The best concepts, mechanics, and innovations to come out of indie game development in 2020

With so many games being released on an almost daily basis, it’s easy for a lot of great ideas to slip under the radar. Vista Magazine is all about focusing on the unique aspects of indie games, and so as we look back at 2020, we want to highlight some of the most inventive gaming ideas to come out of this often insane, hard, terrible, hopeful and norm-shattering year.

Some of these ideas are fully realized and already setting new trends in the industry, while others are neat concepts which will hopefully evolve further over time. …

Why are we wasting our time on games that don’t hold our interest?

Video games are supposed to be fun. That is one belief that I won’t be swayed on. If playing something gives me the urge to check my phone, it’s already over.

This sounds like common sense. But for those of us who have made a serious hobby out of the medium, it might not be. There are sites, subreddits, and even other Medium articles dedicated to conquering the infamous backlog — your potentially colossal catalog of perpetually unplayed games. Why are we so obsessed with it? The principle is simple: gamers, like most contemporary consumers, are obsessed with getting their…

After nearly a decade of play, I can’t seem to put this game down

I have a confession. Some might call it an open secret. I own about 100 games on Steam. Sadly, that’s not the issue. The issue is that I’ve played more hours of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim than all 100 of them combined.

I bought Skyrim back in 2011. This might be surprising news to you, given Skyrim’s rise to memetic infamy due to Bethesda’s incessant porting, a scheme that eventually landed it on platforms as gaming-obscure as Amazon’s Alexa. But this was before all that, back in the dark ages where I had to beg my mom to drive…

An explanation and an exercise in understanding default values.

Like most web development beginners, my first instinct with CSS was to jump right in.

I wanted to make websites immediately. And that’s a good instinct — as human beings, we learn through projects, through getting our hands dirty.

But I quickly became frustrated. Things just weren’t looking right. The spacing was off, text looked out of place. I felt like the page I was seeing didn’t reflect the code I was inputting. While there are potentially a lot of reasons for this, there is one foundational understanding I was missing: I had no idea what default values were.

Default values are exactly what they sound like. For every HTML element, such as an h1…

A beginner’s guide to using CSS units like em, rem, px and more in your responsive web designs.

Absolute Units

Absolute units are divided mainly into two categories: pixels (px), and the rest (cm, mm, in). Absolute units are good for laying out precise screen dimensions, but they will not scale with the viewport, so they aren’t so great for creating responsive designs on tablets and mobile phones.

You may recognize units such as cm, mm, and inches from your everyday life. These units, like their real-life counterparts, should only be utilized when making designs for print (physical designs). In general, avoid the non-pixel absolute units unless you have a specific use for them.

  • Pixels (px)
  • Also pt, cm, mm…

A chat with the storytellers behind Wintermoor Tactics Club, a charming visual novel/tactics RPG.

Interweaving two genres is a complicated task. It forces you to interrogate a game down to its very base, to ask questions — what makes a tactics game a tactics game? How about a visual novel? What will you lose in one by attempting to transform it into another?

In Wintermoor Tactics Club, a strong narrative thread is the key to successfully uniting these disparate parts. The richly developed characters and environments serve as both a justification for the gameplay as well as a consequence of it; you battle because high school is rife with tension, emotion, angst — but it is through battling that friendships grow stronger, that bonds are forged and wounds begin to heal. Tactics and narrative not only co-exist as genre elements in Wintermoor, they are the fuel to each other’s fire.

“The story and gameplay are absolutely meant to go hand-in-hand. In our game…

Enter the world of nineteenth century mountaineering in Peaks of Yore, a gorgeous, nostalgic climbing experiment.

Standing 60 metres high on the serrated coast of Sutherland, the Old Man of Stoer reigns above The Minch, a sinuos Scottish channel flanked by ancient rocks and mossy terrain.

Stoer is a sea stack, a land-form constructed of columns of sea rock. It is formed by wave erosion, the mouth of the ocean gnawing endlessly at landscape until sharp, steep embankments form. These unnatural beauties are a great gift to sight-seers, but an even better treasure for mountaineers.

Katherine is what happens when you buy the wrong VHS tape at the video store. You decide to play it at the dead of night, insatiably curious, and wind up with a migraine-inducing fright when the television starts chanting incantations.

With its chattering TV-static and found footage theme, Katherine has all the usual markers of a retro horror flick. Today, in our inaugural Minute Indie column, we talk to developer Keziban about how he and his team crafted this particular fright-fest.

“With [Katherine], we intended to make a simple horror game with a simple premise. We consider jump scares to be fairly cheap, so we wanted to make a short game with more of a what the f — ? theme throughout the game. The level seems endless but regularly ends up in the same point.

This was by design…

Jet Set Radio meets Pokemon Snap to tell a story about youth rebellion in a time of Bushfires, COVID-19, and government apathy.

Source: Umurangi Generation

At the turn of the century, SEGA released an unconventional new classic: the exuberant Jet Set Radio, a videogame about roller skating, graffiti, running from the police, and, above all else, being young, stylish, and pissed off.

Riffing off of the raw, riotous energy of the Japanese youth in the 1990’s, Jet Set Radio painted a brightly colored picture of youth rebellion. Japan in the 90s (“The Lost Decade”) was plagued by a sharp economic downfall that stymied job growth and led to a wave of young criminal activity — the number of minors arrested for serious felonies rose by 59% in just the first six months of 1997. People who had been living their lives in bubbles of world-renowned safety suddenly feared knife attacks from masked teens riding bicycles.

Here in 2020, disillusionment and fear might…

Hi! I’m Celia, and welcome to Learn/Apply installment numero dos. If this is your first time here, this series focuses on learning a cool concept fast and rapidly putting that concept to work, whether it be through art, code, or whatever medium tickles your fancy.

We’re going to be building off a few concepts from Learn/Apply #1, an Introduction to Color Theory, however that reading is by no means required. Every L/A issue stands by itself.

In this installment we’re going to be using javascript, specifically P5.JS and OpenProcessing, to learn a little bit about procedurally generating some animated art. An elementary understanding of programming is recommended, although I’m going to try and be as clear and beginner-friendly as possible.

What is color anyway?

Well, good question! It depends who you ask. However, the only person we’re concerned with asking today isn’t a person at all — its a…

Celia Lewis

Celia is a freelance writer and programmer. She specializes in technology, gaming, and business ethics.

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