Published on May 16th, 2014 | by Nidde0
This is an indie game!
Today is the final day. Soon 500 days will have passed. And what have we learned?
Defining an indie game
So if we’ve learned anything from this journey it should be that there’s no ultimate definition of “indie game”. I’ve talked to lots of people about it and there isn’t anyone that can give a straight, simple answer that survives any type of follow-up question. It’s become pretty apparent that the definition will have to depend on the person, but I’ve managed to do at least some findings on the subject.
A preconceived notion is that an indie game can not come from a publisher like Microsoft. This isn’t really true. While it can be true it’s not always the case. If a developer has created a game from scratch in their basement to the point that it’s actually finished and they can port it to any console, does the game lose its indie-status because a publisher like Sony buys it to launch it on Playstation Network? I don’t think so. If the publishers actually makes changes to the game we’re going deeper down the rabbit hole. Now it becomes a matter of WHAT they changed. I’ve talked with people like Paradox Interactive about when they’ve changed something in a game, and it can be something in the matter of just how to do a tutorial. Does that change the core of the game? Has the developer lost their indie-stamp because they needed help with creating a comprehensive guide on how their game works? I’m going to stick with “no”. Where the line is drawn is going to be up to you, but don’t disqualify a titles from indie just because someone else is making sure it becomes available to the public.
The number of people that work on a title is part of the equation, for some reason. Does it really matter how many people are involved if the core game and vision is intact throughout the entire production? Granted, if 500 people get their fingers in the cogs there might be some residue that wasn’t supposed to be there. But yet again there’s no predetermined number that you can’t cross if you’d like to keep your membership. 50 people may sound like a lot, but games and developers with bigger scopes easily get up there if you’re counting all the parts that go into it. So let’s face it, team-size doesn’t really matter, but having less than ten help when trying to limbo under the bar.
This almost goes into the publisher category, but today there are more funding options. While the most independent path to follow is to fund it all by yourself we’ve seen crowdfunding explode lately. Prior to that your alternatives for getting financing into your project had been to either find investors, apply for a fund of some sort, take out a loan, or just risk the tinkering of a publisher. What investors or publishers (or loans in a way) do is take a chance that the money they’re pushing into the game will be repaid at a later time through sales. What crowdfunding does is take away the middle-man of an investor or publisher and just ask the audience to place their money in your unfinished product in return for a gift of some sort; be it a name in the credits, a copy of the finished game, or something grander. There’s some fine print involved, but it’s basically pre-purchasing directly from the developer. Before crowdfunding became popular there had been some developers that did the same thing with donations. There’s also Early Access and systems of the like, but let’s stop listing ways to gather money for an indie game.
What does it matter how you get your funding? If you want to hard-ball it, independent means that you’re not receiving outside funding. But today we’ve passed that. Crowdfunding is basically getting publisher-money from a slew of sources, but its generally accepted as a more indie way to get that financing. Same thing with Early Access or pre-orders. But it doesn’t really matter, does it? If a publisher comes to you and asks you to make a game, I wouldn’t count that as indie. But no matter how early someone comes to you with financing, equipment, logistics, testers, and anything that helps you without changing your game you’re still keeping it indie in my book. You may get help on how to fine-tune a mechanic, or layout a level, or tell you what a tutorial needs to entail, but as long as you’re still making the game you set out to make it’s all good.
Living without AAA
One of the other questions I asked was if you could replace your AAA library with indie titles.
Depends what you’re looking for. What I’ve found is that if you’re looking for dungeon crawlers you’ll be all set. There are several games out there that are as good, if not better than, the headliners when it comes to mechanics, controls, graphics. Story, lore and audio may be the areas that perhaps lacks somewhat behind, but it doesn’t always strike true. Some titles even excel past the big titles in these parts as well. But when it comes to what seems like the biggest genre, first person shooter, you’ll be more stressed to find something that matches the polish of the biggest publishers and developers. There are several titles that try and get up there both when it comes to graphics and mechanics, but the whole package can’t really match the tweaks that enough money can buy. Then there are genres that are not even represented on both sides. I had a really hard time finding something similar to Starcraft on the indie scene. And even a satisfying Sim City-replacement. But I also won’t find a roguelike from anyone else than the indie people.
So can you replace your library? You can entertain yourself enough with only indie games, but I started to miss the scope of games like Zelda or Last of Us. There isn’t a one-to-one ratio of games available for every big title, but the indie scene offers new innovations that you won’t find on the AAA scene. And the indie scene is much better at preserving what we loved with earlier generations of games, which may be the reason why we’re seeing so many 8bit and 16bit graphics, aside from the fact that it may be easier to produce than high-definition 3D graphics.
Affects for the future
I’ve grown very fond of the indie scene, I’ve loved what I’ve experienced, but I’ve also grown to miss the AAA-polish sometimes. I’ve never found myself without entertainment, but I still felt there are some non-indie games that I’ve wanted to play. The thing that’s affected me the most is what and how I spend my money on video games in the future. I used to be the guy that bought games on launch and then didn’t get around to playing the game. I’ve learned to not actually buy the game until I’m going to play it, which includes the discount offer I find with I’ll-play-that-someday titles. But I’ll most likely purchase attractive bundles when I see them, because some day I may not want a new game and I’ll still have a ton of game I payed almost nothing for. Which I guess means I’ve learned nothing anyway.