dreamcast indie scene, but there are many other signs that accompany this trend. For one, the variety of games available is wider than ever, putting to rest the persistent trope that all the Dreamcast indie scene has to offer is shooters (which to be fair, had some validity in the mid to late noughties). Everything from platformers, fighters, puzzlers, RPGs, racers, and visual novels are finding a home on a professionally printed Dreamcast-compatible MIL-CD these days. Furthermore, there has been a diversification of contributors who are throwing their hats into the ring. Longstanding Dreamcast developers with a mountain of credibility stored up, such as Senile Team, are thankfully still here, but they have also been joined by a new wave of developers and publishers that are rapidly earning their stripes, including the likes of PixelHeart/JoshProd, LowTek Games, RetroSumus, The Bit Station, and WAVE Game Studios to name but a few.

What really adds weight to the hypothesis that the Dreamcast indie scene is entering a golden age though is the quality of many of the games - something which is undeniably more subjective and harder to pin down, but which will be recognised by many. Throughout the lifespan of the commercial Dreamcast indie scene there have always been standout titles, such as Wind & Water Puzzle Battles (2008) or Sturmwind (2013), which drew worthy praise at the time. Dreamcast enthusiasts would often wait in anticipation for years at a time for these gems; games that had clearly benefitted from the great care and attention to detail of their developers. Yet in 2020 and 2021 we were spoiled rotten with the release of three extraordinarily good titles in Intrepid Izzy, Xenocider and Xeno Crisis. These have all been extensively reviewed elsewhere too, so I won’t pour out my adoration here. Suffice it to say that they each set a high standard which others should be aiming for.

Three of the recent 'big' indie releases on Dreamcast

So, what exactly is driving this boom? Through the highly scientific method of poking around the internet, chatting with fellow devout Dreamcast fans, and mulling it over whilst munching on Hula Hoops, here's "what I reckon."

First and foremost, there is a longstanding healthy demand for commercial indie releases. Folks are willing to part with their cold hard cash for these games, and fundamentally that is what makes it viable for them to be released, especially in a physical format. Many indie games that see the light of day in a commercial form on the DC are undoubtedly labours of love and have had countless hours of voluntary or underpaid labour poured into them. Yet, however much these development costs can be kept in check, and no matter how much cheaper printing a CD is compared to producing another medium (such as a cartridge), it still requires funding, and so a reasonable level of demand is essential. 

Sales vary heavily from game to game, but it isn’t unusual to hear of indie Dreamcast releases selling over a thousand units, while those that sell well have the capability of reaching far beyond this over the course of their shelf life. For example, we know that Intrepid Izzy rapidly sold out its initial 700 copy print run within weeks of its release date, while the numbers shown on the PixelHeart website imply that a game such as Arcade Racing Legends has sold 2,500 copies of its PAL variation alone to-date. To put this into perspective, Radilgy, one of few final officially licensed Dreamcast games, was purported to have a print run of just 4,000 copies. When you add highly priced collectors’ editions into the mix - something that a section of the Dreamcast scene’s sizeable ‘adult-with-disposable-income’ demographic keenly buy into - then breaking even is a realistic, though not guaranteed, goal.

Arcade Racing Legends

On the other side of the coin, there are many factors that help facilitate the supply of games. Front and centre is the fact that Sega have thus far been very liberal (touch wood!) in their stance on the Dreamcast indie scene. Perhaps there is just no valid business rationale for them to dedicate resources to making things difficult (as opposed to genuine goodwill), but a laissez-faire attitude from multinational corporations under circumstances such as these is not always a given. Pair this with the Dreamcast’s capability to play games pressed to regular CDs without modification, and the relative ease of developing games for the console when compared to other platforms (often cited by developers in their DCJY interviews), and we have the foundations of the whole commercial indie scene.


WAVE Game Studios – an interview with the indie publisher keeping the Dream alive


WAVE Game Studios is a name you will be familiar with if you recently bought a copy of Senile Team's excellent Dreamcast platformer-cum-beat 'em up Intrepid Izzy, and has recently announced that they will also be publishing Yeah Yeah Beebiss II in Europe. The UK-based outfit has been busy establishing itself as the hottest new label in Dreamcast indie game publishing, and we thought it would be cool to catch up with WAVE as they start to make a splash in the community. Splash? Wave? See what I did there? I almost went for 'dipping a toe in' but pulled myself back from that particular cringeworthy literary cliff edge with mere keystrokes to spare.
Anyway, if you're not familiar with WAVE Game Studios, their history, and what they have planned for the future; hopefully you will be by the end of this interview. Furthermore, if you're an independent developer working on a Dreamcast game and you have dreams of putting your game in a physical case and into the GD-ROM drives of Dreamcasts the world over, then read on...


DCJY: Hi, thanks for agreeing to talk to us about WAVE Game Studios. Before we begin, can you give us little bit of background about who makes up the team?

WAVE Game Studios: It’s our pleasure! WAVE is primarily made up of two brothers, Daniel and Nick. We’re based in Norwich, Norfolk, UK.

Norfolk, known for Alan Partridge, mustard...and now WAVE Game Studios! So, when was WAVE Game Studios established and what was the reasoning being the creation of the label?

WAVE has a fairly long history, but the most recent incarnation stems back to 2015 which is when we started distributing games to UK based retailers. We really started to ramp up our efforts this year, which is when we began publishing games in addition to just distributing them.

That’s interesting – this might sound like a daft question, but what is the main difference between distributing and publishing a game?

It’s a very good question. The role of a publisher is to, in short, take a game and turn it into a saleable product. Usually the publisher will help with artwork, marketing, production, and various other tasks such as providing review copies to magazines and influencers.

The distributor, on the other hand, deals primarily with ensuring the product is available for sale in as many appropriate places as possible. In the indie games world, these two roles are often (but not always) filled by the same company or person.