We are going to define independent gaming right here, right now. Oh, also ROBOTS!
In the world of gaming, there are a variety of genres of games. I am not talking about RPG vs RTS vs FTP vs BBQ. I am more-so referring to hardcore gaming and casual gaming as examples. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, the mainstream appeal of video games, and the overall passion from gamers like you, the culture of gaming has been evolving.
In this article, I will be highlighting a lesser-known (or perhaps misunderstood) culture, and that is the indie community. The goal in this weekly article is not to propagate the mindset that indie games are all artistic, or avoid that mentality. It is straight-up to keep you informed on the latest and greatest, how it has an effect on you, and to show you a couple games to try in your spare time.
Factually, most of you readers have been supporting indie development without knowing it, and even without paying a cent. If you have ever been to one of the man hotspots for flash games (such as Armor Games, Newgrounds, or Kongregate), you have been supporting indie development. Since flash is a relatively easy to use tool for making games (especially-so since the creation of the Flixel library), it is no surprise that there is a seemingly infinite number of quality games to discover and enjoy; and nearly all of them are 100% free.
The question of what is or is not indie is by no means easy to answer though. At what point in a game’s or company’s success does it become “mainstream”? Angry Birds and its spiritual predecessor Crush The Castle are both immensely popular, and Angry Birds has raked in a profit that even the developers could never have imagined. Is it still indie? Riot Games is known for making one of the most popular free games to date (with micro-transactions of course). At what point is League of Legends not indie? Was it ever indie? Does it even matter what defines an indie game? Well for better or for worse, it does. We as humans view everything in categories, and knowing if a big corporation or some guy in a house made a title factors into our decisions as consumers (even if all we pay is our time). Here are some notes on the pros and cons of most “indie” games:
*Lower cost or free.
*Freedom to pursue more risky business and design choices.
*Smaller, Closer communities allow for the developers to listen more closely to the players’ desires.
*QA staff is smaller and less professional, leading to design oversights, bugs, and eventually relying on players to identify problems.
*Indie developers are not business-oriented, so profit opportunities are slim, which results in projects getting delayed, no further games being produced, or a game never being released.
*The competition for free gaming is fierce.
These are some points to think about when you sit down to try Braid, Minecraft, or Bastion. You are generally going to find more unique ideas, but if you are looking forward to an upcoming title, you run the risk of problems along the way. If the above is of no concern to you, then may the best game take your time and money. It may all be irrelevant anyway, because a definition is only as powerful as those who define it; and all “official” definitions aside, indie is a loose term that can mean more than just independent or self-funded. Below are two games I would define as indie that truly deserve your attention:
There have been times when I find something long long ago, then not come back to it. Robostrike is one of those cases. I used to play it over five years ago, and my three year-old account is still in the system. Anyway, I loaded up my old profile and proceeded to get the ever-loving crap beat out of me by five players from a delightfully polite community. This free flash-based game has been around for ten years now (as of January 3rd, 2012). It focuses on everyone inputting their commands six at a time, then running those commands all at once; so essentially your goal is to try and predict your opponents’ actions in the near future. Games usually last a simple ten minutes, and the strategy is in-depth enough to lend itself to heavy strategy, but also allows enough randomness so that the best player will never win every game. It offers solo challenges for those who like puzzles, but the meat of the game is in the multiplayer. Regretfully, the playerbase is rather small at most times of most days (at the time of this writing, the most players online all at once in the last 24 hours was a whopping nine.)
Games involve up to eight players in one game, with power-ups laid out (sometimes randomly) across the battlefield. Your most basic commands are there (turn left/right, move forward/backward, and fire; however, the simplicities stop there. You have advanced commands for combat, maneuverability, and powering up. Mix in unique map environments and you have a game that has a little bit of a learning curve. With a map editor and two play modes, it is worth your time to bring a friend or two to try a strategic masterpiece that has survived ten years; and believe me, the current fanbase would love to take you on.
Recently the 7dfps challenge ended, where anyone (and everyone) could make a first-person shooter, but it had to be within seven days of development. Well, thumbing through the results I have seen some unique ideas, some generic ideas, but mostly fun ideas. In this particular entry you can not turn your character, but instead you see in all four directions at the same time and can fire with your mouse. In the author’s words, this is a first person shooter for those who get motion sickness; but this seems to do more to disorient than anything else. Despite it being a work in progress, it is something cool to check out for a couple minutes of your time. If you want to scroll through the entire list of 7dfps entries, you can go to the site here.
I am interested in seeing your comments on what you think truly defines an indie game. Until next time, you have been indie updated.