June 17, 2011

Indie Games: Charcoal’s Take

A long time ago, May 24th to be specific, Dr. Pixel won a QWOP competition in which the somewhat-grand prize was an article about any topic. He chose “indie games in general”. This is a fairly broad topic, so that means I get to ramble, which is fairly characteristic of me if you know me or my writing. So, here we go.

First off, I have a problem with the term “Indie Games” on the grounds of poor definition. Technically (according to Wikipedia, which has never ever been wrong about anything, ever), an indie game is “created by individuals or small teams without video game publisher financial support” (From “Indie Game” on Wikipedia. Hooray for nonplagarism!). However, many “indie games” that become popular quickly gain the attention of said publishers, and financial support becomes available. Does this mean that said creators are no longer capable of producing any “indie games” ever again? Or do the games just lose all their indie cred, as hipsters scoff and reminisce to a time before Hot Topic started selling Angry Birds T-Shirts.

^Warning: Clothing from Hot Topic may cause a hipster to become angry and lecture you for thirty minutes. For use at home or when trolling at Starbucks only.

I sort of understand where Indie game fans are coming from. Even fairly large companies (Red Octane, Bungie) have had their flagship product maimed by corporate giants (Activision, Microsoft). The problem is that once something is considered good by a populace, every other entity judged by said populace begins trying WAY too hard to emulate the successful entity. For example, you remember that shooter? The one on Xbox? The one with the campaign that you just blew right through and then started playing the multiplayer? You remember that multiplayer, you know, the one where you gain experience and level up and you get better equipment and/or guns because of it? And you held down Left Trigger to aim down your sights? If you’ve had a 360 since its release or shortly thereafter, I dare you to find every shooter you own that that description applies to. If you get less than five, you just didn’t own that many shooters. This is just one of many things that is being copied everywhere. That persistent metagame leveling up for the sake of leveling up is in almost every match-based multiplayer game on the market right now. /rage.

^Metagame leveling is now as overused as this rage face, as well as any other “meme face”.

Indie games are a lot more free to experiment, because oftentimes they’re done merely for fun. Nobody’s job is riding on the success or failure of this pilot title. This can be good or bad. Sometimes, experiments fail, and they fail hard. For every epic return to the 16-bit RPG (which there are not nearly enough of, especially those without the anime graphics), there are fifteen hipsterific satirical nightmares that don’t even classify as a “game” in any sense of the word.

^ “It’s situational irony. You paid for a game and expected one, but instead you got a shirt. It represents my feelings about conservatism.”

All in all, I can’t really claim to be “for” or “against” indie games. They’re just games. If I judged games based on what they’re made from and who they’re made by, rather than on the quality of the game, that’d make me a… hrm… someone throw me a term in the comment section?

I can’t really close up an article on indie games without any good recommendations, so I’ll throw some out for you. Most of my favorite “indie games” are flash games that are playable for free online. Make no mistake, the ones I’m recommending are still high quality.

Protector is a free flash game series, based (and best played) on a website called Kongregate. It’s an amazingly balanced series of Tower Defense games that involves elemental mages, which are capable of inducing different effects on the enemy. You know all of the enemy waves in advance, and its up to you to determine the best way to build your forces and handle each one. It’s a simple game on the surface, but a lot more strategy goes into it than you might think. There isn’t too much of significance in the way of plot, but there are a few nods to some former internet fame.

Warlords: A Call To Arms is another free flash game that I first experienced on Kongregate. Again, it’s deceptively simple on the surface, but winning some of the later battles in the campaign involves some heavy strategy. Units spawn on a timer and move and attack independently. You determine what units spawn, and where. Some units, like spearmen and archers, come out relatively quickly. Stronger units, namely mounted ones, take longer to spawn. This game also has two-people-at-one-computer multiplayer, which can get addicting very quickly. It’s also worth noting that this game has been released on the iPod/iPhone App Store.

Braid… It’s just Braid. It’s technically a platformer, but it’s like nothing you’ll have ever played before. Buy it. Now. It’s on Steam and Xbox Live Arcade. There may also be a version for you PS3 homies out there (I don’t own a PS3 so I’m out of the loop.). Srsly. Buy it. You won’t regret it.

It’s good to be back on the article writing train again! Leave me some comments below! I will be upset if you fail to comment.

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  8. IronJade - June 18, 2011 12:37 pm

    NVR played Braid, but I own CC and love it. I can suggest quite a few. Honestly, if you have friends to play with…. Evony…. That game is just military Age of Empires perpetual world PvP mayhem. A ton of fun to play and so strategy oriented that it can make you sick making one simple mistake later on in your build. Also, Fortix and many MMORPG’s.

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  9. CharcoalCoyote - June 18, 2011 8:48 am

    Well Tom Fulp owns newgrounds, but yeah. Alien Hominid was fun.

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  10. ScrotusKilmystr - June 18, 2011 6:58 am

    don’t forget Alien Hominid which started as a flash game that as so ridiculously hard I don’t know anyone who’s ever beaten it but it’s so much fun, and it’s what put Tom Fulp on the map if I’m not mistaken.
    It too is on XBL I think PSN (it was ported to the PS2 from pc first..) and i’m sure still free to play on the PC on Newgrounds.com

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  11. CharcoalCoyote - June 17, 2011 10:32 pm

    As one more side note, I don’t know if it counts as an “indie game” (Tom Fulp has a lot of money), but Castle Crashers on the Xbox Live Arcade was really, really fun.

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