I had an amazing response to my previous post about “supporting originality”, especially within the smaller development teams. Many of the teams were extremely thankful just to be featured and it became obvious that there is a desperation for more visibility. I was afraid that the post might be portrayed as a little condescending, but the reality was that I wrote the article as a personal reminder. I myself, had been someone who had been largely ignorant to the indie market (aside from a 2500 hour investment in Rocket League), but I found that in writing the article, I became aware of the myriad of original works being developed that the “average gamer” is completely unaware of.
Let’s face it. The market is blind to the thousands of indie titles released each year, and it seems there is a huge problem of visibility. Robert Ian Shepard over at Adventure Rules recently discussed the problems with finding quality indie titles amongst the shovelware in digital stores such as Nintendo’s E-Shop.
“…overall there’s an overwhelming number of games and I have no idea what any of them are about or why I should play them.”
Take a look at the homepage of any mainstream gaming site. As I write this paragraph IGN UK currently has a top banner linking to pages on Resident Evil 2 Remake, Read Dead Redemption 2, Kingdom Hearts 3 and a movie called ‘Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile‘ (yes, the irony doesn’t go unnoticed). Below this, there are thumbnail images linking to articles or reviews on How To Train Your Dragon, Metroid Prime 4, Resident Evil 2 Remake and The Lego Movie 2. Below this, there are four further thumbnails for their top stories. The indie gaming market doesn’t seem to fit here either.
Of course, I’m not suggesting that mainstream websites are ignoring the indie gaming market. There are articles in the archives of these sites if you search for them, but the problem is you have to really search for them. For example, I discovered a fairly recent article on Gamesradar entitled…
At the time of writing this article, the link is broken. This one broken link is a perfect metaphor, encapsulating the uphill struggle that the indie developers face in today’s market.
I believe that mainstream sites should do more to promote small developers. Imagine the difference that one reserved slot dedicated to indie news, in the header of a mainstream website could make. How about a section of the website 100% dedicated to showcasing the latest news and reviews from the indie contingency? This would demonstrate a real willingness to support not only the Goliaths, but the Davids too. By introducing a subsection of the website, indie news articles wouldn’t have to disappear under an avalanche of triple-A press releases, and instead could compete with each other, with (hopefully) the quality rising to the top. More needs to be done to make the average consumer aware of these titles. The Adventure Rules article concludes with a suggestion that this movement needs to start with us. The people who read, write and participate in the industry and so…
…As this is a ‘follow-up’ to my original Support Originality post, it seems fitting to conclude by shifting the focus to some more indies that we should keep a close eye on over the coming months. I’ve scoured the internet researching another bunch of upcoming indies and hand-picked a selected few ‘featured titles’ that I’ll be watching out for. I’d like to thank FingerGuns and NerdMuch for making this process a lot easier!
3 Minutes To Midnight
What better way to start this list than with a old-school Lucasarts-inspired “point & click” comedy adventure. A genre that has long fallen out of favour with large publishers, but is well supported within the indie scene. The artistry looks to have a highly polished, airbrushed quality throughout which resonates with the overall 1950s ambience, and it will be interesting to see how Scarecrow Studios refreshes the traditional “point & click” for the modern gamer.
Beyond Blue looks to carefully weave narrative, resource management and exploration whilst raising awareness of the issues surrounding our oceans. The development team has partnered with BBC Studios (Blue Planet II) and some of the world’s leading ocean experts to craft an experience that looks to truly represent the wonder of our deep waters.
My Friend Pedro
This game looks seriously off-the-charts insane. This game is the reason why I decided to post trailers this time, as nothing I can write here can tell the story of why I’ve decided to feature this game better than the trailer. If there’s one game that makes you feel you’re in the middle of a John Woo movie it’s probably… Max Payne. But if there are TWO games, it looks to be Max Payne and My Friend Pedro!
Night Call has a beautiful noire setting and atmosphere that immediately reminds me of Sin City. The light and shade, the moody characters, the stylistic design choices are all reminiscent of the Frank Miller graphic novel and subsequent movies. You play a cab driver, working the Paris streets during the night-time hours of your shift. As such, you act as a confidante, a friend, and a priest to your passengers. Useful, if you were to try and uncover the secrets of a killer roaming your streets…
Overland is a game that has been available for a while in a ‘First Access’ format. The developers are very active on Twitter, providing news and updates on the progress of the game, which is due for full release in 2019. The game itself is a turn-based, post-apocalyptic survival simulation. In the words of the developer, Overland is about close calls, dramatic escapes, hard choices, arguing about whether or not that dog gets rescued, and the end of the world.
The trailer for Pepper Grinder tells us all we need to know about the game. It is the perfect example of a game with a simple and perfectly formed game mechanic at its core, but with a large amount of potential for complexity and nuance. Speed runners are going to have a ball with this one…
Sea of Solitude
Just look at it! It’s like journeying through a beautiful world of living watercolour and yet, the trailer also promises a much darker journey of self-exploration. The Berlin-based Jo-Mei developed title has been snapped up by Electronic Arts indie-focused label, EA Origins. An initiative designed to “help bring to market indie games that are unique, gorgeous, innovative and memorable”. In the context of this article, that’s a great thing.
Super Meat Boy Forever
The critically acclaimed platformer Super Meat Boy, originally launched on Xbox Live Arcade in 2010 and has since enjoying huge success on a wide range of platforms, most recently with the Nintendo Switch. The sequel promises similarly challenging gameplay but with a few unique twists. Expect to die-restart-die-restart-die-restart (etc) all over again when Super Meat Boy Forever is launched.
The Last Campfire
I’ve developed a fondness for Hello Games (as is evident in this post). The No Man’s Sky developer has had an eventful couple of years to say the least, but our attention is finally being averted to their next project. There is little in the way of detail yet, but from the released footage, the colour palettes and unique characters alone will ensure The Last Campfire grabs our attention in 2019.
The Last Night
The Last Night was one of my Four Picks for 2019, despite seeing nothing further on that unique ‘Blade Runner inspired aesthetic’ since 2017. The fact is that the E3 reveal trailer was so strong, so unique, and so appealing that The Last Night remains one of the most exciting indie prospects in development today. Unfortunately, the project not proceeded without its share of controversy and has been hit by “massive business, legal & funding issues” according the director Tim Soret. We can only hope that the team can find a way through these, and The Last Night doesn’t become a moment lost in time… like tears in rain.
Art direction is incredibly important, especially in the indie market with so many developers needing their projects trying to stand out in the crowd. You will have no option but to pay attention to the bold, stylistic decisions to craft the world of Sable. The fine line-work and limited colour palette of the landscape give the feeling of looking at the panels of a comic strip. With a unique aesthetic and an alien world to explore, Sable is one to watch.
The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe
The game that not only breaks the fourth wall. It continues to break that fourth wall rubble into tiny stones and ground those tiny stones into dust. The Stanley Parable is the very definition of ‘meta’. It is incredibly self-aware and the trailer for the ‘Ultra Deluxe‘ edition demonstrates this with its parody of the awards it (didn’t) win. I would urge anyone who missed this the first time around to grab this in 2019, especially with the news that it is coming to console.
It is fitting that The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe is the last entry in my list (purely coincidentally because of well… the alphabet), as it epitomises the kind of thought-provoking, risqué narrative that laughs in the face of convention. The kind of narrative that we will never see on the top shelf of new release titles in our local game store, and the kind of narrative that could only ever come from an indie developer. And so, I’ll end with a final thought.