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Forget Innovation From The Indies

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the big-corps-know-best dept.


spidweb writes "RPGVault has an article from a long-time indie game author about how people who want innovation in games shouldn't look to the small developers. It is his view that innovation in games will come from big companies, if at all. From the article: 'Indie developers have a real purpose in this world. They make little niche products for markets too small for Activision. They make many new puzzle games for the casual audience. Or, at least, the same old puzzle game again and again. They rewrite Asteroids... because someone has to.'"

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Jeff Vogel rocks (1)

kallisti777 (46059) | more than 8 years ago | (#14843309)

Nothing to add to this discussion, really, except that the Exile games are still fun and the author definitely has a point. Thanks for hours upon hours of fun, Jeff... even if you chose to rip off Ultima instead of "innovate". ;-)

Re:Jeff Vogel rocks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14843365)

i hear jeff is working on a new project code named 'lamer' that is going to make ultima look like pong.

"The Indies" ? (1, Insightful)

sevenoverzero (740419) | more than 8 years ago | (#14843319)

All right, the only reason I clicked this one is because I thought there was something particularly hindering game development in the geographical Indies.

Guess I need another cup of coffee.

Re:"The Indies" ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14843379)

Cue hundreds of people accusing you of racism against brown people..

Re:"The Indies" ? (4, Funny)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 8 years ago | (#14843466)

Don't worry, I thought the same thing. My first reaction was, "I wasn't aware that Game Development had been outsourced to India in the first place!"

I think we need to make the terms "Indie Developers" and "Indie Studios" the standard to prevent confusion with terms like "The East Indies." Then again, with the current state of common geographical knowledge in the US today, perhaps it doesn't matter. :-P

Re:"The Indies" ? (1)

Richard Dick Head (803293) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848659)

I think we need to make the terms "Indie Developers" and "Indie Studios" the standard...

I think we should, you know,freakin write it out! Such as "Indiependant", using whatever spelling system (ubiquetous-collective-)your "innovative" grade school teacher encouraged you to use.

Re:"The Indies" ? (1)

RingDev (879105) | more than 8 years ago | (#14843488)

Sign me up, I feel for the same trap, hook, line and sinker.


Are you kidding me? (1)

rsilvergun (571051) | more than 8 years ago | (#14843722)

GTL (Grand theft Llama), Llama: Combat Evolved, Virtua Llama, and who can forget Super Llama Bros. 64? This list goes on and on.

nethack (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14843385)

nethack, some words about nethack, opensource great then lol/ slasher dungeon mod up i bring up nethack 1st post fp


Sexual Asspussy (453406) | more than 8 years ago | (#14850074)


what? (4, Insightful)

PixelThis (690303) | more than 8 years ago | (#14843394)

Because some indie game developers don't innovate, nobody does? What a bizarre notion... historically most innovation has come from the little guys who've been in turn bought out by (or turned into) some larger company.

Re:what? (2, Insightful)

nomadic (141991) | more than 8 years ago | (#14843429)

I think there's a difference between small developer and indie. Game companies tend to buy out small developers, not indies.

Re:what? (1)

xenocide2 (231786) | more than 8 years ago | (#14843725)

And by the same token, because some of the big company developers don't innovate, nobody does? All the man's saying is that people who prefer "Indie Gaming" because Independent Developers are "innovators," they're sadly mistaken. And when you say "historically, most innovation comes from...", did you acquire this information from means other than direct empirical observation (ie pull it out of your ass)?

Re:what? (1)

PixelThis (690303) | more than 8 years ago | (#14844716)

By glancing down a list of award winning games [] over the last nine years and eyeballing the ones I thought were (a) innovative and (b) come from indie developers. There's no question that innovative games have come from large companies as well, but then that wasn't the point of the article was it?

Re:what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14853055)

Like those guys who left Atari and founded that indie developer, Activision...?

What about... (3, Insightful)

marshallh (947020) | more than 8 years ago | (#14843424)

Will Wright? He was just a small indie developing for the C64 IIRC. He made a game back then that was unconventional, where there wasn't a goal except to run a city. That game was called SimCity, and look how it's grown today.

Never underestimate the ideas that indie developers can come up with.

Re:What about... (2, Insightful)

nomadic (141991) | more than 8 years ago | (#14843509)

But this was 17 years ago. I think the author was speaking to the state of the industry now, not historically. Used to be everyone was an independent developer.

Re:What about... (1)

Feanturi (99866) | more than 8 years ago | (#14843679)

Yeah, SimCity 2, SimCity 3, SimCity 4, those indy guys really do innovate. ;)

(I love those games and most of the Sim titles rock, just trying to make a joke)

Re:What about... (1)

FusionDragon2099 (799857) | more than 8 years ago | (#14843892)

I believe you mean Simcity 2000 and 3000, respectively?

Re:What about... (0, Offtopic)

Feanturi (99866) | more than 8 years ago | (#14847692)

Dude, you need to take yourself a little less seriously.

Woefully uninformed (1)

Wizardry Dragon (952618) | more than 8 years ago | (#14843499)

This man seems woefully uninformed at best, a killjoy cynic at worst. Obviously, this man has not heard of the Will Wrights, Warren Spectors, and Richard Garriots of the world.

~ Wizardry Dragon

Re:Woefully uninformed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14843713)


Re:Woefully uninformed (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 8 years ago | (#14843835)

How are those indie?

Re:Woefully uninformed (1)

Wizardry Dragon (952618) | more than 8 years ago | (#14843951)

You obviously don't know much about the history of PC entertainment. Each one of those individulas started out as independant developers.

Richard Garriot's first titles, called 'Akalabeth' and 'Ultima' were packaged in ziploc bags, with a map, cassettes, and a page or two's worth of manual. Such humble beginnings...

~ Wizardry Dragon

Re:Woefully uninformed (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 8 years ago | (#14844314)

We're talking about today, not the previous century. Back then almost all game development was made by small companies and the bigger ones were just as innovative as the rest. Remember Electronic Arts's beginnings?

Re:Woefully uninformed (1)

Wizardry Dragon (952618) | more than 8 years ago | (#14844410)

To suggest EA is innovative in any way when it's software series are nothing but shovelware remakes with better graphics is insulting to the entertainment industry.

To say that there aren't innovative Independant developers out there today is to show a gross ignorance of the Independant games industry.

Re:Woefully uninformed (1)

Pluvius (734915) | more than 8 years ago | (#14845346)

You've obviously missed the point. Here's a clue: EA used to be just as innovative as Will Wright was.


Re:Woefully uninformed (1)

Wizardry Dragon (952618) | more than 8 years ago | (#14845585)

Not really. Even with their first titles (M.U.L.E, Murder on the Zunderneuf, etc.) weren't something that hadn't been done before.

Re:Woefully uninformed (1)

Pluvius (734915) | more than 8 years ago | (#14845939)

MULE had been done before? Where? What about Archon, Pinball Construction Set, One on One, Starflight, and so on?


Re:Woefully uninformed (1)

Wizardry Dragon (952618) | more than 8 years ago | (#14846312)

I believe it was Borderbund (?) (sp?) ... but I know for a fact that there was at least a handful of games a year before (1982) that were similar.

~ Wizardry Dragon

Re:Woefully uninformed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14847480)

If you "know for a fact", then name names. Specifically what game was MULE a clone of? Or even similar?

I'm pretty sure you are full of shit, because MULE was a pretty unique design, but feel free to prove me wrong.

Re:Woefully uninformed (1)

Wizardry Dragon (952618) | more than 8 years ago | (#14850600)

An anonymous coward calling someone full of shit? *rolls eyes* -1 flamebait and -1 troll right there.

Re:Woefully uninformed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14847538)

That's rich, coming from a guy who is the lead designer on a Ultima VII remake. Real creativity there.

Why don't you work on an original game, instead of a cheesy remake that is going to get shut down as soon as EA finds out about it?

Re:Woefully uninformed (1)

Wizardry Dragon (952618) | more than 8 years ago | (#14851137)

I'd say something, but there's a sign between you and I that reads 'Don't feed the trolls'

Not even close... (1)

rAiNsT0rm (877553) | more than 8 years ago | (#14843504)

I'm sorry but this is as far from the truth as possible and totally laughable. I have PERSONALLY seen more innovative titles get canned due to the inablity to see the vision or figure out how to market it in my time in the videogame industry than I can even begin to write about.

Publishers and large companies are so focused on establishing themselves and grabbing the biggest slice of the pie as possible right now... innovation is damn near a dirty word when millions could be made on yet another FPS/Homie Simulator/Racing/Sports title.

Look at all the innovation that has come from the big studios over the past 5 years... yeah... exactly why the author of TFA is a moron. EA has really gone above and beyond itself to make each year of Madden sooo amazingly innovative... oh, wait they haven't. This article was just stupid.

Re:Not even close... (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 8 years ago | (#14843548)

I have PERSONALLY seen more innovative titles get canned due to the inablity to see the vision or figure out how to market it in my time in the videogame industry than I can even begin to write about.

How do you know they were innovative if they didn't come out? A lot of games look innovative on the drawing board but when they come out they're contrived and cliched.

Re:Not even close... (1)

rAiNsT0rm (877553) | more than 8 years ago | (#14843928)

I was a playtester and the games were completed to an alpha stage and then canned. So they were far from story boards, or mock-ups of any sort.

Re:Not even close... (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 8 years ago | (#14846215)

Was that really that common? This isn't a rhetorical question, I actually don't know. I would think alpha games have had most of the hard work already finished on them.

Re:Not even close... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14851494)

Hint: poster is a liar and a fucktard.

Re:Not even close... (1)

Pluvius (734915) | more than 8 years ago | (#14845383)

I have PERSONALLY seen more innovative titles get canned due to the inablity to see the vision or figure out how to market it in my time in the videogame industry than I can even begin to write about.

Kind of funny how you bash the guy when your thesis statement supports him entirely. If you'd actually RTFA, you would've realized that.


Re:Not even close... (1)

rAiNsT0rm (877553) | more than 8 years ago | (#14845980)

Actually I did RTFA, but I still find it stupid at best. Here's the reasoning:

He states indie developers are held back to ripping off 30 year old games because they don't have the money or resources to be original... that is TOTAL bullshit.

Project Offset, Doukutsu, Gish, Devil Dice, Katamari Damacy, are just a few examples. Now especially Project Offset... I'd LOVE to hear his justification for that to fit into his narrow view of indie developers. Oh, and Doom... or about a thousand other indie titles gone big.

To minimalize indie developers as rip-offs and capable of only creating the next web-based puzzle title is the single most insulting thing I have ever read. This guy, in my not so humble opinion, is an asshat. He is a shining example of what is wrong in this industry.

Leave it all to the big boys, just like Hollywood and Pop music... oh, wait, they don't innovate do they? Nope, and if you buy into his shitty view of indie game developers then add the game industry into that list as well because that is where it will fit.

Re:Not even close... (1)

Pluvius (734915) | more than 8 years ago | (#14846100)

Project Offset: Not out yet. Also sounds only incrementally innovative, if the info page on the game's website is any judge. But hey, at least it's pretty.

Cave Story: Fun, but not really innovative.

Gish: Incrementally innovative regarding its physics engine, as Vogel said.

Devil Dice and Katamari Damacy: THQ and Namco are indie?

The rest of your post makes it clear that you didn't read the article very carefully, so I'm not going to reply to it.


Re:Not even close... (1)

Pluvius (734915) | more than 8 years ago | (#14846119)

Excuse me, Sony developed Devil Dice (THQ published it in America), but my point still stands.


Re:Not even close... (1)

rAiNsT0rm (877553) | more than 8 years ago | (#14850463)

Umm, actually you have just shown your total ignorance for everyone to see and it is you who I don't have time for. Do some real reasearch and you will find that Devil Dice was an idie developed product, on the Net Yaroze, and as a result was picked up by Sony. Almost a similar story to Katamari Damacy, which you have no clue about. Oh, and to dismiss Project Offset just shows you are a total idiot. A 3 guy team has created an entire game engine that is leaps and bounds beyond anything else out there, as well as a first-person RPG/FPS unlike anything before it USING their innovative engine. Yeah that is not noteworthy in the least.... go home troll.

Re:Not even close... (1)

Pluvius (734915) | more than 8 years ago | (#14851859)

Do some real reasearch and you will find that Devil Dice was an idie developed product, on the Net Yaroze, and as a result was picked up by Sony.

And if Sony hadn't picked it up, then what would've happened? Surely you don't believe that the game would've ended up just as well-realized without Sony's support.

BTW, it should be noted that the original build of Xi (the Japanese name of Devil Dice) was designed as an entry for a contest that Sony held. If not for the contest, do you think that the game would have ever gotten past the drawing board?


Re:Not even close... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14848650)

Katamari Damacy was actually made by a game designer who couldn't get approval for any of his projects inside the company. He prototyped the game himself after being told that it would never sell, and basically hit Namco over the head with it until they decided it might be a good idea to back it. (And this was probably the biggest motivation Namco had to publish; they underproduced the game, didn't advertise, AND sold it short.)

Re:Not even close... (1)

Pluvius (734915) | more than 8 years ago | (#14851785)

So this game designer was already a Namco employee, correct? In that case, that's exactly the kind of scenario that Vogel hypothesizes, where someone who's getting a regular paycheck from a big developer is far more likely to bring a new idea to fruition than someone who has no support and doesn't know how he's going to pay next month's rent.


Sure there are tons of indie clones but... (3, Insightful)

tengennewseditor (949731) | more than 8 years ago | (#14843515)

Simply because a huge percentage of indie developers produce clones doesn't indicate anything about the potential of indie developers. The fact that most indie games are clones indicates that most people don't really want to do something new. But a good number of developers do.

Nethack (or, originally, Rogue) is made by an independent group and it's one of the most innovative RPGs made in the past two decades. True and groundbreaking innovation doesn't necessarily have to involve technical innovation. Yes, most of the innovation at this point in the industry will be technical, but there is a large amount of game design space left to be mined.

VGA Planets was a hugely innovative 4X game in the BBS era that spawned a number of indie clones, but it itself was produced almost completely by one developer.

A Tale in the Desert is an independent MMRPG with no combat, only a completely new system based on sociology, economics, and politics.

The reason we see less and less innovation in indie games currently isn't because they aren't being made - it's because the studio games being made right now are so good and are taking up so much of our time. I agree with the author that innovation doesn't necessarily make a good game, and the best games out right now, like WoW, are built on other models. But since this works so well, I don't see why studios like EA are more motivated to innovate than independents, who will keep innovating behind the scenes no matter how many Tetris clones are produced.

nethack innovative??? (1)

slashdot_commentator (444053) | more than 8 years ago | (#14843942)

Nethack (or, originally, Rogue) is made by an independent group and it's one of the most innovative RPGs made in the past two decades

Innovative??? Innovative??? What the heck makes nethack innovative? Its been the same character based RPG I've known since I took computer classes on a mainframe back in the early '80's. It was based on an even earlier game called Rogue. Lemme guess, nethack pioneered copying computer game themes!

Re:nethack innovative??? (1)

tengennewseditor (949731) | more than 8 years ago | (#14844107)

What the heck makes nethack innovative? Its been the same character based RPG I've known since I took computer classes on a mainframe back in the early '80's. It was based on an even earlier game called Rogue.

I mentioned that it was based on Rogue, but it doesn't follow that it isn't innovative. Nethack is groundbreaking because you can do almost anything you can think of with the items in the game. It is innovative gameplay -- you've made the assumption that innovation necessarily requires the game to start a new genre.

Re:nethack innovative??? (1)

Sigma 7 (266129) | more than 8 years ago | (#14845069)

Nethack is groundbreaking because you can do almost anything you can think of with the items in the game.

It is not groundbreaking until you can use a flask of oil to light your head on fire and proceed to head-butt a troll. There might not be much tactical benefit to that maneuver, but until that style of actions can be implemented, Nethack cannot be groundbreaking.

Also, in Nethack, the use of items is still limited to what the developers have thought of. It was a few versions ago where saddles were available but you couldn't use them on Centaurs as they were "humanoids".

Nethack has a higher level of actions available than most other RPGs (even among rougelikes), but it is still not groundbreaking.

Re:nethack innovative??? (1)

tengennewseditor (949731) | more than 8 years ago | (#14845691)

It is not groundbreaking until you can use a flask of oil to light your head on fire and proceed to head-butt a troll.

Strange criteria...

Also, in Nethack, the use of items is still limited to what the developers have thought of. It was a few versions ago where saddles were available but you couldn't use them on Centaurs as they were "humanoids".

Almost every game is limited by what the developers think of, the only exceptions are truly successful simulations that have AI's that create situations themselves. Those are extremely rare (I can't think of a truly successful one off the top of my head) and usually this kind of 'innovation' is better spent on actually designing gameplay since AI this complicated is extremely difficult.

To be honest I am also kind of underwhelmed by how Nethack plays since I am not skilled enough to get to the level where the game system is supposed to shine. But even from what little I've seen the gameplay is a huge step toward open-endedness even if it doesn't completely accomplish it, and the game is an obvious inspiration to some of the most popular hack-and-slash games out today, which is a better measure of innovation than being able to light your head on fire...

Re:nethack innovative??? (2, Funny)

Jacius (701825) | more than 8 years ago | (#14851074)

It is not groundbreaking until you can use a flask of oil to light your head on fire and proceed to head-butt a troll. There might not be much tactical benefit to that maneuver, but until that style of actions can be implemented, Nethack cannot be groundbreaking.

If you're saying what I think you're saying... well, you have rather high expectations, don't you?

You say Nethack cannot be groundbreaking at all, unless you have total and complete freedom of action, and arbitrary combinations of objects interact realistically? Do you realize that what you are asking for is a perfect, interactive simulation of physical reality, a task which is downright impossible? (To fulfill your criterion of total and arbitrary simulation of reality, the simulation would have to be able to simulate itself in perfect detail, including the ability to simulate itself, so that you would have an infinite number of possible sub-simulations.)

Here are some other things you can't do in nethack. I guess the developers had better start working on them if they want to break any ground before our sun dies out and the surface of the Earth freezes over:

* Play tennis with the NPC shopkeeps on the weekends.
* Form a monopoly over the growing industry of narcotics trafficking.
* Construct a robotic army to do your bidding.
* Divert a river into the cavern, drowning the monsters.
* Invent an antimatter propulsion system, use it to build an interstellar vehicle, and then pilot it to Alpha Centauri.
* Post absurd comments on an online news page.
* Paint a mural detailing your own epic adventures in mural-painting.
* Persuade the enemies to attack you with pillows instead of real weapons.
* Own and run a lingerie store.
* Create an artificial protein structure with possible medical uses.
* Practice tai chi.
* Create and play a text-based dungeon crawler equally as complex as the game you are creating it in.

Re:Sure there are tons of indie clones but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14846800) id=14843385 []

lol fucking figures. make a simple post of nethack on 'retro' or innovation and watch those egos grow along with mod points.

It comes down to what "innovation" means (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 8 years ago | (#14843531)

Personally I found Gish to be very "innovative". Just because it's a side-view 2D scrolling game like many before doesn't exclude it from that title, to me -- how many ways to present something in 2D are there? A "platform game" whose fundamental basis is a very sound physics engine (and abilities which involve modifying said physics) seems like a truly unique approach to me.

But yeah, it isn't "truly innovative" in the sense that isn't similar to something we've seen before in some way. Black and White is a take on the classic God Game like Populous where you don't directly control characters, but with an extra level of indirection between you and the game environment in the form of the creature. I agree this is an innovative game, but I don't get why this qualifies as "truly" but Gish doesn't.

Which is basically my problem -- he seems to be drawing a line somewhere between "incremental" and "true" innovation, and I just don't see it, and I don't see how it's exclusive to the big names. Puzzle Pirates isn't innovative because it's just a puzzle game only cooperatively multiplayer... So now to be innovative you can't be described as a "puzzle" game? But B&W is just a God game with a creature you train, so it is? Personally I think both these games are "truly" innovative, even if both are mostly comprised of things I've seen before.

Besides, the only reason the "truly innovative" games are going to come from Electronic Arts is because they have Will Wright. On that note, Spore looks likes its going to be incredible, and unlike any game before... unless you look at it as being the merger of the "God" game and various "Evolution" games. So maybe even Will Wright can't claim the title of "innovator".

I can see his main point -- that you shouldn't expect indies to be some kind of Fountain of Originality which will obviate the big players -- but I don't get how his examples of what I consider innovative games from indies and his examples of what he (and I for that matter) consider innovative games from the big guys differ on this particular metric.

Re:It comes down to what "innovation" means (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14843655)

This is a very important post. So important, in fact, I have taken the liberty to translate it into Spanish to widen its likely audience. Enjoy:

Personalmente encontré Gish para ser muy "innovador". Apenas porque es un 2.o juego del movimiento en sentido vertical de la lado-vista como muchos antes de que no lo excluya de ese título, a mí -- cuántas maneras de presentar algo en 2.o sea allí? Un "juego de la plataforma" que base fundamental es un motor muy sano de la física (y las capacidades que implican el modificar de la física dicha) se parece como un acercamiento verdaderamente único a mí. Pero sí, no es "verdaderamente innovadora" en el sentido que no es similar algo que hemos visto antes de una cierta manera. Negra y blanco es una toma en el juego clásico del dios como populoso donde usted no lo hace directamente los caracteres de control, pero con un nivel de indirección adicional entre usted y el ambiente del juego en la forma de la criatura. Convengo que esto es un juego innovador, pero no consigo porqué éste califica como "verdad" pero no lo hace Gish. Cuál es básicamente mi problema -- él se parece dibujar una línea en alguna parte entre "la innovación incremental" y "verdadera", y apenas no la veo, y no veo cómo es exclusiva a los nombres grandes. Los piratas del rompecabezas no son innovadores porque es justa un juego del rompecabezas solamente cooperativo multiplayer... Tan ahora ser innovador usted no se puede describir pues un juego del "rompecabezas"? Pero B&W es justo un juego del dios con una criatura que usted entrena, así que es? Personalmente pienso que ambos estos juegos son "verdad" innovadores, incluso si ambos se abarcan sobre todo de cosas que he visto antes. Además, la única razón que los juegos "verdaderamente innovadores" van a venir de artes electrónicos es porque tienen Wright. En esa nota, las miradas de la espora tienen gusto de su ir a ser increíbles, y desemejante de cualquier juego antes... a menos que usted lo mire como siendo la fusión del juego del "dios" y de los varios juegos de la "evolución". Iguale tan quizá Wright no puede demandar el título del "innovador". Puedo ver su punto principal -- que usted no debe esperar que Indias sean una cierta clase de fuente de la originalidad que evite a jugadores grandes -- solamente no consigo cómo sus ejemplos qué considero de juegos innovadores de Indias y sus ejemplos de lo que él (e I para esa materia) consideran juegos innovadores de los individuos grandes diferencian en este detalle métrico.

Re:It comes down to what "innovation" means (1)

Pluvius (734915) | more than 8 years ago | (#14845593)

It should be pointed out that he didn't say that Black & White et al. were truly innovative, just that they were the most innovative games of the past few years. (I assume he's talking about PC games, because I'd say that Katamari Damacy beats all three of the games he listed in that respect.)


this can't be reconciled with the facts (4, Insightful)

Zork the Almighty (599344) | more than 8 years ago | (#14843546)

This guy is out to lunch. He mentions Gish, but how about games like Darwinia ? The reason people look to indie developers is that there are so many of them, and 90% of of everything is crap. So if I had to choose between looking at five big companies and 1000's of small ones, where would I look ? Well I guess it depends on how many games the big companies crank out, which is not many, because they cost so much money. So even though there are 100 tetris clones the indie scene is the place to look to find quirky, original games. Very much like open source and it's thousands of text editors. There's got to be one good program in there, right ?

Indeed! (1)

slithytove (73811) | more than 8 years ago | (#14844536)

As an indie game developer myself, working on what we (and most of our players) believe to be a *very* innovative MMOFPS/RPG, I was seriously annoyed to read the blurb (no I didn't RTFA), and quite pleased to see the post I'm replying to was at the top.

Vendetta Online [] is our game, and it is already an excellent twitch-combat space-sim. It's also already a decent RPG (solo and group missions of various sorts, character-building, etc). Unlike most game's, though, VO will not reach its intended feature-set and then either stagnate or require expansion-packs. For us, the game of our dreams will always be a hard six months of coding away:) Player ownable capital-class ships and stations are coming, as well as a crafting system, and revamped economy/reputation systems. Eventually we want the ability to walk around in stations and then on procedurally generated worlds. Without investors or publishers to answer to, the sky isn't even a limit:)

Michael Warnock Guild Software Inc. [] ,

forgot to mention (1)

slithytove (73811) | more than 8 years ago | (#14844564)

Our game runs on Linux/x86 and Linux/amd64(native), MacOSX/ppc and MacOSX/intel... oh.. and Windows.

Re:Indeed! (1)

emilng (641557) | more than 8 years ago | (#14845457)

I'm not going to go to your site and check out your game, just like you aren't going to RTFA, but I'm still going to ask you why you think your game is innovative. The fact that you can already describe what established genre it fits in already means it's *not that* innovative as opposed to *very* innovative.

Darwinia is a perfect example (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 8 years ago | (#14846595)

Of why he is right in saying that minor players will not make a big difference in the world of gaming. It was a great concept, the kind of great concept that gifted game developers have the creativity to develop and the courage to pursue to the finish. But alas, it fell WELL short of many standards. It was well liked (by the few that played it). It was buggy. But none of these is as important as its greatest flaw: It set a lofty goal and then fell way short of it.

Let's get into specifics. The first cut of the game was buggy and very hard to play. You could easily tell what the designers had in mind but every 10 minutes you said to yourself 'why the hell doesnt that work the way it should'. After the 'bugs' were fixed, you were left with a very playable game, but that was the problem. Upon maturity, it was still just another game with very few (good) new ideas applied.

Re:this can't be reconciled with the facts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14846909)

Very much like open source and it's thousands of text editors. There's got to be one good program in there, right ?

  Yes, and EMACS is its name, and RMS is its one true prophet. All praise unto the GNU.

try the inverse... (3, Insightful)

spyrochaete (707033) | more than 8 years ago | (#14843565)

Mutant Storm and Space Tripper by PomPom, Uplink: Hacker Elite and Darwinia by Inversion Software, Tetris by Alexei Pajhitnov, Alley Cat by Synapse Software, .KKreiger by Kreiger demo group, Legend of the Red Dragon by Seth Robinson, etc etc etc etc etc

No innovation by indies?! What utter BS. Seems to me indies have the most potential to innovate since they don't have to convince a room of 70 year old suits how great their wacky ideas are.

Re:try the inverse... (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 8 years ago | (#14843999)

KKreiger by Kreiger demo group

The group is called das produkkt and kkrieger was in no way innovative. It was a tech demo but not a good or innovative game.

Wrong (2, Interesting)

HunterWare (128177) | more than 8 years ago | (#14843566)

Companies don't set out to innovate. If that process worked then the best way to come up with new ideas would be to close your eyes really hard and try to "think original". If you have enough minds in the room then a few of them will be thinking of something new, and a few of those will have the drive to actually do it. When someone gets a new, strange, and risky idea and decides to implement it themselves, and when that person succeeds, then you get an "innovative developer" (coming as a side-effect not from intent).

The advantages that big companies have are leverage and resources. The drawback they live with is that they have to plan more carefully to keep the organization moving forward productively. This leads them to take safer bets and often stifle the "wild ideas". Small companies will take more risks. The ability of small companies to fill a niche and to react quickly are their main competitive advantages. This means that, other things equal, the public will see more innovation coming from small organizations than large ones.

More gripes (1)

Zork the Almighty (599344) | more than 8 years ago | (#14843588)

Also, when will indie and OSS developers learn that sharp, angled graphics look like crap ? The only thing worse is dithering. I looked at this guy's games and they seem interesting enough, however the graphics are a turnoff. I understand indie developers do not have gobs of money, but you only need to make one good tileset and then change the pallette :) This game would look 10 times less cheap if it were run at 300x200.

Lockout chip business model (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 8 years ago | (#14846989)

This [independent] game would look 10 times less cheap if it were run at 300x200.

Problem is that the only popular platforms with a resolution close to that are handheld video game systems and mobile phones. Handheld video game systems are under Nintendo's and Sony's lockout, and too many mobile phones in North America are under the carrier's lockout. What handheld platforms are left that are not completely niche?

What a load (2, Insightful)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 8 years ago | (#14843596)

Let's see... Indie developers bring us Darwinia, Oasis, Puzzle Pirates, and Weird Worlds, while Electronic Arts brings us Madden 1994 through 2006 (and, presumably, beyond). Who's doing the real innovation here?

Re:What a load (1)

Zork the Almighty (599344) | more than 8 years ago | (#14844746)

I think we can all agree that Madden is the antithesis of innovation, but I would argue that the people who play Madden want incremental improvements. They do not want some crazy Madden 2007 where you control a horde of drug-using mutants using a trackpad in some inexplicable game that almost resembles football. Personally I think it would be great, but it's just not what the people buying Madden expect.

Re:What a load (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14845081)

"a horde of drug-using mutants"

So far, you're still describing Madden 2007.

Re:What a load (1)

twosmokes (704364) | more than 8 years ago | (#14846538)

Both. And neither. When you're sniping examples, you can prove any point you want.

Wanted to mod story +1 Funny (3, Insightful)

sstamps (39313) | more than 8 years ago | (#14843628)

Who's he kidding? The vast majority of innovation in games has come from "small indies". Remember Apogee/id software and Doom/Quake? Remember Valve and Half-Life? As someone else already mentioned, Will Wright and Simcity?

Then, let's look at the other side of the spectrum: Blizzard/Vivendi and World of Warcraft. Innovation? I don't see it. Sony and Star Wars Galaxies? Yeah, real innovative there. EA sports and the endless rehash of yearly pro sports games? Astounding! (not)

Big companies with big investors do the forumlaic thing because that is what they do best. They execute well in an area already explored and declared "safe" and "profitable" by the small guys who already took the chance and risked it all on "innovation". Why? Because they didn't have near as much to lose as "The Man".

Sure, indie developers do a lot of rehash, too; often it is because they are cutting their teeth and playing it "safe" for their first title or two before they jump in and start work on that "dream game" they have always wanted. They also do a lot of niche games. Nothing wrong with that. Indies are often small, and do smaller projects because that's what they can do to fill out their portfolio. However, that doesn't and shouldn't paint the rest of the independents out there currently working on cool, unique games that ARE truly innovative as being without the very quality they are (and have always been) providing to the industry.

Maybe he is referring to something a little more grandiose, like maybe coming up with a completely new genre. Even still, the vast majority of innovation in that regard has come from independents, not mass corporate powerhouses. There are always exceptions, and I won't say that no megastudio has ever done anything innovative, but it certainly is not the rule.

Sorry, but this indie game developer isn't buying it.

Re:Wanted to mod story +1 Funny (0)

Delphiki (646425) | more than 8 years ago | (#14843907)

Hey look! I can come up with examples that are loaded to make my point too! Indies created about 1000 tetris clones, about 100 puzzle games, about 1000 different texas hold 'em games. Major developers have come out with things like The Sims, Ultima Online, Half-Life 2, the controller for the Nintendo Revolution (ok, not out yet) and the Nintendo DS. I guess indie developers haven't done anything worth playing, ever. My examples just proved it.

Re:Wanted to mod story +1 Funny (1)

paitre (32242) | more than 8 years ago | (#14844487)

I would argue that the only thing innovative about Ultima Online was taking the pre-existing MUD concept and applying graphics/sounds, etc to it and moving it into a 3-D environment...Don't forget the Meridian59 is from around the same era, and I'm sure there's others that I'm forgetting.

UO coming out was a forgone conclusion considering the types of discussion we were having on the hardcore developer mailing lists at the time (you'd be suprised just how many people cut their teeth on network and games programming, -and- got their name out in the community, playing with MUDs in the early to mid 90's, and for some the '80s - Alan Cox comes to mind, immediately, actually, as an old AberMUD developer).

Digression aside, UO is definately not one I'd consider innovative - took an existing game concept, prettied it up, and marketed it. Nothing more.

Natural Selection (1)

Spinalcold (955025) | more than 8 years ago | (#14843631)

A lot of people have already mentioned older games that came from from independant developers, however I think he was speaking of new games with new which he's still wrong. Natural Selection is a great example, a brand new concept and is continuing to go strong. If they ever finish porting it to the Source engine, I think it will be one of the strongest games of the year with some proper advertising.

Interesting that "The Sims" is innovative... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14843632)

When I had Little Computer People in my commodore 64 ;)

What? (1)

Perseid (660451) | more than 8 years ago | (#14843651)

Who the hell is this guy? And why is he writing for IGN? Trolls get paid now? Does that mean Anonymous Coward should apply as a columnist for IGN?

The last innovative game from EA that I can think of off hand was probably MULE. And that was, what, twenty years ago?

Re:What? (1)

chrismcdirty (677039) | more than 8 years ago | (#14843716)

Last I checked, about 3/4 of IGN's staff were trolls getting paid to praise EA and/or Microsoft.

Re:What? (1)

nb caffeine (448698) | more than 8 years ago | (#14844027)

I'm not defending EA here, but I happen to be able to think of a few more recent games that were innovative:
Mutant League Football - Interesting take on football, i think they should bring it back

MOH:AA - WWII is tired now, but MOH was the first to do it well (and i guess you could call that innovation)
Beetle Adventure Racing - This was an interesting take on the racing genre back in the n64 days. I still have a copy and bust this out every now and again, still good times to be had there.

EA puts out some good games, but not too many innovative ones anymore. It seems those days are pretty much over...

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14844157)

He's an Indie developer who doesn't innovate (But does jsut fine for himself), and he feels the need to defend against people's perception that all indie studios should be innovating. That's all.

There's innovation on both sides of the fence. And crap re-hashes on both sides, too.

I sympathise, but times are changing for the bette (1)

cliffski (65094) | more than 8 years ago | (#14843652)

I agree with the main point, that indie game developers waffle on about innovation, then churn out a bejewelled clone. Its good to see he acknowledges some of the more original games that has given awards to (including my own contribution at [] (yeah im pluggin myself, its an essential habit when you work alone)

What you dont often hear about is the bitter infighting in the indie-gamer community about the whole 'casual puzzle game clones' and the effect they are having on the image of indie gaming. Not all of us are heading down the puzzle-clone route, and there have been some big arguments about it amongst developers.
Personally, I'm betting the house (literally) that doing fairly original and risky (from a design POV) games is the only way to strike it big as a small developer. To that end, my next game ( [] is a life-sim, a genre that nobody (not even the activisions etc) is attempting to expand upon. One day that may change, as I recently did some prototype work for maxis, so who knows whats coming next from them.

Please don't write us all of as bejewlled-makers. Theres a lot of variety if you know where to look.

Re:I sympathise, but times are changing for the be (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 8 years ago | (#14844123)

a life-sim, a genre that nobody (not even the activisions etc) is attempting to expand upon.

What's The Sims, then?

Re:I sympathise, but times are changing for the be (1)

cliffski (65094) | more than 8 years ago | (#14849025)

The sims is just one way of doing it, and although they release expansion packs, the base gameplay has not changed.

Re:I sympathise, but times are changing for the be (1)

Pluvius (734915) | more than 8 years ago | (#14845519)

Thank God, someone who disagrees with some of Vogel's conclusions actually read the article.

BTW, I played Democracy recently. Fun game, though I wouldn't call it innovative (The Hidden Agenda pops to mind as a very similar game) and it was quite buggy (a problem that plagues indie developers that Vogel didn't mention). Keep up the good work.


Erm... (1)

Clazzy (958719) | more than 8 years ago | (#14843721) []
No innovation from indie games, eh?

Re:Erm... (1)

TomHandy (578620) | more than 8 years ago | (#14844494)

Innovation like DEFCON, a game of global thermonuclear war? Come on, that is so 80's... How about a nice game of chess?

Its not innovation its influence... (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 8 years ago | (#14843806)

If he would have said "influence" instead of "innovation" I might agree, after all there are already a handfull of Sims clones around, people are copying different aspects of ResidentEvil4 and so on. Innovation in commercial games often ends up getting copied by other games and thus more or less defines a new genre or gives an existing genre a new direction, so those games have quite a bit of influence. Indy games on the other side are pretty much on their own, I couldn't name a single indy game that had direct impact on a whole genre games. That however doesn't mean that indy games aren't innovative, its just that they are often to far away from the areas that commercial games currently explore, Gish was innovative, but the commercial sector hasn't touched the jump'n run genre for a long long time, so Gish ends up having pretty much no influence at all, since there simply aren't commercial games which could incooperate some of Gishs features. Same for Darwinia, when the whole commercial world is doing fantasy style games, a retro-future/cyberpunkt/whatever game just can't have very much influence.

Indie? (1)

dhakbar (783117) | more than 8 years ago | (#14844099)

That's doctah Jones to YOU, lady!

Percentages (1)

2megs (8751) | more than 8 years ago | (#14844821)

The author's right that the majority of indie games aren't innovative...just like the majority of garage bands, student films, and livejournal poetry is crap. But the there's a LOT of it, and even if only one in a hundred indie games are innovative, that's still more indie games that are innovative than there are big-budget games that are published at all.

Project Offset proves him WRONG (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14845350)

Taken from the project offset website's About page ( [] ):

Offset Software started as 3 people: Sam McGrath, Travis Stringer and Trevor Stringer. Initally working out of an apartment and completely self-funded, the engine and all art was created with a tiny budget -- just enough to purchase the software and hardware needed for development. The budget was small but the goal was big: to create a next generation First Person Shooter set in a fantasy world (codenamed "Project Offset"), and a powerful game engine to run it.

After a year and a half of programming work by Sam McGrath on the game engine, and with the amazing artistic skills of Travis and Trevor Stringer, the three released the two "Sneak Peek" videos, showing off the technology and world behind Project Offset. The videos took the gaming industry by storm, showing that high quality, next generation technology, graphics, and gameplay rivaling that of the biggest game studios, could still be created by a small team. Shortly thereafter, Rod Green and Sharif Elcott joined the team, and thus started the expansion of the Offset team to the 19 developers that are currently involved.

Sam McGrath, Travis Stringer, and Trevor Stringer are formerly of S2 Games, the seven man development team who created the award winning game Savage: The Battle for Newerth. Savage won the grand prize at the Independent Games Festival in 2004, and was nominated for a Game Developers Choice Award.

Re:Project Offset proves him WRONG (1)

oneils (934770) | more than 8 years ago | (#14845690)

Is it a game yet? Playable by gamers? If not, the project proves nothing. At least wait until its out before you make such a sweeping statement. It could be a bug-riddled piece of crap, for all you know.

Since hardly any of you RTFA (1)

Pluvius (734915) | more than 8 years ago | (#14845893)

I'm going to list the points that Jeff Vogel made, all of which many of you missed in your kneejerk rush to judgment. BTW, Vogel is responsible for the Avernum/Exile [] series of games, which are among the best indie games ever made, so I think he has some clue of what he's talking about.

1. He's talking about games made recently, as in the 21st century. Mentioning games like SimCity, Ultima, and Tetris damages his argument not a bit. The reason he focuses on recent games is because his argument is that many of the major innovations that are possible in video games have already been done. Quote: "I might humbly point out that this is simply a sign of the growing maturity of the art of game design. I mean, seriously. When was there last a truly new book that wasn't reminiscent of something that came before? Or play? Or movie?"

2. He doesn't say that all innovation comes from big developers. He says that if true innovation comes, it will come from big developers. Why? Because only big developers have the money to really explore new ideas without having to worry about their employees' children starving to death. Quote: "Some would say that only people out on their own, free of corporate infection, are free enough to make something truly new. This is backwards. Only the people under control of a big corporation (with the corporate resources and paychecks that come with it) have the freedom to make something new. Not being afraid of starvation does wonders for the mind."

3. Some indie developers do innovate, but their innovations are only incremental, just like the usual innovations you see from big developers. (And yes, big developers do innovate on a fairly regular basis; pointing out Madden as if it's the only big-name game in existence does no one any favors.) They don't create new genres like they used to due to the first two points I mentioned. Quote: "These games are worthy and fun and contain innovation, yes. But incremental innovation. Not the new thing, but the clever twist on the old. In other words, the same sort of innovation that the big, corporate world regularly provides. And the sort of innovation you'd better get used to, because it's just about all you're ever going to get from now on."

Is it a bit cynical? Sure. But I think his argument deserves at least the amount of respect that would be shown by actually reading the article before you start bashing it.


A note from the author. (5, Informative)

spidweb (134146) | more than 8 years ago | (#14845934)

The responses to my article weren't surprising. People have a lot emotionally invested in the whole "Indie idea."

I appreciate the examples of innovative games from Indies. Even if many of them came from the days when dinosaurs ruled the Earth. SimCity and Doom are not relevant to a discussion about the world Today.

But I'm still right. A huge chunk of the really innovative stuff is coming from the big studios. I'm thinking of The Sims/Sims 2/Sims Online. (EA) The Movies. (Activision) Spore, if it works. (EA) Guild Wars. (NCSoft) And I didn't even mention any console games. (I should get 2 bonus points for not bringing up Katamari Damacy.)

Because of space limitations, I regret I couldn't mention Darwinia. (Incremental innovation in quality visuals.) Or Tale In the Desert. (Which is one valid argument against my point of view. I hope one day to see another.)

I'm not saying Indies suck. Obviously. I am one. But I am saying that people shouldn't fetishize them. They're people with small budgets and bills to pay. And that's why they write 50 retro-arcade games and puzzle clones for every one game with any claim to creativity. Because they have to.

- Jeff Vogel []

Re:A note from the author. (1)

cliffski (65094) | more than 8 years ago | (#14851218)

Please dont say the movies was made by activision. it was made by Lionhead. Activision just wrote the checks. I was the Ai coder for my sins...

a good example (1)

rubberbrush (954287) | more than 8 years ago | (#14855502)

Jeff; some good points, but I would argue that the game my tiny (3 man) company has been working on for the last 3+ years is a good example of indy innovation. My background is in aviation so I know the power of simulations. I also happen to be a gamer. When I learned to speak Italian a few years back there was no good way to practice, the available tools suck. And I realized one day - as I was stalking someone in a lovingly crafted counterstrike map that looked like a French village - why not make a first person speaker? So I did. I paid for it myself and it took a long damn time, but we finished the first version of it. An idea like this would never have gotten through a pitch meeting...too hard to do, too untraditional. But the response we are getting is phenomenal. So, I see your point but I think you have to look at the clutter of small game companies with a poker/sodoku filter on. Then unusual projects will jump out at you. Let me know if you want a free copy. []

Hah. (3, Insightful)

RoffleTheWaffle (916980) | more than 8 years ago | (#14849285)

What a joke, and to think I stumbled upon this gem a day late.

Before I continue, one of the underlying points Mr. Vogel was trying to make here is definitely true. Independent game developers and studios are by no means a fountain of innovation, and are in my opinion more likely to reproduce a popular model rather than innovate in order to get their foot in the door. That way, their chances of success are much higher, because they've taken something that was already good and at least reproduced - if not improved - it. The big studios don't have to worry too much about money lost to experiments, and are thus more likely to try new things - and damn the consequences of failing to find a niche in the market if they do. Furthermore, he made it very clear that innovation tends to occur gradually, in a sense of evolution, rather than rapid mutation. Most indie studios that are replicating something that's been done before do try to add their own twists to the model - this is what makes them stand out enough for people to pay attention.

However, Mr. Vogel is quite wrong about a few things, too. This is the kind of commentary I'd expect out of a cynical independent ripoff artist in action, really. You know, the kind of person who is too afraid and closed-minded to try anything new, partly because he doesn't want to lose his money or reputation - a sound judgement - and partly because he just doesn't seem to want to try. You can deny all you want that the Exile and Avernum series aren't blatant ripoffs of Ultima - personally, I loved Exile regardless, if only for the story - but they are. Avernum, a polished up Exile, is Ultima in new clothes. This man and his studio have been responsible for very little noteworthy innovation, and well, like they say, Pot, meet Kettle.

Huge innovative leaps on both a technical and gameplay level occur in the field of gaming from time to time, and it's really a 50-50 chance of those innovative leaps coming from a big studio or an independent developer. Just like any creative field, innovation can either occur incrementially, as he implied that it always does, or it can occur massively and with outstanding results. (Sim City, anyone?) Mr. Vogel, who clearly suffers from a serious case of cranial-anal inversion - not to mention chronic defeatism - is satisfied to simply replicate the old time and again, and tells us to get used to it. He tells us that only people with money can afford to make new ideas work. He's dead wrong, but you can't expect a man with no other skills outside of game publishing to care about anything besides money when it comes to games, considering that it's the whole of his livelihood. Just because big titles carry big budgets doesn't mean that new ideas can't take root in the independent side of the playing field. Money isn't really the huge factor here, it's the ideas themselves and who has them.

In other words, nothing to see here. Just near-mindless droning from another cynic with a rather skewed and defeated view of the gaming world. The reality of it is, even if no new and huge genres are going to emerge any time in the near future, significant and more than incremential innovation can, does, and will take place, and it won't just be from the big names. People working for big name studios have more money to throw around - but the big names are only concerned with meeting the status quo, to make ends meet. The independent developers are likely to follow the popular models to get themselves established, or much like Mr. Vogel, they just don't have many good ideas. Big leaps are and have almost always been rare, and it's hard to tell just where they'll come from. Much like Haley's Comet, though, just because you only see it once in a lifetime doesn't mean that it doesn't exist.

The Future is Now (1)

dmauro (742353) | more than 8 years ago | (#14859977)

Oh my god we know everything that has come to pass until know, which is surely all-encompassing of what is to come to be as well. Therefore innovation is dead. We have thought of everything. Sorry folks, game over.
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