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Skulls of the Shogun looks to simplify strategy

After working at big developers like Electronic Arts for years, the team that would come to comprise 17 Bit decided to set out and make their own games. Three years in the making, their first title, Skulls of the Shogun, is nearly ready for release.

Inspired by titles like Advance Wars and a love for 1960s anime, Skulls of the Shogun is all about simplifying the turn-based strategy genre by getting rid of everything that is not necessary. “How far can we go without losing the strategy?” asks Ben Vance from 17 Bit.

Skulls of the Shogun

One example Vance gave was earlier in the development process, players had the option to defend units or themselves to take less damage. The team saw that this made games longer and the project really did not suffer when the feature was taken out. While you may be worried the team oversimplified the game, Vance assured Skulls of the Shogun is one of those titles that is simple to play but difficult to master.

And this is not just an indie game that may or may not be noticed on Steam, Skulls of the Shogun has found a lot of support from Microsoft. When the game releases, it will not just launch on Xbox 360, but also in the Windows 8 App Store, on Windows Phone and on Microsoft’s new Surface tablet with asynchronous multiplayer between all the platforms.

“It’s fantastic,” said Vance on nearing the development finish line. “We all come from big developers and this our first smaller scale project that has our own blood, sweat and tears in it.”

Look for Skulls of the Shogun by the end of the year.

Drinkbox Studios finds success on Sony’s new hardware

When Sony launched the PlayStation Vita earlier this year with titles including a new entry in the acclaimed Uncharted series, the publisher probably did not expect a sequel to a little-known PlayStation Network game would be one of the most well-received games for the system. As it turns out, that’s exactly what happened with Drinkbox Studio’s Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack.

The game’s style and tone had critics raving, with one exclaiming Mutant Blobs Attack “stole his heart” and another calling it “one of the must play games” for the system.

Drinkbox Studios impresses on the Vita

Drinkbox impressed Vita owners with Mutant Blobs Attack.

A team of 12, the Toronto-based developer has no plans to grow anytime soon. “You feel like you have a lot of input and control” when working with a small team, Co-Founder Chris Harvey told me. “Everyone on the team can contribute.”

Over six months after the Vita’s release, the system is not selling well with only 2.2 million handhelds purchased as of Sony’s last update. For Drinkbox, however, the Vita is doing very well and Mutant Blobs Attack has already outsold its predecessor, Harvey said.

What little Vita owners there are seem to be happy with the game, too. “This game has more variety and panache than some $40 games,” says Reddit user Naphthos on a thread dedicated to singing the title’s praises.

The developer isn’t done with the Vita just yet either, as the studio is working on a luchador-themed brawler called Guacamelee for the system.

While Drinkbox has found success on Sony’s latest handheld, it surprised me to hear their port to Valve’s digital distribution platform, Steam, has not sold up to expectations. This puzzled me given Steam’s reputation as an indie game developer’s dream. Check back for my next post where I compare Drinkbox’s results and those of a developer who found success on the platform.

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