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f13.net  |  f13.net General Forums  |  The Gaming Graveyard  |  Gaming Conferences and Conventions  |  The Schild Chronicles '06  |  Topic: Day 8 [4/18/06] - "Sometimes you just get shit when you shovel the indie pile." 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.
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Author Topic: Day 8 [4/18/06] - "Sometimes you just get shit when you shovel the indie pile."  (Read 4316 times)
Posts: 57709

on: April 19, 2006, 02:30:59 AM

Truer words have never been spoken. Twenty four hours after a goldmine of a weekend, I managed to find not a single game I really think anyone should play. Which begs the question - how many fake amateur developers does it take to screw in a lightbulb make a fun game? Before I start, I should say, I played a couple shooters. They were fun, but I haven't gotten to that topic yet. But this is one that needs discussion anyway. When I play an indie game, I look at the following things:

  • What were the developers trying to do? Was it an experiment or an exercise?
  • Are they presenting me with new ideas or old ideas? (Think of this as a addendum to the first bullet.)
  • Is what I'm playing fun or compelling in any way?
  • If what I'm playing is fun and compelling, would it be to anybody else?
  • What made these people think they could make a fun game?

The last question is reserved for first time indie developers. Trust me, there's enough out there that don't have it in them to make a single fun game. But you already knew that part. The more important question, I think, is what makes one game suck so bad when another one may be so good. Let's look at the gone, but not forgotten, Black Isle Studios. Lionheart and Planescape: Torment. Those really should never be in the same sentence, should they? Ok, now let's look at Ion Storm. Deus Ex, Thief: Deadly Shadows, and Daikatana? Huh? One of these things is not like the other. At the very least, we do know part of the story behind Daikatana though. These are professionals who, for the most part, are considered masters of their craft. But they have both cranked out a real stinker.

Then, in the indie scene, we have people like Kenta Cho and Pixel. Who may not make masterpieces every time, but everything they do is reasonably compelling. Dessgeega has made a raft of interesting shit, but the latest product out of there (Invader, released just yesterday), isn't exactly uhm. Well, let's just say it's not much. Is it further proof that each person has at least one great idea? Though some can have many?

Alright, none of that made much sense. I'll admit that. My line of thinking is simply this: Why do so many people think they can make good games? Yesterday I linked to Neko, Noitu Love, and Cave Story. None of these are based on new ideas. These folks emulated the craft they admired near perfectly. They are all great games in their own right (Cave Story being the real masterpiece of the 3 though). Then there's the shooter genre where so many good games are released for free that you don't particularly need to even bother tracking down stuff that costs money. Then there are the shadier parts, when people don't want to just emulate. They want to add their own flair. That's ok. But it must be understand that Most People Should Never Do That. Hell, look at SOE and the Untold Legends series. It desperately wants to be in the arena of Diablo but they keep fucking it up by taking away the streamlined nature of the thing. You HAVE TO get the thing RIGHT before you start changing things. If you can't get it right, you're not going to be able to make it better. And therein lies the problem.

We've a number of people on this board (including myself) that thinks they could make MMOGs better. Well, maybe not better, but everyone has their little field where they're comfortable. Mine is crafting. I'm pretty confident in saying that I could make a more compelling crafting system (from the finding of resources to the creation of product) than some of the chuckleheads out there getting paid to do it. Yea, sure, I have no hard evidence to back that up, but how many people in the MMORPG industry do? I'm sure a bunch of people from Mutable Realms, Artifact Entertainment, Pharaoh, and other failed MMOG types got hired elsewhere. Did they deserve to get hired? What did they make that was worthy of them being hireable? Hell, only one of those companies even made a worthwhile product - and even that product is suspect.

And this is what you get with the indie scene. A ton of riff-raff creating content that shouldn't be created. Total crap. Piles of shit. Easily downloading for your sado-masochistic tendencies (which you, no doubt, have as a gamer). And that's what happened today. I dug into the pile of player-created gaming (think of it as self-encapsulated player-created content) and by mistake reached into the shit pile, over and over again.

I've truly nothing to offer you. But I'd like to discuss this topic more. Are the best indie products those that emulate a genre so perfectly that it's like getting a new product (Fate as a sequel to Diablo II) or is the best stuff the New Ideas that offer New Experiences (like Hotel)? What seperates the good from the bad? Is it the production quality or the final product? Does not having a budget that shows studio quality work actually lower the bar for you when you play these games? Are you more willing to accept shit as a reasonable gaming experience? Or is there an innate charm to the indie scene that makes your inner hippie hairs go 'woo woo?'
Posts: 4615

the y master, king of bourbon

Reply #1 on: April 19, 2006, 03:08:51 AM

My expectations scale somewhat; I don't expect a bedroom programmer to come up with an Oblivion-esque 3D gameworld, and, similarly, I expect more out of a moneyed, publisher-funded house than SB.EXE. However, there's a minimum bar, and it does advance with time since the increasing availability of free/inexpensive middleware (e.g. OGRE, Torque) allows those with sufficient technical cojones to not have to reinvent bitblt with every game.

I also expect a smaller scope from an indie dev; something simple like Rumble Box, The Gish or Democracy is welcome now and then. Broader-scoped and longer-term games like Darwinia are unexpected treats. Examining this, I expect indies to be more capable of producing (to borrow a phrase from Jack Emmert) "bite sized chunks of fun" - more casual experiences that require less art and programming, but perhaps more inspiration or deviation from the norm, to pull off.

Graphically, my primary concern is for stuff to look clean and thematically fit with the game. For example, Uplink's UI was a perfect fit for its theme and was also not horribly complex, art-wise. It was, however, devoid of ugly fuzzy edges, stretched textures and other hallmarks of low quality. Slay, while extremely low-fidelity in artwork, manages to pass my muster for a bedroom-programmer type game. On the other hand, while The Farm had some decent art, its UI was terrible. Accessibility and good controls seem to be a stumbling block for a lot of indies.

If I can get the same experience from a highly-polished AAA title as I can from an indie game, I'll probably go with the AAA title for the perks that come with it: richer eye-candy, likely a broader set of available activities, longer-term support, etc. What I want from the devs without cash-moneys is something different. Indie cilantro awash in a salad of Vivendi-lettuce.

Gems like Tread Marks, though, that's the real strength of the independent scene. 99% of it is crap, but there's a huge volume. Million-monkeys-on-typewriters effect.
« Last Edit: April 19, 2006, 03:11:50 AM by Yoru »
Terracotta Army
Posts: 866

Reply #2 on: April 19, 2006, 03:15:00 AM

I belive a lot of the indie games suffers from very bad planning. They make shit up as they go and just shoves it in there. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I also get the feeling that there's nobody around to straight up tell them when things are going down the drain, kill your darlings and all that.

Indie devs should take the risks that the AAA games aren't allowed to do.
Terracotta Army
Posts: 5826

Reply #3 on: April 19, 2006, 06:50:15 AM

I thought Deus Ex was made by Ion Storm Austin that had only the name in common with the Daikatana creators?

I liked the beginning of Lionheart, they just rushed it and left out two thirds of the content.

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