Are the days of fantastic indie games behind us?

I posted this originally as a comment on the Quick Look for Thomas Was Alone. Anyone else have thoughts regarding the idea that perhaps not all indie games are created equal?

"To be honest, I feel like the trend inspiring these sorts of indie game is rather boring. Don't get me wrong, there are some indie games that serve their purpose really well (S&S Brothers, Journey, Limbo). However, there are also plenty of games like this that are god awful. This is by no means the worst game ever made, but as the popularity of so-called "indie games" rises so does the number of indie games that are garbage. It's the same thing we see with almost every other genre of video game. A majority of the first person shooters that are released every year aren't worth a second glance, it's the few that are that we want to focus our attention on. For a long time, indie games were a rather niche genre. Most of the indie games that made it big (in this context we'll consider this any sort of minor media attention) were really good. As the market for indie games grows so does the number of these games released. With this growth comes a much larger flood of developers transitioning into the genre because they think it will make them money or they know it's what'll sell. A genre that once belonged to developers devoted to making artistic video games is becoming a cash cow. Not liking a game who's soundtrack is mellow and it's art pixelated doesn't always mean someone doesn't get it. It could be that perhaps a game is simply just bad."

37 Comments
38 Comments
Posted by Keldrath

I posted this originally as a comment on the Quick Look for Thomas Was Alone. Anyone else have thoughts regarding the idea that perhaps not all indie games are created equal?

"To be honest, I feel like the trend inspiring these sorts of indie game is rather boring. Don't get me wrong, there are some indie games that serve their purpose really well (S&S Brothers, Journey, Limbo). However, there are also plenty of games like this that are god awful. This is by no means the worst game ever made, but as the popularity of so-called "indie games" rises so does the number of indie games that are garbage. It's the same thing we see with almost every other genre of video game. A majority of the first person shooters that are released every year aren't worth a second glance, it's the few that are that we want to focus our attention on. For a long time, indie games were a rather niche genre. Most of the indie games that made it big (in this context we'll consider this any sort of minor media attention) were really good. As the market for indie games grows so does the number of these games released. With this growth comes a much larger flood of developers transitioning into the genre because they think it will make them money or they know it's what'll sell. A genre that once belonged to developers devoted to making artistic video games is becoming a cash cow. Not liking a game who's soundtrack is mellow and it's art pixelated doesn't always mean someone doesn't get it. It could be that perhaps a game is simply just bad."

Posted by Brians

No. Crap is released everywhere, as are good games.

Posted by Vestigial_Man

It's a matter of taste. Some people like the mellow soundtrack and pixel art while others will find it irritating, that's how it is with all media. I consider Limbo to be one of the worst games I've played in the last 2 years but I know fine well that most people have completely the opposite view. Someone out their will like even the smallest indie game even if you consider it to be a cynical cash-in on other people's niche success so they will continue to be made.

Posted by Hunter5024

Well firstly Indie Games are not a genre so the comparison to first person shooters doesn't really make sense. I think it's really just a matter of exposure. It's not like back in the day all indie games were good and once they started making money a bunch of crappy ones came out, it's more like some great ones came out and so people started paying attention to the indie game market, and found that not every game was a Braid (as much as they all try to be). I am getting really sick of the whole pixel art thing too though. I understand it's cheap and it's an easy way to cut down on cost but it's not charming anymore, it's not unique, it's not retro, and it isn't even a good example of what pixel art used to look like. Also chiptune music should fuck off.

Posted by Vinny_Says

"Generic" is a term most people reserve for FPS's and big budget games but when I saw that quicklook of Thomas was Alone that's the only word I could think of. It looked like the most boring and uninspired thing I've ever seen....

  • Simple 2D graphics; check
  • Simple gameplay with a "twist"; check
  • Charming soundtrack; check

It's a formula I seem to see in every other quicklook with patrick in it. I'm not sure what's going on anymore....

Posted by TaliciaDragonsong

People seem to forgot that naming a game Indie doesn't instantly mean its good.  

Indie is not a synonym for 'super original artsy game'.


 Independent video games (commonly referred to as indie games) are video games created by individuals or small teams without video game publisher financial support.

There's good and bad games no matter how much support they (don't) get, some big titles flop and some little ones peak, that happens as much for triple A titles as for small games.
 
I say we just stop naming things and just play the ones you think are good.
Posted by DeF

indie games is not a genre. it describes a game made by usually a small amount of people who are not funded or dependent on big publishers or investors and just make something within their financial and technical limits.

just because you didn't like watching someone play the first few levels of an abstract platform puzzler doesn't mean the "days of fantastic indie games" are over.

Posted by Hunter5024

@DeF said:

just because you didn't like watching someone play the first few levels of an abstract platform puzzler doesn't mean the "days of fantastic indie games" are over.

Although the whole abstract 2d puzzle platformer thing is pretty damn played out. I can't see anyone possibly releasing another one of those with the kind of great reaction some of those games got in the past.

Posted by Panpipe

@Keldrath said:

Not liking a game who's soundtrack is mellow and it's art pixelated doesn't always mean someone doesn't get it. It could be that perhaps a game is simply just bad."

These final sentences boil my blood.

With most indie games there's nothing TO get. They're not aiming for that. They're just making a traditional game on a small budget. Just because Limbo had some ambiguity, and nobody understood Braid the way Jon Blow wanted them to, does not mean that every game made by a small "indie" team now has inherent "ART" and mystique. No.

It's like when some people thought everyone calling Braid art were referring to the painterly graphics (painting is art yeah!?).

There are only a few indie games that have AIMED to be artistic. Most just want to sell a great game made on a low budget, like Bastion.

Posted by BeachThunder

Are the days of misinformed sweeping generalisations behind us?

Posted by AhmadMetallic

Didn't the days of fantastic indie games begin like a year ago? They're already 'behind us'?

Posted by CookieMonster

What a silly question.

Posted by DeF

@Hunter5024 said:

@DeF said:

just because you didn't like watching someone play the first few levels of an abstract platform puzzler doesn't mean the "days of fantastic indie games" are over.

Although the whole abstract 2d puzzle platformer thing is pretty damn played out. I can't see anyone possibly releasing another one of those with the kind of great reaction some of those games got in the past.

Why not? If someone makes one that has that unique twist to it that Braid and Fez had, I can totally see it getting that great reaction again. It's like saying nobody can ever make another FPS that gets a great reaction because there are infinite FPS games - that has been proven wrong countless times. It's all about the game design and mechanics.

Thing is, people get their feet wet with puzzle platformers because they're instantly familiar to millions of people and relatively easy to create. There will be a lot more of them and there will be truly fantastic ones among them.

@CookieMonster said:

What a silly question.

Yes! :)

Posted by MattyFTM

Since the raise of indie games, there have always been plenty of middling to bad indie games. There have also always been quite a few awesome indie games mixed in. That balance hasn't really changed. What has changed is the profile of indie games. They get a lot more attention now. Previously bad indie games just flew under the radar. No one really played them. Now they get a lot more attention, so those bad ones stand out. There are still plenty of great indie games out there, and there will continue to be plenty of them.

Moderator
Posted by Hunter5024

@DeF said:

@Hunter5024 said:

@DeF said:

just because you didn't like watching someone play the first few levels of an abstract platform puzzler doesn't mean the "days of fantastic indie games" are over.

Although the whole abstract 2d puzzle platformer thing is pretty damn played out. I can't see anyone possibly releasing another one of those with the kind of great reaction some of those games got in the past.

Why not? If someone makes one that has that unique twist to it that Braid and Fez had, I can totally see it getting that great reaction again. It's like saying nobody can ever make another FPS that gets a great reaction because there are infinite FPS games - that has been proven wrong countless times. It's all about the game design and mechanics.

Thing is, people get their feet wet with puzzle platformers because they're instantly familiar to millions of people and relatively easy to create. There will be a lot more of them and there will be truly fantastic ones among them.

I'm being more specific then that, not referring to an entire genre like "FPS" but a sub genre like "Modern Military FPS." Ever since Braid came out there have been a ton of puzzle games with very basic platforming and sprite based graphics, and I don't think the audience is going to keep reacting to them as positively as they have been.

Posted by DeF

@Hunter5024 said:

@DeF said:

@Hunter5024 said:

@DeF said:

just because you didn't like watching someone play the first few levels of an abstract platform puzzler doesn't mean the "days of fantastic indie games" are over.

Although the whole abstract 2d puzzle platformer thing is pretty damn played out. I can't see anyone possibly releasing another one of those with the kind of great reaction some of those games got in the past.

Why not? If someone makes one that has that unique twist to it that Braid and Fez had, I can totally see it getting that great reaction again. It's like saying nobody can ever make another FPS that gets a great reaction because there are infinite FPS games - that has been proven wrong countless times. It's all about the game design and mechanics.

Thing is, people get their feet wet with puzzle platformers because they're instantly familiar to millions of people and relatively easy to create. There will be a lot more of them and there will be truly fantastic ones among them.

I'm being more specific then that, not referring to an entire genre like "FPS" but a sub genre like "Modern Military FPS." Ever since Braid came out there have been a ton of puzzle games with very basic platforming and sprite based graphics, and I don't think the audience is going to keep reacting to them as positively as they have been.

I don't think they ever have. Not to an extent like people have reacted to way more complex games like Braid or Fez. I think Limbo and Super Meat Boy are the only ones that really fall into that category you're described since all there is to them is platforming in the form of running, jumping and moving crates. This Thomas game falls into that category as well, from what I've seen. As they pointed out: it's basically Lost Vikings with a very minimalist visual style as it appears. What gets people excited is that game changing twist like the brain twisting environmental secrets and world design in Fez and the potential narrative implications in Braid paired with a not-see-before rewind-mechanic.

So ultimately, I still think you're being to general. Uniquely intriguing games will very likely always get a strong reaction. No matter if they happen to be a 2D platformer or 3D action adventure.

Posted by Zippedbinders

Came in here to call you an idiot, plenty of people have done that for me, only much more nicely.

"indie games are a genre" Are you fucking kidding me?

Posted by Keldrath

It's interesting to see your guys' opinions. I stand by what I wrote, but those of you pointing out that indie games are not a genre are correct. The point is that they are becoming one. It's a term that is now almost synonymous with "artistic 2d platformer". Like it or not, this is becoming the definition of an indie game for the masses of casual gamers that might not have touched a game like Fez five years ago.

Posted by Jackhole

said:

The point is that they are becoming one. It's a term that is now almost synonymous with "artistic 2d platformer".

This isn't true. Also, don't bring Fez into this. That game is so much more than a platformer with a gimmick. It's one of the most fucking insane games I've ever played. And on top of that, casual gamers are not playing Fez, and if for some reason they stumbled upon it, I doubt they would get to the real meat and bones of that game, bring out the notepad, and turn into a serial killer.

Posted by MikeGosot

An "Indie game" is just a game made by a small number of people without financial support of a publisher. This doesn't mean it will be great.

Edited by believer258

@Keldrath said:

The point is that they are becoming one. It's a term that is now almost synonymous with "artistic 2d platformer".\

Nope. Indie games, just like indie music and indie movies, are still defined as "something made without a publisher's financial support".

To answer the thread, though, it's most simply put like this: Only good indie games used to really get "popular" at all because they were good. The ratio of shit to good is still roughly the same; it's just that now, a lot more indie games are getting attention and this includes the copycats, the mundane, the crap, the things that no one really wants to play.

As a general rule of thumb, 90% of anything is shit.

And, on a final note, puzzle-platformers are easy to develop and, more importantly, easy to make fun. This is why we see a lot of those and not as many, say, indie FPS games.

Edited by SomeJerk

I was leaning towards the same ideas because jesus christ the indie scene is nothing but pixel-art-masturbation and dime a dozen bitpop for audio, but then..
 
http://www.wolfire.com/receiver
 
This is the best game I have paid money for this year.
 
 
(Disclaimer: I like hand-made pixel art and bitpop, I like how indie games try new and old ideas or new takes on old ideas, but nothing has come close to Receiver. Which was made in seven days and runs on the Unity3D engine, mind you.)

Posted by jozzy
@believer258

@Keldrath said:

The point is that they are becoming one. It's a term that is now almost synonymous with "artistic 2d platformer".\

Nope. Indie games, just like indie music and indie movies, are still defined as "something made without a publisher's financial support".

To answer the thread, though, it's most simply put like this: Only good indie games used to really get "popular" at all because they were good. The ratio of shit to good is still roughly the same; it's just that now, a lot more indie games are getting attention and this includes the copycats, the mundane, the crap, the things that no one really wants to play.

As a general rule of thumb, 90% of anything is shit.

And, on a final note, puzzle-platformers are easy to develop and, more importantly, easy to make fun. This is why we see a lot of those and not as many, say, indie FPS games.

90% of anything is shit? That must be one of the most depressing things I've read in a while. To add to that: 90% of people think they are working on something in the 10%.
Posted by TheSouthernDandy

I think there's more focus and mainstream attention given to 'indie games' now then there was a few years ago but there's always been good games and there's always been crap the same way there's good and bad in AAA titles. I don't think anythings changed.

Edited by Viking_Funeral

There's a lot of indie games these days. Most are quietly released on Steam to little fanfare. Some get really popular like Super Meat Boy, Trials HD, or Minecraft. Those are the exceptions. It can seem like a lot of them are 2D sprite based platformers with a twist, because some of the more popular recent ones are exactly games like that. As in any field, people will try to make a quick buck by copying what works. (See also: EA's recent strategy). That doesn't make them all 2D platformers. Most aren't. Doing a little research yourself can confirm this.

@jozzy: 90% of anything is crap, also known as Sturgeon's Law.

Posted by MikkaQ

Why are people speaking like "indie" in a genre? It's just a way to denote that something wasn't made in a corporate environment, nothing more, nothing less. And that is going strong.

Edited by believer258

@jozzy said:

@believer258

@Keldrath said:

The point is that they are becoming one. It's a term that is now almost synonymous with "artistic 2d platformer".\

Nope. Indie games, just like indie music and indie movies, are still defined as "something made without a publisher's financial support".

To answer the thread, though, it's most simply put like this: Only good indie games used to really get "popular" at all because they were good. The ratio of shit to good is still roughly the same; it's just that now, a lot more indie games are getting attention and this includes the copycats, the mundane, the crap, the things that no one really wants to play.

As a general rule of thumb, 90% of anything is shit.

And, on a final note, puzzle-platformers are easy to develop and, more importantly, easy to make fun. This is why we see a lot of those and not as many, say, indie FPS games.

90% of anything is shit? That must be one of the most depressing things I've read in a while. To add to that: 90% of people think they are working on something in the 10%.

It's not my own concept.

To be fair, that particular idea is far, far too reductive, not to mention incredibly harsh. There are different levels of "good" and different levels of "bad", which is evident in the multitude of terms we have for those levels of good and bad (i.e. "decent", "great", "horrible", "abhorrent"). Still, it's got its uses, especially when making short and informal forum posts. And, at the end of the day, I still think that only ten percent of any given medium (or genre or what-have-you) ever really falls under the term "great", despite how loosely we use that word. Think about it - if you made a list of 100 random first person shooters, do you really think that more than ten or so of them are going to be worth remembering? Sure, you might get some that are fun to play here and there, but how many Half-Life 2's or Halo's or System Shock 2's are you going to get?

Posted by JasonR86

That's a bit dramatic.

Online
Posted by YukoAsho

@Keldrath said:

I posted this originally as a comment on the Quick Look for Thomas Was Alone. Anyone else have thoughts regarding the idea that perhaps not all indie games are created equal?

"To be honest, I feel like the trend inspiring these sorts of indie game is rather boring. Don't get me wrong, there are some indie games that serve their purpose really well (S&S Brothers, Journey, Limbo). However, there are also plenty of games like this that are god awful. This is by no means the worst game ever made, but as the popularity of so-called "indie games" rises so does the number of indie games that are garbage. It's the same thing we see with almost every other genre of video game. A majority of the first person shooters that are released every year aren't worth a second glance, it's the few that are that we want to focus our attention on. For a long time, indie games were a rather niche genre. Most of the indie games that made it big (in this context we'll consider this any sort of minor media attention) were really good. As the market for indie games grows so does the number of these games released. With this growth comes a much larger flood of developers transitioning into the genre because they think it will make them money or they know it's what'll sell. A genre that once belonged to developers devoted to making artistic video games is becoming a cash cow. Not liking a game who's soundtrack is mellow and it's art pixelated doesn't always mean someone doesn't get it. It could be that perhaps a game is simply just bad."

While there is certainly an over-arching deluge of junk in the "indie" space, I dare say it's not that surprising. Almost anything that is truly amazing will get noticed and picked up by a publisher, as was the case with Flow netting thatgamecompany a three-game contract with Sony, or MS picking up temporary exclusivity for Limbo. What's left is often not picked up for any number of reasons.

Also, while there are a few truly unique games, the overriding majority are reusing NES-era concepts with referential humor in order to be popular. Then you have crap like McPixel, which trades solely on humor to mask its incredible random, arbitrary puzzles.

While most games are shit, no matter their budget, origin or genre, indie games get more recognition because of the appeal they naturally have to hipsters. Of course, hipsters tend to annoy everyone who isn't a hipster, so now people are getting disgruntled with indie games.

TL;DR Version - You and I are more sick of the disproportionate media attention that any ol' indie game seems to be getting now that they're in the gaming media zeitgeist.

Posted by GunslingerPanda

I haven't watched the Quick Look in question, but isn't this just indie games falling into the same kind of pattern as mainstream games? There'll be lots of shit churned out with the occasional diamond.

Posted by dannyodwyer

Thomas is actually great game - try playing it.

The first 2 chapters are basic hand-holding exercises. Shit gets real, later in the game.

Posted by TruthTellah

@Keldrath: Indie games are inherently tied to small teams, with deep connections to the creators themselves. The games often reflect many things about the creators in a way that bigger games often squash and level out. That imperfection and character that make a game "Indie".

So, Indie games reflect the people that create them. As Indie games have grown recently, so too has the size of the pool of creators. And more people invariably means... more crap. Most people in the world aren't fantastic, and so, the bigger pool you draw from, the more likely you are to find less than fantastic folks. Which, well, is reflected in their Indie games. True to what they are, if many people create Indie games, then many Indie games will be more bad than good. That's just a reflection of society, not a downturn in overall quality.

As this genre has had a resurgence in popularity, there are more and more people, and that is simply reflected in more and more bad games to go along with the few good ones. That doesn't mean fantastic Indie games are behind us. Those people are still there. The horridness of the world doesn't snuff out the bright spots. We will continue to see fantastic Indie games. The real issue will be whether we give them the proper notice they deserve.

Posted by ch3burashka

This is goddamn retarded.

Posted by JoeyRavn

@JasonR86 said:

That's a bit dramatic.

@CH3BURASHKA said:

This is goddamn retarded.

And pretentious.

Posted by AssInAss

@Keldrath said:

I posted this originally as a comment on the Quick Look for Thomas Was Alone. Anyone else have thoughts regarding the idea that perhaps not all indie games are created equal?

"To be honest, I feel like the trend inspiring these sorts of indie game is rather boring. Don't get me wrong, there are some indie games that serve their purpose really well (S&S Brothers, Journey, Limbo). However, there are also plenty of games like this that are god awful. This is by no means the worst game ever made, but as the popularity of so-called "indie games" rises so does the number of indie games that are garbage. It's the same thing we see with almost every other genre of video game. A majority of the first person shooters that are released every year aren't worth a second glance, it's the few that are that we want to focus our attention on. For a long time, indie games were a rather niche genre. Most of the indie games that made it big (in this context we'll consider this any sort of minor media attention) were really good. As the market for indie games grows so does the number of these games released. With this growth comes a much larger flood of developers transitioning into the genre because they think it will make them money or they know it's what'll sell. A genre that once belonged to developers devoted to making artistic video games is becoming a cash cow. Not liking a game who's soundtrack is mellow and it's art pixelated doesn't always mean someone doesn't get it. It could be that perhaps a game is simply just bad."

You couldn't get a more ignorant remark about the indie space than here. First, indie isn't a "genre", what are you smoking?! You do realise indie just means a game that doesn't have a big publisher funding it, and is independently financed?

Second, play the game before judging the whole indie space with a cursory brush stroke.

Amnesia, one of the best horror games ever made, is an indie.

Super Meat Boy, one of the best 2D platformers, is an indie.

Receiver, an FPS made in 7 days, has more interesting gun handling mechanics than any FPS in a while, and the rogue-like elements means it's never the same experience. And it's just a prototype now!

Third, this is the complete opposite where we're now in the golden age of indie games. Yes, 2D platformers are a lot but that's because they're easier to make while the developer can infuse their unique mechanic or message into the game.

I haven't even brought up art games that might not be to everyone's liking, but they are all free. Way, from one of the Journey developers, is about the unique relationship you develop in a co-op game through communication without words, and how much of a mark that friendship can leave on you. But That Was Yesterday is about needing to leave the past, and move on with your life. Loved is about the almost submissive/dominant relationship between the game director and the player. Facade is a text adventure where you're trying to suss out a couple's relationship and save it before you're kicked out of the apartment.

Posted by mandude

I made an indie game. It was a half-minute long text adventure game. Can you imagine my disappointment when I found out that it wasn't inherently good?

90% of everything, across all media is generally pretty shitty. It's just that indie games are trendy at the moment, and now even the crappy ones are coming to light.

Edited by face15

@Keldrath said:

I stand by what I wrote, but those of you pointing out that indie games are not a genre are correct. The point is that they are becoming one. It's a term that is now almost synonymous with "artistic 2d platformer".

I can see the point you are trying to make, but there's just no ground for that argument to stand on. There are more indie games receiving attention from the press that don't fit your definition than those that do.

Minecraft, for example is possibly the most 'high-profile' indie game yet and it is definately not an artsy 2D platformer. I have mates that don't follow gaming news at all. They play two games; Call of Duty and Minecraft.

Games like Amnesia, Monday Night Combat, Trials HD, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, Rock of Ages, Bastion, Journey, Audiosurf, Unfinished Swan, The Gunstringer and Torchlight are some other indie games with relatively high coverage in the gaming press that spring to mind. None of them are artistic 2D platformers.

And there are countless other games that are equally as amazing but don't get much coverage at all.

The point is, that even if you are too blind to see it, the amount of fresh ideas and creative games coming from the indie development scene is higher than ever.

Posted by dcgc

Even if the indie scene is fantastic and brought us lots of unique games (whether is its gameplay innovation or unique art style/story), there will always be bad games or average ones. What I think about people that say that some indie games are pretentious and that prevent innovation (and therefore, are not fantastic), is that these games are more of the same or are clearly trying to follow a pre-applied or pre-existing winning formula. There's nothing wrong with it, but because these are indie games and serve a smaller crowd with specific tastes, it is immediately dismissed. If it were an AAA game, it would be a "competent" game.