Let’s take a look at … – Plantera

Clicker games are a polarising genre. While some enjoy the mindless grinding and levelling up, checking back every few hours to see how things are going, others just don’t see the point and consider them nothing more than a spectacular waste of time. While I agree they’re a waste of time, I still fall firmly into the first camp having dedicated 260+ hours to them in total. I love a good clicker game, and VaragtP, created of other clicker titles such as Tap Heroes and Loot Hero DX, is back with a third. Let’s take a look at Plantera.

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Plantera is a clicker game that revolves around the growing of a garden. You start with a small patch of land and have at your disposal a range of different plants and animals that will generate money as they come to fruition. From apple trees to pumpkin patches, and chickens to cows, there’s a number of items that can be added, 16 to be exact, to your garden to generate cash.

It’s not all plain sailing, however, and there a number of animals out to get your hard-grown produce. Wolves will wander into the garden that needs dealing with, and crows swoop down and grab what fruit they can. It’s a fun little clicker that doesn’t require much in the way of strategy or maintenance but allows you to simply sit back, turn your brain off, and appreciate your whimsical little garden world for 15 minutes.

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There are three types of plants available; crops, bushes, and trees, and you can have one of each on every patch of land that you own. As the produce from your plants and animals matures, you can either click it yourself to harvest it or leave it for the workers that you have pottering around your garden. There are 12 plants in total, 4 of each type, and each time you place one the cost for another goes up quite sharply.

There are also 4 animals, each offering different incomes. You’ll start with the humble chicken, producing eggs every now and again, but work your way to purchasing a cow, and then you’re in the money from its milk!

You start with a small area of land, and the number of plants and animals you can have are tied to this. For example, if you have 5 patches of land then you can plant 5 trees and have 7 animals (I made these numbers up, but they’re close). With enough cash, you can expand your land upping this limit, allowing you to purchase more plants and animals. Buy plants and animals, farm them, upgrade them, buy more land … rinse and repeat.

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Plantera will continue generating cash even when you’re not playing, but not in traditional clicker style. There is an ability called ‘Alarm Clock’ that increases the amount of time that your workers will work when away from the game. I can only presume that without levelling this up if you left your game off all night, your workers wouldn’t do anything!

It’s very click intensive if you want to harvest your plants manually. One click will remove them from the tree although they do drop naturally with enough time, and a second click harvests it. I’ve been playing this at my office, and I’m almost certain those around me are fed-up with hearing me frantically clicking my mouse and I gather apples!

In terms of progression, the game so far has scaled quite well, although I do foresee some of the later achievements been a bit of a grind. There is an achievement for getting to level 100, and an achievement for having 100 of each plant type. Things are slowing down now and the grinding has started. These could take a while …

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Plantera looks great. It’s got a very casual, cute, and relaxing pixel aesthetic. The animals are adorable, and the fruit and plants are colourful and playful. It looks great when your garden builds up. The music as well … man, I love a nice relaxing soundtrack and Plantera’s music is awesome. Everything that the aesthetics convey the music mirrors perfectly.

I have no real qualms with anything to do with it’s aesthetic, the menus feel a little under polished compared to the in-game aesthetic I feel, but it’s not a problem. The game has toggleable fullscreen, a number of language options, and cloud saving, which is great. The only thing that’s missing is a volume slider. The game features only on/off toggles for music and SFX, which wouldn’t be too bad but the game music is crazy loud! Earphone users beware the first time you launch the game, although I’m sure this will be fixed shortly in a patch.

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Overall, and bearing in mind I’m already a fan of the genre, Plantera is a great little time sink. It has the staple mechanics of a clicker game, and the graphics and music bring a sense of whimsy where you can turn off and relax in your garden for a while. There isn’t a tonne of items available, and mechanics are simple, but for the £1.99/$2.99 that’s been asked you’ll certainly get your monies worth.

Tl:dr – Plantera is a fun little clicker that will let you turn your brain off for 15 minutes and enjoy the charm of your pixelated garden. With a small selection of plants and animals, mechanics are simple, but for £1.99/$2.99 it’s more than enough to get your monies worth if you’re into the genre. If you’re not, then this probably won’t be the title that changes that opinion.

Rating – 8/10

Purchase – Steam £1.99/$2.99

Trailer –

Indie Showcase … – Super Axe Boy

Super Axe Boy is a platformer from independent developer Matthias Falk. Featuring a mix of 2D and 3D gameplay, Matt hopes to bring something unique to the genre with Super Axe Boy, and has turned to Kickstarter to make it happen. Looking for €25,000, and with stretch goals extending to €60,000, the campaign has reached 20% of its goal with 22 days left.

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Super Axe Boy sees you play as Axe boy, a humble lumberjack. One day however the Earth is invaded by Beaverians … a race of sneaky alien beavers, hell bent on building an intergalactic burger franchise … I appreciate a weird and quirky story as much as the next gamer, I just hope it’s presented in the correct manner and isn’t just there to retroactively add some kind of forced meaning to the platforming.

Speaking of platforming, one of the most unique feature of Super Axe Boy is the mix between 2D and 3D gameplay. The following is taken from the games press page:

“Levels will switch back and forth between 2D sections (emphasis on: precision, timing, fast movement, countdown sections) and 3D sections (emphasis on: sense of freedom / branching-off level paths, exploration, puzzle solving, cinematic sequences).”

The game is also promising a huge variety in gameplay, a retro chiptune soundtrack, and a nice low-poly aesthetic. Check out the games Kickstarter video to see this in action!

Here’s the full feature list from the press page:

Features

  • Unique mix of 2D and 3D gameplay
  • Cool indie/chiptune soundtrack
  • Huge gameplay variety
  • Fresh axe chopping mechanics
  • Unique graphical aesthetic
  • A silly story (but hey, still a story)
  • Memorable characters

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There’s not much to view of Super Axe Boy yet, but fans of platformers might want to stick it on your watch list! If you want to support the project then head on over to Kickstarter! If you want to learn more about the game head to its official site here!

Let’s take a look at … – Razenroth

Razenroth is a top-down shooter with a bunch of roguelike and RPG elements thrown into the mix. Perma-death, random levels and a multitude of enemies will put you to the test as you try and find out what happened to your missing grandad. Developed by Enitvare and released on Steam late August, the title offers a lot for a low price of £3.99/$4.99. Let’s take a look.

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Razenroth starts with an opening narrated-slideshow that gives context to the journey that you’re about to undertake. Your grandfather mysteriously went missing and whilst looking through his old notes you stumble across something interesting. You find the name ‘The valley of Whispters’, and identify it as a possible location of your grandfather so you head off in search of him. Deep in the woods you find a wooden cabin with a single note that reads ‘Run Charles’ and your journey begins.

The intro does a good job of introducing the game, but I can’t help shake the amateur feeling it gives off. The writing isn’t bad, but has some awkwardly worded sentences. The art is also not too bad, but again gives of an amateur vibe. Since it’s the first you see of the game I think it would have benefit from some TLC, and more production value would go a long way here.

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Once the opening cutscenes ends you get right into gameplay. You start in what appears to be the abandoned cabin in the middle of the woods from the opening cinematic. There’s no introduction to your surroundings, and no hints as to what you should be doing. It’s up to you get stuck in and work it out for yourself which I liked. Razenroth is a top-down shooter, so the mouse is used to aim and rotate your character, the arrow keys are used to move, and the left and right mouse buttons use the magical abilities that you seem to have gained from a book in the intro.

The controls are somewhat floaty, and I’m not sure if I’m a fan of it or I simply go used to it. You character carries inertia, so if you run in one direction and release the key you’ll carry on moving for a little while. It felt a little like walking on ice the whole time.

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Though the graphics are in the same style as those in the intro, the in-game graphics feel to be of much higher quality and the game looks quite nice with its hand-drawn aesthetic. Killing enemies produces some cool blood effects, and likewise the use of your abilities creates nice light effects. One area that could have used more work is the UI. Same reasoning’s as my comments regarding the opening cutscenes, it just felt underwhelming in places.

The meat of gameplay is exploring the procedural woods you find yourself lost in, finding and killing everything to gain loot, and finding the various items and destructible spread throughout the map. As you kill monsters you gain EXP, and each level up provides you a skill point to increate one of your characters stats and buy abilities. This is where the RPG features lie. You can kit your character out in the gear you find through your travels, level up certain skills to suit you play style, and purchase different abilities to make yourself a more formidable force.

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Spread amongst the normal enemies are tougher enemies that have a skull above their head. While tougher, the rewards are much greater as they drop gear. Alongside these tougher enemies are also fully-fledged boss creates. These are accessed via finding their portal in you level. Step inside it and you’re whisked off to another area to have a one-on-one showdown! It was at this point that I learned that Razenroth features perma-death!

There is also no manual save, and the game will only auto-save each time you beat a boss character. Once you die that save is removed and you’re back to start at the beginning! If you do manage to defeat the boss you’re taken to an entirely new area, with a different environmental theme and aesthetic and your journey stars once more.

Razenroth started slowly for me, and it took a few runs to get into it, but once I did I really started to enjoy it. The only area in which I felt let it was production value, and it would benefit from some more overall polish. Maybe it’s just the hard-drawn aesthetic that gives me that impression? The game is also priced very fairly at just £3.99/$4.99 so is a great cheap pickup.

Tl:dr – Razenroth is a top-down shooter with rogue-like and RPG elements thrown into the mix. While slow to get going, after a few runs I found my stride and enjoyed my time. With repetitive gameplay, I’m not sure how long it would hold interest for, but for £3.99/$4.99 you’re sure to get your value out of it.

Rating – 7/10

Purchase – Steam £3.99/$4.99

Trailer –

Indie Showcase … – Industry Giant 2

Originally released back in 2002 by JoWood Entertainment, Industry Giant 2 is a well-loved business sim. Well, thanks to developers Fancy Bytes and Reactor, and publishers UIG Entertainment, the title has been re-vamped and re-released on Steam with a host of new features!

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Industry Giant 2 is a business sim with a focus on economics and produce. The goal is to build your empire in its entirety, starting with raw production and ending with your goods in stores. As ever the economy is a fickle mistress, and there will be economic booms, stock market crashes, oil crises and more that will need to be overcome in order to succeed.

The game begins in the year 1900, you have little money but big ambition. It’s up to access the markets, decide which products are most profitable. Where they should be grown? Where should they be sold? It’s all up to you, and with over 150 products at your fingertips the possibilities are vast!

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IG2 has a number of game modes available including a set of comprehensive tutorials, campaign mode with a selection of pre-defined scenarios, and endless mode where the goal is to create the biggest empire you can. I jumped into campaign mode to give it a go and immediately failed. I spend all my money on farms and storage, without leaving enough money to set up the rest of the supply chain!

One of the most charming things about IG2 is also one of the things that may turn off newer players: the game is very much from 2002. While the Steam page states it now supports HD resolution, don’t expect updated graphics or UI design. It feels very much like OpenTTD, and while that may appeal to gamers familiar with the original, for newer gamers it may feel outdated when used to sims that haver newer, more intuitive interfaces.

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If you’re into your business sims, especially the older ones, you should check IG2 out on Steam. The updated version brings everything was players loved about the original along with:

  • Full HD resolution
  • Steam Achievements
  • Steam Cloud Save

The rating are almost unanimously good, with an average of 7/10 across most sites. A great blast from the past! Here’s the trailer!

Let’s take a look at … – Guns, Gore & Cannoli (XBONE)

Earlier this year we covered the title Guns, Gore and Cannoli; an action-packed 2D run ‘n gun featuring a mobster working his way through the zombie apocalypse. You can read that article here. Well, that was on PC, and it’s now released on XBONE and we were lucky enough to get a review code to see if the console version matches that of its PC counterpart. Let’s take a look .. again!

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Starting with performance, the game runs great. It’s certainly not a last-minute dash to get to another platform. It’s clear time and effort has gone into making the game run soundly on whatever platform you choose. The game suits a gamepad incredibly well, with tight, self-intuitive controls. In Heather’s article she mentioned she has trouble with the controls, sometimes hitting wrong buttons; I had no such issues!

The quality of the art and other resources is on point also. There’s no scaling or compromise in quality; the game looks and feels just as crisp as the PC version. I did experience some loading times higher than I would have expected. Not huge, but enough for it to catch my attention, but it’s hardly a problem. The content is well worth the extra few seconds loading. Maybe it’s because I’m used to gaming on a PC!

Best of all, the game is priced fairly. The title is currently £6.99 on Steam, so I was expecting a price tag of ~£10 for console, but it’s only £7.99. A really nice pickup price for the XBONE. To be honest, mine has sat unused in the corner for the most of the time I’ve had it as I can’t justify paying 2x more for a game than I would do on Steam. It’s awesome that this isn’t the case with Guns, Gore & Cannoli and it’s given me a reason to keep my XBONE out for a while!

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I’d like to just share few thoughts on my own experience with game. A cinematic brings the game to a start, introducing Vinnie, a mobster on a mission to capture someone. Sleeping on a boat he learns that the world has been overrun by zombies. Naturally, been a mobster and all, he’s well kitted out and does not deviate from his macabre task. From here on you work your way through a multitude of environments, collecting new and exciting weapons as you progress, and meeting new enemies to test you.

One thing that I really liked was the difficulty. The game looks great, has a really funny story, and as such I was expecting something much more casual that what it is. The game puts up a fight, and if you don’t stay on your mobster toes it will punish you. Everything Heather said in her original article about the title I can 100% corroborate, and it is well worth the 9.5 we gave it originally. I’m not that far in, and already I’ve fought across a boat, a dockyard, a town, and met a wide range of interesting enemies!

A zombie football player that knocks you on your ass every opportunity he gets. A pinup zombie resembling Marilyn Monroe that likes to jump about, and another female zombie that can’t stop burping out some horrible green gas! I’ve also met a couple of NPC characters, all of which are funny and interesting dialogue with Vinnie. The game is lots of fun, plays great, looks great and sounds great, and it arrives on XBONE as strongly as it hit PC.

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Tl:dr – Guns, Gore & Cannoli is now available on a number of game consoles and it’s no shoddy port. It’s clear the Crazy Monkey put time and effort into ensuring quality across the board, and the XBONE version is just as good as its PC counterpart. At £7.99 (or your regional equivalent) there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have this title on your XBOX. Get it downloaded!

Rating – 9.5 (again!)

Purchase – XBONE £7.99 or your regional equivalent | PC/Steam £6.99/$9.99

Trailer –

Let’s talk about … – Sol Trader is back on Kickstarter

Earlier in the year we covered Sol Trader, an in-depth space sim from Chris Parsons. If you missed that article you can check it out here. After the first Kickstart fell short of its target, raising £9,251/£20,000, Sol Trader is back with a second Kickstarter campaign, this time only looking for half the original goal, £10,000.

We had a quick play of Sol Trader when the first Kickstarter launched, and one of the things we loved was the depth of gameplay and the social aspects of gameplay: it seems we weren’t alone. After feedback from both players and industry, gameplay has been re-written to place even greater emphasis on these features. There’s also been lots of work put into the graphics, so the game is prettier than ever.

To coincide with the new Kickstarter, a fresh demo is available showing the current state of the game. Bear in mind, some features promised in the Kickstarter are not yet available.

Here’s a full feature list taken from the Kickstarter page:

  • Single-player combination of arcade 2D spaceflight and strategic manipulation of your network of contacts
  • Run missions using your family and friends’ connections to government or business
  • No ship given to you at game start: you must take a loan and hire a ship, or borrow one from a wealthy relative
  • Fly between planets, interacting with the various characters you come across in cities and in space
  • Research information on other characters through chatting to friends and relatives
  • Customise your ship with lasers, passenger quarters, shields, bolt weapons, missiles and scanners (coming soon)
  • Blackmail others with the information you find, or sell it to the press (coming soon)
  • Trade goods for profit
  • Procedural generation of a whole society of thousands of random characters
  • Start every new game from your character’s birth
  • Choose your parents and all your major life choices as you grow up
  • Your choices determine your personality and your friends, relatives and enemies
  • Full modding support: change all the organisations, events, weapons, planets, ships, conversations and tutorial system.
  • Windows, Mac and Linux at launch
  • Already greenlit on Steam

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We liked what we played of Sol Trader, and will be picking up the new demo soon! It was also Greenlit earlier this year, so there’s certainly the audience, it just needs a little help getting across the finish line. Head to the Kickstarter to show your support, or visit the official website for more information on the game.

Let’s talk about … – Skara, multiplayer hack ‘em up, going F2P

Skara: The Blade Remains is a multiplayer hack ‘em up currently in Early Access on Steam. Released back in October 2014, the title was received to ‘Mixed’ reviews, and is now preparing to move to a completely F2P model.

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Sales of Early Access on Steam will close by September 30th, moving Skara to a new, invite-only model until early 2016 when it moves completely to a F2P model. 8-Bit, the studio behind the title, have assured players that have bought into Early Access that they will continue to be able to play the game. This also extends to people who supported the game on Kickstarter and Greenlight.

“Of course, anyone who already owns Skara will get to keep playing it!” commented Pablo Rodriguez, Skara’s Creative Director. “We wanted to make sure ‘limited edition’ actually means something: Exclusive access to the game’s development while we finish testing, the rewards we detailed in the packages, and eventually their money back in virtual currency upon the game’s full F2P release.”

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8-Bit keep pushing with content updates as it nears it’s new, free model, and have this week released a new build featuring a tutorial, new combat features, refined UI and a player ranking system. A list of full features in the 0.5.4 version is as follows:

  • A new playable tutorial (including a new environment: The Khilma dungeons).
  • Power up items in the arenas (specifically health power ups and damage buffs).
  • Try all three characters without leveling up! This is something a lot of our users requested and we were very happy to change.
  • Class skills are now attached to different buttons (Q&E on the keyboard, X and Y on Xbox controller)
  • The Melee combat is faster now, the Hit stun is reduced. Also the free target mode has been modified to allow characters to dodge without losing focus on the target.
  • Rankings! Who will be the best? Find it in the War Log in the UI.
  • We also changed the Duel Game conditions to make it feel more like a Versus fighting game.
  • We’ve worked on the animations for all characters to make them more realistic and more spectacular. Characters should blend to sprint mode now and a lot of other features: Check them out!
  • New in-game HUD: Now you can check your enemy’s shield meter as well as the skills they’ve equipped. There’s also a new effort meter when sprinting.
  • Bug and crash fixing to make the game more stable. Please as usual send us feedback if something isn’t working by either writing in the forums, sending us an email, or filling out a bug report.

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If you’re interested in playing Skara you can sign up for an invite to the new build here. Either that, or wait until it releases as F2P early next year! If you just can’t wait, the Early Access build of Skara is still available on Steam.

Here’s the trailer for the latest version!

Let’s take a look at … – Game Corp DX

Game Corp DX is a causal business simulator from Endless Loop Studios about running a game studio. After the successes of an original flash version, that to-date has over 5 million plays, Game Corp DX is a full rebuild with full screen support, faster performance, steam integration, and a boat-load of polish. Let’s take a look.

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Game Corp DX starts with a tutorial covering the game’s mechanics, though there’s really not that much too it! You have a game studio under your control, and it’s your task to make as much money and games as you can. If you’ve played Game Dev Tycoon, Game Corp DX is like a much simplified version.

You can hire staff, fire staff, train them up, plan multiple projects and create the best games possible. Each game you create has a star rating assigned that is determined by the skill of your workers. As they build games their skills increase and so does the quality of the games created, and the revenue returned.

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Each worker can also specialise in a certain area of development: Art, Sound, Code and Writing. Each skill has multiple levels, and the higher the level of the skill, the better software that employee can use, netting a better start rating for the title. Be careful though! As your employees gain levels and skill their wages increase! I spent all my money upgrading their skills, ready to make the most badass game possible, then all their wages shot up and I went bankrupt. Lesson learned.

There are a few ways in which the games you make can be customized. For one, you build games based around a team size. For example, a micro game requires only 2 staff, and is cheaper to produce, while a medium game required 10, is more expensive, but will get a much higher rating! There are also a number of pre-set game types to choose from, with each having a varying emphasis on the different design stats, so choosing the right employees for the job drastically changes the score your game will get. Each game is given a star rating, and the higher the rating, the more money the game will make!

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Aside from control over what games you make, you have control over the space in which you work. Walls can be knocked down and re-built to build your office how you like, decorations and equipment can be purchased, along with necessities such as fridges and water coolers. The employees in the studio react to your environment, so the nicer it the better they work.

Game Corp DX definitely feels ‘flashy’, with the aesthetic being inherited from its flash-based predecessor. The music and sound effects are nothing to write home about either, and blend into the game nicely. All-in-all it’s a fun, little, casual business sim. It’s not bogged down in numbers, and you just get on with it. The downside of this is that it doesn’t offer much depth. You make games, increase your skill, and make better games. Rinse and repeat.

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Tl:dr – For £1.99 Game Corp DX offers a fun few hours for those looking for a casual sim experience. Don’t go into it expecting deep mechanics and you won’t be disappointed. Its aesthetic throws back to its flash predecessor, but with the addition of full screen support, trading cards, and lots of polish, the £1.99 for the updated Steam version is worth it in my book!

Rating – 7/10

Purchase – Steam £1.99/£2.99

Trailer –

Let’s talk about … – Socuwan looks to Kickstarter for funding

Socuwan is an Indie MMORPG currently in development by Karl Wimble. The title has been in development for over three years, and is written using a custom game engine created using Java and Open GL. Promising ‘a slightly quirky and refreshing twist on your usual, run-of-the-mill MMO’, Socuwan is now on Kickstarter looking to fund the rest of development.

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Socuwan is touted as being by the community, for the community: that’s certainly the case. Over the last two years of development, the community have provided around three quarters of the game content, including models, animations, textures, sound effects and music.

This community orientation carries itself through to gameplay, with a cooperative killing system and worwide duelling tournaments. Playing together will be rewarded, aiming to thwart the typical MMORPG process of finding a quiet area to grind.

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You can find more about the game on its website, and here is a breakdown of some gameplay highlights:

  • Worldwide duelling tournaments
  • Co-operative skilling system
  • Player owned houses in the game world
  • No grinding
  • Unique combat system
  • Thousands of weapon combinations
  • A diverse and unique looking world which is created by the community

If you like the look of Socuwan, then be sure to head by the Kickstarter campaign. With 18 days to go, the campaign has reached 12% of its goal so could use some love! The developer also has a long-running YouTube series document the development process, so check that out here if you’re interested. I’ll leave you with the kickstarter video for the title so you can get a better idea as to what Socuwan really is!

Lets’ talk about … – Zealous make open call to indie game developers

Zealous, a platform for matching talented creatives with clients is making an open call to all Indie Developers for an up-coming event in January 2016. The huge event will host 100 artists, 55 speakers, and take place over 10 days.

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The invitation has been extended to indie game developers, CG artists, character designers and much more. Submissions are open unitl 30th September, so head here to apply! The event is designed to showcase the most exciting UK based creative talents alongside industry talks, exhibitions, workshops, filmmaking, gaming, demonstrations, get-togethers and gigs. If you’re a creative based in the UK you’ll want to check it out!

Here’s a feature-list of what can be expected from the event:

  • It’s free to participate and 51% of all tickets sold will go to the creative talents selected to showcase their work at Zealous X
  • An independent panel of exciting judges (full list to be announced soon) will be selecting the best 15 creative talents in each discipline to be showcased at Zealous X
  • Build lasting and valuable relationships across the creative sector • Selected works will be showcased on a curated exhibition at the Rich Mix
  • A day dedicated to short films and story telling
  • A day dedicated to interactive and gaming • 15 gigs across the festival
  • 15 performances across the festival, including cabaret, dance and spoken word
  • Promotion on Zealous’s online channels

It will be great to have so many different creatives under one roof, and showcasing their talents side-by-side. Creative project can be submitted at http://x.zealous.co/be-showcased/.