PAX 2009 – Dust: An Elysian Tail

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Indie games seem to be gaining notoriety these days. It’s not hard to figure out, really. Digital distribution is quickly picking up steam, making it easier to make games available without shipping or manufacturing cost.


My first day here at PAX, I saw a lot of fun and interesting things. But nothing stood out to me more than when I headed to the Microsoft XNA Booth (XNA is a set of tools that allows for a more streamlined system for game development) to check out the six finalists for their Dream.Build.Play, which challenges independent game developers to create new, innovative titles using XNA Game Studio. While the games I demoed were all rather fun and interesting to me, only one really stood out to me: Dust: An Elysian Tail.

Created by Dean Dodrill, Dust is a beautiful, sidescrolling action RPG. What I played didn’t delve too much into the story of the game, but for those of you wondering why exactly Dust stood out to me, it is quite simple: the visuals for the game were hand-animated and painted, not computer generated and it flowed quite nicely during gameplay. The combat itself was allowed for some combos and seemed fairly intuitive for the most part. The visuals strike a chord with that part of my inner-child that calls for childish fantasy.

Yes...those are actual gameplay graphics.

Yes...those are actual gameplay graphics.

Again, while not delving too much into the story, the demo definitely showed that much work and passion had gone into development, and has used a world that he had established as part of an independent animated film as a backdrop for his vision. As a fantasy fiction writer (not a very good one, I’ll admit), crafting a fantastic and imaginative world is difficult and I applaud Dean Dodrill for doing such a good job.

Microsoft will be announcing the winner of the Dream.Build.Play contest on Sunday, the winner of which gets $40,000, plus the opportunity at winning an Xbox Live Arcade publisher’s contract. Whether Dust wins or not, I truly hope we see this on the Xbox Live Indie channel as a downloadable title, as each contestant has the opportunity to submit their works onto XBLA. It’s something I’d definitely pay to get my hands on.

For more info on Microsoft XNA and Dream.Build.Play, visit their site.

For more info on Dust: An Elysian Tail and Dodrill’s Elysian Tail universe, visit the official website.