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The Indie Enigma

The Puzzle Problem
As a game developer and indie game reviewer on Bytten, one thing has become increasingly obvious. I see a lot of small games by independent developers and this growth area of gaming may have a fundamental problem at it's core. Independently developed games are much more genre restricted than main stream games due to time and money budget constraints. In short, the majority of games I come across are puzzle games.

First person shooters, driving games, real time strategy can appear but generally the whole independent sector is slanted in a different way to the mainstream triple A sector, and this could scupper plans for any deep market penetration by the independents.

For your average game playing 12 year old, 'puzzle' is a turn off word. Images of jigsaws (or worse, virtual jigsaws) are no competition to games like Unreal 2 and never will be. Music by indie record companies can become mainstream then passť, but it is looking increasingly likely that the only growth area indie games will undergo is a growth in developer numbers due to the ease of selling online nowadays and the difficulty in selling in retail outlets.

The Future
Indie games will never replace mainstream games in this writers view, but they are still vital. My first computer, at the age of nine, was a Dragon 32. An 8-bit machine with 8 colours, 3 of which were 'green'. BASIC was built in and this meant so was the ability to make games which I did even back then. Now it seems the indie game sector is the world's programming course, a vital role in a world where ease-of-use can make the mandatory Microsoft software hard-to-understand as well as inefficient-in-operation.

Indie developers go on to make mainstream games, and vice versa too. Indie and mainstream are two sides of a coin rolling into the future, not the resin and hardener in the epoxy of game development; destined to merge.

The best resource indie developers have and utilise is originality. Just when people were beginning to think that there were no new ideas, new ideas appear. Basegolf and RotaDim reviewed on this site are prime examples of unique game ideas that work. It is ironic then, and heartening in the mass-explosion-first-person-high-speed game world, that the most popular search keyword for games is that 12th century classic 'chess'.

Published on 21 Mar 2003
Written by Mark Sheeky

Stupid Computer Music