Speaking of infomercials, the software developer and publisher Panic had their first big update for the Playdate handheld in two years!
This is the portable handheld gaming console that has a wild yellow color, a weird reflective black and white 400×240 screen without a backlight that Panic assures us will look amazing and not be a glare-y mess, and maybe the most notable feature is the crank on the side for interesting gameplay possibilities.
Panic is developing the Playdate in collaboration with Teenage Engineering, the people behind some incredibly wacky music making equipment.
Here’s a brief summary of what was announced during the update.
The Playdate handheld costs $180, pre-orders go up in July. Panic said that there would be a week’s notice before orders go up.
A Playdate Stereo Dock, a stereo bluetooth speaker accessory that can magnetically hold the Playdate in place and charge it, and it is also two pen holder slots which is wild. I didn’t see a line-in or anything on the speaker for non-bluetooth connections but there might be one. I’ll ask Panic about that. This thing is cute as hell.
An app for the Playdate to play music from Poolsuite (used to be known as Poolside.fm)
There’s no release date for those, they’re “coming soon”
24 games in Playdate Season One instead of the 12 that were originally planned for it.
Originally the plan for Season One was that a new game would unlock each week for the first year after users boot up the Playdate, now users will get two each week.
Those 24 games are all free to Playdate owners.
There’s game development software for Playdate called Pulp that enables development without programming inside of a web browser. Panic said this is inspired by Adam Le Doux’s Bitsy game-making tool. Pulp is supposed to let people make art, music, and a simple scripting language to tell narrative stories easily. Panic said this tool would be “available this year” and free.
The marquee title is still Crankin Presents Time Travel Adventure from uvula (the legendary Keita Takahashi (who designed Katamari Damacy) and Ryan Mohler) and Shaun Inman and Matthew Grimm.
Other games include:
Battleship Godios by TPM.Co Soft Works
Boogie Loops by May-Li Khoe and Andy Matuschak
Casual Birder by Diego Garcia and Max Coburn
Demon Quest 85 by Alex Ashby, Lawrence Bishop, Duncan Fyfe, Belinda Leung, and Jared Emerson-Johnson
Echoic Memory by Samantha Kalman, Everest Pipkin, Carol Mertz, and Rachelle Viola
Executive Golf DX by davemakes
Flipper Lifter by Serenity Forge
Forrest Byrnes: Up In Smoke by Nels Anderson and Christina “castpixel” Neofotistou which is clearly a Firewatch-inspired thing
Hyper Meteor by Vertex Pop (Mobeen Fikree, Robby Duguay, and h heron)
Lost Your Marbles by Sweet Baby Inc. & Friends. This got some demo time and is a visual novel game that has some kind of pinball-ish mechanic. The story was described as a character named Prota looking for their lost dog Minty and to make to the annual Festiball before the day as over.
Omaze by Gregory Kogos, I’m not sure if I’m spelling that right because the logo was just a weird eyeball thing in a circle.
Pick Pack Pup by Nic Magnier, Arthur Hamer and Logan Gabriel
Questy Chess by Dadako
Ratcheteer by Shaun Inman, Matthew Grimm, and Charlie Davis
Sasquatchers by Chuck Jordan and Jared Emerson-Johnson
Snak by Zach Gage
Spellcorked by Jada Gibbs, Nick Splendorr, Ryan Splendorr, Tony Ghostbrite and A Shell in the Pit (Em Halberstadt)
Zipper by Bennett Foddy. I cannot describe to you how much I love Bennett Foddy’s games so please accept that I do and am psyched for that.
Saturday Edition by Chris Makris, A Shell in the Pit (Good McGladdery and Alfonso Salinas). This got some more demo time, and the game was described as featuring John Cornfield, looks a little bit like an adventure game.
Whitewater Wipeout by Chuhai Labs also got some time on-screen. It’s looks a little bit like the old TNC sports games for the NES, it looks like it is mainly about surfing. It was described as “Surf, crank, and repeat.” Cranking is apparently how you do Tony Hawk Pro Skater-style tricks off of the top of waves.
Whitewater Wipeout is apparently the game that ships on each Playdate.
“We’ll also be dropping some fun surprises along the way” I guess that means even more stuff released during Season One.
That’s 23 games, hmm.
Sweet Baby, Inc is also developing Recommendation Dog by Xalavier Nelson Jr. and Reel Steal two more games for the Playdate that that features teams of developers from marginalized communities who are new to development in collaboration with people who have more experience developing games. Sweet Baby’s CEO, Kim Belair had a little pitch about those and promised more from Sweet Baby in the future.
Lucas Pope (Return of the Obra Dinn, Papers, Please) also showed up to say he is working on something called Mars After Midnight and had a short gameplay demo. The gameplay looked similar to Papers, Please in the sense that the player appeared to be judging admittance to a Cyclops Anger Management group who knock at a door in a city on Mars. There wasn’t a lot to it, but Pope opened a big rectangular peep-hole in the door by turning the Playdate crank and then peering at and around the aliens or monsters at the door to see what’s up with them. Pope said he didn’t really know when the game would be done.
Other Playdate games outside of Season One were previewed including:
Widget Satchel II: Return of Sprocket by Noble Robot
Oxy Con Brio by Matthew El-Jamal
Daily Driver by Matt Sephton
Date of Life by Andrea Interguglielmi
Faraway Fairway by Rokashi Games
Getting There by Michael Frei and Raphaël Munoz
Robot Fishing by davemakes
Direct Drive by DACvector (Dmitry Zhukov and Chris Mandra)
Renowned Mac and iOS software developer, Panic published their first game Firewatch with Campo Santo a few years ago, are expecting to release Untitled Goose Game later this year, and have now teamed up with the teens that figured out how to monetize themselves in pursuit of wacky audio equipment at Teenage Engineering to make a portable game console called the Playdate.
The Playdate is a bizarre device. There’s a black and white 400×240 screen without a backlight, Panic promises that screen will be perfectly clear during the day and that a reading lamp will be fine at night. I have a question out to them about glare.
The button layout looks normal up until you see that crank on the right side. The crank can tuck away inside the body of the unit for games that don’t need it. The Playdate downloads new games over WiFi. There is Bluetooth, USB-C, and a headphone jack as well.
Playdate’s games promise to be real odd ducks, the current list of announced designers are Keita Takahashi (Katamari Damacy, Noby Noby Boy), Bennett Foddy (QWOP, Getting Over It With Bennett Foddy, GIRP), Shaun Inman (Retro Game Crunch), Zach Gage (FlipFlop Solitaire, Really Bad Chess) with more to come. Their 12 games are to be released at no other cost over the course of 12 weeks, once a week from the date a player first turns on their Playdate. There will be an option to skip the wait if you fire one up late in the “first season” of games.
Here’s how Panic describes a Keita Takahashi game for the system:
Crankin’s Time Travel Adventure, from Keita Takahashi, the creator of Namco’s Katamari Damacy. This game uses the crank exclusively to control the flow of time, backwards and forwards. Your goal? Get Crankin’ to his date with Crankette while avoiding an ever-increasing series of ridiculous obstacles — obstacles that aren’t affected by the time control. Will Crankin’ make it to his rendezvous on-time? (Spoiler alert: no)
The name is supposed to make us think of setting up a time for kids to get together, but this Playdate console doesn’t have a firm release date yet or any announcement regarding multiplayer, just “Early 2020” with Panic hoping to have pre-ordering available at the end of 2019 and an e-mail waitlist that is supposed to act as a queue for the $150 handheld. The promise is that there will be a limited number of the consoles available at launch, which isn’t great since it probably means you need to pre-order this thing without knowing much about the yet-to-be-released games. Pre-orders are not necessary for anything that is produced at any scale, and it isn’t clear if Panic and Teenage Engineering are small enough to require them.
Panic promises to let us know about future game releases, and more specifications about the hardware (storage capacity, CPU, RAM) closer to the launch of the Playdate. It is not at all clear if you’ll be able to just download rando games that anyone makes, or if this thing tanks you’ll just be stuck with the single season of 12 games that Panic commissioned.