Ten years ago, sourcing content for a post like this would have been arduous. Historically Vancouver and Montreal have been the core gaming hubs in Canada. Things are starting to change: in a few short years, we have witnessed Toronto’s leveling up on the world stage of gaming. The growth behind the coin rush can be attributed to OIDMTC tax incentives and organizations like the Hand Eye Society, and more recently, TIFF Nexus‘ programs that impart game literacy and mesh Toronto’s gaming communities. Oh, and having a couple of mammoths in your backyard (Rockstar Games and Ubisoft) also helps.
Toronto currently contains the highest concentration of indie game studios in the country and these studios are not shackled to market forces like their larger counterparts. The result of all of this is, indie game producers taking bigger risks to make progressive/experimental games. Interested in knowing what some of those titles are? Below are sixteen titles and sixteen indie game producers you truly need to know about.
Benjamin Rivers – Home
“Awakened by an oncoming storm, you open your eyes to discover yourself in a strange, dark room—tucked away in a house that’s not yours.” – Home.
Home is a story-based adventure/horror game set in a darkly pixelated universe. The game’s storyline immerses players into a murder mystery with a twist – the twist: players ultimately determine their own character’s fate. Interested in purchasing Home? Own a copy for the modest sum of $2.00 and view the debut trailer here.
Along with being a rock star game developer, Benjamin Rivers is also an accomplished illustrator, graphic novelist, web designer and sessional instructor at OCADU. He works with creative, corporate, and educational clients.
Capy – Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP
“In the making of Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP we attempted to grapple with a few psychological, historical and cultural concepts that we found interesting or significant. A decent chunk of research happened specifically for Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP, and many of the core concepts go back years.” – D. Adams of Superbrothers
Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP is an action/adventure game where players undertake guiding The Scythian – a female warrior monk – on a doleful mission. The game has intriguing features like being able to cause The Scythian to sing songs of “sworcery”, these songs introduce new inputs that change woodland locations into songlike toys. Other remarkable characteristics of the game can be found within a forest, and lake dreamworld named Side B, where the level is affected by real lunar phases.
The games gestural controls are fairly simple – tapping on paths, people, and objects. On the rare occasion, players do get to pull their blades to engage in combat or solve a puzzle.
The game shares similarities to the critically acclaimed Heavy Rain: to kill or not to kill, to cheat or not to cheat. These are the type of moral decisions encountered throughout the story and one way or another, the player ends up condemning the ailing monk to death.
Some have interpreted Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP as a reimagining of the point & click adventure games of past times. Yet others describe it as: “a progressive rock album you can hang out in”.
Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP is available now on the following platforms:
- iPod Touch
Capy is an indie game studio operating out of Toronto.
Christine Love – Digital: A Love Story
Digital: A Love Story is an interactive mystery/romance game, played primarily through text. The game is set five minutes into the future on a computer in 1988. The romance takes place between players and an obscure character named Emilia, an AI program who contacts players via message boards throughout the game. Emilia eventually develops a bond with the player who ultimately must allow Emilia to sacrifice herself for a greater cause.
Christine Love is an English Lit major who also makes critically acclaimed games.
Damian Sommer – The Yawhg
The Yawhg: a game produced by Damian Sommer and Emily Carroll where you play as one to four citizens of a nameless fantasy village. In the game, players live out their characters’ lives while the threat of the gruesome and cryptic Yawhg slowly nears. Magical oddities, concealed ruins, and other outlandishness can all be discovered while passing the time awaiting the inevitable monster.
The Yawhg currently has no online release date. Interested in playing? The The Yawhg can be taken for a spin at this years Toronto International Film Festival on September 14th, 2012.
Damian Sommer started making games at the tender age of ten. He has since produced a large collection Flash, PC, and iOS games. Damian is a self-proclaimed game jam junkie who “loves making tons of tiny, little games”.
DrinkBox Studios – Guacamelee
Guacamelee is an exploratory action-adventure style game that draws from Mexican culture and folklore. The main character is a luchadore named Juan Aguacate who sets out to save the earth from a dark villain named Evil Charro Skeleton. The story takes place around a humble village in Mexico and has the player journey through alternate dimensions like “The World of the Dead” and “The World of Nightmares”.
DrinkBox Studios is an independent video game developer. The company was established 2008 by a group of industry veterans. DrinkBox also provides programming, art and design consulting services aside from developing games.
Electron Jump – Don’t Feed the Animals
Don’t Feed the Animals is a game where players get to order around an army of robots – your plans to take over the world can finally begin! The objective is to protect your base with your armada from a barrage of critters hungry to steal the precious candy located within.
Players can easily build and customize characters down to their facial expressions. There is also an excellent line up of characters ready for those players who are eager to start. Purchase Don’t Feed the Animals now exclusively through Nintendo DSiWare™ for 500 DSi points.
Electron Jump Games is a small indie game studio formed in 2003. It is home to six immensely diverse and talented people.
Incubator Games – Trudy’s Mechanicals
Trudy’s Mechanicals, a turn-based tactics game, is about a floating city condemned to life in the air due to contamination from coal burning technologies on earth. Players help guide industrialised warriors as they fight for a spot aboard a floating airship nicknamed Trudy.
The steampunk aesthetic lends itself to rich, powerful, and rustic visuals, but the games designers were interested in adding their own mark on things. As the games designers put it: “we wanted to pursue its darker, grittier side”.
Where most steampunk games portray mechanization as empowerment, Trudy’s Mechanicals depict it as penalization. Mechanicals, the games characters, are a cast of industrail workers sutured with oversized machinery – most games in this genre cast explorers or soldiers in these roles. keep up with the games progress here.
Incubator Games is a collective of industry professionals. Before starting Incubator Games, they had worked on relatively high-profile games and award winning titles for mobile platforms. The group of three does work-for-hire projects, but their goals are to explore various genres and technologies.
Jason Kaplan – Flew the Coop
Developed in partnership with Damian Sommer (see above), Flew the Coop sets up players as a chicken on the run – the goal of the game? Avoid the farmer and don’t become dinner. Available on all iOS devices and Windows phones, this family-friendly game will be fun for both you and your little cousin.
Check out Kaplan’s website for more games he’s developed.
Jonathan Mak – Everyday Shooter
Everyday Shooter is a collection of abstract shooter games. Instead of having dissolute sounds of destruction this shooter exchanges them for guitar riffs that harmonize over an all-guitar soundtrack. This all takes place while modulating shapes celebrate the flowing beauty of geometry.
Each level is made different with a unique musical, graphical, and gameplay style. Shooting triggers sounds and riffs that combine to form the final soundscape for the game. Points unlock extra lives, shuffle mode, and different visual filters.
To play Everyday Shooter you will need the following system requirements:
- OS: Windows 2000/XP/Vista Processor: 1.7 Ghz Memory: 256 MB
- Graphics: OpenGL compatible graphics card. Hard Drive: 36MB
Jonathan Mak is an independent video game programmer and artist residing in Toronto. He is currently the founder at Queasy Game.
Magitech Corporation – Water Dance
Water Dance is an interactive experience for the iPhone that can only be described as digital therapy. We are constantly bombarded by information at all hours of the day, it is gratifying to see a game that forces players to sit back and ignore the cacophony – interestingly enough, on the same device that is responsible for much of the digital noise.
To play, activate water droplets by touching the screen, water will follow where players tap and swipe. Droplets are randomized with different sizes and gently pop when they reach the bottom of the screen. Taping the top of the screen activates rain mode where droplets gently fall from the top of the screen in a calming fashion. Players can watch as water disperses upwards while the background colors change to create a relaxing ambience. The app can also be synced to your music playlist to help you set the mood.
“Substance, thought, and feeling can be achieved by creating a game setting which is dramatic, character-driven, and true to life. Characters should have virtues and vices in equal measure. Stories should have joys that mirror tragedies. Battle and combat should be realistic, and should offer something for players who prefer to use their wits as much as their chainguns.” – Magitech.
Ming-Sheng Lee founded Magitech Corporation in 1993. The first game title they released in 2001 was named Takeda. The goal of Magitech Corporation is straightforward: to make compelling games.
Matt Coombe – Mega Run
“Offers all the thrills and spills a sidescrolling platform game should” – Macworld.
Mega Run revolves around a delightful woodland-dwelling creature named Redford who loses two siblings in a kidnapping to a mysterious monster. Help Redford through his journey as he searches for his loved ones by following a trail of shiny coins and forest gems left behind by the perpetrator. Mega Run is now available for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod. View the promotional trailer here.
Matt Coombe is a digital artist with twelve years of experience under his belt. He has worked as a UI designer, environment and character modeller, texture artist, and digital painter. Currently, he is the co-founder of Get Set Games.
Matt Hammill – Guilded Youth
Guilded Youth is a text adventure game written by Jim Munroe (Canadian science fiction writer) and designed by Matt Hammill. The game features lo-fi artwork created in AsciiPaint and is currently in the tweaking-and-expanding stage. The game is the brainchild of TOJam – a three-day annual game-making event. Follow Matt’s blog for news surrounding Guilded Youth’s progress.
Matt Hammill is a seasoned animator and game designer interested in expanding the visual palette of games. He is also the creator behind the acclaimed action-puzzle game, Gesundheit. His background spans TV animation, short films, and children’s books.
Miguel Sternberg – Guerilla Gardening: Seeds of Revolution
Guerrilla Gardening: Seeds of Revolution, is an indie game based on the street art movement known as guerrilla gardening. The game merges elements from both stealth and free form puzzle solving games. It takes place in a city beset by a fascist dictator named General Bauhaus who has banned plant life to grow within it.
As Molly Greenthumb, the revolutionary gardener, players are required to sneak past cops, cctv cameras and strategically/illegally plant on government propaganda using odd and graceful plants. Planting encourages civil disobedience and fills citizens with cheerful insurrection needed to overthrow the regime. Guerrilla Gardening: Seeds of Revolution is being produced for PC with Linux and Mac coming soon after.
A veteran of Toronto’s indie game scene, Miguel Sternberg is part of a twosome creating novel games at Spooky Squid Games. In his spare time, he helps manage the Hand Eye Society. Miguel’s work can be seen gracing the back cover of Scott Pilgrim v4, the final credits of Crank, and many web-based/mobile games.
Ryan Creighton – Jinx Episode 3: Escape from Area Fifty-Two
Jinx Episode 3: Escape from Area Fifty-Two is the sequel to a pair of impressive graphic adventure games (A Dark and Stormy Nightstand and Miracle in the 34th Dimension) made for YTV.com. The sequel incorporates many more puzzles and cutscenes. A neat feature in the sequel is the ability to switch on a dime between three playable characters, which acts as a waypoint system that streamlines navigation during game play.
Jinx Episode 3: Escape from Area Fifty-Two was the first game produced with UGAGS, which stands for the Untold Graphic Adventure Game System. UGAGS is a set tools and a coded framework created by Untold Entertainment (Ryan Creighton’s studio) that enables games to be built quickly for themselves and their clients.
Ryan Creighton is the founder at Untold Entertainment Inc., a games and app studio.
Shawn McGrath – Dyad
“Dyad is a cognitive experiment presented through gameplay. It will take you to a new world with unique physical rules, and take your mind to a new level of consciousness.”– Dyad
It is hard to conjure up anything but images of Tron when you think of neon lights and racing. Although aesthetically Dyad seems similar, it is an abstract racing game that is much different.
Dyad does not conform to traditional racing game mechanics. Instead, Dyad takes the conventional mechanics of normal racing games and reverses them. There is no conventional way to accelerate or break. So how do you move about? Players get around by maintaining their enemies close; enemies are not only the obstacles but also sources of fuel. How you ask? Hooking enemies increases speed, grazing them gives players energy, and turning into high-speed lance totally annihilates them.
Dyad’s gameplay objectives vary, but they range from speed based to combo goals. Dyad’s unconventional racing dynamic creates a puzzle-like game that forces players to think about their next steps. As the game progresses, it keeps players on their feet by increasing the amount of options and decreasing the allotted time to make a decision.
The best part of Dyad has to be the physical simulation rig players use to play the game. Dyad is currently being developed for the Playstation 3 as a downloadable game through PSN (without the rig I am guessing). No release date has been announced to date.
Shawn McGrath is an indie game developer whose sole purpose is to make fun games. Currently, he is the founder at RSBLSB (Right Bracket Left Square Bracket).
Ulken – Superheroes Alliance
Superheroes Alliance is a free RPG game for the iPhone that can be played in two modes: missions and battles. In battle mode, players battle other characters and win money off them. While missions range from saving kittens to killing mob bosses (players can also collect money from missions). The money received from missions and battles can be used to hire/purchase sidekicks, property, and vehicles, which also adds to players’ stats (higher stats are required for some missions).
Ulken is a cross platform gaming company. They have top ranking games available on the iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry, and Facebook platforms. Their gaming communities consist of millions of users who enjoy their games every day.