Two robots battle on a bizarre, buckyball-esque world.

One of my favorite games is now for sale

by Darius Kazemi on June 10, 2011

in Games I Love,indie,Vertex Dispenser

Vertex Dispenser goes on sale on Steam today for $8.99 for both PC and Mac (after a week the price will bump up to $9.99). Let me be clear: this is a game I dearly love. If you and I have remotely similar taste in games, I think you’ll enjoy it and you should probably just go buy it right now. If you need convincing, watch the somewhat enigmatic trailer for a taste of what it’s about. Then if you’re still not convinced, you can read the rest of this post.

So Vertex Dispenser and I go way back.

I was a judge for IGF 2010. Back in November 2009 I was assigned about a dozen games to play and rate for first round judging. The very first game I judged was Vertex Dispenser, and I was awestruck. It is a game with no grand pretensions: you’re a little robot thing and you’re taking over territory and shooting other robot things. And yet the game manages to resonate with me. ┬áIt’s addicting in a “just one more turn” kind of way (though the game is not really turn-based). It’s spare but beautiful, without copying tired indie game aesthetic tropes. It takes RTS elements, strips away the unit management, merges what’s left with pure graph theory, and adds perhaps a dash of tower defense to the mix. It’s a game that at its core is about moving and shooting and grabbing territory, but adds a layer of mathematical puzzle solving that is optional for the casual player but provides immense amounts of depth for those who want it (not unlike the Geo Panel system in Disgaea, in that sense).

The official description is pretty illuminating:

Vertex Dispenser is a fast-paced abstract strategy game with mathematical puzzle elements. Wrestle for control of territory on bizarre geometric worlds. Carefully plan your conquests to maximise the colours of your vertices, capture solid faces to defend them, then eradicate your enemies with a variety of special attacks.

That sounds like the perfect post-E3 palate cleanser, doesn’t it?

I gave the game top marks, but sadly it did not make it past the first round of IGF.

Once judging was over, I contacted its creator, Michael Brough AKA Smestorp. (If you were at GDC this year, you might remember his mind-bending demo of The Sense of Connectedness at the Experimental Gameplay Sessions.) I contacted him to offer encouragement: that I truly believed that Vertex Dispenser should have been a finalist, and that it was absolutely worth continuing to work on despite its failure to place in IGF. I also extended a general offer of help. Turned out he needed testers, so I gave a bunch of feedback myself and then rounded up some people from Boston Indies who were willing guinea pigs. This is how he ended up meeting Arshan Gailus, who would eventually provide the game’s music.

Seeing the game get released today, I can’t help but feel a little bit like a proud godparent or midwife.

Vertex Dispenser is for you if you like strategy games, “bizarre geometric worlds,” or (heaven forbid) solving graph theory problems in real time to boost your power meters.

Vertex Dispenser is for you if you’re getting kinda tired of indie games. If you want to be inspired by an indie game that isn’t a yet-another-throwback platformer, but that also doesn’t self-consciously attempt to “push the medium forward” by including some story about the futility of existence combined with an all-macrame art style or whatever.

Vertex Dispenser is for you if E3 left a sour taste in your mouth and you want to get excited about video games again.

In other words, if you’re reading this, Vertex Dispenser is for you. Get it on Steam, $9.99 (or $8.99 if you’re quick about it!).


tahrey January 22, 2012 at 5:40 pm

Looks suspiciously like a 3D version of Gridrunner doesn’t it?

Darius Kazemi January 23, 2012 at 12:56 pm

There are some similarities, sure. I do think they play pretty fundamentally differently.

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