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Defining Indie: is it the money or the freedom?

We're a small team of passionate creators, and devoted fans of the Kunio-kun franchise. Our love letter to Technos and the 80's beat'em up genre is entirely self-funded--but it is licensed. Is it the worst of both worlds, and, are we indie?

Daniel Crenna

May 15, 2013

3 Min Read

While our team is no stranger to software and game development, it is our first project as a team. We are virtual, we are distributed, and we are independently financed. Brought together by an overriding passion and ambition to see the dreams of our ten year old selves come to life, we put it all on the line, made a successful pitch, and achieved the first important step: a license to produce a true follow-up to the North American release of Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari, or, River City Ransom.

Our vision is to blend the old with the new (but not too new), the clunky and wonderful localization we had in the West, with the richer back story from the East, and hopefully delight more than ourselves in a kind of fusion of homage and individuality. We're not naive to the fact that River City Ransom was just one in a long line of a vibrant, and still very active, Kunio franchise. 

As gamers, we're more than aware of what suffers most when the purpose of a license is to capitalize on brand recognition at the expense of the game in itself. Especially when a game is tied to a major motion picture launch (Kunio-kun appears to be getting its own movie treatment, finally, but these efforts are certainly not linked). I'll never forget a friend's eponymous review for Superman Returns: The Video Game: "Superman returns the video game". Nevertheless, there are exceptions: green, amphibious, sewer-dwelling exceptions, to every rule.

We also know that indie developers tend to sacrifice financially in order to keep their visions pure, to retain control. In our case, we do have free roam, the ability to craft a game as we see it, but naturally, as a licensor, we do have obligations to stay true to the spirit and to the point of our predecessor. For us, this is an honor, not a hindrance, but it may exclude us from some inner circles of the independent scene. I don't think we could get away with calling the arrangement a liberating constraint.

Perhaps being self-financed and licensed is the worst of both worlds, giving up short-term comfort but not gaining the long-term joy of self-reliance that normally follows. For us, the need to see our game exist overrides any need to answer whether we might fit into a certain group. Indeed, a license does end up dipping into budget otherwise used for pure creation.

River City Ransom: Underground will, through our own efforts, and with any luck, the help of the crowd, launch next summer. Whether we achieve creating a spiritual successor that happens to have the correct name, balanced with the pressure to deliver on a timeless title with a particularly passionate fan base, is a question we're dying to answer. We'd like to make the rounds at the indie development staples when we do, and we hope you'll have us.

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