The Linux Games of Bitsummit #4 in Kyoto

bitsummit-top

So this was the fourth Bitsummit. I have been attending this event every single year since it started and it’s been growing into a very serious convention despite its modest starts (the first one used to be in a very narrow hall and it looked way more amateurish). It’s still made for indies at its core but sponsors are now all over the place and there are a couple of big names as well (Nintendo had its own booth to showcase its support of indies – for example they had Shovel Knight running on 3DS).

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Naturally when you visit Bitsummit, you don’t expect to see THE NEXT BIG THING. This is not the E3 or even the Tokyo Games Show for that matter. There’s nothing that can touch the best AAA games in terms of quality of production, so this event’s point is rather about new ideas, new concepts and what’s being explored by devs with few resources. And sometimes just stuff running on very cool accessories, like this TV from another time below.

coolTV

So, you get it. This is all about indies. Yet, I was surprised to see folks like Sakaguchi (the creator of the Final Fantasies series) on the floor, as well as Igarashi (assistant director on Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, credited for being one of the key inventors of the Metroidvania genre). Both were there to present the projects they are working on, and to sign autographs of course…

sakaguchi

So why does this all have to do with BoilingSteam ? Well, a certain number of games are planned with Linux versions. Let’s check out both the ones that are already confirmed for Linux as well as whatever I found interesting in the show.

First… Bloodstained, Ritual of the Night. This game led by Igarashii is everything you’d want for a Castlevania game, except that it’s not made by Konami anymore – hardly surprising since Konami seems to focus mainly on mobile gaming now.

Bloodstained is gorgeous, there’s no denying that. It has very detailed environments and well animated characters. You could also fight one boss in the demo – the below video is from E3 2016 but they were showcasing the exact same level at Bitsummit.

And what more, you could enjoy the demo sitting just next to Igarashi, looking over your shoulder. You just can’t beat such levels of coolness.

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I confirmed directly with Igarashi that they are still planning for a Linux release too – since there are many platforms planned however, I’m not sure how much priority will the Linux client. Hopefully Day 1.

Back in 1995 was a strange game that took the “retro” idea to the extreme, by trying to recreate a horror/mystery game just like it looked like in 1995. Imagine the first Silent Hill with its 1995s~ graphics. Yup, it’s pretty similar. It’s hard to get a good feel for that game when everything around is pretty noisy, though. It’s already on Steam for Windows albeit with mixed reviews, and the Mac/Linux versions are still coming soon apparently (“Mac, Linux版の配信が遅れ申し訳ありません。近日追加予定です”). Yup, a really indie Japanese game making it on Linux, that’s kind of surprising.

D3Bug is a game in development, a platformer where you have a kind of grapple gun to move in your environment, in 2D. Here’s a screenshot. I did not take a video of that one, but it was quite colorful.

D3BUG

Okhlos is not out yet, but you have surely heard about it at some point. That’s not every day that you get a Greek crowd fighting against Gods. And yup, a Linux client is planned. It’s supposed to be released in Spring 2016, and since we are in summer I am assuming the game should launch any time soon.

YIIK describes itself as a postmodern RPG, and maybe it is. It just seems like a totally crazy mix of tons of different J-RPGs, mixing 2D and 3D and whatever idea went through their brains. No idea if that will make a good game, but at least it’s certainly standing out.

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It’s planned to be released in this summer. The below trailer should give you some hints as to what you should expect.

2064: Read Only Memories is a retro-looking cyberpunk adventure game, already available on Steam for all platforms, and coming soon to consoles.

Moon Hunters is a co-op game where you explore a foreign planet and try to survive. It was released back in April on Linux as well on Steam.

Life goes on: Done to Death was recently released on Steam and you could see and play it on the floor. It already has a Linux version too. It’s a puzzler where you can use the deaths of your previous tries to make the levels a little bit easier.

Illumine is right now on Steam Greenlight and is expecting a Linux client at some point. It’s an abstract looking game that lets you explore your surroundings with a top-down view, using light as your only guide.

Shippo Neko and the Missing Fried Shrimp: nothing fantastic to talk about, but this platformer where you control a cat features refreshing hand-drawn sprites and animation.

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Last but not least, some slightly older titles were on display as well: 6180: The Moon was also on the show floor (released back in 2014), just like Armello and Enter the Gungeon.

Now let’s see

Dicetiny: for now, not planned for Linux. This is actually a south-korean game mixing board game aspects as well as hearthstone-like mechanics. Even though it looks like it’s mostly made in 2d, it’s actually using Unreal 4 – apparently the only reason why they chose Unreal 4 is because they were mostly experienced with it and had no intent to learn how to use Unity instead. Apparently the representative at the booth did not know that Unreal 4 could export to Linux natively, so here’s to hoping that they will consider it at some point.

dicetiny

WonderBoy – This is actually a kind of HD-remake of the 3rd episode of the Wonderboy series from the 80s, using a kind of mix between emulation and generated new assets. It is not planned for Linux currently, but when talking with the Lead programmer, their team is not opposed to the idea at all. They were opened to being contacted by professional porters before the release if that’s something interesting for the Linux community.

Tokyo Dark: a 2D adventure game taking place in Tokyo at night. It is not planned for Linux currently. It’s made by a small team of 2 (living in Japan), aiming at delivering the Windows and Mac versions promised in their successful Kickstarter campaign. Still, once they do that, they are open to expanding to other platforms. If you have any interest in this game for Linux, make your voice heard!

Dangerous Men: devs were looking for funding for this beat’em all (think Final Fight, but in 3D). For a demo it looked fantastic, with very solid and colorful graphics and animation and good playability.

DMen

No target platforms are decided at this stage – they are still looking for funding, so who knows if this game ends up being made or not… but the representative I talked to said their goal was to reach as many gamers as possible no matter the platform, so if it ever comes out there’s some chance Linux may be considered.

Finally, a prototype called Spirit is an adventure game with great graphics, now in development for a year or so if I remember correctly, and looking for funding as well. The developers are in Switzerland but the lead designer lives in Japan.

spirits

I asked about plans for a Linux client, and the lead designer said that it’s too early since the game’s future is not secured yet anyway – if it ends up on consoles it may have to be exclusive too. However, if it ends up on Steam, Linux could be supported since it’s using Unity, and they apparently have an untested Linux build lying around. A free demo of what they have done so far is going to be made available at some point, I will be sure to follow up on the Linux part.

VR

Just like last year, VR was popular on the show floor. Probably even more so this year since the HTC Vive and the Oculus are now widely available.

VR is a strange thing. There’s a ton on investment happening in that field, with very low to no return on the short term. The HTC Vive has only sold 100 000 headsets so far, which is far from the numbers of let’s say, a console launch – making it sound pretty hard to get any kind of return on investment for anyone making games just for VR. Then, there’s the problem of having no system seller in sight – I have yet to see a VR title making most people envious and willing to spend what it takes in order to play it. There are some obvious great fit for VR (cockpit games), but apart from such genres there’s no clear path for successful design right now. It’s also very clear many types of games that gamers currently enjoy will have no benefit to moving to VR, so no matter how you look at it VR will have to co-exist with whatever is out there.

It’s likely to be a bubble, as in, too much investment compared to whatever market will come out of it. Maybe I’m completely wrong, but we will see what happens in the next few years.

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Q games (of Starfox fame) presented their take on VR with Dead Hungry, where you play the role of a fast food employee trying to prepare burgers for hungry zombies. The idea is just right for this kind of event – it’s fun, it’s quick, it makes people laugh, but I can’t say I see myself investing in hardware just to play this kind of game. In some way this game is a perfect example of what you could with VR in arcade centers. At home, it’s probably a tougher sell.

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VITEI had Tiny Escape featuring a more interesting concept, where two players with VR headsets (one Oculus and one Vive) play against each other. One of them is a tiny character (think Antman) trying to hide from the other player who is sized just like you and me. The “normal” character is in a room, looking up and down, below tables and between items, for the other player. This makes great use of the HTC Vive capabilities and it looked like it was a lot of fun. Unfortunately the queue was too long for me to give it a try.

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The VR craze expanded to a bike simulator. Yeah. You get on a bicycle, you pedal like crazy while enjoying the view around with your headset.

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I’m not sure if this is a game, or more like a way to make indoor cycling less boring.

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I did not cover it too much here, but probably about 30~40% of games at the show were running on mobile devices. Mostly iOS and some on Android, and a few on 3DS as well. I tend to disregard mobile games because I don’t fancy them that much in the first place, but let’s not forget this has become a major market and indies are also very much interested to make a dent there too. Nevertheless, the imminent death of the PC has been pretty much exaggerated.

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So how was this year’s edition? Mmmm. It’s grown into a regular event, and you can now see that it’s well organized. I was somewhat a little disappointed not to see more new titles, or more exciting ones. At least Steam is clearly in the minds of many indies including Japanese devs now, so this becomes a conversation starter to talk about Linux. But Linux is still unknown to many. When discussing about Linux plans, one girl asked me if there were many Linux users [overseas], and I told her that it’s not a lot, but they tend to make a lot of noise. And more news around your game can enhance how it does on other platforms too.

Another dev who was unsure of Linux support (a foreigner) told me that the good thing about Linux is that it’s not a closed platform. It does not belong to anyone, and no one really controls it.

And that’s what makes it attractive.

I cannot agree more.

Note: All pictures are copyright BoilingSteam. Please do not reuse without authorization.


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2 Comments

  1. Good job, meeting developers (including IGA!) and asking them about Linux! I like your Bitsummit reports 🙂

    • Thanks!! It was certainly fun to meet some high profile developers face to face 🙂

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