The Case for Indie Games

[Webmaster's Note: The following article is by Vlad Loscutoff of MobRule Studios; as such the article and the MobRule logo remains his copyright and he is solely responsible for it's content. MobRule Studios has their own website which can be found here.  You can read an article we wrote about their latest game including a link to the site here.  Additional Note: Keeping the man wearing the FTC suit happy - no remuneration of any kind has flowed one way or the other between ourselves and MobRule studio. We just wanted to help out an Indie Dev, because we are just nice that way!]

Innovation, Impact and Asshats: The Case for Indie Games

The best place to find innovative gameplay

Innovation in gaming currently almost never happens at the corporate or mainstream level.  When you need to spend tens to hundreds of millions of dollars to get a game out the door, its no time to try out new idea.  Consider any mainstream game and you can trace it back an idea some independent studio perfected years ago.  This isn’t to say that there are no unimaginative independent games, but if you’re looking for games that don’t retread the same mechanics over and over you need to start looking in the place where these ideas are born.

Have a direct impact on the game

Message boards for large releases are a usually a frenzy of player activity, whether its screaming about a perceived imbalance, screaming about a needed improvement or just screaming, the signal-to-noise ratio is extremely low.  Forums for large games are usually nothing more than a place for players to vent, instead of a platform for useful discussion.  Many independent games turn this paradigm on its head; with a smaller community the development team is able to speak directly to balance questions or suggested features. 

Have you ever played a game and thought, “If they only added X.”  You might have even felt strongly enough about your idea to post it to the game’s message board.  Unfortunately, if this was for a mainstream game the odds of a developer reading your idea are extremely low because many companies employ additional people to handle their boards which creates yet another layer of separation between the community and the developers.  Even if your idea does make it to a developer it still has a infinitesimal chance of making it into the game.  This is became mainstream games aren’t built around community input, they’re built around ideas and features which can attract the most people to that title and sell the greatest number of games.

Independent games are an opportunity to talk directly to a developer because a good independent developer is able to listen and respond to the community.  Independent developers realize that some of the best ideas for their game can come from their players because the players are the true experts in their game.  When it comes to understanding how a game works, there’s a difference between writing a game and playing it.  Just because a game is written a certain way doesn’t mean it will be played a certain way.  Even when a developer has dumped years into writing a game, if its played long enough the player’s experience and time with the game will eventually dwarf the developers own know-how.   

Get to know your fellow gamer

If you cram enough people into a small space a chaotic, mob-mentality starts to take over; mainstream games with huge communities are no exception.  When a community becomes so large that managing it is unwieldy, it also starts to impact how the players interact with each-other.  The larger a community gets, the less it is held accountable to itself.  This increases instances of griefing or other negative behavior: it’s easy to be an asshat when you have a mob to hide behind.

Games with smaller communities are an active measure of prevention against general ass-hattery.  With a smaller group of players everyone is much more aware of their fellow gamers.  I might be dating myself here, but indie games are the “Cheers!” of the gaming world.  They’re a place where “everyone knows your name”  and, as a result, players are held more accountable for their actions.  This not only decreases the amount of griefing in a game, especially one with an active and engaged development team, but also increases the amount of positive interaction between players.
In closing: If you want to try something new, if you want to be heard, if you want to be part of a community … Play indie games!

Vlad – Developer for Drop Shock
MobRule Studios

2 Responses to The Case for Indie Games
  1. Tesh
    October 8, 2010 | 6:49 pm

    The gameplay argument alone has me loving indie games. World of Goo, Mr. Robot, MineCraft, Recettear, Gish, Aquaria, it’s all yummy, yummy gaming. It may not be the most beautiful stuff at times, but I go outside or do my own painting for that most of the time. ;)

  2. Sr. Julie
    October 8, 2010 | 11:30 pm

    I am sure Vlad would agree with you. At this particular moment I have been playing alot of Wow, with sides of Eve Online, Fallen Earth, and EQ2 Extended.

    Thanks for the comment.

    Julie