Indie Haven June Developer Roundtable – What’s the Most Important Indie Game of the Decade? Laura Kate June 18, 2013 Features We at Indie Haven like to get you as close as possible to the games you love, and the people making them. That’s why every month we aim to bring together a wide selection of of Indie Developers from all walks of life, from BAFTA winners to teenage and student devs, to discuss the hottest issues affecting games, development, coverage and the Indie community. These chats will be broken up into chunks and released across the month, before we start all over again with new developers and new questions. This month we welcome a brand new group of developers to the Roundtable. We’ve got Anna Marsh (Developer at Lady Shotgun games, developers of Buddha Finger), Simon Roth (Developer of the huge Kickstarter success Maia), Ashley Ross (lead developer at OmNomCom and creator of the upcoming game Girl With a Laser Cannon), Gordon Midwood (Creative force behind the brilliant Derrick the Deathfin) and Andrew Roper (Recent University graduate working on the game Lazarus). Holly Keenan (Half of the husband and wife team behind A Virus Named Tom) also joins us toward the end of the Roundtable. If you’re an Indie Dev of any size that would like to take part in a future roundtable, please email Laurak@IndieHaven.com and let us know a little about yourself. The more the merrier. “What’s the most important Indie Game released in the last 10 years?” Anna Marsh: That’s a big question. Ashley Ross: Do we have to choose one? Laura Kate: You can choose more than one haha Andrew Roper: Oh whew, if I was going to have to choose one I’d be here for a long time deciding. Gordon Midwood: Can you define indie game for us first? 😉 Anna Marsh: For me “Braid” was where suddenly there started to be far more focus on Indie stuff – at the time I was working on core console games and that had been pretty much my life for over a decade. The press around Braid made me aware of games outside my enclave. Laura Kate: Indie’s up to you to define. We had a bit of a chat about it last roundtable and we kind of settled on it being a a game made where you aren’t answering to some board, making the game you want to make ect Ashley Ross: Braid is the most important indie game of all time. It showed a ton of people they can earn a reasonable living from their own idea. It really sparked the thought of XBLA as a viable platform, kicking off the first real support for “Professional” indie developers in a mainstream market. Then Minecraft came along and both helped and harmed the industry by flooding it with people who wanted to be “the next Notch”, but also inspired a ton of people to do what they wanted to for a living. Anna Marsh: I’m sure there were plenty of indie hits before, but I was a 100% “big game” console person so I didn’t take much notice. Ashley Ross: Minecraft is close to my heart, simply because it told me I could do for a living what I’ve wanted to do since I first played Sonic. Anna Marsh: I remember playing Waking Mars by Tiger Style on my iPad and feeling like “okay, mobile games have arrived too”. It was one of the best games I’d played for ages, on any platform. So that was for me important in the indie mobile world. It inspired me to start working on larger concepts – not that I’ve actually made any of them yet 🙂 Anna Marsh’s Buddha Finger Gordon Midwood: If I am forced I would choose the bit.trip series because the games are ace. Simon Roth: I wouldn’t know where to start. Although I agree with the points on Minecraft and Braid. I think it might be worth examining the rolls of the first few indie games on Steam (Ragdoll Kungfu and Garrys Mod?), I think their success really opened the floodgates by warming Valve towards independent developers. Gordon Midwood: I think those floodgates have closed now though. Andrew Roper: Braid is the first indie game I remember hearing about properly and I think triggered my exploration into more indie games. Minecraft I think was the one that really hit home to a global audience that yes, something that a small team makes can be received great, but like Ashley said it then harmed the industry and all of a sudden tons of Minecraft clones had appeared. Admittedly before Braid I don’t think I played a lot of indie games, I was one of those call of duty gamers who only ever played that (I feel dirty admitting that). Simon Roth: Also depends on the definition of “indie”, some of my favourite developers of the 90’s definitely had the same spirit we are seeing a resurgence of. Laura Kate: care to expand Simon? Ashley Ross: Hmm, I forgot just how old Garrys mod is. Anna Marsh: Lol don’t feel dirty Andrew! I’m a great believer in keeping a broad range of all kinds of stuff – games films whatever – not just confining yourself to “indie”. Andrew Roper: Nono, it’s more the admitting of playing call of duty non-stop I feel dirty for. Gordon Midwood: agree 100% with Anna Ashley Ross: I agree. Games pre-00’s were made by people who wanted to make games, not money (with exceptions). One of the main reasons nostalgia for old games isn’t just that. I also think that’s why a lot of the remakes/sequels to our old classics are going on kickstarter. Keeps that “indie” spirit alive. Ashley Ross’ Dot. Anna Marsh: The first game I ever worked on, professionally I mean, was a completely bonkers Playstation title called team buddies. It was for Sony but yes, I agree with Ashley’s points, they wouldn’t make anything that leftfield now. That’s what gives indie its indie now I think, that all the big “non indies” became so conservative. Ashley Ross: Too afraid to stray out of their comfort zone for fear of making a loss. Anna Marsh: Absolutely, fear of P&L – we can’t make anything new because how could we predict its sales!!! Gordon Midwood: I think what people consider “indie” is also pretty conservative ~ not as much a marker for innovation as we would all like. Andrew Roper: Yeah, there’s some fantastic new ideas coming out of indie games nowadays and like you said Ashley, the big companies are just sticking to what they know will bring in the money and they’re not straying out their comfort zone. Simon Roth: @ Ashley Ross – I found people in AAA, at least higher up the foodchain, wern’t conservative, but actually just lacked the imagination to conceive of anything that wasn’t just a clone of something they saw in another game. Anna Marsh: Well Gordon has a point I think, “Indie” has become a kind of brand with attached meanings. Gordon Midwood: Exactly, people expect something from the term. Anna Marsh: Sometimes it seems like a quirky art style-du-jour can make a game “indie” without any real innovative gameplay behind it. Gordon Midwood: Leave Derrick alone Anna! Simon Roth: Haha! Anna Marsh: But then, “independent” doesn’t have to mean innovative – no point being different for different’s sake. Gordon Midwood: Also, unfortunately some people involved in the indie scene have a pretty restrictive view of what should fit their label, but then I guess that is the problem with labels. Ashley Ross: I get a lot of flack for making a puzzle platformer with time-based twist and an art-style similar to limbo. Doesn’t mean it isn’t a good game! 😛 Simon Roth: I get stick of spending time on graphics. 🙁 Ashley Ross: Graphics *can* make a game as much as a good mechanic, or good audio. Everything is equally important IMO. Anna Marsh: Yeah, its been funny with Buddha Finger, sometimes people say “oh, your art is amateurish isn’t it?” and that was exactly how we wanted it! But its not pixel art so you know, its just not cool enough for some people 🙂 I’m not knocking graphics, graphics that go to making a really appealing, coherent world are great! Andrew Roper: I liked the art on Buddha Finger, went well with the gameplay 🙂 I think a lot of people nowadays judge their opinion on a a game nowadays by the graphics, and treating screenshots like a shop window to an effect. Anna Marsh: Thanks Andrew! I love our art style and Christian Donlan called it “lo fi punk intense” which is my favourite review quote, because it got it perfectly! And with that we end another segment of Indie Dev Roundtable here at Indie Haven. Next time we discuss what games indie developers would make, given a AAA budget. What do you think? Was Braid the game that showed the world what Indie was? Did Minecraft hurt the Indie community? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @Indie_Haven.