A Fresh Roguelike – Slay The Spire Early Access Review

Roguelikes have been a dime and a dozen over the last decade. While it is an interesting video game genre with a high difficulty level and clever progression mechanics, many of the games that belong to it have flown past the radar for many because they failed to differentiate themselves from kingpins like Rogue Legacy and Spelunky. Not only that, but all too many games seem to be implementing Roguelike elements into their gameplay seemingly at random. But despite the over-saturated market Slay The Spire, which just released on Steam early access, manages to feel fresh and engaging.

I know, I know, it’s heresy to review a game while it’s in early access, but this is one of those games that deserved to be checked out now. You’re not missing out on any story (of which there is none, in typical roguelike fashion) and all mechanics are in place. All to be added is some additional game modes, characters and cards. ‘Cards?’, I hear you ask. Yes, cards. In this game, you defeat your enemy using a deck of cards, each with unique offensive, defensive or skill based powers. You use these cards in turn based fashion to deplete your enemies health pool while saving your own hide. If you are thinking Hearthstone, then you are on the right track.

The gameplay mechanics of Slay The Spire actually aren’t all that unique. You progress through a series of rooms containing combat encounters, shops, rest points and a smattering of other things. While all these rooms are presented on a map and you are allowed to pick your own route, this is still standard fare in the land of Roguelikes. The combat mechanics, while finely tuned, are also fairly reminiscent of games like Hearthstone, and standard trading card games. What makes this game feels fresh is that this combination of game elements hasn’t been done all that many times before. The only other game I can think of that does this is Hand of Fate, and that game has a wholly different approach. It’s a breath of fresh air to play a roguelike that isn’t a top-down hack and slash or a 2D platformer for once. The art style has a hand-drawn feeling to them (probably because the sprites were hand drawn). This style may not appeal to every gamer but it’s good when a game strays away from pixel art for once.

The game plays really smooth in its current state, so there’s good hope for the rest of the journey through early access. You start the game with one of three characters, one of which isn’t out yet. The difference between them is their starting health pool, aesthetics and relic. Relics are items that give you a permanent buff for your playthrough, which could be over in minutes. The Ironclad starts out with a relic that heals him at the end of every combat encounter, for example.

Your starting deck consists of a bunch of duplicate attack and defend cards that you can use to damage your enemy or block incoming damage. At the end of every combat encounter, you are able to choose one of three random cards to add to your deck. There is a surprising amount of depth and strategy in deck building. Will you choose cards with high damage output and boosts your deck with cards that increase your strength? Or perhaps you will focus on debuffs or even a deck where you discard cards and gain special effects. The fun lies in experimenting with these strategies, and overcoming the many powerful enemies with them. Add potions, shops and relics to this and you’ve got yourself a game where roguelike enthusiasts can really sink their teeth in. Highly recommended in its current state, but we will definitely update this post when it comes out of early access.

The Brawl to End it All – Stick Fight: The Game Review

Remember when we use to draw stick figures? Or when we used to have those stick figures wield our poorly sketched armaments? Well, take that, add a bucket of awesomeness, and some snake-shooting weapons, and you get Stick Fight: The Game.

Stick Fight: The Game allows you to take control of a stick figure and fight against up to three other opponents. While you fight to the death, varying states of destructive weapons rain from above such as snipers, pistols, rocket launchers, snake guns, flamethrowers, and so much more.

The games key feature is its online mode. This allows you to connect with three random people and begin the carnage instantly, but, there is also a local mode, where two people can use one computer to wage wars on each other. The great thing about local co-op, especially with a game like Stick Fight: The Game, is that it could easily be the centerpiece of any couch party. Gathering around your flat-screen with four controllers and a hunger for beating your inhumanly thin friends just became possible.

The physics of the game are basically non-existent. You can jump twice your height and fire snipers with one hand. The map is entirely dynamic, so you can shoot at anything to destroy it and send your opponent’s plummeting to the depths below. This can be a fun and easy way to win, but your character can also climb onto any surface so they could recover and then you’re in for a nasty surprise.

The dynamic-map aspect is unique to the beat ’em up genre. When coupled with the many different power-ups you can use to decimate the map, it becomes a truly invigorating match with a satisfying victory.

I do wish that there was access to more maps. As far as I can tell, there are only three or four. If a community map building update of some sort was released, it would make for a lot of fun for every player. There is no tutorial for the game, but that is quickly overlooked as the game is easy enough to understand in the first two or three matches.

Finally, there is a feature in the game to talk with other players, so I took this opportunity to get some feedback from others within my intense matches. They had this to say: 

“This game is a great way to spend an hour or two”
“My favorite fighting game I’ve found on steam for under $5”
“I love this game because of the unrealistic weapons (like this snake gun)”

EnomView Score: 9 out of 10

Check out the game: http://store.steampowered.com/app/674940/Stick_Fight_The_Game/

Indie Game Marketing

It goes without saying that game development requires a lot of work. This ranges from how you will create the art and design for your game, all the way to how will you promote it once it releases. Of course, if you are an individual or a small game studio, you are likely to need an extra pair of hands when it comes to physically (and mentally) managing all of these different aspects of game development. Whether you are a small team or not, you can still have success in the game dev world.

My name is Max, creative director at MLC and I will be sharing our experience working with game studios to help market/build their games. Hopefully, our unique tips will improve your knowledge and understanding of how you can develop an incredibly successful game.

In this blog, we will focus on our most recent major project, Batch 17. We started by working on different resources to make it stand out online and look the best it could. Promotion on various platforms like Reddit was a great success, which you could even say, made the game as popular as it has become. Ultimately, when marketing a game there is one thing you need to have in your mind: There is no one way to market anything, it is all about persistence and creativity.

Persistence

Focusing on reaching the absolute maximum amount of people is very important. Set yourself a target of a potential reach of 1 million people. I know that sounds impossible, but it really isn’t too bad. There are plenty of subreddits with 80K+ people in them. Post in these subreddits, some Facebook groups, make sure your Twitter is buzzing and you will be well on your way. Even targeting smaller communities is effective. For example, letting a streamer with 1k followers have access to your game could end up being well worth your time and effort.

Creativity

It is important to think of new ideas to help reach that goal of 1 million people. It just isn’t enough to post your game on sites saying “Hey check out this cool game I made, it has guns and shit!”. That’s far too common. Think about what a player might be thinking. For Batch 17, we got our major success when we posted about our upcoming free alpha. Our Twitter was well organized and constantly posting, so people found it and were interested. I woke up one morning and we had been put on Metacritic, a blog had been written about our alpha and we had 400 sign-ups. Now their mailing list has 11,000 members!

What is important to learn from this is: target your audience like you would want to be targeted. Don’t assume someone wants to play your game, in fact, assume they don’t. It’s all about saying “hey look at me”, so draw attention to yourself using a great hook and kicker (great blog post about hook and kicker). Make a kickass trailer (or ask us!), run a giveaway or even partner with a Discord channel. Whatever you do, remember it’s all about that reach count. If your trailer isn’t being found and has less than 1k views, consider sending it to a channel like MathChief. Get other people involved.

 

Finally, make sure you know what you are selling. There is nothing worse than not even knowing what’s so fun about your own game. Get your ideas and stick with them. Copy and paste writing you have used on your store page, on your posts around the web (of course altering slightly). Make your game relate to what the audience wants to play – which is most likely what you want to play.

Get in touch

There is too much to marketing to put in one blog post. There are plenty resources online to help you learn more, but make no mistake, this is hard stuff. If you are really serious about your project it is vital you get marketing done properly. Feel free to contact me at sales@maxlouiscreative.com or message me on Discord at Max#2210 to have a chat with me 🙂

How to Make Your First Game

For just about every gamer there is in the world, there are about a half a hundred game ideas just waiting to be tapped into. If I had a dime for every time that I’ve heard one, I think I’d be rich enough to provide every cent that Rockstar needed to make GTA 6 a reality. For many, these are just ideas, but for others, these are the beginning baby steps into a long, glorious future in game design, and we here at EnomView want nothing more than to set those beginners on the right track. Here are some helpful tips to get you started:


1. Idea & Scope

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The first part of this step is simple enough: have an idea! Was there ever a game-related passion project you wanted to start on? A concept you wanted to make into something tangible? If so, then now’s the time to take that idea and practically apply it.

The second part of this step, however, is much more tricky.

>>>Think small.<<<

While you should definitely let your imagination run wild, you have to remember that this is the first time you’ve stepped up to the plate, bat at-the-ready. You shouldn’t expect your game to sell, nor should you be trying to make something comparable to AAA titles like Assassin’s Creed, The Elder Scrolls, or Call of Duty. Instead, shoot for something like a mobile app game, or one of the more simple flash games you’d find on Kongregate or Armorgames.

If you have some sort of other talents you can use, like art or writing, then by all means, use it. However, since you’ll most likely be working on this all on your own–and again–this is your first project, you’ll want to worry first and foremost about the gameplay and mechanics, not the stylization of it all. Record a basic synopsis of that idea somewhere safe and keep that synopsis handy.

There are lots of strategies to creating good mechanics, but if you want more help with those before you start or maybe just need some inspiration, then I’m going to recommend the following links:

Snoman Gaming (Quick videos going over examples of good game design in popular indie and AAA games)

GDC (Videos of lectures given by professional designers at the Game Design Con)

Extra Credits (A channel recommended to me personally by several designers who’ve been making games for years)

2. Game On

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Play games similar to the one you want to make, but don’t just mess around, analyze them. Try to break them, exploit their faults and glitches, figure out what they did right and what they did wrong. Try to look at these games not only from the perspective of a player, but a developer, and determine why the systems put in place were chosen. Use the knowledge you’ve gained and edit the information on your recorded synopsis as necessary.

3. Pick an Engine

Things weren’t this easy at this stage back in the old days, but thankfully times have changed. It’s now possible to make something that people all over the world will fall in love with and not even have to touch the code. Every one of the engines listed below has their perks. While you can truthfully use any one that you so please, certain engines will work better for certain types of games.

Gamemaker Studio 2 – Used to make games like Death’s Gambit and Undertale, Gamemaker Studio 2 is really the best all-around choice here. Platformers, RPGs, general flash games, and even 3D games can be made with GMS2. (Tutorial playlist links)

Gamesalad – Generally used for mobile app games, it’s not uncommon to see a featured download on the App Store that was made with Gamesalad. For games made to be played on a phone or tablet, Gamesalad’s where you’ll want to go. (Part 1 of Tutorial Videos)

RPG Maker – If you like old school RPGs, then you’ll love RPG Maker. If you’re making a game like The Legend of Zelda or Pokemon, then go ahead and use this one. (Tutorial Playlist) 

Unity  – Used to make 3D games like Kerbal Space Program, Rust, and Battlestar Galactica Online, Unity’s the first choice of several indie developers. It will unfortunately be the hardest on this list, and is usually only used for games with 3D models, but it should not by any means be dismissed. (Part 1 of Tutorial Videos) 

Once you’ve decided upon one such engine, play around with it. Use one of the tutorials linked above and get a feel for what you can and can’t do. Then, when you’ve got a basic feel for it…

4. Give it a Go

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Try and make it happen!

Set about with an idea that won’t take you any longer than a month, then give yourself half a months time longer to account for production errors. If you go over that month and a half-long timeframe, then it may be best to take a step back, figure out what you did wrong, and start again with something new. It’s far too easy to fall into a forever-unending development cycle, and you want to make sure that you finish your work.

When you’re done, ask a few people you know to play it, and collect feedback. Apply that feedback and make changes as necessary.

“And what about when I’m done? What do I do then?”

Start right over from the beginning, my friend, and keep making games over and over again until everyone you know is begging to play your latest release. And then, once you’ve reached that point, keep on going.


Looking for more articles like this? Check out our Game Development is Not Easy article!

Defend the Homeland – Castle Crashers Review

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Your homeland is in grave peril! Your king needs your valiance! Take up your weapon and free the ladies of the land from the clutches of our sworn enemies! Destroy any that stand in the way of your might and valor! And look damn good while doing it!

Very little is needed to be said about the awesomeness of Castle Crashers, but sit down, we’re going to talk about it anyway! You are a knight whose sole duty is to repel the enemy and get your lady loves back, as they were kidnapped from the castle.

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While I will say that using the keyboard is not a good idea, using the controller is just as fluid as any other game you could ever find made from an AAA manufacturer. The controls are responsive, reliable and so very easy to learn by yourself. Still, it doesn’t care how easy it is to learn, the game still prompts you when you can use combos and what not while you play without stopping the game or halting your progress.

The colors and artwork are so very simple, but still beautiful to look at. The cartoony quality is charming and the humor matches it perfectly! While the humor can be a little juvenile at times, it still is worth noting that it can also be especially witty.

As for the difficulty, that’s probably the best part. It may not be considered extremely hard because there is a marvellous level up system that keeps the game progressing along with you, while not making the levels too easy for your character. There is no steep learning curve and you find yourself wanting to progress as long as you can! You’re not stopped between levels and forced to go to the map screen simply to select the next level on the list. No, you are simply brought to the map screen for the important decisions and crossroads.

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Combat! Smash your enemies’ faces in! No, seriously, you just push the buttons and dodge left to right, smashing your enemies to bits while you gain up levels, dodge and block their attacks, and kill them! It may sound repetitive, and in some ways it is, but it never feels stale because it’s always moving. You can’t really call this a pure beat’em up because it also has RPG elements, but it still feels like it belongs in the arcade where you can feed it a million quarters to keep it going.

That’s not the case, though. We are lucky enough to find this simple gem of an indie classic pretty much wherever games are sold for some pretty good prices. So, if you were looking for a beat’em up to relieve some stress, look no further! This will sate your hunger for blood and carnage! The boss battles will challenge you, but not to the level of absolute ragequit mode, you can learn their patterns and defeat them with your own skill, should ye be worthy!

Now go, hero! The homeland is counting on you! Slay thy enemies and drink thy water.

EnomView Score: 10 out of 10

Get the game: http://store.steampowered.com/app/204360/Castle_Crashers/

Indie Game of the Week – Summoners Fate

A fast and fun turn-based adventure where you use top-down tactical combat and collectible card mechanics to master your strategy. Summoners Fate is a top-down adventure that combines exploration, card collecting and tactical combat. You control the fate of your Summoner and command an ever-changing band of companions. Defeat monstrous hordes and reap the rewards of treasures, allies, and powerful spells as you advance deeper into unknown lands. Are these chance encounters or do they connect to a greater meaning? Combat in Summoners Fate is turn-based, quick and gratifying. Hide behind trees or play a card that brings them to life. Douse your enemies in oil and ignite them with a fireball. Set a trap with a gravity spell to pull an enemy into your clutches. The possibilities are endless.

Support Summoners Fate, here!

Challenging Cuteness – Bounce Rescue Review

When I first looked at Bounce Rescue, I thought this would be a quick walk in the park. Boy, was I wrong. Bounce Rescue is a platforming game which tells the story of a bouncy protagonist whose friends have all been kidnapped! It’s now up to you to rescue them, begin your adventure fighting monsters, collecting coins, and breaking records on amazing levels with multiple challenges to overcome.

From the first level, you can tell the game won’t be easy. Your jumps take precise timing and some of the items require a substantial amount of backtracking to get. Throughout the levels, there are doors blocking your path. For these doors, you will need to find keys hidden throughout the level and use them to unlock the doors. Some keys are in obscure places surrounded by enemies and difficult jumps, and if you fall off or die then you will die, losing your key and any crystals you have picked up since your last checkpoint.

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The artwork in the game is in a word, cute. It has a nice sort of art that makes it look friendly to children, plenty of bright colors that pop out at you, with similarly bright colored enemies and items.

While playing the game, there are other characters you can unlock with different abilities or characteristics, but they aren’t going to be easy to get. The 50 levels offer a lot of fun and should take a substantial amount of time to complete as well. But, there is also more game modes to try. There is a section where you can view global scores, so you can try to raise yourself on the global leaderboards for each level. Also, there is a time attack mode, which takes your in-game timer and sets it on a leaderboard, too.

A few tips while playing though: First, you should definitely get yourself a controller to play as the controls on keyboards can be a little uncomfortable due to their positioning, and there is no controls tab for keyboard controls, just the controller setup on loading screens. Watch your jumps. Sometimes the jump won’t take off the way you want and you will just fall down, but can do another jump, this could be helpful for a quick save in a tight spot.
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In my opinion, the game looks amazing and seems like it will be a lot of fun to finish, but would be better if the keyboard was able to be used as easily as the controller. The game’s difficulty is exactly where I believe it should be which might be a bit challenging for some, but others will find it simplistic. I definitely recommend picking up this game once it releases on steam on February 1st, 2018.

And one final note, the developers have decided to have a contest on speedrun.com for anyone willing to do a speedrun of Bounce Rescue. They stated that on April 2nd, the player with the number one spot on their speedrun.com leaderboard will be awarded a “trophy for your heroic deeds” I know I’ll be racing in this, hope to see you all there as well.

Enomview rating: 8.5/10

Darkly Atmospheric – Darkwood Review

There’s a quiet and tense energy that pervades the world of Darkwood. It’s not a traditional horror game in that there are monsters leaping out at you from every shadow – but it’s this that makes it even scarier.

Developers Acid Wizard Studio reportedly decided to create a horror game of their own as a result of not being fans of the genre, and after a successful Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, and a sometimes difficult four years of development in Steam Early Access, Darkwood officially launched in August 2017.

In many ways, this lack of background in horror shines through positively throughout the game. For a start, the top-down mechanic is at least rare, if not unique, in the genre. And all too often, horror games go for the jump scares, while Darkwood prefers a more psychological brand of terror.

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It begins innocuously enough – in the prologue, you play as a man living in a forest cabin and the game teaches you how to move around and manage your inventory. Things get a bit more sinister as you decide whether or not to euthanise your dying dog, and shortly afterwards Darkwood takes a deep breath and takes a long journey into the strange and surreal.

One of the first lessons you learn is to never, ever, under any circumstances, go outside during the night, because you will die a horrible and painful death. The lifeblood of this notion is the gasoline that fuels the generator in your shelter; as long as the lights are on, the paranormal beasties will stay away. Mostly. There are exceptions, such as the foreboding but unaggressive figure who imparts this nocturnal advice, standing with the body of a man and the head of a wolf.

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Cleverly, Darkwood slowly descends into madness, instead of plunging straight in deep. For the first few nights, not much might happen. But I recall early into the story, I was huddled in the bedroom of my shelter when the door swung open. There was nothing there. Another time I was pacing impatiently when I turned back around to find a person sat crying on the bed, desperate to go home.

As the loading screen warns you, Darkwood doesn’t hold you by the hand. Hence my confusion when, despite the earlier warning to never, EVER go outside at night, someone or something began knocking at the door after darkness had fallen. In such a situation, you’re gripped by a terrible indecision; do you go and open the door, or do you ignore it? It’s moments like these that truly set Darkwood aside from other horror games.

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Suffice to say that these are just the tip of a psychedelic iceberg that descends into trippier and scarier depths as the game continues, but I wouldn’t want to be the one to ruin the experience for a new player.

Despite the strange and terrible things that occur, there’s a reassuring logic that sits somewhere in the background; while it doesn’t hold your hand, neither does the game try and trip you up by changing the rules on you for the sake of adding confusion.

While it’s good, things aren’t perfect. The combat system feels very clunky to operate, and particularly from the mid-game on, it’s really difficult to walk away from a fight – and not in an “I appreciated the challenge” type of way.

But that’s a relatively small part of an otherwise phenomenal game. I’m a big fan of minimalist graphic styles, and here we can see an example of a game that basically just uses different shades of grey throughout and look amazing.

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And the sound quality alone is almost worth the cost of admission – moody, sombre drones ramp up the feeling of dread without you even realising it, particularly when you go anywhere near your lupine acquaintance.

Despite a somewhat clunky combat system, Darkwood presents a fresh and engaging take on the horror genre, which stays true to its roots at the same time as striking off in a new direction. Developed by guys who don’t normally like horror games, this one is bound to appeal to scare junkies and newcomers alike.

EnomView Score: 8 out of 10

In The Valley of Gods – Teaser Trailer

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From the makers of FirewatchIn The Valley of Gods looks to be an amazing graphic world, filled with wonders and adventure.

Traverse the ancient ruins in search of an amazing discovery. Your skills as a filmmaker/explorer will allow you to navigate the passages with ease and reach the top of the ruins in this ancient setting.

As a personal fan of Firewatch, I can’t wait to discover the elaborate story and entrancing setting of In The Valley of Gods.

In The Valley of Gods Announcement Trailer: 

Here are the awesome features we picked up from the trailer:
  • You play as a woman in what appears to be the deserts of Egypt
  • Explore tombs in an extremely detailed high-quality world
  • Like Firewatch, you can see that the developers made use of a walking simulator and camera combination
  • Although characteristics like clothing seem modern, from the camera we can elaborate that it’s based sometime in the 1900’s
  • First-person gameplay
  • Explore the sandy landscape alongside a companion (most likely a sister)
  • This companion may serve as your “Delilah”

Overall, we can’t contain our excitement for this sure to be blockbuster of an indie game. We implore you to check out more, here: http://store.steampowered.com/app/687440/In_The_Valley_of_Gods/ 

 

5 Reasons Why They Are Billions Is So Addictive

Featuring more empty, hungry husks of people than a city centre takeaway on a Saturday night, They Are Billions has swept across Steam like the infection afflicting its billions of in-game villains. What is it that makes the game so addictive? Let’s take a look at a few reasons below…

1. Difficulty Level: Insanity

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Everyone loves a challenge, and in They Are Billions, gamers have found a doozy. Strategy gamers, in particular, seem to be gluttons for punishment, seeking more and more of a tactical trial; and keeping your colony free from infection is one of the toughest in recent memory.

Just one zombie can be the catalyst for bringing the base you’ve worked on for hours to come crashing down. And when there are billions of the blighters running around, one slip can be all it takes to see the plague infecting all of your colonists, and the dreaded game over screen.

Add to that the feeling of triumphant satisfaction when you finally win, and it’s a recipe to keep gamers trying to reach that ultimate goal. After all, the more difficult the battle, the sweeter the victory…

2. Dem Graphics

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While zombies and steampunk are popular (and arguably, overused) choices for games, doing them both together is a winning combination in the case of They Are Billions.

Steampunk, when done well, is a striking and engaging graphic style that has served well titles like 80 Days, Bioshock Infinite and Dishonored, while zombies provide a universally recognised menace that almost anyone can immediately engage with.

Add to that the post-apocalyptic setting and you’re left with an absolutely gorgeous retro-style aesthetic, with vibrantly coloured human settlements holding fast against the endless waves of grey undead flesh.

3. Made Like They Don’t Make Them Anymore

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As many people over a certain age might tell you, the past holds examples of superior craftsmanship and style that have faded away with the inevitable progression of time.

In this instance, I am one of those people – RTS games never seem to be as engaging as I remember, with classic genre titles like Age of Empires II or Command & Conquer holding special places in my heart from my younger days.

As such it’s easy to see how They Are Billions captures the imagination of gamers like me, with its old-school RTS play style that embodies the best of those classics and updates them into the future. Sure, there are a few niggles like the patrol pathway system, but it is still in Early Access, remember…

4. Doom is Inevitable, Why Rush?

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Sometimes games fall into the “bigger and better” trap, where the solution to innovation is making things larger, faster or more complex.

In the case of They Are Billions, it’s almost as if the design process has taken a step back, and bucks the trend of trying to make games that require the reflexes of an alert cat and memorising twenty different hotkeys to play well.

With its pause system, the game encourages players to take as much time as they need to make decisions, plan a strategy, issue orders, and still end up watching your colony fall to the undead hordes. But at least you thought about it first, right?

5. Higher Stakes Than A Vegas Casino

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Despite the apparent safety net that the pause system affords, it’s really easy to forget that one tiny slip up can mean endgame for your colony.

In an era where loading up from a less perilous time when the going gets tough is commonplace, the ruthlessness of They Are Billions’ save state system forces gamers to really pay attention, even being impervious to alt+F4 rage quitting.

Knowing that at any moment, one teeny tiny zombie could infect your whole colony within seconds really raises the stakes – especially when failure means having to start again from square one.

Did we forget any? Post the things you love or hate in the comments. And check out EnomView’s review of They Are Billions here!

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