Friday, January 31, 2014

NinjaBee 2014: Busy as Bees

We love making Kelfing games. We’ve been improving and expanding A World of Keflings since we released it in December, 2010. In that time, we’ve added three great DLC campaigns, brought AWOK to Windows 8 and even given the game away as part of Microsoft’s Games with Gold promotion. In the next couple of months, A World of Keflings will make the jump to Wii U. Even now, brave Kefling explorers are sailing toward the famed land of “Nintendo”, where the mighty and legendary Miis are said to rule.

After our diminutive settlers have finished colonizing the Wii U, it is time for NinjaBee to tackle new projects. Awesome things are on the horizon. This doesn’t mean we are giving up Keflings. It just means that our next title isn’t going to be A World of Keflings 2: Kefling Boogaloo. At about the same time A World of Keflings becomes available on the Wii U, our fast-paced acorn chaser, Nutjitsu, will be released on a new platform. To give you a hint, it will be our first time releasing on the target device. We are so close to being able to tell you which one. We will announce it to everyone as soon as the ink dries on those contracts.

As awesome as all that is, we have even more up our sleeves. You see, we haven’t been resting on our tiny Keflings laurels this whole time (they aren’t terribly comfortable, for one). NinjaBee is more than Keflings. We are constantly creating, critiquing, refining, reimagining, discarding and revisiting ideas. You have no idea how many wacky, wonderful concepts we toss around this studio. We have enough pitches and concept art to build a wobbly paper tower to the stars. There has never been a better time to try new things. So we went nuts.

All that relentless exploration led us to a few ideas we are interested in exploring further. We have a crop of fantastic concepts that represent the cream of our collective imaginations. Trust us; all of these concepts are super awesome! We’ve shown you a couple of teasers this week, little snippets to pique your interest. We’re going to pull the curtain back a little further, show just the hint of something more. These four images represent four new IPs, new frontiers for NinjaBee. We’ve lavished a lot of love on each of these. Some of them are more developed than others. Not all of them will become finished products, at least not in any recognizable form. But they all represent the beginnings of something wonderful: the genesis of NinjaBee’s next game.

You will be seeing a lot more of at least one of these games over the next year. Stay tuned to our blog, our Facebook and our Twitter for art, teasers, developer diaries and more. We will be bringing one of these IPs to PAX Prime later this year. Until then we plan on updating you on our progress as often as we can. Drop on by or bug your favorite game news site to see what we have at our booth at PAX East this April. We might even have some secret snippets to share. NinjaBee is going to fantastic new places in 2014, and you are invited to join us for every step along the way.

Is there something here that catches your eye? Do any of these images excite and inspire you? Salivating over the possibilities? Tell us about it. Drop us an email, connect with us on social media. We’re listening. You make the NinjaBee experience great. We do this for you, our players, our friends. So feel free to reach out to us as we blaze a trail toward the next NinjaBee release, we appreciate the company.

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Friday Review: Papers, Please (PC)

Okay, check the seal… passport numbers match, expiration is okay on the entry permit, weight lines up, name is spelled correctly, fingerprints seem right. Okay, you’re legit. Cause no trouble, comrade. Suddenly, the awful sound of a dot matrix printer. Citation issued: invalid gender?! Geez! The one thing I didn’t check!

Papers, Please is aptly subtitled as “a dystopian document thriller”. It is one of the more unusual games I played in 2013. Simple yet evocative visuals, core mechanics that actively attempt to frustrate the player and a story told entirely through gameplay, sans exposition. You, the inspector, are tasked with operating an Arstotzkan border checkpoint. This particular border has just opened after six years of war in a fictional Eastern-European-style geography.

At the heart of the game is a terrible conflict. I don’t mean the armed warfare that serves as a backdrop for the game. I mean a hideous, internal conflict. You are responsible for the needs of your family. You receive modest pay for each processed applicant. Failing to work fast enough ensures that your family goes cold, hungry or worse. Unfortunately, you receive new regulations, forms and restrictions almost every day. If any single fact isn’t right, you receive a citation from the Ministry of Admission. Pile up enough citations, and you lose cash. Work fast, get paid. Work too fast, your family suffers.

The game would be difficult, but not compelling, if that was the entirety of the experience. But there is another layer, insidiously brilliant, that makes Papers, Please one of the best games of last year. Each one of those applicants is a person. Many of them have stories. The border has disrupted lives, the war has torn families. What do you do, when you have to choose between feeding your son and preserving a marriage? Do you accept bribes to keep your family warm? Are you loyal to the government? There are difficult moral choices to be made, and not everything turns out as expected.

Possibly the greatest triumph of Papers, Please is the way it made me choose a role. More than any RPG of last year, Papers, Please made me get into who I was. Why was I behaving this way? Making these choices? Halfway through the game I realized I was playing the role strictly as myself. I was a father and husband. My responsibility was to my family above all else. But I also had a responsibility to my fellow man. I was making decisions based on the benefit of my pretend family, doing the best I could for my neighbors while protecting my loved ones from the state. I was making the decisions the real me would make. And it ate me up. It was real stress. I felt true conscience for my actions in a way that I haven’t felt… possibly ever when playing a video game. I didn’t play for the “best ending”, or for achievements or anything but what I felt compelled to do.

I recommend Papers, Please to everyone. I think you are doing yourself a disservice if you have passed on this gem. Buy it, play it. On your first run, really insert yourself into the drama. Become a part of the story. Later, sure, go collect achievements, see each of the 20 endings, explore your choices. But for the first play, get into it. It may be one of the most truly emotional games you’ll play in a long time.

Glory to Arstotzka!