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Is There a Future for Indie Games? 217

Posted by Zonk
from the pondering-pac-man's-fate dept.
An anonymous reader writes "If you've been following Greg Costikyan's recent rants (such as Death to The Games Industry), you would have seen mention of one developer's attempt at breaking the traditional games publisher funding model. Well, their game is now in the stores, and whats more it has been getting some pretty good reviews, but has anyone heard of it? Judging by some press, the marketing has been somewhat underwhelming. So the question is, is there still a viable space for good games developed outside the traditional corporate publisher model, or does E.A. already own the future of video games?" Moreover, when indie developers have to go up against the likes of EA and Steven Spielberg, what hope can they have for matching that kind of success? At least one company thinks they can do it by offering games for direct download. Is direct purchasing enough of an incentive for your average gamer to shell out money on something he's never heard of before?
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Is There a Future for Indie Games?

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  • by Edgewize (262271) on Sunday October 16, 2005 @11:41AM (#13803494)
    There's always hope, as long as you can get your product mentioned on Slashdot...
    • Sometimes it works. You just have to keep posting! :)
    • by Anonymous Coward
      You expect me to boredgamer.org believe that one little web boredgamer.org site is going to help boredgamer.org me? Give me a boredgamer.org.
    • Not at all. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by fatbuddha (851420) on Sunday October 16, 2005 @12:07PM (#13803653)
      Take http://www.ragdollkungfu.com/ [ragdollkungfu.com] for instance. A small game released by a single developer through Valve's Steam, that is doing very well indeed with little to no advertisement.

      I, along with many other people (that will no doubt reply to this), have various concerns about a system like Steam, but it is hard to dislike it when it supports the publishing of excellent games like this that push game development into new genres.

      Anything that allows independent game developers to bypass the highstreet, can only be a good thing. I just hope that ragdollkungfu is the first of many such lightweight games that can afford to be experimental and actually fun for a change.

      • Re:Not at all. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by bitingduck (810730) on Sunday October 16, 2005 @02:04PM (#13804385) Homepage
        also check out http://battlefront.com/ [battlefront.com]

        They started out with a squad level WWII game (Combat Mission) that takes place on the western front and uses a really interesting (and effective) WEGO game play model. The game is everything that Avalon Hill's Squad Leader boardgame wanted to be but couldn't, because of the immense complexity of the Squad Leader rules.

        Battlefront/Big Time Software started out distributing only via online purchase (with CD sent in the mail) and were spectacularly successful for an indie game. Despite selling smaller numbers, they seemed quite happy with the financial returns (the principals in the company have long experience as game developers for other companies), and have released a couple of sequels, plus published games for several other developers, and are working on a new, more powerful game engine.

        To top it all off, they release for Mac and PC at the same time.

        A couple of the things in their formula for development that I think made a big difference:
        1) the guys developing it are game players, as well as developers, and developed a game they wanted to play, first and foremost.
        2) they developed a great game first, and worried about the eye candy later. Eye candy might help sales up front (wow! you can see where the bolts on that truck were rounded with a wrong sized wrench!) but game play and repeat playability is what keeps the game selling.
        3) they developed a community on their message boards and really listened and responded to comments and questions. During the beta days they were very active on the boards. As it got closer to release time they were less active, but when they showed up they gave really good information about what was going on. They've continued like this for subsequent releases.
        4) they didn't promise what they didn't intend to deliver. If they weren't going to put something in that people wanted, they generally said so, and often explained why.
        5) they had great advance stuff to show off the game. They showed bits from an actual game, with comments by the players, even at the alpha stage. They released a fully functional beta for free, with a couple scenarios, but no editor. The beta had some bugs, and some things that just weren't quite right, but I ordered in advance after I realized that even if all they did was ship the beta plus a scenario editor I was going to enjoy it for a long time. Even with only two scenarios the two player play was good enough that people played them for months against various opponents and never tired of it. They got a ton of good feedback from the beta, and took advantage of all of it to improve the game.
      • Re:Not at all. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jacksonj04 (800021)
        As a staffer for a major modding website, I can say that whilst RDKF's distribution is an excellent example of how to get indie games out there, a lot of work still has to be done. For example, there is no way the game is worth $14.

        Despite this, the new version of Steam (The distribution platform used) is meant to include support for third-party mod distribution via. an integrated interface which effectively solves advertising problems. If Valve and indie developers get their act together, Steam can do adve
        • Re:Not at all. (Score:5, Interesting)

          by ZephyrXero (750822) <zephyrxero@yah[ ]com ['oo.' in gap]> on Sunday October 16, 2005 @02:15PM (#13804446) Homepage Journal
          What we need is an open source alternative to Steam. Something that's multiplatform and lacks all the annoying DRM type crap that makes people hate using steam... Building it on top of bit torrent would be a very good idea too. Anyone interested in making this a reality, or has anyone already started on it???
          • Re:Not at all. (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Seumas (6865)
            What we need is an open source alternative to Steam.

            That is the best idea I have heard all year. Sounds like another Google project, too. Maybe for next year's summer of code. Heh.
            • Re:Not at all. (Score:2, Insightful)

              Sure, but will game developers want to use it? If all you have is online distribution (i.e., you don't have a boxed product with CDs), it would take guts to offer totally unrestricted content. Can you imagine record companies getting behind a de-DRMed iTMS? Maybe some artists would be interested, but that's different--recordings are a way to get you to come to shows. Since video game developers don't really have live shows, the digital content is all they have to sell, so I can see them wanting to make sure
          • Java Web Start [sun.com] does a lot of what you want.... Platform independent, distributed, automatic updates without any extra work for the user OR the programmers. Limited to a specific programming platform though. :-)

            Puzzle Pirates [puzzlepirates.com] is a neat game that uses it. It was amusing to see how astonished a lot of posters on Slashdot were when it was announced that they were releasing a game simultaniously for PC, Mac, Linux, BSD...
            "How is it possible!?!"
    • Asking if indie games are going to die is like asking if fat girls are going to stop getting attention. As long as she has something unique to offer (suck suck suck!), someone is going to be willing to give her a whirl and spin that tea-cup. Likewise, as long as indie games have something to offer that the other guys don't, they will thrive. Things such as gameplay, community, affordability, portability, etc.
  • by epaton (884617) on Sunday October 16, 2005 @11:41AM (#13803495)
    i only ever car about fps but as far as i can see theres plenty of mods based on the complex engines which are the difficult bit to develop.

    indie developers may need to licence an engine but theres still plenty of potential to do their own thing
  • by saskboy (600063) on Sunday October 16, 2005 @11:41AM (#13803497) Homepage Journal
    And they'll be the wave of the future. There will always be some lonely game creator out on the fringest making something cool that everyone will lap up. When it gets popular though, they'll no longer be an independent though. They'll get bought out.
    • by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Sunday October 16, 2005 @12:17PM (#13803703) Journal
      There will always be some lonely game creator out on the fringest making something cool that everyone will lap up. When it gets popular though, they'll no longer be an independent though. They'll get bought out.
      It's becoming harder though. Back in the days of the C64 and the Amiga, I was technically fully able to create a state-of-the-art game on those platforms. I suck as an artist; I can barely squeeze a recognisable tune out of a keyboard, but on those platforms I could still do the art, music and all of the coding, on my own. In fact I did... my game made it to the stores but never sold a lot, instead of a nice Porsche I got perhaps a 2nd hand Alpha Romeo's worth out of the deal. (I can conveniently blame the producer going bankrupt though :) ). My college flatmate made a game on the Amiga, outdoing several of similar commercial games. (He never sold it but it got him hired at Rockstar).

      These days, most types of games need good production values as well as a good concept. Hardly any game can get away with simple graphics like Tetris. You'll need good coders, level designers, artists, musicians, sound effects guys, motion experts... talents that are rarely found in a single person.

      To add to that, games are getting more complex in the way of graphics engines, physics engines, and AI as well. It's hard enough to find someone up-to-date in these areas, let alone find someone who can improve on them.

      So, you're probably looking at a team of various skills that are not widely available. I'd think these people are likely to be working in the industry already, and not much inclined to work on an extra project, especially not if you're on a typical EA 8 day workweek.

      Then again, if you do have a good concept, it might be worth pursuing it, and convincing others to join in. Then hope you get bought out for craploads of cash. :) Nothing wrong with making money.
      • Actually, the specialized skills you mention being needed for a game are available in programmer "collectives" like Ambrosia [ambrosiasw.com] (see my post to parent).

        So if you have a great idea for a game, but need others skills, you can probably find people willing to help in collectives like these. Or make one of your own.

        These guys aren't billionaires, but they say they make a very nice life, and have fun at it.
      • Independent vs indie (Score:4, Interesting)

        by cgenman (325138) on Sunday October 16, 2005 @04:30PM (#13805183) Homepage
        It seems to be a question of degrees. And I say this for the people reading, not necessarily to the parent poster who seems to know how it works.

        You have an idea. You let it mull around the back of your mind for a few years. You get maybe three friends and associates interested in the idea, and over the course of quite a few weekends you pull together a very rough demo. At this point you may need to finagle some art resources either by schmoozing or paying someone. You hit every industry contact you know with your demo, and many that you don't. Look for a "champion" who really likes your game and will help drive it through. While you do that, on the strength of your demo get some fundraising going. VC's are nice, but really hit up small businesses, people, friends, family, etc. Now scale up production, moving into a low-cost but rat free office space, and hiring artists, developers, an office manager, a business manager, etc. Appoint yourself project director (or somesuch), and get to work making that game. Hit your milestones, piggyback into your publisher's E3 booth, and ship. There is nothing in the above scenario that prevents people who are genuinely interested from breaking in.

        Most independent studios really are indie studios that got funding and scaled up. The studio that released Alien Homonid, for example, started as a few guys working their tales off, found investers, scaled up, created a great game, shopped for a publisher, and released. Other studios get a publisher involved earlier to mitigate risk.

        And these aren't rare: somewhere in the realm of 1/2 of all games are created by independent developers. See that logo that pops up on the screen after the EA title? That's the developer. Not all of those are independent, but many are.

        The difference between and indie and an independent developer is just that an independent developer wasn't afraid to grow. At some point they may get bought out by a major studio and enter what is somewhat pessimistically known as a "decline phase," but that's also another step in the natural evolution of things. I believe parent poster pointed out the "craploads of cash..."

        If you want to be independent, and all of the risks / control that entails, you can do it. Or perhaps more strongly, that is how it is done.

      • "These days, most types of games need good production values as well as a good concept."

        Spiderweb Software [spiderwebsoftware.com] (a mom and pop operation) seems to be doing alright for itself for many years now... using an extremely archaic game engine with shockingly limited production values. Of course they are never going to get a mainstream market (at least until Geneforge: The Movie comes out!), but that's not the point.

        "To add to that, games are getting more complex in the way of graphics engines, physics engines, an

        • Spiderweb Software is an example of how a good game and storyline can beat flashy graphics. I thoroughly enjoyed their Exile series and I think the simpler graphics actually added to the game play. The only thing I missed was a larger variety of monsters and items to increase replayability. Blades of Avernum is along the same lines and it looks like it has a nice, flexible, scenario builder (only played the demo).
      • I really disagree. Graphics aren't everything, and in the scheme of things really aren't anything. There have been, and will continue to be plenty of games where the concept is everything. Arguably, the biggest money making games are not graphics intensive--Sim(anything), crossword puzzles, sodoku, Texas Holdum'...

        I would actually argue that being a main stream game developer is the kiss of death. Mobile games are the new plastic.
    • Yea, some of them will be the wave of the future. And some will always remain outside the mainstream, where they want to be, admired by those w/ (the?) taste.

      Long before Manifesto has been Ambrosia [ambrosiasw.com]. They make lots of fun games, and have a real cult following for Escape Velocity [ambrosiasw.com]. And this programmer-controlled company has workers who really seem to enjoy [ambrosiasw.com] doing what they do.
  • by cassidyc (167044)
    stardocks galactic civ and also Ragdoll kung fu

    thankyouverymuch
    CJC
  • Secret bootloader (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tepples (727027) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {selppet}> on Sunday October 16, 2005 @11:43AM (#13803505) Homepage Journal

    If PC gaming continues on a decline, and the console oligopoly continues to give a cold shoulder to letting independent developers obtain console devkits and sell games on indie labels, then no, there isn't much of a future for indie gaming. All three gaming handheld systems sold in U.S. stores, whether chain or local, are officially closed systems. (These include the GBA SP, the Nintendo DS, and the PSP.) Phones don't count because for one thing, most phones have decidedly subpar D-pads, and for another, a lot of people are happy with land lines and unwilling to pay $960 for a 2-year mobile phone service commitment (or import a SIM-free phone) just to play a video game.

    • With convergence of digital technology, personal computer gaming will always survive and over the long term dominate. With powerful notebook computers getting cheaper and cheaper, when you have one why buy a game console and then pay a premium for the games. The pda as a game device will also become more significant as the price drops and the power increases.

      Game consoles are just being subject to greater marketing at the moment because of the marketing war between Sony and microsoft. Some of the marketin

  • by GenKreton (884088) on Sunday October 16, 2005 @11:44AM (#13803511) Journal
    For most gamers, it will simply come down to innovation. If the indie game companies can produce a professional quality game that is innovative and not just another "Big Title 2501," then they will purchase it.

    The, of course, there will be people like myself who only purchase games with linux binaries too...

  • MorePG (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Sunday October 16, 2005 @11:44AM (#13803512) Homepage Journal
    The future of gaming is users becoming game masters, not just players, even supplying their own computer hosts to the network in which the game is running. Like when Doom really exploded its genre to capture the entire gaming scene by allowing anyone to make their own "levels".

    I want to put my own GPL game server up on the most popular gaming network. With my own features running on the common protocol, so people who play in my "module" can play by my rules. Maybe that means possessions and attributes beyond the universal ones can't transfer, because some modules are built for "Monty Hall" style cheats, just pumping up characters without restriction. Maybe such a network will have a "web of trust" where changes to character state are tagged with their origin, which must be accepted by an automated system elsewhere, or not apply. It's a little complex, but once we work it out, we'll have a canvas on which players and masters of games can all exercise our imaginations on one another. Where's the most popular, featureful GPL MMORPG running right now? I want to take a crack at it.
  • Well... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Chickenofbristol55 (884806) on Sunday October 16, 2005 @11:45AM (#13803516) Homepage
    Considering most "gamers" today don't know the difference (and probably don't care), who makes the games they play, I think it all comes down to how indie games compare to big corporate games. If the games are fun to play, people will buy them, period. I doubt anyone really cares who made the game. For example, I wouldn't see a movie just because it was made by universal studios, I simply would see it because it was entertaining.
  • by LiquidCoooled (634315) on Sunday October 16, 2005 @11:48AM (#13803531) Homepage Journal
    Was Pitfall. Did they remake that recently or something?

    I loved playing that game years ago, they don't make em like that any more.

    On the real subject of indies, I am finding Linux to be a wonderful world of shareware from way back when.
    Looking around finding decent gems hidden away in the repositories and distros.
    Sooner or later these will be polished and will become the must have games of tomorrow.

    The bedroom coder is up there right now making the software, give it time :)
  • EA didn't make ID (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jmichaelg (148257) on Sunday October 16, 2005 @11:49AM (#13803536) Journal
    I had never heard John Carmack until he started giving away the first few rounds of Doom. EA's vaunted marketing can't compete with a very good game getting good word of mouth.
    • by Tankko (911999)
      Yeah, but don't forget that DOOM wasn't a huge widespread hit until GT Interactive picked it up, marketed it and got it into stores.
      • Re:EA didn't make ID (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Seumas (6865)
        Yeah, but don't forget that few people had internet access and the web hadn't espoded in its pants yet back when the original Doom released. You needed meat-shelf-space because that was the only place anyone was likely to set eyeballs on it. Now you have lots of indie-specific online outlets, a gaming television station (of sorts), magazines, websites and usenet groups focused on them.

        A Tale in the Desert is an indie project, essentially. They aren't on any shelf anywhere and are distributed online. They're
      • Re:EA didn't make ID (Score:3, Informative)

        by StormReaver (59959)
        "Yeah, but don't forget that DOOM wasn't a huge widespread hit until GT Interactive picked it up, marketed it and got it into stores."

        Doom isn't what launched ID Software. It was Castle Wolfenstein. As I remember, CW was published online through Apogee Software. It made ID Software an instant success. After that, Carmack could have released "The Crappiest Game You've Ever Played", and it would have sold half a bajillion copies just on Wolfenstein's momentum.
        • Castle Wolfenstein? You mean Wolfenstein 3D. Castle Wolfenstein was a C64 game IIRC, not made by id Software. You are probably confused by the Wolfenstein 3D sequel called Return to Castle Wolfenstein, which had no relation with the C64 game despite the name.
  • by Eightyford (893696) on Sunday October 16, 2005 @11:49AM (#13803539) Homepage
    Cell phone and flash games are much cheaper and easier to make. A few of them, like zuma and bejeweled, also make rediculous amounts of money.
  • I think so. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DwarfGoanna (447841) on Sunday October 16, 2005 @11:51AM (#13803552)
    Especially as the games market gets older and more discerning. I used to buy every console that came out, and spent at least $100 a week on games. A lot of that was crap, but I was immersed in game mags and sites at the time, getting a full blast of big name promotion. Nowadays, I might buy a game once a month, and my collection is entirely devoid of sports games, GTA et al, car games, and whatever the hell else passes for mass market entertainment these days. I only buy interesting games, that (are at least trying to) do something I've never experienced before. I would love to have a wide selection of games like that at my disposal, and I know for a fact I'm not going to get them from EA or Steven fucking Spielberg. I know I'm not the median publishers are looking to hit, but I'd like to think the segment I occupy is growing.
    • Re:I think so. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rinkjustice (24156)
      I used to buy every console that came out, and spent at least $100 a week on games. A lot of that was crap, but I was immersed in game mags and sites at the time, getting a full blast of big name promotion.

      Wow. That sounded exactly like me about 10 years ago, except for now I'm primarily into retro gaming with my daughter (I buy old consoles and games for cheap but I plan on buying Nintendo's Revolution if I got the ching). This segment of the market you and I are in is growing. Hollywood is running out of
  • by Monkelectric (546685) <slashdot AT monkelectric DOT com> on Sunday October 16, 2005 @11:52AM (#13803556)
    Just because you made a great Indie game, doesn't mean anyone will care. Seriously. You act as if you could only make a good game the world should coming running. The sad fact is that the average person doesn't have the ability to appreciate art. A few years back a great film called "Lost In Translation" came out. I saw it, and was the *ONLY* person who didn't walk out of the theater. I was enthralled, probably the best movie I saw that year, maybe the best movie made that year.

    Year after year art and hard work are ignored for sex and cheap thrills. I wish it were different.

    • Lost in Translation made $106 million [the-numbers.com] off of a $4 million dollar budget, $44 million of that being domestic box office. Not exactly what I'd call overlooked. :-)
    • by Jesus_666 (702802) on Sunday October 16, 2005 @01:45PM (#13804260)
      Which is why it's a good idea for indie developers to know their audience and advertise appropriately. Moonpod, for example, has ads for Starscape [moonpod.com] (a really nice shoot-em-up/management mix) displayed with gaming related comics like Ctrl+Alt+Del or 8-bit Theater - people who read those comics are likely to be interested in obscure and/or old-school-like games and having the advertisement on the site also serves as some kind of approval by the artists - after all, if they wouldn't like the game they wouldn't advertise it, right? (Actually, concerning how pissy web artists can get I'd figure that the probability of them knowing what games they're advertising for is quite high.)

      Independent companies often produce stuff that is in some way superior what you usually get - one example would be Decker [caro.net] (Coral Cache [nyud.net]), a graphically unimpressive freeware game for Windows that just happens to be the best simulation of breaking into computers in the Shadowrun world. Please don't click the link unless you really are interested, it's a private site and has a lot of images up front.
      However, these innovative or otherwise extremely cool games need to be advertised to the right people. The usual gaming magazine reader will not be interested in games that deviate from the well-known genres like Uplink [introversion.co.uk]. But gaming geeks, "real" gamers and the like might want to know about it - which is where specialized advertising comes into play. If a company advertises with the bigger gaming comics it can reach a decent audience that is most likely more interested in their work than the average gamer. If they manage to get mentioned on Penny Arcade it's jackpot... And as Tycho is fond of letting the world know of obscure games he likes just getting PA to notice them might be a way of generating sales.


      Indie game companies will always be able to reach an interested audience as long as there are internet celebrities who are willing to display their banner/discuss their latest game. It's not the megabuck business that mainstream gaming is, but there is an ecological niche for games that are just too far out for the regular gamer.
    • Year after year art and hard work are ignored for sex and cheap thrills.

      Does the "sex and cheap thrills" have a Linux port?
    • Year after year art and hard work are ignored for sex and cheap thrills. I wish it were different.

      It is different. Good movies make money, good games get played. Sometimes a gem doesn't explode with popularity for a variety of reasons. Lost in Translation did really well. Some people don't like what you like, cry me a river.
    • Critics gushed over "Lost in Translation" and it did pretty darn well in the box office too. However, despite the great cinemetography and even better soundtrack, the movie as a whole was overrated.

      Now Steamboy - that's a movie!!!
  • by LarsWestergren (9033) on Sunday October 16, 2005 @11:57AM (#13803589) Homepage Journal
    I have some friends who are doing alright making Java games for mobile phones. As I mentioned in a previous post, since graphics on mobile phones and other limited devices are so cruddy development focus tends to be on addictive gameplay rather than eyecandy. It is possible to be a small independent game studio, since there are a lot of free tools for J2ME programming and the APIs are simple (what is difficult is making them run well on all different phone models). There is also no need for a big art studio to render orchestral music, hours of CGI, etc. At least not yet.

    It seems most of the money in that market is not trying to sell your game through a portal (though if you get a really big hit you can rake in the cash), or even worse trying to sell it yourself, but to make ad games that companies can make available for free as part of a competition. I think there is a big potential market for really innovative and addictive mobile games, as at the moment a lot is just re-releases of games for old platforms, with slightly updated graphics.

    A few links if you are interested in getting started on J2ME programming:
    J2ME.org discussion board [j2me.org]
    J2ME Gamer [j2megamer.com]
    Midlet.org [midlet.org]
  • by Hyperlink Processor (923293) on Sunday October 16, 2005 @12:02PM (#13803616)
    Independents are just that, independent. Rogue commercial organizations will usually scrape out a living in a niche market or become/join a large company.

    If a small company comes up with a really good idea in their industry it'll end up being copied by the big dogs. Look at everybody and their brothers selling single songs for some variation of 99 cent.
  • Introversion [introversion.co.uk] claim to be "the last of the bedroom programmers".

    They've released two games so far, Uplink [uplink.co.uk] & Darwinia [darwinia.co.uk]. I bought 'em both, and thought they were great - definitely not the sort of games a company like EA would release.

    For the unitiated, Uplink is a "hacking" game, intended to replicate the experiences of hacking you see in the movies. It's also littered with references to movies, and other computer games (I particularly liek the Frontier-style bulletin boards!) Darwinia is a little ha

  • Not Really.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by daVinci1980 (73174) on Sunday October 16, 2005 @12:14PM (#13803683) Homepage
    The problem that people don't seem to realize is that marketting is the determining factor of how well a game will do. The art of a game is part of that marketting. Saying that people don't buy games on graphics is BS, which is obvious to anyone who looks at the sales of Doom 3, Half-life 2, Farcry, or any other top seller.

    The big publishers have marketting budgets that rival the development costs of the title itself. For example, I worked on C&C Generals. The development budget for that title was ~25M USD. The marketting budget for that title was ~15M dollars.

    Indie games simply can't compete with that kind of marketting, and word of mouth sales only grow the community that you already have. If you've only sold 10,000 copies of your game, WOM sales might grow your community to 100,000. But if you'd already had 100K sales, you would've hit the million mark instead.
    • Agreed. a big marketing budget makes a massive difference. My latest game (www.democracygame.com) has had some fantastic reviews, often beating triple A titles with multi-million pound marketing budgets, but you probably havent heard of it, let alone heard enough to want to get hold of the demo. Yet I reckon you have heard of Age Of Empires 3, FEAR and even vapourware like Duke Nukem Fornever.
      If you spend 5 million dollars advertising a derivative poorly made game it WILL shift quite a few units. You may n
  • by CDPatten (907182) on Sunday October 16, 2005 @12:20PM (#13803714) Homepage
    I was hired as a consultant for a company that is doing some Xbox Live Arcade games for MS's new 360. They are a startup and don't want to go head to head with the big guns, but arcade gave them an outlet where they can start out and build a reputation, and hopefully get some good reviews about them.

    I think this is an area where MS is helping the little guy, and increasing competition in the industry. I also think this will help MS targeted the "less sophisticated" soccer moms with simple cheap games. From what I've seen sony really doesn't have a viable strategy to compete with this approach. I don't know about Nintendo, but my guess is that the small guys will be able to develop for revolution and to ok.
    • by Headcase88 (828620) on Sunday October 16, 2005 @02:23PM (#13804487) Journal
      Here's a plan that I've hear Nintendo state twice (once at E3 and the other at TGS I think) but never seen actually reported on any sites:

      They say that there are so many individuals with ideas that can't play on those ideas becasue they don't have the money. So Nintendo plans to fund those companies to make games for Revolution.

      I think it's a great idea because indie companies will have a chance to make awesome games, and it'll help Nintendo with Revo sales (and possible payback in the game does well enough). My question is will they really do it?
      • That doesn't sound good to me. This could easily end up like a videogame version of the music industry.

        Nintendo: "Want a videogame contract? Sign here. We'll give you enough money to create a game. You are entitled to 0.02% of profits, and we keep full ownership of everything you create for 20 years, but your game will be marketed and distributed by us so I'll sell a lot because of our massive media exposure!!"
        Developper: "Sure!"
        (a few years later)
        Developper: "Hey wait, the game is selling millions yet I'm
  • Indie Game Math (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Rayonic (462789) on Sunday October 16, 2005 @12:22PM (#13803720) Homepage Journal
    If I recall, it goes something like this:

      $49.99
    - cost of boxes, CDs, manuals
    - cost of shipping
    - cost of shelf space
    - publisher's cut
    - cost of Hollywood voice actors
    - other big budget expenses
    ===========
      $49.99

    Give or take, but I have yet to see an Indie game priced at an "impulse buy" level.
  • Experimenters (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tom (822) on Sunday October 16, 2005 @12:31PM (#13803767) Homepage Journal
    With AAA titles consistently costing double-digit millions to develop, indie developers are pretty much the only ones who can afford (ironically as it is) to try out something completely new where nobody knows whether it'll be the next hit or just tank.

    The next genre (not mix of genres, but completely new genre) will probably be started by an indie game. Of course, 5 years down the road nobody will remember that game, and everyone will attribute the fact to the first blockbuster game hopping on the bandwagon.

    Indie games are where the truly exciting stuff happens. EA and Co. are tied up doing Random Game 2006 and Other Game Part 3.
  • Flight Sims...... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TomHandy (578620) <tomhandyNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Sunday October 16, 2005 @12:35PM (#13803792)
    One thing to note, I'm not sure how much the success or lack of success of "Heroes of the Pacific" could have to do with it being an indie game or not; it seems like the much bigger hurdle the game is facing is that it is a flight sim. From what I can tell, the flight sim genre seems to practically be on life support...... it seems like even the really notable and excellent flight sims that have come out in the past few years haven't really done well (I'm thinking that IL-2 was probably the most successful, and even then I don't know how well it sold).
    • It's not a flight sim. It's an arcade shooter. I just tried the demo and even on the "professional" flight model, the game felt more like a WWII Rogue Squadron than Sturmovik. Hell, the default view is a chase view and you can down four zeros with a one second cannon burst in their general direction.
      Top Gun on NES felt more realistic.
      Anyway, while I personally didn't even bother to finish the demo mission, it could certainly appeal to teens with twitchy trigger fingers and no interest in physics.

      By the way.
  • What kinda chance does a guy working in a video store have creating a successful movie with a budget of 30K dollars, filmed by amateurs, acted out by amateurs(or Z-list actors) and filmed on old shitty cameras that make it look like barf. Pretty slim..

    still it happens, and its not even THAT rare in the movie industry.

    I think eventually, the same will happen with games. The problem today, seems to be that graphics are still
    very though to make relatively good looking. The difference between the indie producti
    • Most of the people in my dorm are willing to play good games, regardless of graphics, voice acting, etc.

      A few of us have Half-Life 2, and there's a few xboxes with Halo and Halo 2, but we can still get a few people playing Quake 3, because we like the pace of the game and the fact that corpses explode into a giant cloud of fine bloody mist.

      And I can get at least two or three people playing Natural Selection, which runs on the Half-Life engine. The graphics are good, for the Half-Life engine, and the artwor
      • Most of the people in my dorm are willing to play good games, regardless of graphics, voice acting, etc.A few of us have Half-Life 2, and there's a few xboxes with Halo and Halo 2, but we can still get a few people playing Quake 3, because we like the pace of the game and the fact that corpses explode into a giant cloud of fine bloody mist.

        But Quake 3 is not exactly a indie game(its just free), and you'll be hard pressed finding a indie title of its overall quality.

        Yes, if you re-made Doom, it's nowhere ne
  • Yes. (Score:2, Informative)

    by ninjamonkey (694442)

    Is direct purchasing enough of an incentive for your average gamer to shell out money on something he's never heard of before?

    The best incentive for a gamer to buy something he's never heard of before is the search for a game that goes beyond the mass-produced flashy emptiness of today's games. Direct purchasing is just icing on that cake. However, I don't know whether the "average" gamer would do this.

    I remember when I was 14 and I walked into the Electronics Boutique to buy a game for my 486/33. I

  • by anethema (99553)
    If someone here hasnt heard of/played Gish, it is a wicked indie game that is a ton of fun to play.

    Also for win/osx/lnx.

    http://www.chroniclogic.com/gish.htm [chroniclogic.com]

    (Disclaimer: Not affiliated with chronic logic..just thought the game was fun)
  • I think we can look to film for our answers here. The mainstream titles and blockbusters will come from EA sized companies just as the blockbuster movies tend to come from the big studios. However, there will continue to be a thriving indie community that produces high quality work on a budget.
  • ... well, indie gamers can do their job out of sheer love alone and release it for free.

    Something that Electronic Arts will never do. :)
  • by Hosiah (849792) on Sunday October 16, 2005 @01:31PM (#13804178)
    if I had to stand up in public and wonder aloud " does E.A. already own the future of video games?" Certainly, and airborne simians are going to fly out of my rectal orifice.

    Yeah, you corporate weenie knob-polisher, there is games after E.A. EA has the Sims. EA did not have Doom, Myst, Mario, the original Sim City, Tetris, Quake, Pac Man (scoff only if you never put a quarter into a Pac Man (or any of his relatives') machine in your entire life), or ten zillion other blockbuster titles that leap instantly to our minds when we think of popular games in history. And like any software gaming company, EA has had it's share of stinkers, too. (I have almost - after intense exorcism - forgotten about the one with the baby angel you fly around possessing people, which I purchased during one of those 24-hour brain tumors you get every year during flu season.)

    Meanwhile, how's "free software" for indy? Truly, we may believe that there is only one kind of computer in the world and it proudly sports the bent-squares-in-Fischer-Price-colors logo on it's case, but I insist that non-Windows computers are not a myth - I'VE SEEN THEM! The truth is out there...running on an ext2 file system.

    Now, while we're on the Sims, lemme just say that we played the Sims to death in our household for about a week, until we realized that the fun derived from playing the Sims came entirely from dressing up the little pixel dolls and downloading templates to draw precious little furniture pieces for them. Then we started mesh modeling instead. It's better because: (a) You can download it for free http://www.blender3d.org/cms/Home.2.0.html [blender3d.org] here, (b) It fits on a floppy instead of needing 2 Gigs to stretch out in, (c) It's all there, and doesn't need a $60 expansion pack every two weeks to keep current, (d) You can download some equally free starter dolls and furniture pieces to start playing with http://www.katorlegaz.com/index.php?a=download&c=B lender_3D_Model_Repository [katorlegaz.com] here, (e) You can make everything look like you want it too, even the naughty bits, and you don't need to wrestle with a transmogrifier to try to correct the blurry-pixels that appear when your model takes a shower, and finally (f) your models will never get so wrapped up in making breakfast that they forget they have to go to the bathroom and pee on the kitchen floor and then go take a shower because now their hygeine is red and leave breakfast to set the kitchen on fire, causing them to miss work and get fired over the telephone.

    Yes, EA has had some home runs. No, they will not own the world. Now, don't you feel *better*?

    • The truth is out there...running on an ext2 file system.

      I use Resier 3.6 you insensitive clod! (IBHR)

      On a side note, I really don't see how indie game developers seem to develop exclusively for Windows considering that all decent C/C++ compilers cost money for Windows (Cygwin doesn't count as it's basically GCC/G++/etc., basically allowing for cross-platform content anyhow). You'd think that indies would use Linux and GNU tools due to their dual freeness and the other large repository of copyleft materials
      • I use Resier 3.6 you insensitive clod!

        Well, yes. Resier is the Way. (-:

        Yah, and C/C++ doesn't scratch the surface of the development support in the GNU/Linux world. But I think the tail may wag the dog on this one soon: Anybody gotten the latest CD from the Linux Live Gaming Project http://tuxgamers.altervista.org/llgp.php [altervista.org] ? Although the CD itself has several bugs to work out (DOES ANYBODY know what goat you sacrifice to make it start in something like Fluxbox? It tried all the Knoppix options, and they

  • by Y-Crate (540566) on Sunday October 16, 2005 @01:42PM (#13804248)
    With indie games, you need to be able to overcome the fact that most gamers are not paying you the slightest bit of attention. To do this, you need to either get a ton of money together for a PR campaign, get a lucky break or have people naturally interested in the idea of the indie game market.

    The latter is currently something where the Mac community has the advantage. The Mac community is somewhat insular due to years of neglect from major publishers. For many, many years, ports would be slow to arrive, of shoddy quality, poorly supported or simply never materialize. This worked to hurt the sales of what was ported, resulting in even fewer ports, and drove Mac users to look to their own neighborhood for software.

    Ambrosia, Freeverse, GarageGames and others came in and said "We'll treat you well, please buy our stuff" and we did.

    The Mac shareware market has never gone the way of the PC side of things. It is still vibrant and exciting. People still want to develop for it. Mac users still pay attention to it, and when a good indie game comes out, we spread the word. Mac news sites put it at the top of their list of stories, forums buzz, and hopefully the developers get the money that they deserve.

    With the PC market, trying to get attention for your new game is like shouting for people to pay attention to you in the middle of a crowded stadium. You could be offering free money, but even then it is doubtful that you could get the attention of most people. With the Mac, people come up to you when you walk in the door and ask "What do you have for us today?" and if you have something truly interesting, then it isn't too hard for the news to spread far and wide.

    So come on over, we'll reward you for the trip.

    As for indie games in general, I'd like to see a few developers focus on long-underserved niches instead of developing more games in glutted categories (Puzzle). Non-shovelware sim games would be welcome as there have been very, very few of them in recent years other than "The Sims 2" and "Sim City 4". (wow, two whole games).
  • EA can produce games that millions of people want. Indie teams produce games that thousands of people want.

    There's nothing wrong with fulfilling the wants of thousands instead of millions.
  • ...it just doesn't involve consoles.

    Big publishers have the console market pretty much sewn up, because consoles are expensive to develop for. Especially now they're moving away from relatively standard chips and architectures, it really requires a dedicated development effort to get stuff running on it. From what I see of homebrew console stuff, most of the effort is targetted at emulation. Fine, but hardly a sign of originality.

    So, given the really low barrier of entry for development, PC/Mac is where it'
  • Every once in a while a good low-budget movie comes along that does quite well at the box office. It doesn't have the big flash-bang special effects of a Hollywood blockbuster, but does have a good story, good directing, and good editing.

    Indie games are no different. If something is good, word-of-mouth will increase sales. Just because a game is an "indie" doesn't mean it's anything special. I subscribe to PC Gaming and they review all sorts of games every month, including indies, which get the lowest
  • by RWerp (798951)
    The game is just too expensive [gamesmarket.com.au]. In my country a normal price for a PC game is around $50 or less. $83 is one hell of a ripoff.
  • Here's an "indie game quasi-success story": Vendetta Online [vendetta-online.com] is a space-based MMORPG developed by 4 people (Guild Software). It has been online for about a year now, and has a few players (several hundred, maybe more). The fact that it's made by such a small company is part of its charm- regular content updates and bugfixes, quick support from the dedicated devs, lots of personal contact, etc. We even get new features for free (like the upcoming player-controllable capital ships). Can a large company beat th
    • Here's the trouble with that business model: they've got to get bought out by a big guy, quick, or they're not going to make it (or, I suppose, grow massively, but its very hard to grow a game without a marketing budget and, whoops, catch-22 here). Lets say you've got a thousand paying subscribers. Great, thats $10,000 a month. Oh wait, its not -- deduct bandwidth costs, whatever they're paying for billing services (35 cents a debit plus a couple of percentage points, likely), and all the other various a
  • There is definitely a very promising future for indie games, and there are lots of developers and portals which are already doing this and doing very well at it. The market is growing every day.

    I've seen this with my own site Sortasoft.com [sortasoft.com], which has been growing at a very rapid pace. The fact that I can distribute games at almost 0 cost allows for a very high profit margin. It also allows me to distribute games for promotional purposes such as contests, etc. at no cost.

    As evidence of this... mod me up and
  • Indie games? Direct download? Where has the submitter of this piece been?
  • The thing about the indie movie market is that I'm quite willing to watch a movie for 2 hours even if I don't like it that much, because it is only 2 hours and doesn't require constant user intervention. I can doodle, glance at a magazine, carry on an unrelated conversation, ridicule the movie, or try to find some redeeming quality about it (some actor I particularly like for instance). For this reason I can watch a wide assortment of movies, develop obscure tastes, and in general help the indie movies ma
  • The number and quality will just vary from one year to the next. It's like asking if there's a future for B-movies.

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