Indie versus AAA

February 9th, 2011 -

This is a battle that is talked about quite often, but by no means am I here to say one is better than the other. There are good and bad games on both sides of the spectrum: big/low budget, years/days in production, big/small development teams, etc. I’m going to do a quick run through of some of the more successful of both ends, try to find out why they work so well, and… well… you’ll see.

My selected games aren’t to be seen as biased – I’m simply picking successful (and perhaps failures to contrast them to) games from the video game universe to create some food for thought.

Well, who didn’t see this coming? While definitely not the best in the series, it obviously has quite the following. Say what you will about the game, but the storyline and characters have by no doubt proceeded their original intent. How so? You’ve no doubt heard of the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII (Advent Children, Crisis Core, etc). If not, then I’d like to know what rock you live under – I might need to stop by some time to lay low… In addition to this, characters from the title have shown up in various other games such as the Kingdom Hearts series as well as the fighting game Ehrgeiz.

So, who cares about all that? Well, I’d say a developer would be beyond stoked to hear they were doing something right. And it’s not like the fanboys were going to negate any cameos in other games. So what did FFVII do to make it so great? Well… aside from a leap in graphics, not a whole lot. Final Fantasy as a whole has been more or less using the same formula for years, though occasionally the setting changes (IX was probably the last one that was really different in this sense).

“But Jason, video games are a business – if ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” Yeah, sure… why not? Who needs innovation? In fact, why do we even have different companies? Let’s just combine them all and create a monopoly in the industry, and buy one game each year that is exactly the same. Wait… Oh. Right…

Soooo, let’s have a look at the other side. You know, those great gems that most people will never see because they are too snooty to play games that don’t have development costs of millions of dollars. I hear there are so many games that are better than what you can get at the store for sixty dollars as new games run nowadays. Let’s see what we have… OH MY GAHHHHHHH, get it away from me!!! Oh… Coastal Defense. Well, moving on…

Ah, here we go. Super Meat Boy, the poster child of this past year’s indie games. We interviewed them, you know. In any case, this is about as indie as it gets – 2 guys making a game (3 if you count Danny B doing the music, and more if you count their family being a part of it…) by themselves. One programming it, the other animating it. This was their baby, and they made it show with the amount of care that went into this. Of course, you can’t just make an amazing game on your first try, and they are quick to note this in the interview.

The beauty of an indie game is that your ideas are only limited by your ability to express them (unless you are trying to sell it to the general public… then there are a few guidelines you’ll want to follow *ahem*Privates*cough*). There’s no watering down of the ideas through people, there’s no addition of another person’s element – it’s purely what you want and create. So what is good about the indie games then?

Well, you’ve had the perfect idea for a game, haven’t you? Make it. No one is stopping you (don’t mind the guy holding you back, he’s just there to counter my argument).

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