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More Devs Going Indie, To Gamers' Benefit

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the granularization-of-an-industry dept.

Games 137

Wired is running a feature about how a growing number of game developers are abandoning jobs at major publishers and studios and taking their experience to the indie scene instead. Quoting: "They’re veterans of the triple-A game biz with decades of experience behind them. They’ve worked for the biggest companies and had a hand in some of the industry’s biggest blockbusters. They could work on anything, but they’ve found creative fulfillment splitting off into a tiny crew and doing their own thing. They’re using everything they’ve learned working on big-budget epics and applying it to small, downloadable games. The good news for gamers is that, as the industry’s top talents depart the big studios and go into business for themselves, players are being treated to a new class of indie game. They’re smaller and carry cheaper price tags, but they’re produced by industry veterans instead of thrown together by B teams and interns. Most importantly, unlike big-budget games that need to appeal to the lowest common denominator to turn a profit, these indie gems reveal the undiluted creative vision of their makers."

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137 comments

Quite (3, Insightful)

DurendalMac (736637) | more than 3 years ago | (#33366274)

Some indie games are the best I've ever played. The Penumbra series springs to mind. Bungie made their best stuff prior to being assimilated by Microsoft. However, indie doesn't always mean good. I remember hearing about "Darkness Within" and it was truly awful. Intriguing, rather Lovecraftian story, but godawful gameplay.

Re:Quite (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33366358)

I still am waiting for Myth IV :(

One wonders if it would gain the same traction it did 10 years ago ... I can only hope that it will.

Re:Quite (1)

ZeRu (1486391) | more than 3 years ago | (#33367106)

Myth 1&2 were my favourite games of all time, but Myth 3 was not made by Bungie and was a disaster. Unfortunately I doubt that Myth 4 will ever be made, even the person who was behind first two games (Tuncer Deniz) isn't making games anymore. The best we can hope for is for someone else to release something similar but I haven't ever seen a game similar to Myth - the closest ones were old-school isometric RPGs.

Re:Quite (1)

DurendalMac (736637) | more than 3 years ago | (#33368596)

THISx10! Myth 1 and 2 were excellent games that have yet to be matched as a purely tactical RTS. Myth 3 was a sloppy mess made by a different studio.

Re:Quite (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33366472)

If you read the article, the indie game "shank" they're talking about is released by EA. I wonder if they know that indie means something else than slightly "different" games?

Re:Quite (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33366524)

This is the problem when "indie" is treated as a genre instead of the method of financing the game it is.

Re:Quite (2, Informative)

sortius_nod (1080919) | more than 3 years ago | (#33366562)

I wonder if you know the difference between publisher and developer?

It's funny that this article comes shortly after the one about gaming budgets peaking. Maybe it's a sign of things to come.

Re:Quite (1)

stewbacca (1033764) | more than 3 years ago | (#33370004)

When Bungie was Bungie, they weren't an "indie" game company. Their Myth series was mainstream (and excellent). They were a smaller company that let themselves be purchased by Microsoft.

Being "indie" does free up some creative license, usually at the expense of profit. I prefer good over profitable, but most businesses don't.

To make games I want to play (3, Interesting)

Zeussy (868062) | more than 3 years ago | (#33366292)

Is the reason I am going indie, It is my ultimate dream to make a living from games I love making. I know a few indie devs here in Melbourne, for some it is their day job, for others they still need a stable part time job to support themselves, and for most its not the money (although) that is nice. It is about the quality of life. Typed on phone so apologies for bad grammar.

Re:To make games I want to play (2, Informative)

Jedi Alec (258881) | more than 3 years ago | (#33366460)

Checked out your website, looks like a potentially fun game.

If I'm allowed to make a recommendation though, pay a little more attention to the use of language, both in the game and on the website itself. Speaking for myself I find less than top-notch quality graphics / voice acting etc. perfectly acceptable in an indie game, but mangled english is an instant turnoff.

Re:To make games I want to play (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33366482)

but mangled english is an instant turnoff.

Otherwise known as 'Australian English' ;-)

Re:To make games I want to play (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33368590)

All your base are belong to us!

Re:To make games I want to play (1)

sortius_nod (1080919) | more than 3 years ago | (#33366896)

You guys should have submitted to freeplay (http://www.freeplay.net.au/) it was on at the state library in Melbourne a couple of weeks ago.

Keep an eye out for it next year.

Re:To make games I want to play (1)

Zeussy (868062) | more than 3 years ago | (#33368060)

I was at freeplay, but the game is probably a year away from completion

Re:To make games I want to play (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 3 years ago | (#33367846)

I remember earlier on when you made a post about your game on GRM forums. The graphics in your game look really good for an indie effort, almost up to par with the "top title" releases. The engine designer looks awesome too, I could see a lot of car geeks wasting a lot of time on that :)

I don't blame them. I ditched the industry too. (5, Interesting)

lanner (107308) | more than 3 years ago | (#33366324)

Pay for the work wasn't worth it.

Pay in the gaming industry sucks. I left and immediately made about 15% more, the job was more stable, and less stressful. Went on to make much more later.

The second issue that really got to me was the stupid endless "crunch time". It was ALWAYS crunch time. Project management sucked so it was just some fat-ass bigwigs always just moving up the powerpoint milestones, while adding requirements at the same time. I got tired of the 50-to-60-hour work weeks.

More pay for less work. Only idiot noobs straight out of high-school could think much good of that industry. "I wanna make video games for a living!" says the dork who played video games for the last 15-years of his life (at 20).

Sometimes I think about the fun, and I might join some startup again some day, but I'd never work for any of the big guys again.

Re:I don't blame them. I ditched the industry too. (0)

munky99999 (781012) | more than 3 years ago | (#33366632)

Many Many industries run like this. Astronaut? Considering the demands and risks it's terrible pay. Airline pilot? You start @ $15,000/yr to average $30,000/yr. There was a plane crash where everyone had died. it happened somewhat recently of your typical airline and someone found out that the pilot and 1st officer were the poorest people on the plane. People on welfare made more then they had. I guess video game industry is the same; which isnt surprising at all. The industries take advantage of the 'cool factor'

Re:I don't blame them. I ditched the industry too. (2, Interesting)

Marcika (1003625) | more than 3 years ago | (#33367216)

Airline pilot? You start @ $15,000/yr to average $30,000/yr. There was a plane crash where everyone had died. it happened somewhat recently of your typical airline and someone found out that the pilot and 1st officer were the poorest people on the plane. People on welfare made more then they had.

[citation needed]. Long-haul commercial pilot are some of the best-paid jobs around in the transportation sector (around 80k-120k pounds on average at Virgin and BA, that's $150k+), especially given the additional perks and the massive amount of days off. Even short haul pilots at cheapo airlines earn 50k pounds in the UK.

Re:I don't blame them. I ditched the industry too. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33367802)

[citation granted [aviation-safety.net] ]

Feel free to google the newspaper stories on the pilots.. A real "valley girl" in the right seat... And a moron in the left

Re:I don't blame them. I ditched the industry too. (3, Interesting)

Kitten Killer (766858) | more than 3 years ago | (#33369300)

(I'd rather reply to this than spend my mod points.)

Yes, long-haul commercial pilots are well paid. The problem is getting one of those jobs. There's a huge over supply of pilots. I'm a pilot myself and I'm very glad I never tried to make a living out of it.

Once you are in the company, your position is based not on skill or ability or how hard you work. It's based entirely on how senior you are. That in turn decides how much you get paid. Typically you start off in the right seat of turbo-prop commuters getting paid almost nothing. In fact, "self-sponsored" positions aren't unheard of. If you manage to stay with one company long enough that you're no longer part of the "last in, first out" cuts, then your job is safe but your salary still isn't that great. It's only when you start edging towards retirement that the pay starts to reflect the amount of training and seat-time you've put in while earning peanuts. If your company goes bankrupt or you switch companies, you may find yourself at the bottom again.

Re:I don't blame them. I ditched the industry too. (1)

IMightB (533307) | more than 3 years ago | (#33369310)

High end Anyjobs make a lot of money. You're forgetting the 99.99% of all the others that make crap. You're statement is a bit like saying McDonalds employee's make crap tons of money because their exec's are some of the highest payed in the restaurant field

Re:I don't blame them. I ditched the industry too. (1)

not-my-real-name (193518) | more than 3 years ago | (#33369480)

There's a difference between a long-haul airline pilot and the pilots in the short-haul commuter/feeder airlines.

Re:I don't blame them. I ditched the industry too. (1)

Tongsy (1188257) | more than 3 years ago | (#33368252)

Astronaut isn't a fair comparison, I'm pretty sure that most of the people doing that aren't in it for the money, but that's just my two cents.

Re:I don't blame them. I ditched the industry too. (3, Interesting)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 3 years ago | (#33366686)

Ditto to all of the above.

The industry relies on grinding up graduates who don't know any better, paying them chicken feed until they've proved themselves by getting their name on a published title (or everyone above them has quit). You're always working to someone else's vision, to someone else's requirements, and to someone else's standards of quality - which may be higher or lower than your own.

My epiphany came when driving home after "only" putting in 7 hours one Saturday, I felt like I'd had a day off, and I suddenly thought: "Wait... what if I didn't have to work at all at the weekend?"

Don't get me wrong, it's a great first job, if only to teach you how not to develop software.

Experience requirement (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#33367392)

paying them chicken feed until they've proved themselves by getting their name on a published title

A lot of that is the fault of the console makers, who won't deal with an indie developer who starts his own studio until the developer has "relevant video game industry experience". Nintendo spells it out [warioworld.com] .

Re:Experience requirement (1)

VGPowerlord (621254) | more than 3 years ago | (#33368030)

paying them chicken feed until they've proved themselves by getting their name on a published title

A lot of that is the fault of the console makers, who won't deal with an indie developer who starts his own studio until the developer has "relevant video game industry experience". Nintendo spells it out.

Not surprisingly, the most indie-friendly console is Microsoft's Xbox 360.

Why not surprisingly? Because of their roots in the PC world, where anyone can write anything and release it.

Anyway, MS has (among other things) the XNA Creators Club [xna.com] . XNA itself requires a version of Visual Studio to use it, but it can be one of the free Express Editions [microsoft.com] .

Re:Experience requirement (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#33368912)

Well, to be fair to MS it's one of the things they've always done well is opening up the platform to developers. Sure they've never been perfect, but at pretty much any stage they've been better than most of the competition. It's one of the reasons why Macs aren't the dominant platform.

Re:Experience requirement (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#33369486)

If you'll compare Microsoft to Apple, consider that the XNA Creators Club pricing structure ($99 per year plus 30% of all sales) is probably what inspired the iPhone developer program pricing structure ($99 per year plus 30% of all sales). But I agree with you and VGPowerlord that Microsoft offers the sweetest deal to indies among the console makers. I just have to find about $1,500 for a newer PC, Windows, a 360, some games to justify owning a 360, and two years of XNA Creators Club once I decide to turn my hobby into a business for the first time. And then I have to figure out how to make a template cluster-fornication so that the same game logic code will compile for both XNA, which uses verifiably type-safe C++/CLI (using handles), and other platforms, which use standard C++ (using pointers).

Re:Experience requirement (0, Troll)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#33369448)

So I want to make an XNA game in C++/CLI. How well does Visual C++ Express run in Wine or Darwine? I checked the Wine AppDB, and the result was "not so well". There appear to be other XNA gotchas as well [pineight.com] .

Re:I don't blame them. I ditched the industry too. (4, Interesting)

Xest (935314) | more than 3 years ago | (#33366760)

This is what inevitably drove me away from entering the games industry and towards plain old business software development in the end, despite being a game developer having been my lifelong dream up until the point I entered work.

There's just little point being in the games industry working those hours for that wage, on someone elses vision and project when I can work 8:30 - 4:30pm (or 4pm on Fridays) without having had to work a single minute of overtime and have every weekend free and 30 days leave on top of bank holidays, and when I can work at home when I need to and so on on business software which may not be games, but which I'm at least running the projects for and can hence choose the technology and direction and get paid more to boot. The best part? I still have time to both study and work on my own games in my spare time too.

I'm hoping that this indie resurgence will breathe life back into the games industry, I hope it means every other title isn't an FPS World War II shooter or whatever and the ones in between aren't mediocre tat. I hope it means we can see a return of the innovative and most importantly, fun games we saw in the early to mid 90s such as the Syndicate series, Cannon fodder series, the original Command and Conquer and Red Alert, Day of the Tentacle, Little Big Adventure etc.

Indies take risks, game studios repeat the same old "risk-free" games seemingly oblivious to the fact that by making the same game over and over, people become less and less interested in the same tired clones, such that they're effectively making "risk-free" genres risky by boring the shit out of people with them. This is why there's so many AAA flops, and why the studios turned round and think "But what did we do wrong? This is just like Call of Duty 78: Return to D-Day (for the 78th time)". They seem oblivious to the fact that it flopped precisely because it is just yet another clone, and often with the fun of the original not implemented.

Read in the EA startup voice. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33366330)

EA GAMES - We fuckup everything.

As a gamer i welcome indy games. So long as they DON'T make the same mistakes the big game companys seem to make over and over.

I don't care who gets my money. So long as i get something i enjoy that does NOT piss me off at some point. EA... i'm looking at you here.

Re:Read in the EA startup voice. (4, Insightful)

mustPushCart (1871520) | more than 3 years ago | (#33366492)

Welcome them with your money and word of mouth advertising. They need it; and considering their budget is really small even a small sales volume will keep them in the green.

indie games need to be good (3, Insightful)

smash (1351) | more than 3 years ago | (#33366470)

... because they don't have the budget to spend on superfluous crap that is unrelated to the gameplay.

Re:indie games need to be good (5, Funny)

MacGyver2210 (1053110) | more than 3 years ago | (#33366580)

As an independent game developer, I must say I love my superfluous crap. If I couldn't throw in a couple unnecessary particle effects or shader effects, I don't know what I'd do.

Re:indie games need to be good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33367708)

I think there's an echo in here.

Re:indie games need to be good (1)

VGPowerlord (621254) | more than 3 years ago | (#33368062)

As an independent game developer, I must say I love my superfluous crap. If I couldn't throw in a couple unnecessary particle effects or shader effects, I don't know what I'd do.

Really, MavGyver [wikipedia.org] ? I expected you to use whatever you had lying around.

Re:indie games need to be good (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 3 years ago | (#33368610)

Well, if you believed in making everything too dark as well, then I'd say iD has a opening for you.

Re:indie games need to be good (3, Insightful)

TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) | more than 3 years ago | (#33366684)

What? Indie games need to be good, because otherwise they're mediocre, indistinguishable from the flood of other mediocre indie games. Mediocre indie games can't get attention like other mediocre games, since they don't have marketing as a back-door.

Bloated companies. (1)

WarJolt (990309) | more than 3 years ago | (#33366496)

Large game companies have a lot of personnel. Big bloated game companies need to fail and indies will fill the void. Now if only we could somehow apply this to our financial sector.

Re:Bloated companies. (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#33367408)

Large game companies have a lot of personnel. Big bloated game companies need to fail and indies will fill the void. Now if only we could somehow apply this to our financial sector.

If you're referring to "too big to fail" and TARP in the United States, there's a difference. Far fewer other sectors in the economy depend on the computer entertainment sector than on the financial sector.

Re:Bloated companies. (2, Insightful)

delinear (991444) | more than 3 years ago | (#33368960)

I think that was his point - that we'd see fewer, less serious screw ups in the financial sector if they didn't know that they have carte blanche to fail spectacularly and rely on public money bailing them out because we need them too much for them to go under.

Id Software ... (3, Interesting)

Tamran (1424955) | more than 3 years ago | (#33366558)

... at the beginning was like this. Very indie. This was when they made their best stuff IMHO.

I hope to see a lot more good indie games. These $20million blowout games lately have been terrible (most anyway). Sometimes a simple game is more fun, such as:

http://magic.pen.fizzlebot.com/ [fizzlebot.com]

awesome indy project (4, Informative)

nephridium (928664) | more than 3 years ago | (#33366588)

This one's pretty interesting: http://www.wolfire.com/overgrowth [wolfire.com]

It's a "rabbit ninja fighting game" ;), free from DRM and they are even developing for Linux (just as they did the predecessor). They are also designing it very modder friendly by using open formats, allowing anyone to to add content and making the engine accessible by scripting (python). Even now during the alpha stages they are already offering support to the modding community.

Check out the hilarious dev/tutorial videos on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/WolfireGames [youtube.com]

If you donate you get access to their weekly alphas too! Yes, every week not only a progress report, but an actual updated usable product alpha to play around and mod with.

Re:awesome indy project (1)

that IT girl (864406) | more than 3 years ago | (#33367142)

Hehe, rabbit fighting game. Anybody else remember Jazz Jackrabbit? [wikipedia.org]
I was relatively young, but I loved that one.

Re:awesome indy project (1)

delinear (991444) | more than 3 years ago | (#33369070)

Actually it made me think of this one [wikipedia.org] . I loved this back on the C64. My favourite part were the disguised ninja - you could give money to peasants for karma and they'd reply "Thank you, it's a hard life being a peasant", occasionally you'd get a ninja in disguise who would attack you once your back was turned, but by giving him money you'd trick him into revealing himself, saying "Thank you, it's a hard life being a ninja" at which point the hack and slashery began!

Time to burn some karma (5, Interesting)

RogueyWon (735973) | more than 3 years ago | (#33366638)

Ok, time to make myself unpopular around here.

Personally, I don't welcome this news. I've given the indie gaming scene quite a few tries over the last few years, and tend to come away underwhelmed. Ok, there are a few titles I've liked. I guess Portal had indie-gaming somewhere in its DNA (even if the manner of its release, bundled with the Orange Box, was anything but indie). Limbo has an interesting style, though it's also a bit of a one-trick pony that wears thin about half-way through its (fairly short) play-time.

Ultimately, I like big-budget triple-A extravaganzas. I like high production values, cutting edge graphics and plenty of attention to detail. This isn't to say that every much-hyped big-budget game is good; in the year that saw the release of Final Fantasy XIII (and another bloody Kane & Lynch installment), this is blatantly not true. But if I look at the games I've actually pumped most time into and enjoyed the most over the last couple of years, I come up with titles like World of Warcraft (though I'm happily off that particular crack now), Forza Motorsport 3, Ratchet & Clank: Crack in Time, Uncharted 2, Crysis and God of War 3. Not exactly a list of indie titles. And despite me having given them a go, even the high-end indie titles like World of Goo and the Maw have failed to grab my interest for more than an hour or so.

I'm also generally skeptical that allowing creative types to express their "undiluted creative vision" is always a good thing. It's a gross over-simplification to say that big-budget titles need to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Ratchet & Clank: Crack in Time contains puzzles that are frankly on a par with anything I've seen in an indie game recently (the irony being that R&C's puzzles are all built around the old "push button to open door" mechanic, just infused with some fairly mind-warping twists). God of War 3 wasn't far behind. But when you get the "undiluted creative vision", what you're often (not always, I admit, but often) getting is a load of self-indulgent tripe from the creator that a competent editorial board would have cut not because they felt they needed to dumb the product down, but because it's not actually any fun to play. This isn't limited to games; for every director's cut in the movie industry that actually improves the original, there are half a dozen or so that just add unnecessary rubbish, ruining the pace of the film. Look also at what happens to books from authors who have become celebrities, once editors lose the confidence to challenge them; you get the kind of ever-expanding padding-filled tomes that characterise the later works of... say... Tom Clancy, J. K. Rowling and Stephen King.

I'm not denying that management and publishers don't occasionally demand dumbing down, but it's pretty clear that seeing the creative type as a poor, exploited victim trying to defend his flawless original concept from the nasty corporate villains is a misleading approach.

give me inspiration over slick production (3, Insightful)

wall0159 (881759) | more than 3 years ago | (#33366784)

I think your sentiments are common, and also apply to other arts like music. Lots of people seem to like immaculate but (IMO) dull music. Personally, I'm happy with a few rough edges, if the ideas are good, because it reminds me that art is made by people. I'm sure this is influenced by the fact that I'm an indie musician myself! :-P

Re:give me inspiration over slick production (2, Insightful)

Madrayken (1784838) | more than 3 years ago | (#33366890)

I knew someone would mention music as a possible model. It does seem attractive at first glance.

However, while it is possible to create a piece of music using software worth $100 that is absolutely indistinguishable from something created using millions of dollars of studio time to 99% of people, the same is not true of game development. Indeed, a piece of music that sounds a 'bit rougher' or 'more live' may have an enhanced atmosphere, as it draws the audience closer to the shamanic act of performance. This isn't a factor when making games. Nobody wants it a 'bit buggy' or with 'slightly inconsistent textures'. And nobody wants to get closer to us. We smell due to not being allowed home for 3 weeks during crunch.

A four man team (one artist/animator, two coders and a level designer) can not create something indistinguishable from a $50m budget game. They might be able to do some tricks and adjust the visuals to work within their limitations, but they simply won't compete with Battlefield Bad Company, for example.

'Art' as a whole seems largely free of the budget/perceived quality link.
If we were talking about the automotive industry, for example, we'd never suggest that budget cuts were going to result in better cars.

Re:give me inspiration over slick production (1)

u17 (1730558) | more than 3 years ago | (#33366920)

I like the music in frogatto [frogatto.com] . It's a GPL-engine, proprietary-data old-school-style indie platformer. The music is just as you describe, with some rough edges but the style is very refreshing compared to what we have been made used to in games.

Re:give me inspiration over slick production (2, Interesting)

dkf (304284) | more than 3 years ago | (#33366924)

I think your sentiments are common, and also apply to other arts like music. Lots of people seem to like immaculate but (IMO) dull music. Personally, I'm happy with a few rough edges, if the ideas are good, because it reminds me that art is made by people. I'm sure this is influenced by the fact that I'm an indie musician myself! :-P

Call me picky if you want, but I'd like to see stuff that is both inspired and slick. The best of the big-budget stuff is really excellent. The stuff that isn't good... well, it's just not good no matter how much was spent on it. Let's call crap out for being crap, and laud stuff that's good, and not get too hung up on whether being small or large is best (it seems to be an unrelated axis).

Re:give me inspiration over slick production (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33367028)

I agree wtih your inspiration/slickness sentiment but I don't see how you can follow that with climing to be an indie musician. Indie might not be up there in terms of shinyness but it hasn't been known for being inspired either. There's a reason the word landfill was prefixed onto the genre.

Re:give me inspiration over slick production (1)

stewbacca (1033764) | more than 3 years ago | (#33370108)

My problem with "indie" anything is the false dichotomy that "indie" means it HAS to have a few "rough edges".

Re:Time to burn some karma (1)

suctionman (1855020) | more than 3 years ago | (#33366952)

An interesting point (especially the last line) - I agree that one extreme is certainly misleading. However, to the same point, an original concept may not necessarily require the moderation of an alternative entity to be delivered in its ideal form (as you mentioned is the case for a small minority of director's cut films). Considering the examples you give, I see two possibilities; either the numbers are in favour of most artists (ranging in skill) usually requiring additional moderation for a finely-honed final product, or most artists lack the skill to sufficiently hone their own product. Personally, I am of the opinion that Tom Clancy, JK Rowling and Stephen King aren't particularly seminal writers, and Michelangelos are as rare in the realms of digital art as they are in the realms of fine art. On a positive note - should he/she ever appear, I don't think the restraints of corporate ideology would be sufficient to hamper their final product.

Re:Time to burn some karma (1)

JohnnyBGod (1088549) | more than 3 years ago | (#33367084)

Looks like you need to try Defense Grid and Braid. The former has a production value you don't see very often in either indie or tower defense games. I'm afraid the demo really undersells the game, though, since with that small amount of towers, there's virtually no strategy involved. The latter is filled with those mind-bending puzzles you seem to enjoy, so... check them out.

Re:Time to burn some karma (1)

that IT girl (864406) | more than 3 years ago | (#33367152)

I second that with Braid, it was incredibly unique and addicting. Even the story-line came with a "wait, whaaaat?" twist...

Re:Time to burn some karma (1)

RogueyWon (735973) | more than 3 years ago | (#33367250)

I've played both. Liked Defense Grid quite a lot - I did say there were exceptions to my genuine low opinion of indie games. That said, the main thing that sets Defense Grid apart from its competition (such as Savage Moon) is the stellar voice acting.

Braid, on the other hand, bored me rigid. Reasonably pretty graphics (though nothing special), but the gameplay just felt intensely "meh".

Re:Time to burn some karma (1)

Tei (520358) | more than 3 years ago | (#33367224)

You are a massmedia product consumer, you like these products. Hell.. the names you cite, YOU ARE A FUCKING CONSOLE PLAYER YOURSELF!!.

Re:Time to burn some karma (1)

RogueyWon (735973) | more than 3 years ago | (#33367280)

I'm close to platform agnostic, these days. I've a slight bias against the Wii, because the graphics tend to suck and it makes me use an uncomfortable controller (though I did mostly enjoy Mario Galaxy 2, despite some specific irritations), but beyond that... if I like the look of a game, I'll play it on PC, console, whatever. There are some genre-related platform preferences; I tend to prefer first person shooters or RTSes on the PC, while I find third person shooters and platformers more comfortable on a console. Oh, and there are certain DRM schemes (singleplayer games requiring an always-on connection) that will drive me to a console version regardless of genre. But really... getting ideological over platform just feels like a waste of time.

Besides, it's not as if indie gaming is limited to the PC. There's a substantial indie service available over Xbox Live these days, though as it's mostly full of garbage, I only really tend to look at those games which manage to break into the "proper" Live Arcade.

Re:Time to burn some karma (1)

HeckRuler (1369601) | more than 3 years ago | (#33368584)

Alright buddy, so what was the last game you played on an Amiga?

Re:Time to burn some karma (1)

RogueyWon (735973) | more than 3 years ago | (#33368710)

Probably Bionic Commando. Or possibly F-29 Retaliator. I never owned an Amiga myself (went from a C64 to a PC and didn't own a non-handheld console until the PS2 era), but friends had them so I got a fair bit of time on them around 1990 or so. I was pretty much green with envy of Amiga-owning friends at the time, as the graphics and sound were way beyond what the C64 or our 286 could do. The PC had Wing Commander, of course, which was better still, but going off memory we didn't get a PC capable of running that until 1991.

You havent experienced indie gaming (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33369722)

world of goo and portal are not indie games.

No wonder you think you dont like indie games. Your definition of "indie games" seems to be "whatevers on sale on steam"

Re:Time to burn some karma (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 3 years ago | (#33369880)

I agree with every point you've made here. I don't have much time for gaming, so when I do play I want to be impressed, I want soaring visuals, great music, immersive environments, not another tower defense game cranked out by some hipster coder who thinks "indie" means making a game exactly like 1,000 other indie games.

Re:Time to burn some karma (1)

stewbacca (1033764) | more than 3 years ago | (#33370080)

I liked your rant, however I'd argue that JK Rowling's writing became exponentially better with each book.

With Stephen King, I think we all loved it when it was new to us...then we grew up and recognized the pulp fiction for what it was.

I've read several Clancy books and they all read about the same (mediocre) to me. I really haven't seen much progress or decline.

Fluttermind saved my sanity (4, Insightful)

Madrayken (1784838) | more than 3 years ago | (#33366678)

I started out in the industry at 15, back in '85. At that point, everything was indie. There were no big studios, and the few existing companies funded very little.

Moving on 20+ years (cough), I quit Microsoft Game Studios in 2009. At the point where I left, there were teams of 100+ people, no one individual had much impact on the game, communication issues both up and down and across the team due to size alone made everything exceedingly slow and frustrating.

I left.

I started a new company - Fluttermind Ltd. - which has been going a year and a half now. It's still fun, and the distance has given me an interesting perspective. This is what I see.

The mainstream indistry is filled with passionate, talented people. The average Joe thinks these games are worth $50+. From my long-time nerd perspective, that's amazing. I dreamed of this day as a kid and it's finally here.

Don't demonise 'big' game companies just because they're big. That's not punk-rock. That's not anti-establishment. That's knee-jerk foolishness. Big company games are often awesome. I can't wait for Team Ico's next release - 'big' company funded or no. I am utterly enjoying Battlefield Bad Company 2. Amazing multiplayer - some of the best experiences I've had as a gamer.

'Big' games demand a lot of assets, each of which is crafted by a professional - no 'get your mate to paint a splash screen because he's got an A-level in art' crap here. Professionals and their assets are expensive, so publishers don't like taking risks very often. But it does happen. Fable and Shadow of the Colossus are both very weird, off-beat games funded by massive conglomerates and both great games. There are not that many others, but it's the same for Hollywood. For those of you saying 'Yeah, big budget movies suck, too' - I ask you to imagine an 'indie' version of 'The Matrix'. Or 'Lord of the Rings'. They'd really suck.

Don't demonise marketing. I've never had a single marketing bod tell me what to put in a game. Ever. Full stop. Secondly, the one thing more likely to cause you a trip to the funny-farm after slogging your heart out for 2-4 years is for your marketing to suck, or - worse - to not be there at all. It will kill your game. It will kill your company. It will kill your job. The end. Saying 'good games will win through' is like saying 'positive thinking cures cancer': I'm sure there are anecdotal cases, but as people here are usually keen to point out, causation and correlation are quite different.

As for the complaint 'games include superfluous crap'. If you think EA wants to have a team keep running at a burn rate of half a million a month for an extra 3 months so some guy can make a hundred extra guns nobody cares about, you've clearly never spent a minute in a steering meeting.

While some indie games are wonderful (Dwarf Fortress and Wierd Worlds are amazing) a vast majority of them are worth 10 minutes and little more. Note I didn't say 'crap', I just said 'small'. Like a Daffy Duck cartoon. I wouldn't hold 'Duck Amuck' against 'Schindler's List' and compare the two. It is foolish.

I admire anyone's initiative and ability to craft a game themselves, on a tiny budget (yup, I'm doing precisely that), but to pretend that indie means 'better games', or 'better people' is both incorrect and insulting.

Re:Fluttermind saved my sanity (2, Funny)

Jedi Alec (258881) | more than 3 years ago | (#33366800)

For those of you saying 'Yeah, big budget movies suck, too' - I ask you to imagine an 'indie' version of 'The Matrix'.

I don't have to imagine anything, I just have to think back to playing The path of Neo...but if I were to do that my gaming budget for the remainder of this year would have to be spent on counselling instead.

Re:Fluttermind saved my sanity (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 3 years ago | (#33368180)

Great, I picked that up from a bargain bin a while ago, still haven't played it. I played Enter the Matrix (also picked up from bargain bin) and I thought it was a decent game.

Re:Fluttermind saved my sanity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33366900)

Playing computer games doesn't add value to our lives, instead it's wasting our time and energy. Creating games, OTOH, is demanding, challenging, rewarding, and what not.

Why should gamers pay for playing games in addition to sacrificing their time and energy? Following that, why should any company try to charge people for wasting their time playing their games?

Let "big" games demand all the assets they want. All I see is the life I waste playing them, no matter how cool looking they are. At least free indie games don't try to take my money on top of it.

Re:Fluttermind saved my sanity (1)

delinear (991444) | more than 3 years ago | (#33369304)

Nobody said this was about free indie games, just indie games (properly meaning independent of the big names in the industry, but seemingly used in this context to just mean games which don't cater to the mainstream ideals).

Re:Fluttermind saved my sanity (1)

V!NCENT (1105021) | more than 3 years ago | (#33369386)

You must not know the concept of recreation and relaxation that the human brain needs. People pay to stay at a hotel instead of their own house just so that they can check out the surroundings of that hotel. What value does that add to your life? Vacation is worthless!

Yeah right...

Re:Fluttermind saved my sanity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33367254)

Not only do I disagree, I happen to value my anecdotal experience over yours. But thanks for the misguided attempt at sharing your "wisdom".

Re:Fluttermind saved my sanity (1)

0111 1110 (518466) | more than 3 years ago | (#33367262)

Big budget games pretty much have to be made for the majority. A small niche isn't going to cut it. You can't afford even the slightest chance that the game won't sell millions of copies because if it doesn't the company may fold. So it really makes sense that they should be "dumbed down" for the masses. As budgets go up, accessibility must go up as well. Most people just don't enjoy thinking. It isn't considered fun. It's too much work. It just makes people's heads hurt. So the designers have to make sure that the game is easy enough to play, ideally easy enough to use monkeys for play testing. When the game designer pictures who he is making the game for he should be picturing a monkey. Remember that you can never lose money by underestimating the intelligence of the general public, but you can lose enough to go out of business if you overestimate it. Big budget games are great if you are that monkey, but what if you are not? The consolization of PC games is all about embrace and extend: simplifying the game play as much as you possibly can so that there will be no barrier to entry for anyone who doesn't have severe mental retardation. When people who have had their brain removed have no problem playing and enjoying your game then you know you have a winner on your hands.

Re:Fluttermind saved my sanity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33367602)

Check out "Born of Hope" . . . it's pretty good for an indie Lord of the rings film.

http://www.bornofhope.com

Re:Fluttermind saved my sanity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33367952)

Thank you for saying this. How very true. People like to say 'well a x number of years ago games were better'. No, no they were not. For every 'A' title there were 50 crap ones (just like today). I know I bought my share of them, and was not very happy about it.

Take emulation for example. Some of these emulators support thousands of titles. Yet each of those machines maybe had 50-100 'good' games.

Look no further than the borg of emulation MAME. It has in it about 8k in games it supports right now (about 4k unique non point revisions). Of that 4k *MANY* are garbage. There are also many that are also very good. Also many of the 80s titles were 2-5 people teams with maybe 1-2 programmers. They would name the game then spend 6-10 weeks making it, hardware, software, everything. They would then do something else that doesnt happen much anymore. They would demo the game around. That was to see if it was worth selling at all or cut your losses and move onto the next game. Usually these days by the time we get a demo the thing is nearly done and will ship no matter what.

People want to go back to that. But it is not going to happen. Drawing lines and boxes on the screen is easy (which is what many older games were). Art however takes time as it is partially drivin by inspiration which can not be scheduled.

Many also seem to be confusing cheap with good (people sometimes do this with FOSS, people also do the opposite with high end stereo equipment). Yes it is nice to pay a low price. However, that does not make it a good title. Are there good cheap titles out there? Sure. But for every good one there are bucketloads of junk, or something that needs another 6 months of dev/art worktime. When people say 'indie' they are usually saying 'I want cheap good games'.

As for price (your 50 a title which is more like 60 now) think one dev played around with it. He literally gave the game away and said 'pay what you want'. He found even when he gave the thing away his actual audience was small. Then of that small audience only about 10% would actually pay for it. He made it easy to figure out what his 'sweet' spot of mr=mc for making games like that was. AAA companies want to keep raising the prices but not realizing that they may actually be costing themselves money. For example why didnt the PS3 eat everyones lunch (spec wise being the best box) this last console round? It cost 800 bucks at launch is why. People are cheap.

Re:Fluttermind saved my sanity (2, Interesting)

Sprouticus (1503545) | more than 3 years ago | (#33368346)

Games today are like was music in the 90's, on the cusp of change.

They are going to go to a more specialized model in the future. Sure there will still be big games (and big music groups), but when tools evolve to a point where decent (not great but decent) effects and gameplayare available to everyone, indie devs will cater to niche crowds. Games which offer specialized game mechanics and gameplay will allow you to reach a small audience cheaply and eventually when the tools improve even more you will be able to do as well with a small indie dev group as you might with a large big company sponsored team.

Re:Fluttermind saved my sanity (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 3 years ago | (#33368844)

Games today are like was music in the 90's, on the cusp of change.

Weird you make that comparison, given that the music industry of the 90's was still dominated by big record labels, as it's always been. Sure, there was a renaissance in rock during that decade, but it had little to do with some sea-change in the way music was made, or some groundswell in indie rock. Hell, Nirvana never saw large-scale success until they signed on with a major record label. Rather, the change in the music reflected a change in the culture, as the definition of "mainstream" shifted away from the pop of the 80s to the rock of the 90s.

Re:Fluttermind saved my sanity (1)

V!NCENT (1105021) | more than 3 years ago | (#33369446)

Errr... Ever heared about house music, or were you too busy listening to the 40 most sold songs of the week on the most popular radio station?

P2P and MP3 killed the popstar; wat was once truely popular turned into the representation of the [insert something insulting here] segment.

Re:Fluttermind saved my sanity (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 3 years ago | (#33369770)

Ever heared about house music

*Most* people haven't heard of house music (yes, believe it or not, your tastes don't reflect those of everyone else). Using that as an example sounds like a create way to curse indie gaming into perpetual obscurity.

Re:Fluttermind saved my sanity (2, Insightful)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | more than 3 years ago | (#33369510)

I like Indy games because I perceive that they find it easier to take more risks with design and concept. Rather than release "Sports Again 2011" and "3D FPS WarSim: The Reiteration", they can release games that offer some novelty.

Not all their ideas work, not all of their ideas are well executed. But there's a zillion of them, so there's bound to be a lot of bad releases.

But also, guess what: there's a lot of bad releases among big studios, too:

  • Half-baked games released to target a price point and a deadline, rather than be good games
  • giant sprawling titles that I'll never have time for
  • boring rehashes of the same old thing
  • Incremental genre iteration with more polygons and sprites for more realistic models that don't directly correlate to more fun
  • sequels with bells and whistles tacked on to what was once fresh and exciting gameplay, and the bells and whistles don't enhance or add to the experience.

Truly great games are rare from both major studios and indy developers.

But the odds that an indy developer is going to release a small, fun game that offers something new and doesn't cost $50+ seems higher than the odds that a large studio would. I enjoy games from both sources. But I honestly get more excitement from seeing what indy developers come up with.

There was an "indie" version of the LoTR (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33370194)

& it wasnt bad.

The matrix is a terrible movie, regardless of budget... In fact if their budget had been a bit smaller, maybe they wouldve hired a no-name actor (potentially with some acting skills) instead of Reeves.

Wii (1)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | more than 3 years ago | (#33366690)

So what great stuff have I missed on the Wii? Crowdsourcing FTW. KTHXBYE. :)

(I've aquired the Bit Trip stuff, really like those. The Art or Balance was great too. What else? There's too much crap out there, so what other gems are there for us geeks?)

Re:Wii (1)

slyrat (1143997) | more than 3 years ago | (#33368492)

So what great stuff have I missed on the Wii? Crowdsourcing FTW. KTHXBYE. :)

(I've aquired the Bit Trip stuff, really like those. The Art or Balance was great too. What else? There's too much crap out there, so what other gems are there for us geeks?)

Did you try out sin and punishment? There is the downloadable original and the sequel that is on disc. Both are fantastic shmups.

Re:Wii (1)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | more than 3 years ago | (#33369918)

Did you try out sin and punishment? There is the downloadable original and the sequel that is on disc. Both are fantastic shmups.

No, thanks for the tip. :)

Programmers (5, Insightful)

ledow (319597) | more than 3 years ago | (#33366870)

Programmers are funny animals. Some of them work best in complete isolation. One person can pull off things that entire teams never dreamed of. A kid in their back bedroom, and a rainy summer, can generate a game quicker by any design-by-committee. Programmers don't naturally work in teams, they have to be taught - every serious CS course has a team-building component to it.

Lots of big names started off as tiny indies... Codemasters is the most famous example, most probably, and Valve has bought up indie teams before now. It's not surprising at all, the only surprise is that indie went "out of fashion" with some people for a decade or so.

The skill of programming a game is not about knowing Knuth off by heart, or finding mathematical shortcuts using integer arithmetic, it's about actually having a little vision and wanting to see it move around and make funny sounds. Once you know what you want to do, the rest is just slog-work to get it to work how you imagined. Large teams do sometimes miss the fact that, underneath everything else, there should be a game. Most of the "classic" games of the early 80's were written by teenagers in back bedrooms. Magazine cover tapes were full of indie material. Even large collect-a-weekly-parts programming magazines were written by what we would legally class as children (I know, I've spoken to someone on here that wrote a huge game for INPUT by Marshall Cavendish when they were a kid).

Indie development was around at the start of the Internet - almost the whole shareware scene was indie. It kinda lost sight of itself when huge powerful consoles became mainstream, moving into the "homebrew" and various other sidelines which, because of their dubious legal status, were never as popular in mass-media. Now indie has found its roots again. A teenager can knock up a game in a week and be selling it by the thousands from Steam, or direct from their own website. They don't have to worry about system architectures or OS or having enough processor power. They can be pretty sure that it can be ported to myriad systems and not have to worry about development kits for consoles.

I also think that indie and retro are often closely linked, because of this connection with old-time indie development. Retro remakes are popular, retro gaming magazines are everywhere - I was in London Stansted last week and there were FIVE different retro gaming magazines on the shelf - I couldn't believe it! People are happy to just play silly games that are no more complex than some Spectrum games of old - Facebook jollies, or five-minute play-throughs or even Flash/Java demos on the author's website (Altitude is very cool!). People are carrying devices that can run small games with ease and even buy them immediately and securely from their phones.

In fact, I've started programming on a game that I've been wanting to do for years because of all the indie development I see. I see how simple or retro games are coming back into fashion and it makes me want to code. Chances are that my code will never leave my PC but it's immense fun to be doing for myself - it's replaced quite a lot of other hobbies just lately - and very heart-warming to see my little sprites bop around the screen. Even my girlfriend likes the fact that there is a little game that she can modify and influence and has often said she wants to sit there and make dozens of sprites for it. She often asks what I've got "your little people" to do today. The beauty is that if other people think the finished article is good enough then setting up a store, Paypal link or even Steam distribution takes no time at all. And because I programmed it for the fun of it, it's ALL profit - I would have programmed if a time-traveller told me that I'd never, ever sell a single copy.

If you're working in the industry, and the scare-stories are anywhere near true, I'm not surprised that people are leaving their megalithic corporations that are trying to source funding for $60m games and instead want to see if they can sell a few thousand units at $1 a piece, and have fun in the process. It's a better job, better hours, with a better boss, better flexibility, better home life, better holiday allowance, better teamwork, better planning - the only thing missing is the pay and that comes if you're good enough anyway, and probably comes with more security than a large software house given the current economic climate.

Indie development never really left - it just moved into a hidden area and is now making a serious comeback. By a stroke of lucky timing, it's also the perfect time to be making a small, playable, portable game that everyone can load up quickly, that costs only a few pence and which keeps the kids quiet.

Re:Programmers (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 3 years ago | (#33368972)

Programmers are funny animals. Some of them work best in complete isolation. One person can pull off things that entire teams never dreamed of. A kid in their back bedroom, and a rainy summer, can generate a game quicker by any design-by-committee. Programmers don't naturally work in teams, they have to be taught - every serious CS course has a team-building component to it.

Wow, I couldn't disagree more with this. Yes, "some of them work best in complete isolation", but I completely disagree with this idea that "Programmers don't naturally work in teams". There are *plenty* of programmers out there who are extroverted, socially adept, and utterly brilliant, who enjoy the collaboration of the team environment, and appreciate multiple viewpoints on a problem.

Frankly, you seem to be working under the presumption that the flat-food programmer actually exists, or is the norm... I can only assume you're not, yourself, a programmer, or if you are, your experiences are decidedly limited.

The skill of programming a game is not about knowing Knuth off by heart, or finding mathematical shortcuts using integer arithmetic, it's about actually having a little vision and wanting to see it move around and make funny sounds.

Yup, absolutely! And any great programmer knows that a great team leads to great inspiration. Collaboration is the seed and the soil for creativity.

That said, large groups in a corporate environment do not lead to creativity. Anyone in the industry will tell you that the perfect programming team is a tightly knit group of 4-6 people, tops. Anything more and you threaten to stifle creativity with process and procedure, simply so you can manage the complexity of the group.

Re:Programmers (3, Interesting)

ledow (319597) | more than 3 years ago | (#33369892)

Of course I'm exaggerating the team situation to an extreme, but it has a truth to it. Programming is an inherently single-person process - team programming methodologies basically boil down to "you do this bit, I'll do that bit, we'll meet in the middle to these specs". It's usually design-by-committee, implement-by-parts, with individual inspirations made public. Yes, there's feedback and direction and lots of other interactions but in-between, the programmers are basically walking to their own personal computer, thinking to themselves, working on their own in their own heads and then sharing with others later.

And CS students, even the social ones, have to be taught how to work effectively as a team because, like mathematics, it's such a single-person process that collaboration is all about getting everyone on the same page by their own methods. Programming in teams does not scale linearly (far from it), does not scale at all in some cases, and isn't portable between humans. Even setting a code-style can be an administrative nightmare - many programmers have breakaway systems where they do the actual grunt work in their own way and then have some sort of conversion back and forth to the team methodology (whether that be source-control methods, coding style, etc.). Sometimes getting programmers to agree on a common development environment can be tricky, even (but fortunately that usually HELPS the code quality rather than hinder it).

If you leave 100 people in a room and tell them that they have to move a 50-ton rock to the other side, they will work naturally together as a team (on average, at least - one will sulk and do nothing because they weren't listened to, another will take exception with the unelected "leader", another will be actively working against the majority with their "more efficient" method, one will be complaining because they're doing all the grunt-work while the others are discussing the problem etc.). Leave 100 programming students in a room and tell them to achieve a similarly difficult intellectual objective using their coding skills and you will have absolute chaos on your hands. And, more than likely, one guy out of the 100 will figure out a super-efficient method at the start, work on their own and then just apply their code to get the job done before anyone can even think about analysing the problem team-wide.

It's a generalisation, but I've seen no end of CS students who would actually do a million times better job if you removed the team around them and asked them to do it themselves on their own. And even if you cherry-pick the most active, most integral and most amenable members and group them together on their own, they aren't any better than the best individual. The *quantity* of work achieved increases, of course, but the quality and the rate of achievement doesn't.

My Devs Went Indie... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33366898)

And All I Got Was This T-Shirt

Check out Minecraft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33366982)

Minecraft is a really good and addictive game. Go check it out at http://minecraft.net

This game was made by one guy, and he has sold a bunch!

Delusions of outsourcing (1)

GaryOlson (737642) | more than 3 years ago | (#33367428)

I first read the article title as
More Devs Going India, To Gamers' Benefit
and thought this was going to be another glowing article about the benefits of international outsourcing. The Editors need to think more before posting.

You fai7 it (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33367866)

core team. They that ha5 6rown up

shmups (1)

slyrat (1143997) | more than 3 years ago | (#33368528)

This is one category, of several really, where you don't really see big studios doing games lately. These odd categories where you never had a large enough appeal from a normal gamer are where the indie studios can produce some fantastic games.

I'd like to make an introduction... (1)

darien.train (1752510) | more than 3 years ago | (#33368932)

Indie game development industry, meet the indie music industry. I think the two of you will get along nicely.

unions are needed real bad in the industry as well (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 3 years ago | (#33369264)

unions are needed real bad in the industry as well

Re:unions are needed real bad in the industry as w (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33369680)

No, they're not. Employment is "at will" so if your employer sucks, work elsewhere.

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