Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Indie Game Developers: Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss…

Posted by Rampant Coyote on February 15, 2011

We won’t get fooled again!

Gamespot ran an article yesterday featuring comments from the developers of hit indie games Minecraft, Monaco, Braid, Flower, and others about the impact and growth of indie gaming in an age that where the indie developer was once, not many years ago, declared extinct. “Oops.”

The Rise of the Indie Game Developer at GameSpot.

Some interesting quotes from the developers:

“I think part of the label of ‘indie’ is that you make games for the sake of making good games rather than just to make money, so there’s an inherent will there to be experimental and original” – Markus Persson (Minecraft).

“Big-budget games are boring. Even the best ones are boring. Indie games often suck too. But because there are no corporate dollars involved, indie developers can make games that they are passionate about. Good indie games are never built for a demographic: they are built with the passion of the developer.” – Andy Schatz (Monaco, Venture Africa).

“I am not going to try and craft a game to please critics, just like I am not trying to craft a game to please players. I am just trying to make the thing that is the best that I know how to make it, which seems to mean something different for every game I work on.” – Jonathan Blow (Braid).

And what I think is the money quote comes from Edmund McMillen (Super Meat Boy): “I think it’s important to understand that in the 1980s and 1990s studios were doing things the way indies are doing things right now–they just made cool games.”

Now, I don’t know if the author of the above article, Laura Parker, was prompting the devs in any way to give these kinds of quotes. Maybe. But they all speak to something that has been on my mind quite a bit over the last several weeks, and that is how the whole surge of indie development today may actually be the completion of one cycle of the business.

It really does feel like we’ve come around full circle.  Edmund McMillen’s quote feels right on target to me.  I read up a bit on the history of video game development, and it certainly feels like what we’re doing here as indies is really getting back to the roots of the hobby. Before it really became a full-fledged “industry.”

It was an era of passionate game development, individual vision, wild experimentation, and rapid change. It wasn’t all “hugs and puppies,” I should note.  People were still out to make a buck. The environment was a high-speed experiment in Darwinism – survival of the fittest – and outright copying, cloning, piracy, and crap games were rampant. But out of that chaos came some really, really awesome games – and experiences that we old-schoolers are still inspired by today.

We’re seeing the creative furnace get fired up again with the indies, and that’s exciting. We’d never have seen a Minecraft come out of a mainstream studio (though now that it’s caught on, we may see some clones come out of the big publishers at some point).  And a 2D game like Monaco? No way! And Armand K., author of the last week’s article “Can We Get Another Turn-Based RPG Already?” need only look as far as the indies to discover that his wish is already being granted. Maybe not exactly as he hoped, but they are getting there.

Will the pendulum swing back? Will the furnace cool back down, the indies consolidate, going to fewer, more polished (and expensive) games? Probably. But I don’t think it’ll get as bad as it was in the late 90’s / early 2000’s.  I believe the indies are here to stay – it’s the industry and hobby around them that will keep shifting and changing.

The important part is that we need to keep having these small developers with vision and a willingness to experiment and follow their own passion rather than just the dictates of established marketing & demographic analysis (and dogma).  That’s where the games we love come from. Sure, it’s possible for that to come from a big-budget mainstream team. But I think the indies are definitely giving the hobby the much-needed creative shot in the arm.

Filed Under: Indie Evangelism - Comments: 2 Comments to Read

  • Andy_Panthro said,

    The part you highlight from Edmund McMillen really is what I’m hoping for (and to a certain extent receiving) from indie games now and in the future.

    I grew up with Sierra, Origin, Bullfrog, Westwood and the like, who started small and built upon their success. If I were an aspiring indie developer, I’d look at them as historical role models.

    Although for every good indie that succeeds you can point to another that was poor or unsuccessful, it’s the wealth of talent out there that makes me hopeful that we can get that “golden age” of PC gaming back without needing to rely on the major publishers.

    More and more I buy indie games (or old games through GOG), and I rarely feel I’m missing out on any of the “big” releases of the year (though I do buy the occasional one, I think Alpha Protocol was my most recent).

    Oh, and as far as the financial/marketing side goes, the most vocal and helpful person I’ve seen has been Cliff Harris of Positech. Well worth following on Twitter.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    I second that. I’ve been following Cliff Harris for longer than Twitter has existed. He’s the indie’s indie.