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01-11-2011, 08:32 AM #1
Indie games are good for fans, agreed?
Excerpts from the article wirtten by Daniel Cook.
How a fan should select an authentic gaming hero
Here's an exercise for selecting someone in the game industry to admire.
- Is the game worthy?
- Are you being lied to?
- Are the authors identifiable as a real human being?
- Is their contribution meaningful and authentic?
- Does their contribution predict future enjoyment?
As we step through each of these, I've got a bold claim that I'll state up front: The only people that we, as fans, can claim with 100% certainty are worthy of our appreciation are small teams of independent developers.
Is the game worthy?
You can think about the worth of game in terms of Reach (the number of people it impacts), Depth (the depth of the experience) and Innovation (the degree to which the game moves the industry forward.)
Reach: An indie title like Steambirds will almost certainly will reach millions. It will be played by more gamers than 99% of all games on any game market. Take your pick...Xbox, Wii, PS3, DS, iPhone. In terms of broad popularity, Steambirds will have a bigger reach than the vast majority of games ever released during the history of gaming. Let that sink in for a moment.
Depth: For a percentage of players, a game made by one or two people can be just as compelling as any bloated AAA monstrosity. The elegant birds flying upward in Adam Saltsman's Canabalt spark deeper feelings within me than any of the overwrought hair porn smeared haphazardly across Bayonetta.
Innovation: A game like Steambirds doesn't play much like the vast number of clones that continually flood the market. From one perspective, it is another turn-based strategy game that has clear roots in existing (albeit obscure) boardgames. Yet compared to the dozens of FPS, physics games, platformers, tower defense titles and match 3 games, a project like Steambirds is delightfully unique. It innovates in terms of UI. It innovates in terms of genre pacing and mechanics. It even takes place in an original setting. (One where the fusion reactor was invented in the 1800s!)
I use Steambirds as an example, but there are dozens of indie titles that fit any sane definition of worthy. When you objectively measure game on worth instead of paid hype, you realize that games built by independent developers are rapidly becoming the defining experiences of a whole new generation of players. Just the other day I was chatting with my doctor, a gray haired lady in her fifties. She started excitedly talking about the great new game she was playing, a title called Osmos. This isn't some mainstream or casual title...it is pure indie gaming. It hit me: our stereotypes are broken. The fact that a game is 'indie' no longer limits it to being a niche product.
Greatness is now independent of development budget. It is no longer defined by team size or marketing campaigns. A great game is a great game, be it a AAA marquee title or a 2D project made by two guys with a dream.
Are you being lied to?
If there is a publisher, there is always spin. It is built into the incentive structure associated with funding and marketing a game portfolio.
With an indie game like Steambirds, there is no vast publisher machine with a financial need to twist and massage the truth. You are connected directly by blogs, forums and interviews with the developer. Many times they are the ones responding to your emails directly. There are no endless lists of people who may or may not have actually ever made something. Unlike most most pro developers, the human beings responsible for every lovingly crafted detail of indie games even have names. You can look them up. They have ugly, honest, human websites, not extravagant confections excreted by nameless outsourced minions.
Honesty and transparency should matter to true fans. It is worth dedicating your passion and energy to something real, not a lie.
Are the authors identifiable as real human beings?
For Steambirds, I helped a bit on the design and graphics, but real creator of the game is Andy Moore, who worked alongside Colin Northway on the phenomena called Fantastic Contraption. The musician is by DannyB, the sizzling dynamo behind games like Canabalt and Super Meat Boy. In some ways, it is a game made by indie superstars.
It matters that Andy Moore is a real person, not a cog playing a role. I've met him last year in Austin and together we drank some fine microbrews. Along with a crew of other indies, we partook in an ill fated 2am adventure through the back alleys of Austin in search of a magical rumored cupcake deli. As we were chatting, he told me how after Fantastic Contraption, he sold off everything that didn't fit in a suitcase. This practice is called 'rightsizing your life' and it shows a dedication to game development that I find both rare and admirable. The fact that his lovely girlfriend puts up with his artistic journey is even more admirable.
Now, he lives to make games. Just last weekend, he was tapped as a mentor for the Global Game Jam and stepped up at the last minute to bail out a failing team. By the end of 48 hours, they had created a giant grotesque caterpillar that barfed rainbows. The crowd gave him a standing ovation.
You won't find such stories told at press junkets. In fact, you may not even be able to find out the names of the people who actually worked on the game. Merely having accurate credits is still somewhat of a controversial topic for many large developers.
Games made by real people...there is something inherently valuable about the human story behind a game's creation.
Is their contribution meaningful and authentic?
Andy programmed every line of code in Steambirds. He isn't a 1% contributer. He is a majority contributor. My rule of thumb is simple: If you remove a person from the project, does the project still get finished? Does it still reach it's potential? I challenge you to find such a person on most non-indie projects. You typically won't. The cogs are treated as replaceable components (even when they aren't.)
After the project started, I found out that Andy is an amateur pilot. Steambirds was not merely a job. It was an opportunity for him to express his love of airplanes as a game. This intrinsic motivation is the difference between Van Gogh placing his turbulent emotions on canvas and an assembly line mechanically painting signage.
Personal passion and the size an individual's impact matter.
Does their contribution predict future enjoyment?
You haven't played Steambirds. But you may have played Fantastic Contraption. And you may have heard the tunes in Canabalt. There is a direct mapping between the creative skills expressed in Steambirds and your impressions of the author's past efforts. Much like how you might check out the album of your favorite band, you should also be inclined to check out the newest game from your favorite indie developer. Their creative blood courses through their entire body of work.
No such link with the past exists on games made by larger teams. 8 times out of 10, the name of both the publisher and the development company on the box have no coherent connection with the people who made the game. The team logos are, in effect, meaningless badges that exist purely for the sake of marketing. If someone says that they like or dislike an EA game, they obviously have no idea what they are talking about.
- A publisher's brand is a business shell, not a developer that creates authored experiences.
- Publishers often switch up teams on a title by title basis. The group that made the game that you enjoyed is unlikely to be the same team that was contracted to make the sequel.
- Large teams experience massive churn. Some groups lose upwards of 50% of their developers from game to game. The original people who made your beloved game may not even make games any longer.
- Power shifts within a large developer often alter creative direction in unpredictable ways.
A clear, strong connection between the author and his works helps you, the player make meaningful judgement about whether or not you want to try future games. Without this simple, obvious connection, you are just a sucker caught up in a cynical branding shell game.
True fans know who makes their games
In summary, when you really love a game, be it a small title or a large title, do the following:
- Find out who actually made the game you love.
- Look for games where vision and ownership are clearly visible.
- Reject the marketing machine.
As I look at this list, I am delighted by the indie game movement because for the first time in many years, players can once again associate the efforts of a human being with their great game experience. I want to be celebrate the individuals who makes the games that change my life. I don't want to be a suckered by some expensive snow job. Indie games let me be a fan who is cheering on someone authentic and deserving. That is pretty darned cool.
Last edited by CrazyEthan; 03-12-2011 at 09:47 AM.
01-11-2011, 12:07 PM #2
01-11-2011, 12:15 PM #3
Uh, Megagun, I think he's advertising his own game.
01-11-2011, 12:34 PM #4
Well, now Megagun is advertising the guy's game.
01-11-2011, 01:02 PM #5
What? No, I'm not! Why would I do such a thing!? What link did you think I posted?
01-11-2011, 01:36 PM #6
The guy had a City of Steam signature before when he was posting in some other threads (trying to avoid looking like an obvious drive-by I guess), but now the signature is gone and he's trying to pretend he's just interested in the game, not actually making it. How many of these do we get a week? 2? 3?
01-11-2011, 02:20 PM #7
- Join Date
- Jun 2011
- Three miles from the nearest bus stop
This is the thing with indie games. It's good that games can be made by people with less resources than the money-driven AAA publishers, just like it's good that music was democratised 20+ years ago.
But just because it's good overall doesn't mean we won't get the gaming equivalent of Myspace spam from terrible bands who don't realise that just because you can, doesn't mean you should.
01-11-2011, 02:42 PM #8
Well, the game might be good to be fair.
Also, I got rick-rolled. >.<
01-11-2011, 03:05 PM #9
01-11-2011, 03:32 PM #10
- Join Date
- Jun 2011
It's amazing isn't it. Especially since if people come on here and actually say 'hey look, I made this game, what do you all think' they generally get a constructive positive response...
01-11-2011, 04:19 PM #11
01-11-2011, 04:22 PM #12
1. Join a forum.
2. Be polite.
3. Be honest.
How not to advertise your game:
1. Join a forum.
2. Say "Oh, have you seen this game? It looks awesome."
02-11-2011, 01:08 AM #13
02-11-2011, 01:22 AM #14
02-11-2011, 03:59 AM #15
02-11-2011, 06:20 AM #16
I am not meant to pretending or spamming without politeness, sometimes if I said "I made a game, what do you think of it", then I will be treated as spamming or advertising, actually, the game is still in development, we want to gather some "first impression feedback" from gamers and then improve it. Sorry about the annoy before.
02-11-2011, 07:39 AM #17
You'll always be seen as spamming or advertising, unless you have been part of the community for a while and have a few posts under your name.
02-11-2011, 07:50 AM #18
Cool, got the point, I have no reason to avoid being part of the community!
Last edited by CrazyEthan; 02-11-2011 at 09:36 AM.
03-11-2011, 05:58 AM #19
Last edited by DarthBenedict; 03-11-2011 at 06:00 AM.
03-11-2011, 06:45 AM #20
Thanks dude, it's tough when you have such a situation...