Independent and mainstream games
This is a subject that has been on my mind for some time now, and no matter what arguments I consider, I can’t decide which is more important, the mainstream industry or the independent one. It feels like choosing what you like from a skyscraper and a small exquisite house.
Mainstream companies tend to be careful with what games they produce these days and the finished product should look and feel as a polished product. As a result people who play these games tend to be more critical because they have just paid some serious money for a game, and they expect good quality. This is not always the case, companies tend to rush deadlines, games are left buggy and unfinished and the only person who has to “suffer” is the buyer. These games have huge budgets and teams of designers, artists and programmers this is why it feels sometimes you are playing a game that was artificially created. It doesn’t have that personal touch that makes a game unique (amazing graphics isn’t a feature). Every person in the team is more like a cog in a huge mechanism; as someone told me once it feels like it was created by a committee more then individuals. Of course, this is not true for all mainstream productions; there will always be the exceptions to the rule like Portal and Prince of Persia: Sand of Time.
On the other hand, independent games are most of the time created by a few people that know each other pretty well, so communicating what the designer or programmer wants is easier. Indie games are made on a small budget and out of the creator’s passion so expectations aren’t so high and there is no reason to rush production. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t any terrible games in the indie industry; it just means that the good games that are coming out are really innovative due to the liberty that the game developers enjoy. I know I talked about World of Goo in a previous post but I cannot give it as a real example of why independent games are just amazing. I stumbled upon World of Goo by pure accident and when I first installed the game I didn’t have high expectations, I just wanted to try something new. While I was playing I began to get more and more immersed in the atmosphere of the game and for a brief period I felt like a kid again. I was playing Mario and Contra on my Nintendo or Hide and Seek on the Atari with my brother.
So which one is the future of games, the independent or mainstream industry? I really can’t say. Mainstream games tend mostly to create new graphics engines, few new designs and gameplay elements and don’t “fall out” of the norm too often. Indie games on the other hand, tend to be more innovative and liberal with their gameplay and take risks that the big companies won’t allow. I think each industry brings their own special elements to games and in a way they complement each other. In the end it mostly depends on the player’s experience and in what mindset he/she starts playing, that determines if a game is good, not the industry in which it was created.