The ease with which gamers can now download games- through their smartphone, the Xbox Arcade or the Playstation Store has given indie developers an easy way to reach consumers. The last two years has seen an explosion in the amount and success of indie games in the market, and the success of the following games is testament to this.
A worldwide phenomenon, and the game which truly showed the potential of ‘casual gaming’. Rovio took a very rough concept drawing of an ‘angry bird’ and turned it into a game which has been downloaded over 500 million times and spawned its own franchise.
From a development perspective, it provides a valuable lesson in designing for your platform- it made the most of the iPhone’s touch screen and didn’t try to replicate traditional console controls. Since then it’s taken over numerous platforms, including Android, Windows Phone and even the web.
6 years in gestation, Limbo harks back to the classic 2d side-scrolling platform games of the 80s and 90s, but adds in a realistic physics system which developers back then could barely have dreamt of. The focus throughout development was on getting the mood right, with the minimalistic controls and setting both contributing to the feel that the player character really was stuck in a kind of Limbo.
Initially funded by its Danish creators and grants from their government, Limbo’s release on the Xbox Live Arcade in 2010 was heavily marketed as part of Microsoft’s ‘Summer of Arcade’ campaign and its success shows the potential such platforms offer to smaller developers.
The most mysterious game on this list, Journey lures gamers in, not with a deluge of information, but a drought. With no words- either written or spoken present in the game, gamers are occasionally drip fed information through cut scenes, but more often than not are left to figure out the game’s delights alone.
What could have been seen as a gimmick to keep costs down, instead becomes the central draw of Journey. Reviewers praised the emotional pull of the tale and compared it- both in feel and length to a artistic film.
World Of Goo
Despite being the oldest game on this list, clocking in at an ancient (in gaming terms) 4 years old, the merest mention of World of Goo has the ability to rouse even the most jaded of gamers. Developed on a shoestring budget raised from the developers’ savings , World of Goo blends a physics based puzzler with a charmingly off-beat plot, told through cut-scenes and ‘painted’ signs.
When talking about indie games, there is one that is impossible to leave out. Minecraft and its protracted development/testing phase, showed a different way of releasing games and that deep-down gamers still craved depth and the ability to build things.
Although not the most visually attractive of games- it was the sheer scale that made Minecraft addictive. No one cared that the game was blocky and jagged- we were all too busy trying to recreate the Death Star/the Pyramids/ Medieval Castles.
Where’s next for indie developers? Journey and Limbo have shown us what is possible when under the radar games receive some hype, but how else can new games market themselves? What have you been building?