On Week 2, I was assigned to review the content within:

  • Indiecade East 2014: State of the Union — Bennett Foddy (Presentation) OR Indie Game: The Movie (Amazon Prime, 2012)
  • A Desktop Love Story” OR “Everything is going to be ok” (Games by alienmelon)
  • a Museum of Dubious Splendors” (Game by Studio Oleomingus)
  • An Indie title of my choice: “Alba: A Wildlife Adventure” by Ustwo Games
  • Is Every Indie Game Independent? Towards the Concept of Independent Gameby Maria B. Garda, Paweł Grabarczyk (article)
  • Examining Indie’s Independence: The Meaning of “Indie” Games, the Politics of Production, and Mainstream Cooptation” by Nadav Lipkin
  • Indie Eh? Some Kind of Game Studies” by Bart Simon

GAMES:

Indie Game : The Movie

Indie Game: The Movie is a documentary style film that follows the development journey of three major indie titles such as Super Meat Boy, Fez and Braid. Unlike other documentation of development such as blogs and vlogs, the movie focuses more on the developers’ firsthand experiences including raw thoughts and emotions that were a result of working on the project.

For example, Phil Fish had, overall, an extremely bad experience, as it portrayed Phil becoming consumed by the idea of bringing Fez to life even more so each day that he ended up dissolving relationships around him such with his girlfriend and even his team mate. As Fez was eventually all that he had left, towards the end of development and in particular, at the PAX showcase, you can see his frustration coming to light due to his former team mate nearly refusing to sign the dissolvement contract which almost forces him to back out of the showcase he had been working so hard towards.

Other developers such as the Super Meat Boy team of Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes, seemed to have a more positive, enjoyable experience. This could be largely due to having more supportive, loving friends and family around them as opposed to working in isolation.

Although for a lot of the developers within this movie, I feel that their attitude and opinions on other existing games can come across quite close-minded and somewhat pretentious. One quote that stuck with me was by Tommy Refenes of that “”If people wanna buy Modern Warfare or Halo: Reach, that’s fine because I think those games are sh*t. And if that’s what people want, then they don’t want the games that I make, because I don’t make sh*t games.” In my experience, I have learned that it is wrong to refer to content you may not enjoy or even hate as being bad as you should still respect their art even if it doesn’t align with your own ideals or direction. This especially resonates as the two titles named were widely popular at the time and were loved and enjoyed by many which leads me to question if he simply claimed to hate them because they were popular.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie as a whole and felt that it gave a clear, raw insight into an indie developers life including the effects on people surrounding them, mental health and the high’s and low’s of the journey along the way.

alienmelon — A Desktop Love Story

alienmelon’s work features a unique art style which combines elements from vapourwave and cyber styles and is highly experimental in both design and narrative.

A desktop love story’s narrative explores the relationship between two files on your computer and the restrictions that provide obstacles along the way. The player nicknamed “adminstrator” must place files within folders which in turn sparks a response from the other. It is a short, sweet title that could be associated with an abstract telling of Romeo and Juliet. It is also a hint from the developer about the disadvantages unknown developers face when designing and producing a title for platforms.

Studio Oleomingus - a Museum of Dubious Splendors

a Museum of Dubious Splendors is an interesting, experimental style of game. The player is placed within a series of spaces which tell the adapted essays by Gujarati poet, Mir UmarHassan. The player navigates through the different areas through accessing a series of doors which progresses the player through the many essays.

I was mainly drawn to this title in particular, due to the bright colours used within scenes, the abstractness and my love for traditional museums. Another intial thought was that it would mainly interest players that enjoy reading a lot of text within games as each transition features a new passage. One of my initial impressions of the game is that is an interesting take on a traditional museum as it doesn’t follow the constraints or layout that one would typically expect such as displays or large filled rooms with lots to explore. Another intial thought was that it would mainly interest players that enjoy reading a lot of text within games as each transition features a new passage.This thought was echoed within reviews I looked at after playing through the game, one player in particular stated that they weren’t sure what type of game this was suppose to be and they ended up skipping a lot of the text abstracts as they were too long.

Ustwo Games — Alba: A Wildlife Adventure

Alba: A Wildlife Adventure is a 3D soft cartoon style adventure game in which the player takes on the role of Alba, a young girl visiting her grandparents on a Mediterranean Island. The story begins showing Alba as a young five year old girl and one of the first actions involves taking a photo of her grandparents and saving a dolphin with the help of the island. However, when she returns as she grows older, she discovers that the Mayor has partnered with a local businessman to build a luxury hotel in the spot of her beautiful, beloved nature reserve! Alba, alongside her friend, Ines, pact together to form AWBL, the conservation society and gain signatures to petition against the takeover. To gain signatures, the player must help out the islanders, clear up important areas such as restoring the nature reserve and explore the surrounding wildlife to gain photographs.

Alba: A Wildlife Adventure can not only be classed as an indie title due to the small team and lack of budget, which may be present within the absence of voice acting (though this may be a stylistic choice) and the short length of the experience as it clocks in at just over 3 hours, 4.5 at a push with 100% completion. In addition to these factors, it can be distinguished by the soft low poly art style and strong themes of nature conservation and cultural representation which can be a risky move when tackled by larger developers as they’re afraid of the backlash that can come with experimental games.

The music and soundtrack to Alba was also composed by Lorena Alvarez to capture the essence of Spain: authentic. This really enhances the atmosphere and resonates the strong family connections and relationships present throughout the title such as shown by Alba’s relationship to her Abuela (grandmother) and abuelo (grandfather).

READINGS:

Is Every Indie Game Independent? Towards the Concept of Independent Game

This article covers the three types of independence associated with indie titles such as:

  • Financial
  • Creative
  • Publishing

Financial independence refers to the developers either self-funding or seeking funding through a third party source i.e. Steam Early Access, Kickstarter/crowdfunding etc and not accquiring money through a larger investor or publishing house.

On the other hand, Creative independence acknowledges the creative choices the developers are free to make within their title as they have no set guidelines to follow as opposed to those controlled by a large publisher. This was described by the Super Meat Boy duo as allowing them to create the game they’d always wanted to play when they were younger.

Publishing independence as touched on briefly, is attributed to the idea of the developers also doubling up as their own publishers. This should be true for their first official release and doesn’t always extend to future re-releases as it has become common for games to be acquired by larger studios for launching on alternative platforms e.g. Microsoft acquiring Minecraft for launch on Xbox.

The chart below is the model that is associated with indie releases.

In addition, the article also further brings to attention other factors that form an indie game such as:

  • Digital Distribution
  • Stereotypically of an experimental nature
  • Feature a small budget with a low purchase cost
  • Retro styles are extremely popular
  • Small in file sizes, number of team members
  • Use middleware platforms such as Unity

Examining Indie’s Independence: The Meaning of “Indie” Games, the Politics of Production, and Mainstream Cooptation

Within this piece, Nadvav explores the main differences between AAA and indie culture and the relationship between the two.

For example, some of the main points addressed were of:

  • crunch culture within AAA working studios as compared to a flexible working schedule of indie where typically titles take years to complete
  • Rivalry in the form of causing controversy by creating content specifically to oppose AAA studios
  • Nostalgia factor driving indie releases such as retro style graphics and the rise of 2D platforms again despite being in the era of 3D game engines

However, the main take from this piece was to pose the question of that if a developer conforms to popular ideals, does that make them mainstream and therefore lose their creative independence? This is tough to address as there are both examples that support and dismiss this. For example, Day Z (2018) was extremely popular when it was simply a mod for Arma 3. However, once it became a stand-alone released title through the aid of Steam Early Access, the love for it slowly vanished as due to being based on Arma, the style and gameplay had to match and therefore there was no opportunity for Bohemia Interctive to take it in a different directon to what the fans knew and loved.

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