'It's your life, but only if you make it so. The standards by which you live must be your own standards, your own values, your own convictions in regard to what is right and wrong, what is true and false, what is important and trivial.' -Eleanor Roosevelt

Support Independent Developers

by Ethan Glover, Sun, Jul 14, 2019

There’s a lot of negativity in the gaming world right now. Complaining about certain companies and certain games is all the rage. That negativity has even overshadowed a huge amount of great news. Sony is still publishing tons of amazing single player experiences. We’ll be getting new consoles soon with ray-tracing and SSD. VR is finally going wireless, and VR games get better and better.

I’ve been getting more into indie games thanks to Let’s Players like jacksepticeye and Markiplier. In the past, I’ve never touched indies because the AAA titles were more than enough. But I’ve realized that even without the backing of teams of writers and visual artists, indies can still have enough depth to satisfy any serious gamer.

For example, Whispers of a Machine. A point and click murder mystery set in a future destroyed by AI. You play as a detective who develops augmentations as you play. Augmentations are like superpowers that give you things like strength and mind control. Which powers you develop depends on how you approach the game and the dialogue options you choose.

Most importantly, the story is fascinating. A future dystopia where AI is illegal due to the danger it poses to humanity. Part of solving a series of murders involves uncovering a conspiracy that is weaved through nearly every character in the town the game takes place in. Difficult puzzles force you to come up with creative solutions involving the augmentations you’ve developed. (Which are based on your character and how you play.) Ultimately, you’re left with multiple endings based on the moral choices you’ve made through the game.

These are the kinds of games that many people crave. And indies are delivering. Single player, story-driven, and thoughtful in every detail. Whispers of a Machine was developed by two people; Joel Staaf Hasto (Clifftop Games) and Faravid Ljungquist (Faravid Interactive). Both Swedish developers who build their games with total independence of publisher interference. Each only has one other title under their belt. Faravid Interactive released The Samaritan Paradox in 2014. And Clifftop Games released Kathy Rain in 2016.

In the case of both Kathy Rain and Whispers of a Machine, the games were published by Raw Fury. Raw Fury was founded by former EA DICE GM Gordon Van Dyke, and ex-VP for mobile at Paradox Interactive, Jonas Antonsson. The company was founded on the idea of supporting independent creators while allowing them total creative freedom. They call themselves the first “unpublisher.” The concept of an unpublisher is one that is needed. A way to get independent creators the funding and support they need to build their games without destroying their vision. Too often publishers see dollar signs and can only focus on how to better monetize the game.

Supporting independent creators comes with risks. They are unproven and inexperienced. But when Kathy Rain saw initial slow sales, Raw Fury stood behind them. They said not every game needs to fill a commercial need, it can have an artistic one. Raw Fury was confident that Kathy Rain would build an audience and make a profit over a longer period of time. They knew the game was good, it just needed time on the market to prove itself. This is opposed to big publishers who buy reviews and push their games in front of everyone to make it look like it’s the only thing available.

I think if you’re getting tired of games, or getting complacent, you should try finding independent titles. Whether it’s through YouTube, itch,io, or any platform you find, find them. There are more big publishers out there trying to tell us what to like and what to buy than there are not. A lot of publishers don’t want us to choose what we like. They just want us to keep spending money on the same games and same properties until the end of time. Quality doesn’t matter so long as the cash is flowing in. In the the meantime, creative efforts by independent creators with a passion for games are going unnoticed. I think the best way to get more good games on the market is to play more good games while ignoring the bad. Sounds simple, but I don’t think that’s happening right now because a lot of gamers don’t know that they have a choice.