Tag Archives: thanks for the memories

Thanks For Everything, XBLIG!

Today marks the end of an era. Today is the day we say goodbye to Xbox Live Indie Games. In a certain sense of the word (see below for an update!).

Today is the last day to purchase any XBLIGs on the marketplace. After that, you can still download and / or play any game that you own. For now. What happens beyond that, and when the Xbox 360 itself is retired, is still up in the air, though there is plenty of promising stuff happening on the preservation front.

Of course, all of this has been known for some time. Two years, in fact. And for about a year before that, general interest in the service and its games had fallen off considerably. Many developers have long since moved on to other endeavors, and many of us that used to play the games and new releases quasi-religiously have also done the same. Still, it’s important to note this date in your own personal history calendar and remember an indie game service that was instrumental in paving the way for all the indie games we currently enjoy. It will not be forgotten.

This site (not a blog!) here played a small role by reviewing a portion of those indie games, covering some the greatest successes on the marketplace, and, unfortunately, some of the worst of the worst on the service (read: the other 70% of the reviews posted here; I’m only partially kidding when I say that). More importantly, though, it became something other than just a review site; it became a gathering place for gamers excited about indie games, a small corner of the internet some came to talk about them, to share their own thoughts, and to hang out and chat with others. Real friends were made here. And that, even more than the games themselves, is what I’ll remember.

So, personal review opinions (and a few tears) aside, I want this to be my final ‘Thank You’ to XBLIG in general, and to all the developers, gamers, and readers (that’d be you reading this) who made all of this possible. I won’t forget that, I can’t ever forget that, and I hope you enjoyed this place as much as I did.

With Love,

Tim


UPDATE (9/29): Well, so much for an emotional article and fond farewell! Today is not the end, it seems, as the official shutdown date has been pushed back to October 7th. So… yeah, it’s still sad, just not for another week. Save all your emotions and tears for that date, and go ahead and check out some more games! 😉

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A Fitting Tribute to XBLIG

Earlier this month, Microsoft quietly announced the end date for XNA and Xbox Live Indie Games (XBLIG). Starting from September 9 of this year, no new XNA memberships are being sold or renewed. Developers with current subscriptions now have exactly one year to create and release games on the service. After September 9, 2016, no new games will be allowed to release on XBLIG. At this point, you better start buying whatever games you may have missed out on. One year after that, in September 2017, the marketplace will be closed forever, with developers being given final payouts soon after. It’s important to note that you will be able to re-download any XBLIGs you’ve bought before that date, and continue to play them.

For anyone that follows XBLIG in any form, be it player and / or developer, the news was difficult to hear, albeit wholly expected. The indie service, the first to offer literally anyone the ability to create and publish a game on a major home console, has admittedly been winding down for the past year. Fewer and fewer titles are being released under the XBLIG banner, and the service itself has been plagued by a series of extended, damaging outages, resulting in a number of delays and issues for developers. As a result, most developers have written off XBLIG entirely, moving their projects over to PC and / or other avenues, or canceling them outright.

While there will undoubtedly be plenty of time later to debate what went right and what went wrong with XBLIG, the good folks behind Indie Games Uprising, a once-annual promotion of new XBLIG games, have just unveiled a tribute to the service. This tribute highlights developers that got their start with XNA and XBLIG, showcasing their newest (or forthcoming) games while offering a nostalgic glimpse back at some of their earlier projects on the Xbox indie channel. The full list of games and developers can be found at the link above, but the tribute page itself is a fitting monument to the oft-overlooked successes and good times that XNA / XBLIG helped foster. Whether you are a grizzled veteran or a casual observer, you owe it to yourself to play these great games before they’re gone and remember what XBLIG has meant to you.

REVIEW: Crypt of the Serpent King

Despite some stellar-looking titles in the bunch, I haven’t always enjoyed Rendercode Games‘ releases. They’ve occasionally been more about style over substance. But, generally speaking, each new title has been slightly better than the last in terms of its playability1. Crypt of the Serpent King ($1.00) is the developer’s swan song on XBLIG, and while it feels like the culmination of Rendercode’s work on the service, it’s still lacking in some spots. Important spots.

Crypt of the Serpent King - Screen

This dude is pretty and ugly. Pretty ugly.

Crypt is best described as a first-person hack-and-slash dungeon crawler, with some light RPG mechanics. Traversing a series of labyrinthian and randomized floors (don’t worry, the minimap fills in as you explore), you’re tasked with finding a certain number of keys to unlock a boss room, fighting dozens of baddies in-between. The RPG aspect comes in the form of gaining experience, used to level up your personal attributes such as health, melee attack power, and speed. Finding gold in chests scattered throughout allows you to purchase new weapons between stages, choosing from melee (sword, halberd2, etc.) and a pair of ranged bow options.

Depending on the level of difficulty chosen, you’ll find less food (recovers your health) and gold, which should force you to play conservatively and purchase new gear wisely. Then again, dying in Crypt isn’t as roguelike as you might think; you keep all experience and gold you’ve found even after death3, mitigating any disasters that might befall you. On the reverse side, ‘Hardcore’ mode attempts to please masochists, taking away the map and the chance to heal.

There’s enough variety in the enemy and boss types, to be sure, but the same can’t be said for the way you approach each of these fights. Essentially, so long as you start your attack animation and ‘walk into’ your foe by the time you’re swinging whatever weapon you have equipped, you’ll deal damage and avoid taking any yourself. This makes all basic encounters a cinch, and reduces every boss fight to a simple, repetitive exercise of attack and retreat, attack and retreat.

Crypt of the Serpent King - Screen2

Less tense than it looks.

And ‘repetition’ is the operative term in Crypt of the Serpent King, as each level looks and plays out exactly the same, regardless of the randomized layout you’re given4. There’s only a handful of room / hallway types, and the visual ‘sameness’ that greets you at every door opened and every corner turned begins to wear out its welcome by a few stages in. Add to this the increasing key requirements (each floor tacks on another missing key) and the requisite backtracking that implies, and you’re all set for tedium.

To be fair, messing around with different weapons can be fun, and Crypt of the Serpent King‘s art and enemy design may be impressive, but ultimately, the varying difficulty levels and only slightly-changing layouts can’t do enough to mask the game’s more serious flaw of repetition. As is, it’s merely a pretty and passable dungeon crawler that’s capable of more.

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EDIT 10/16: There’s been an update to the game that addresses some of the issues I mentioned above, adding enemy spawns in the corridors between rooms, as well as a few tweaks to the flow of combat, which should make things a little more varied.


  1. There’s definitely been improvement if you’re counting from The Monastery (terrible) up to Assault Ops (decent) and onward, which I am. 
  2. My personal favorite. Excellent range, and the piercing attack is quick enough to stop most of the enemies’ attack animations. 
  3. Depending on who you talk to, this can either be a very good thing, or a very bad thing. 
  4. Enemies come in pairs, and are only ever found in ‘key rooms’, which basically takes away any tension or surprise that random exploration might have supplied. Even with the dull combat, random enemy placement would’ve helped to mix things up further.