The Rise of Indie Games

Simply because I can, I’m going to turn to Wikipedia to define exactly just what an “Indie Game” is: ‘Independent video games (commonly referred to as indie games) are video games created by individuals or small teams without video game publisher financial support. Indie games often focus on innovation and rely on digital distribution.’ With that out the way, I want to explore why such games have become more popular in recent years, and how it’s happening.

Two years ago, Swedish games programmer Markus Persson walked out of the development studio where he’d spent the last four years of his life making free-to-play flash games, went back to his apartment, and created Minecraft. His impulse was guided by the simple notion that game developers should only make games they care about. Less than two years after its release, Minecraft has been purchased by more than 1 million people around the world. [courtesy of Laura Parker, GameSpot AU]

The fact that Minecraft, Braid and World of Goo, for example, have succeeded, just goes to show that if you have a good idea, and can get it out there, anything is possible. A lot of the time though, indie developments don’t do very well at all. Some don’t even get any recognition whatsoever. Gamers nowadays seem to be of two categories; mind-blowing HD wonders with 3D landscapes, unique extras and fantastic online capability, or simple 2D point-and-clicks, which above all are mostly addictive, simple, innocent fun. I personally am not a big fan of open-world shooters or unrealistic driving games, instead I much prefer to just sit at my computer and play for a few hours on Broken Sword II: The Smoking Mirror.

I asked Stuart Lilford (Lightbulb Games) about his recent development Entrapment, available now at the AGS Bake Sale, raising money for children’s charity Child’s Play:

So Stuart, tell me a little about yourself.

I’m 22. I’m originally from Hull in East Yorkshire. I studied Computer Game Design at University. My favourite film is The Dark Knight. I love KFC. I have two Labradors and My favourite musican is Bob Dylan.

And what is Entrapment?

Entrapment is a Thriller/Horror/Drama/Crime Adventure game. It’s set in a hotel and the aim of the game is to escape and track down a serial killer. It’s made using Adventure Games Studio (AGS), which is a free game-creation tool that people can use to create games, more specifically to create adventure games similar to the Monkey Island games, Day of the Tentacle, Broken Sword, Beneath a Steel Sky, Simon the Sorcerer and so on. The community has a vast array of games made with the engine. Key inspirations for me are the Chzo Mythos and pretty much any game by Ben Chandler.

What inspired you to start working on your own independent game?

I have wanted to be a game designer since I was a kid and throughout my education I have always tried to tailor my qualification into that eventual job role. I went to college, then to University and I even had jobs in the ‘main stream’ games industry as a QA Tester at companies such as Rare and Codemasters. Unfortunately I had a lot of trouble trying to get a job in the industry as a designer. It seems that companies want people with experience, but how is a graduate meant to get experience when no one will take him? I eventually got sick of applying and decided to design and make my own games. Entrapment came about when I had to create a game as part of my University degree. This is how Entrapment started, all I handed in was a demo, but after University I felt as though I should continue the game, so I worked on it and it grew and developed into what it is today. Then I joined the AGS Bake Sale and submitted Entrapment to be a part of it.

And what is the AGS Bake Sale?

Like games? Want to give to charity? You’re in luck! The AGS Bake Sale is a bundle of games made with Adventure Game Studio. There are 14 games altogether, including Entrapment. How much is it? The beautiful thing about the Bake Sale is that you pay what you want! The minimum payment is $1.50, which works out at around 99p. So you can pay £1 or £100, it’s totally up to you and the other great thing is that ALL of the money you pay goes to charity. The charity is Child’s Play, who work with sick children in hospital to bring them video games.

Given the opportunity, would you take up another independent project, for example a bigger, better version of Entrapment, or even a sequel?

I have thought about a sequel to Entrapment. I have an idea of how the story would work and the location, but I’ve also thought about perhaps creating a deluxe version of Entrapment, a director’s cut, if you will. But these projects would be way in the future. Right now I want to try something new. I have a bunch of ideas that I want to work on, but the key problem for me is time, or lack of it. I would love to have a magical cupboard where time doesn’t exist and I could work on games all the time. But unfortunately, they don’t exist. Realistically, I would like to release one or two short games within the next year. Perhaps once my skills are refined, I will start work on a bigger game. I have ideas for those too. But you should be sure to keep an eye on Lightbulb Games for future projects.

So it seems there’s definitely an industry for indie developed games out there, if anyone is interested in visiting the AGS Bakesale, I know Entrapment is awesome, and I’ve also played The Rail (James Dearden, Creative Director at Technocrat) which is simple, amazing fun. Since its gradual introduction to the gaming industry, indie games have certainly earned their place, and I think it will take a lot to budge them.

 

Will  : )

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