Players' Guide

Wiley Wiggins wants to show you his 'Thunderbeam'; indie game developer Adam Saltsman gets an unwelcome Taiwanese clone; and more

By James Renovitch, Fri., May 20, 2011

Players' Guide

It looks like Wiley Wiggins is finally moving on from his brush with child stardom. I mean, it's been almost two decades since his lead in Dazed and Confused – about time to announce a new, by-all-accounts bitchin' project. That project is Thunderbeam, an iPad game in the early stages of development that draws influences from Seventies sci-fi and teen adventure series while tossing in a healthy disregard for tired video-game tropes. Other members of the development squad include James Curry and Scott Lee, along with a cadre of respected illustrators and animators helping out. If those names aren't recognizable enough, the Octopus Project is being tapped for the soundtrack. Check out the release video at www.karakasagames.com, or just trust in the unflappable artistic eye of an Austin icon (even if he did cut his majestic mane years ago) and search Kickstarter for Thunderbeam to put your money where your local-art-supporting mouth is.

After all the flak Capcom got for mimicking local developer Twisted Pixel's 'Splosion Man, you'd think clone developers would know to not mess with Austin. Apparently not, since a Taiwanese clone of indie developer Semi Secret Software's roof-jumping hit Canabalt appeared on the App Store a few weeks ago. The clone wasn't different from the original but for the title screen, which replaced the name Canabalt with Free Running. Apple's laissez-faire application approval policy allowed the game to be sold not once but twice, even if the imitator was quickly taken down both times. There are few ramifications for such copyright infringement, as Taiwan doesn't abide by our laws. However, according to Semi Secret honcho Adam Saltsman's Twitter posts, Canabalt ended up with an uptick of sales thanks to the press the infringement received.

In bite-size news, you might remember sound designer and creepy, experimental game designer Robin Arnott mentioning a hypothetical follow-up to Deep Sea, his sensory deprivation game (see "Sinking Deeper," April 15). Turns out he got a backer for that synaesthetic, sexually stimulating project. I imagine the end result will break a few laws (of decency if nothing else), so it's appropriate that said backer is choosing to remain anonymous. Meanwhile, Deep Sea itself will be going to mammoth gaming industry shindig E3 to scare the bejesus out of people at the IndieCade booth... Also, relatively new local triple-A studio LightBox Interactive just unveiled its Sony-backed project Starhawk at the Alamo Drafthouse at Ritz a few weeks back. The look and plot of the game remind me of Firefly and Starship Troopers (which is to say, part nerd, part rad). It's a third-person bulletfest with a bit of strategic defense building to break up the action. You'll have to wait until 2012 to see that one in stores. If stores even exist then ....

"This Week's Waste of Time," James Renovitch's online column devoted to free browser games, appears online most Thursdays at austinchronicle.com/pip. For even shorter gaming news bites, follow him @renovitch.

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