Critic Roundtable – Indie Team Size and Reviews (Ft. Phil Kollar and Tom Hatfield) Laura Kate April 3, 2014 Features A few weeks ago Indie Haven Editors Laura, Jose and Andre got together with Phil Kollar, Deputy Reviews Editor at Polygon.com, and Tom Hatfield, Writer for PC Gamer, Gamespy and The Guardian, to discuss all the biggest topics currently of interest to critics covering the Indie game scene. In the first of our discussions for Indie Haven, we discuss how best to review Indie games in the greater cultural context of bigger budget AAA video games. Laura Kate: The first question I wanted to get us talking about is something I know Indie Haven as a site initially struggled to settle on. How much should you take team size and budget of an Indie game into account when reviewing it, if at all? Jose San Mateo: I don’t think that should be a factor at all. There are plenty of bad games out there that have had a ton of money thrown at it. Conversely there are a lot of good games done on a really small budget. Phil Kollar: I would also subscribe to the “not at all” or at least very little theory. If an incredible game has been put together by two people, that might warrant a mention in the review, but I don’t think, in the end, that team size or budget should be a major factor in judging the overall quality of a game. Of course, as an extension of that, graphical fidelity, audio quality, and the other kind of things that a bigger team size can get you also aren’t the final determining factors of whether a game is great or not. Andre Miller: It kind of crosses into the debate a bit of what in strict terms “is” an “indie game.” We are kind of getting to the point where we are more recognizing something with an indie attitude as an Indie rather than literally saying, this game has a publisher behind it, therefore it can’t be indie. Laura Kate: Indeed, it’s just interesting how often I see those “this looks really good for an indie game” or, “it didn’t have that much needed online mode but it’s only an Indie game” arguments often pop up online, they seem to be fairly common as opinions go which is odd. Tom Hatfield: I think you have to think about these things from the player’s perspective. Ultimately they want to know if a game is worth their time and money and how much the developer spent doesn’t really factor into that. Phil Kollar: Yeah, I think Tom wraps up my views perfectly there. Jose San Mateo: I think Phil is right to some extend though. The size of team and it’s budget does effect the expectations around a game. Laura Kate: I think you hit the nail on the head there Tom in my opinion. A gamer doesn’t care about how a game was made, they just want to know if it’s a good use of their time and money. I’m personally strictly of the camp that they need to be held to the same standards as any other game a player could be playing, that includes big AAA experiences they could be buying. Andre Miller: Yeah, we want to play the game and mull over it what means to us. Not have spreadsheets of budget dispersion and how many entities worked on the project. Tom Hatfield: I agree with Andre that indie is becoming a bit of a nebulous term. Jose San Mateo: Audience of the publication does factor in as well I think. Andre Miller: Yeah Tom, it a label at this point. And I think the long-run it would hurt the medium more than help it. Laura Kate: That is an interesting point, does whether you’re on a mixed or Indie centric outlet effect how you handle that? Jose San Mateo: I mean for Indie Haven our goal is to review a lot of the indies that people don’t necessarily play a lot of. Maybe Phil can answer this a lot better, but do you have to be a lot more choosey with your games when it comes to doing stuff at Polygon? Phil Kollar: As a mixed outlet, I can say that Polygon’s policy is to essentially approach indie and triple-A games the same when it comes to reviews. We try to approach each game for what it is at launch without thinking about any hype or build-up or negative press prior to launch. As far as choosing which games to review, there are definitely a lot of indie titles I wish we could be covering that we have trouble fitting into our tight review schedule because we’re covering both. There we go, that’s it for the first segment of out critic roundtables series. We have a couple more parts of this interview still to come, so keep your eyes on the site.