Monday, 21 March 2016

James' Take: The recipe for a perfect indie game

In my opinion, some of the best games that have ever been made are games from small Indie developers. Masterpieces such as Fez, Super Meat Boy and Bastion have been some of my favourite gaming experiences. As a lot of people will agree, it is no easy task to create a great indie game and is even harder now that the market has been plagued with the sudden influx of crappy, cheap and uninspired Indie games. So whilst on that thought, I decided to make a list of what (in my opinion) is needed to make an Indie game great.

1. Create a unique game selling point
Games such as Fez and FTL: Faster Than Light have unique selling points, Fez having it's world rotation and FTL having a great ship management system. With this, they put their game out as something that stands out from other Indie titles.

With FTL, you were dumped into space with an Alliance ship and a crew of 3-4 men of different species. This was great, as on your journey through the 8 sectors you were forced to upgrade your ship to fight the ever increasing difficulty of the enemies and encounters. This gave FTL immense re-playability value, and means that poor sods like me could pour hours into different runs with varying ships.

2. Storytelling and plot
This should be a given, but with the increasing amount of bad Indie games, I imagine this needs re-iteration. Have a story in mind. With Bastion, you were sent to explore the secrets of the Calamity, a catastrophe that ended the world. You were also sent to restore the Bastion, a structure that became a hub world of sorts. The narration and story that was put into this game was simply amazing and by the time I finished the game, I was completely satisfied.

What made this story so great was it was different. We hadn't seen any stories like it before but it stuck with a lot of it's players for a while afterwards. Character development was also spot on, with you meeting more survivors that you can make a connection to. The narrator told the story when you were in combat and in short, brief sentences. This created a sense of tension, as you wanted to learn more about the Kid's backstory and what happens during the Calamity.

3. Artwork and Music
Art and music for me are some of the core things that will attract me to a video game. Kingdom and FTL both had amazing soundtracks and dynamic art styles that seemed to just work with their games. Having a great musical score is something that Indie titles seem to do really well, and having an art style tailored to your game can mean that the player is more engaged and immersed in their game.

A few more honourable mentions for their musical scores are Journey, Bastion, Dustforce and Hotline Miami.

4. Be ready for criticism and the pressures of being an Indie dev
There have been too many examples of Indie developers that end up not being able to deal with pressure and criticism. One of the most heartbreaking and well known is of Phil Fish, who cancelled the sequel to Fez when he abruptly left the gaming industry after a row on Twitter with Game Trailers journalist Marcus Beer. This was surprising to everyone at Polytron and the gaming community as a whole, as one of the (arguably) best Indie developers of our time left the industry.

Another example of this is the infamous Day One: Garry's Incident uh... incident. In my opinion, TotalBiscuit describes this a lot better than I ever could here, but in short the developers for this Indie Title could not take any critical comebacks to their game and would delete any negative comments on their game on the Steam forums and copyright strike any negative YouTube reviews, stopping the income for some people doing honest work.

All in all, I have high hopes for the Indie community and believe some amazing pieces of work can come out of it, such as the upcoming Escape From Tarkov and possibly No Man's Sky. I just hope this opens the eyes of some people and make them appreciate some of the hidden gems of the gaming community.

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