Saturday, August 31, 2013

VG Talk #20 Sony and Indie Cred

Video Game discussion.

It's debatable but I imagine the single most important thing that Sony did at E3 and Gamescom was show their love for game developers. They could have easily just jumped up on stage, pointed at all of their first-party developers, showed some trailers, and dropped the mic. That's all we expected of them but they definitely hit the right notes by showing an appreciation for all developers rather than just the devs under their wing. Their actions spoke volumes when they had several indie developers on stage with them. There was a clear message to take away from it: "Look at these amazing developers. They're just as important to the future of gaming as any Triple-A studio and they're standing with us." Now that's how you drop a mic! The kind of drop that you have to clean up after because it's everywhere and you can't wash the smell away no matter how hard you try... and what was I talking about again? Oh yeah! Indie games.

There are those out there that aren't sure what an indie developer is or why they're important so let's delve into that a bit. The boring and technical definition is that an indie developer is a developer without a publisher. That's really all it takes. It's that simple. They're typically small development teams on a tight budget with a lot of passion. The reason they're crucial to the games industry at this point is that they're willing to take risks. While they don't have a publisher handing them tons of money, they also don't have that same publisher breathing down their necks and forcing them to make awkward decisions. They have total freedom to crash into the sun as they please.

Compare this to the Triple-A studios that play it safe (we've discussed this previously: Why the Gaming Industry is Playing it Safe) and it's hard to blame them really. Games cost more to make than ever before and even a successful game sometimes just isn't enough to keep a company afloat. L.A. Noire and Kingdoms of Amalur are recent examples of that.

That's really the bottom line here: risk. We need creators that will take risks just like every other medium. Where would film or literature be without people taking risks? The best part is, we can't ignore indie developers any longer. They're making games that are arguably better than most Triple-A titles and some are winning multiple game of the year awards to prove it. To name a few notable titles: Journey, Minecraft, Unfinished Swan, Braid, Limbo, Bastion, The Lone Survivor, Dear Esther, Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP, Hotline Miami, Guacamelee, Super Meat Boy, Mark of the Ninja, Fez, The Walking Dead, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Cave Story, Thomas Was Alone, and obviously the list just keeps going until you're reading it out loud in a monotone voice. 

So what makes Sony so different? Why are indie devs giving Sony so much attention? Well, for starters, Sony was the first to allow developers to self-publish. Microsoft has recently seen the light and has changed their policies on self-publishing to match Sony's but there's a bit more to it than that. The developers of the upcoming PS4 title War Thunder were interviewed (here) and asked about their thoughts on why they're developing for the PS4 and not the Xbox One. The devs pointed out that even though the PS4 is a more powerful machine, it's the policies that made them stay.

Sony is making it easy to utilize cross-platform gaming (as in PS4 & PC gamers playing together in happy harmony), they're allowing simultaneous updates between both versions of the game, there is no need for Sony's approval on individual updates, and they're making it very clear what options developers have for their online free-to-play games. Microsoft either isn't allowing these features or isn't stating what their plans are and it's driving away many developers.

So what are some of the indie games already announced for the PS4? The list keeps growing every week so the list will be outdated shortly after you read this but that's actually totally awesome.

Don't Starve
Mercenary Kings
Secret Ponchos
Ray's the Dead
Oddworld Inhabitants
War Thunder
Assault Android Cactus
Final Horizon
Guns of Icarus Online
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number
Rogue Legacy
Samurai Gunn
Switch Galaxy Ultra
The Binding of Isaac
Velocity 2X
Wasteland Kings
Cosmic Star Heroine
Road Not Taken

Be ready for the indie scene to be a major factor for next-gen consoles.

This is Kylak signing out from list exhaustion.


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