Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Indie Gaming

I was going to bemoan the loss of innovative ideas in gaming. I had seen too many first person shooters, too many car racing games, and the same old Japanese Role Playing Games.

And then I met Indie Gaming, and I was blown away.

If you're new to the concept, as I was, Indie Gaming are games made by independent studios. Sometimes, these are very small teams of developers producing a single game. The large game studios want to chase millions of installs and the big blockbuster game. They do not deviate much from formulaic games, massive story-lines, insanely detailed graphics and big budgets. Independent games are made by smaller teams, so they have a limited story, small budgets. This limits what they can do: they cannot put millions of dollars into graphics. And as a result, they need something to attract audience away from well established games. They need to be innovative.

My introduction to Indie gaming was through the Humble Indie Bundle. The concept of an Indie bundle is as innovative as the games. Independent developers cannot get their games stocked in Walmart, and they don't have the traffic that can sustain Internet-only sales. As a result, they suffer from poor visibility and lackluster sales. So some independent game developers tried to offer a bundle of independent games at a price that the customer sets. Everyone chooses their own price. If you pay more than the mean donation amount, you also get some freebie games. The games are available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. The games have no Digital Rights Management, so you can confidently run the game on your computers in the future. They have no copy protection, so you can install the games on all your home computers. The independent games bundle concept has taken off. The sales are bigger and more prominent each year. The Humble Indie Bundle was the first bundle, and now there are many different types of bundles offered on the Internet.

This year, I purchased the Humble Indie Bundle #4, and it included the Indie Bundle #3, since my donation amount was larger than the average. I paid $10.  I get eleven games with no DRM, and they all work on Linux: it is a bargain.

The games are refreshingly innovative. Night Sky is a 2D physics platformer, where you have to roll a ball around to progress through levels. Hammerfight is a game in which you battle with a floating hammer. Hammerfight uses only a mouse, and no buttons. Bit Trip Runner is a rhythm-based platformer, where your character has to jump and navigate through a level and your moves have to be synchronized to the background music.

Independent gaming are bringing fun back into gaming with their innovative games.