Critic Roundtable – Indies Impacting AAA Development (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 this final segment of our roundtable series we discuss the impact that the high critical reception of Indie Games like Gone Home is having on AAA game development. Laura Kate: Right, one last quick question. Do you think that impressive critical reception for Indie Games like Gone Home is in any way influencing the choices being made by AAA developers going forward? (An example, do you think Gone Home’s success paved the way for the Left Behind DLC for The Last of US?) Philip Kollar: I absolutely believe successful indie games are now big enough to be impacting design choices on triple-A games. I think we’ll start seeing that more and more over the next few years. The best triple-A developers are playing the best indie games and they’re inevitably going to be influenced in some way. I don’t think that means we’re suddenly going to see triple-A games that are combat free or triple-A games that are art games, but I think we might see bits and pieces of those popping up more and more frequently. Andre Miller: I live with a family of artists, and an artistic mind is something that is constantly feeding off of other creative forces and ideas, looking for their own inspirations. AAA devs and Indie devs I’m sure play each others games and draw from them. Tom Hatfield: Oh definitely. Devs love the next big thing as much as anyone else. Just look at Everquest Next taking inspiration from Minecraft, or XCOM doing a roguelike style iron man mode. Andre Miller: It’s more an exchange of ideas, and like Phil said, what ideas fit into a traditional AAA framework or an indie one. Tom Hatfield: I think we’ll see a lot of AAA DayZ-likes in the next year or two. Jose San Mateo: AAA developers have a very narrow idea of who their audience is and games like Gona Home filled that gap. AAA devs are catching on that people are willing to play something outside of a very specific demographic. Laura Kate:My hope for the Indie scene has always been that it will start to influence the design of bigger budget titles that can’t be seen to take risks with investor income. Whether accurate or not, I love the idea of an Indie passion project acting as a proof of concept for a risky idea. Something like Gone Home says to AAA developers for example that they can take a risk on at least a female gay protagonist in a game. Tom Hatfield: As for Gone Home, I can only hope. I’m sure there are lots of developers who’ve been saying for years “What if we do it without the combat”, now they have ammunition in that argument. Andre Miller: My hope is that games of all types can just share our ecosystem without a bunch of labels dividing us. Philip Kollar: My gut feeling is that we’re still a long way off from triple-A devs being able to put out a full non-combat-centric game, but I’m eager to be proven wrong on that. That extends to games with combat as well! The hope is not that we get rid of all games with combat, just that we have a wider variety of interesting experiences to choose from. Jose San Mateo: I’m with Phil on that, but demand will push developers toward something different. Tom Hatfield: It will help if they start experimenting with lower budget, lower risk games. Jose San Mateo: Consider the time and money it takes to create a AAA game. There is not a lot of room for risk there in order to satisfy a profit margin. Tom Hatfield: Moving away from high street retail might help there. A lot of the characteristics of big budget games are driven from the way games are sold in physical stores. Laura Kate: Well this is the exciting part of the crowdfunding projects Square have been looking at, it’s a big publisher putting smaller amounts of money into new ideas. Andre Miller: My other hope is that publishers find from market research people are willing to put down big bucks on unorthodox ideas and that makes them back off and let the creators do what they want to do, more than worrying about a bottom line.