Thursday, October 31, 2013

Some Industry Reflections

One particular point I have been pondering about recently, is the path in which the indie game scene appears to be heading. This is something that can be noticed in upcoming of games, a variety of talks, articles and what is deemed the largest recent successes. It is a path that may possibly have huge consequences for the future of the medium.

Swiftly summed up, there is a strong style trend of producing games by iterating and extending a fun core gameplay mechanic. This is then incorporated to a game with heavy emphasis on re-playability and/or ease to make levels. The major perks of this strategy being that the game becomes far more entertaining to develop (as you can have fun at a very early stage), it makes it easier to home in on a "enjoyable" core and allows for an early beta to be released (thus enabling feedback and earnings to trickle in before completion). This is of course a rough outline of the trend, but I nonetheless consider it represent the main gist of exactly where the sector of indie game improvement is heading.

Designing a game like this is of course perfectly fine. It tends to make sense financially and personally. By obtaining a game where the entertaining comes in at a very early stage, it is a lot less complicated to discard undesirable ideas and figure out the very best way to do items. Obtaining some kind of earnings ahead of completion can be vital for a start off-up firm, which is a lot simpler when possessing an early playable version. Betas/alphas also assist developing a neighborhood and spreading the word. On the individual side, motivation comes a lot easier when almost every single added function add some thing to the gameplay and change is simply tracked. This can make up for other not so motivational elements of becoming an indie (low earnings, non-existing safety, undesirable functioning conditions, and so on and so forth). Summed up, making games like this make a lot of sense and it is not strange that it is a wide-spread trend.

Nevertheless, what troubles me is that this kind of improvement is noticed by most as THE way to style a game. Even though of course a lot of fantastic videos games can (and have!) come out of this manner of creation, it is not the only way to go about. I think that performing games this way makes it not possible to do particular variety of video games and to expand the medium in a way that I personally think is the most thrilling. Because of the concentrate on instant gratification, gameplay will pull towards a local maximum and only take brief term worth into account. This disqualifies videogames that focus on far more holistic experiences or has a non-trivial pay off (for instance, lowlevel gameplay that only becomes engaging in a specific higher-level context).

As an example of this, following finalizing the fundamental mechanics, it took six months prior to Amnesia: The Dark Descent became a somewhat engaging encounter. Note that this time was not spend on perfecting the mechanics but on building the globe in which they existed. Without having the proper context, Amnesia's core mechanics are quite boring and it took additional layers, such as the sound-scape, higher fidelity graphics, and so forth, to bring it home. With this I am not saying that Amnesia is the way forward for the medium. I am just saying that a videogame like Amnesia could not have been made using the type of development that a large chunk of the indie scene (and mainstream for that matter as well) is at the moment advocating!

One more factor that has also struck me is how many men and women that are interested in videogames with experiences not solely focused on a enjoyable core. For instance at GDC, we met a lot of people, from several diverse locations in the sector, saying how a lot they liked the game due to the fact of its non-gamey elements. Also, most of the random men and women that we "dragged" in to the booth were very interested in this sort of knowledge and frequently surprised that videogames like Amnesia even existed. We have also observed this sort of response across the Web, with a lot of folks wishing there have been much more games focusing on these aspects. Once more, I am not saying that this signifies Amnesia is some candle bearer into the future. What I am saying is that there was an overwhelmingly constructive attitude towards the sort of games where a entertaining core mechanic was not the focus.

Even so, simply because the present trend of developing games, this possible market will most likely go without many games.

A good consequence of this is that it creates a potentially quite lucrative niche with almost no competitors. So even though the preferred way of creating games might be more safe, these projects will be launched in an incredibly competitive atmosphere. I consider this evens out some (all?) of the risks involved in a development not focused on rapidly iterating fun mechanics.

A damaging, feasible devastating, consequence is that the lack of these sorts of video games may take away the market place altogether (or at least limit it to a quite niche one particular). What I imply here is that if the basic population's view on view games is that they are just about "cheap thrills", individuals will never bother hunting for anything else. As a result most men and women who would have been interested in much more holistic video games, will never be exposed to them. In a worst case scenario, this would imply that these kind of game will pretty considerably be stopped being created.

I contemplate this is something worth thinking about and believe the vital cross road will come extremely soon. The video games we make a decision to make these days, will shape the future for really some time.

Finish note: For these wonder what other ways of designing games there may exist, verify this post as a starter.

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