A Gamedev You’ll Love: Cellar Door Games!

It’s that time again! I’m not used to blogging twice a week but it’s a nice reprieve from the daily grind, especially when preparing for writing involves playing lots of video games!

Cellar Door Games! Relative new kids on the serious indie game development block. Up-and-comers. Mavericks. Like that one undercover cop dude in the first Fast and Furious movie. Dangerous.

Their logo is... well...

Their logo is… well… a cellar door.

They’re a team of game makers who makes games. That’s about as maverick-y as they get. There are people who make interesting, innovative games that provide an immersive experience, and have a deep, psychologically powerful message to deliver to the receptive, if unwitting player.

Then there’s these guys. They make interesting, innovative games that basically are fun, addictive, well-made and entertaining as heck. Messages? Who needs ’em? Psychological impact? Yeah, maybe if you get hit in the head! There’s only so much you can say about the makers of a game called “Don’t Sh*t Your Pants.”

This is the only image I could find that doesn't involve some kind of poop. Be grateful.

This is the only image I could find that doesn’t involve some kind of poop. Be grateful I looked that hard.

As stupid as it may seem, the game is a great foray into the world of game development because it has three things: it’s unique, it’s simple, and it doesn’t take itself seriously. People think that their first successful game is going to be something powerful and awesome, that has a message (like The Company Of Myself, mentioned many times on my blog). However, you SUCK at game development! You don’t have an artist or 3d-modeler, you don’t have any large game development tools, and your programming ability is entirely based on surfing Stack Overflow and watching YouTube tutorials obviously made by people living in Slovakia or the Middle East. So what are your options?

Making a game about not shitting your pants seems to be pretty high on the list, given your skillset. And so, Cellar Door Games was born. Awesome.

Their next couple of games, I Have 1 Day and My First Quantum Translocator are awesome puzzle games that are, yes, both unique and simple, and still have that silly humor that makes these games so playable and fun. However, I should mention that the use of “Quantum” in this sense is totally bogus.

Always quote XKCD when you need to feel superior about something nerdy.

Always quote XKCD when you need to feel superior about something nerdy.

Next on their list came a game called Villainous, which, although cool, is really just a reverse Tower Defense game that failed to impress. It was a good game, it was a fun game, but it wasn’t totally awesome, epic, and entertaining like some of their other games. I know what you’re thinking: not pooping your pants isn’t awesome or epic. (Well, it’s pretty awesome if you consider the alternative.) But the good news is, their next game will blow your mind (and not using the previously mentioned “psychological impact” method).

Bullet Audyssey.

Bullet Audyssey, the most epic bullet hell since Touhou.

Bullet Audyssey, the most epic bullet hell since Touhou.

Dude, you spelled Odyssey wrong. NOPE! This game comes back swinging in an arena that Cellar Door games had been previously lacking: music. Of course this may have hit a soft spot for me (mayyyyyybe), but all in all it’s basically a frickin’ awesome game. I was surprised to hear that the reception of the game had been lukewarm, because it’s frankly a breath of fresh air in the bullet hell genre. With games like Frantic out there, I can’t decisively say that it really IS the most epic bullet hell game since Touhou, but it definitely carves out a nice little niche for itself in the genre, which is what many gamedevs try and fail to do in such well-established (and age-old) genres like bullet hell games.

The game is based on the idea that the bullets and the beats sync up together. This is a great idea for a couple of reasons: one, it gives a player a prediction of when the level will begin to get harder. Everyone can hear when the bass is going to drop, and gives the player a couple of juicy moments to think, “Uh-oh. Crap’s about to go down.” I love those moments. The second reason is that pumpy, bassy music drives players to a new level of concentration and immersion, and if it’s part of the game, the effect is doubled. A great game can be ruined by crappy music, but in this case the opposite is also true: you feel pumped up and ready to go because the music is getting you there.

That’s the concept! It’s a great concept with a lot of new stuff that makes the game original while still being easy to understand. Now let’s talk about execution. You can play the tutorial while the game is loading. That is a stroke of genius that I’ve rarely seen paralleled in flash game development. The “walk-to-select” menu of Quantum Translocator pales in comparison to the sheer brilliance of that idea. Good Guy Gamedev here. Most people, even in the upper echelons of flash game development suffice to have a silly little preloader where you get to jump on hamsters or something like that. This guy sets you up for a rockin’ game experience before the game’s even loaded. Sweet deal.

You gain bullet power by grazing (passing close to enemy bullets). Not a new idea, but implemented beautifully while adding a level of difficulty and intensity to the game. You’re constantly throwing yourself in danger’s way to get the power to vanquish said enemy. Classic good game design move.

You can replay levels to gain back lives you lost on those levels and get more experience. This is great because it lends replay value to the individual levels and gives you an incentive to better prepare yourself for the later levels (lasers, anyone?). Nothing really fancy about it, but it works seamlessly with the game design and makes the game both longer and more enjoyable for people of multiple play styles. I enjoy perfecting everything. Usually, however, the rewards for repeating a level are only worth it if you manage to beat it perfectly the 2nd time around, and even then, most of the time the only thing you get for your efforts is an essentially useless “gold medal.”

Good idea, good execution, good game design that was well implemented, a great difficulty curve and tutorial… what more could you ask for? I love this game.

For the coup de grace (and the reason I’m writing this blog NOW, instead of a year or two ago when Bullet Audyssey came out) is because they have a new game on sale: Rogue Legacy.

If this doesn't make you giggle nervously, I don't know what will.

If this doesn’t make you giggle nervously, I don’t know what will.

I’m not going to say TOO much about Rogue Legacy. It’s new! It’s a roguelike-lite that has a bunch of amazing elements that make it SUPER-DUPER-ÜBER-REPLAYABLE, and it’s extremely fun and tongue-in-cheek. It’s well-made, intuitive with its controls, mind-numbingly frustrating in points, epically awesome in others, and will have you so involved that you will alternate between smacking your head on your keyboard at your failures and shouting things like “Huzzah!” at your successes. It has enough variety in playstyles to keep even the most dedicated gamer on his or her toes, and will challenge your concept of action platforming in every way possible.

I. love. this. game.

The last thing I will say about this game must be explained: as you die, the dungeon is rewritten and you must start from the beginning again, with a new character that is one of your old character’s children. These children each have a character class and special characteristics that either will help your progress or hinder it (or do nothing at all except make fart noises occasionally when you jump). There is one characteristic called “Gay: you are a fan of the man.” Do you know what it does?

Absolutely nothing.

In so many words, these gamedevs have made a powerful statement. It’s awesome in its subtlety as well, because ALL other characteristics do something noticeable. In the end, after your third or fourth gay character, you scratch your head and begin wondering, “Okay, what exactly is different about the gay characters??” Then, on your 7th or 8th gay character, you realize, “Oh, the gay characters AREN’T any different from the straight ones.” And about ten seconds later, it hits you that this may just be true in real life, too.

You have a brilliant game, made in the style I’ve come to expect from Cellar Door games, with the beautiful gameplay elements, good music, excellent humor… and you throw in a real message, something that you have never really seen in a game of theirs before? I honestly don’t know if the standard for this team can get any higher. Buy this game, play this game. It will be money extremely well-spent, because you’re not simply paying for a product, you are supporting one of the brightest futures in game development I’ve ever seen.

See you next week 🙂

~AG

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About Isaac Smith

I write about music, technology, video games, and probably many other subjects that don't bear mentioning here. Either way, most of it's worth reading, and you may even enjoy yourself!

Posted on August 12, 2013, in Miscellaneous and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I picked up Rogue Legacy during the Steam summer sale and (sadly) have yet to play it. I really want to, I’ve seen people playing it, but just have yet to find the time.

    Great blog, keep it up.

    PS, love your background.

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