This whole article started out sort of as a experience piece that came to mind while I was playing some of the featured games from the Nindies@Home promotion currently running in the days following this year’s E3 convention. It just kind of mutated because I realized that there’s plenty of great indie content on other platforms aside from Nintendo. Over the past few years there’s been a slow transformation taking place. It’s almost a sort of resurgence if you would, of what made video games and gaming so amazing to some people right from the start. Independent content. Sure, it’s not all great, or even good. Just like the mainstream “AAA” market. No matter whether it’s something made in a huge several hundred person studio or just buy one or two guys just coding away, it’s all spawned from the same basic want to create and share your works with others.
Independent developers have been becoming more and more known and noticeable in the home console market with the advent of connected consoles and online storefronts. Now you just boot up your console of choice navigate to the store and pick your game. BAM! Easy, peasy. You used to have to make…well in most cases ‘unauthorized’ modifications to your hardware or know somebody that could hook you up. Then on top of your, in most cases, warranty voiding activities you had to know where to get the software etc. Yeah, getting your hands on that content is exponentially easier now. And every once in a while, you’ll find one game (sometimes a few) that simply astounds you.
To me it feels like, especially this generation of gaming, there seems to be a stagnation of original ideas. It seems to just be reboot after remaster after rebooted remaster. This is one area that the indie community is definitely not lacking. In some cases we’ve got tried and true formulas that are stretched and molded into an otherwise entirely new and amazing concept that at best leaves you with somewhat of a deja vu feeling in that you may recognize a throw to a classic game in level design, or some random game play mechanic that you had long forgotten about. But it’s not quite the same…”What game was that from?” You’ve got plenty of indie developers that thrive on and excel at providing that type of experience. A more retro modern type of game if you would. But that’s not all you have, the wonder doesn’t stop at re imagining concepts and game play mechanics. To say that’s all there is to offer would just be downright disrespectful. Some of the most original and simply astounding ideas are currently coming from indie developers across all platforms.
At this year’s E3 there was a game which was actually part of the Nindies@Home promotion, Forma 8. The only thing I can think to compare it to is Hohokum on the PlayStation. It’s just so different, it’s not just running and jumping. Actually there aren’t any of either. You are a little exploration probe. I can’t really explain it other than that. You are an exploration probe so, well, you explore. With developers using sometimes much less than your “conventional” means of story telling and expression we end up with loads of interesting types of games, it’s truly amazing to think what might be their next project around the corner.
With a constant push for better graphics and higher frame rates on modern games, not saying that independent developers aren’t more than capable of creating the same if not better of a product as some of these big studios. You just tend to see more of a “throwback” type of graphical style, at least with some indie studios. Look at Shovel Knight from Yacht Club Games, I think this is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. It’s very reminiscent of the old NES classics that some of us grew up playing long into the night. Or even Mutant Mudds from Renegade Kid, no matter the studio there’s always something very retro inspired to help feed your bit itch. That’s one reason I hate hearing “Oh, there’s no games for X system.” There’s always games. This is part of why we need our indies, not only do they breathe the life of tomorrow into today’s gaming ecosystem, they help to maintain and keep alive eras of gaming gone by.