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  1. If you believe Steven Spielberg then controllers are always getting in the way and Kinect is the only way to fully immerse yourself in a game. Now then, let's segue into reality for a moment and talk about when controls are too complex for their own good and ruin the enjoyment of games. To use a recent example of controls annoying me, I played Mass Effect 3 recently on the PC and it had multiple commands bound to the one button and gave me no way to change it. Look I understand there are only so much buttons on a controller, but the keyboard is covered in buttons, so you should be able to let me assign these commands as I please. Having sprint, take cover and roll all on the one button is just a pain in the ass. This has been a problem with PC games (mostly PC ports) for eons, just let me change these damn buttons so that when I want to take cover I don't end up rolling against a wall like a bloody idiot. All the buttons you could ever need, and then another 20 for good measure. Another problem I have ran into with a few games (again mostly on PC) is really poor control layouts. I want controlling a game to feel like second nature, to be able to focus on what's going on in the game and not have to keep looking at my controller/keyboard trying to figure out how to do something. A big offender of this was ARMA 2, as someone who has played his fair share of shooters; this game confused the hell out of me. I think I spent more time reformatting all the controls than actually playing the game, I swear it is like someone vomited out the control scheme and they just ran with it. If we wanted to boil this down to its most basic form then, controls get in the way when they aren't intuitive, it is pretty much that simple. When the controls don't make sense or they frustrate you then they are getting in the way and ruining your enjoyment of the game. So what about motion controls? Right, if we let all those moans die down so I can talk, then I will say that motion controls have a lot of problems with them, the main one being that they don't really work. Motion controls have failed to dominate this generation (apart from the Wii I guess) both the Move and Kinect have been left to die (but they might make a comeback next generation). So can motion controls become a better way to control a game? The main problem I see is in the whole motion part of motion controls, for starters gamers are really lazy and also moving around isn't easier than just pushing a button, so they would get in the way. I don't want to write motion controls off entirely, as they can work sometimes, but for the majority of gaming I feel that they would be less effective than a simple button based controller. Having to push 0 to aim? No wonder those ARMA devs were arrested So when do controllers get in the way? When you are really angry at a game and you want to throw something, then they end up lodged into a nearby wall. Seriously though, the majority of games have decent controls and I feel like for the most part it isn't an issue, but sometimes the control layout makes no sense or can't be changed to your preference (left-handed gamers for example) then it gets in the way and decreases your enjoyment of the game. That of course is the one thing a game should never do, because games are supposed to be all about enjoyment and when you get in the way of that, you have failed your job. Bloody game developers.
  2. Indie games have had a very long history. The first games, created without consumeristic intent, were made by only a few people with access to massive computers at a few colleges. As time went on, and games became something valuable, we saw more independent developers creating new content. As the PC made its way into homes, tiny teams did their best to sell their games free of publishers. Many of these titles were only known in the surrounding city of their creation. In the 90s, websites became a near necessity for anyone who felt they were tech savvy. Many individuals who were making games on their own or in small groups set up sites for them. During this time period, more became aware of “indie gamesé but certainly not the complete library of them being uploaded to the web. Many of these games have since been lost to time thanks to many free web hosts closing their doors. It is only now in the current era that we have seen indie games really rise in popularity. Minecraft, developed by Mojang, managed to hit it big and become popular with adults, children, and teens who may have never before played an indie game. Similarly, Journey managed to surprise many PSN users who had previously ignored Flow or Flower which were thatgamecompany“s first two titles. Unlike Minecraft however, their title is one which would probably never hook the bro gamer demographic. With indie games now seeing wide popularity thanks to digital distribution, we may be entering a whole new era. This next generation could be one where indie games are backed by publisher press and attention. Although not all games have attained critical success, gamers certainly now are beginning to feel okay with indie titles as a whole. Polished and entertaining indie games have proven that you don“t need to have seasoned developers or bags of money to make something worth playing. The way I see it, indie gaming could follow two distinct paths at this point. They may mostly enjoy flourishing as they did thanks to Steam, XBLA, and PSN, but otherwise not attempt to push for more interest. Or, there may be more teams like thatgamecompany who feel they are good enough to break free of the publishers who had helped them attain popularity as a means to further their own success. I use thatgamecompany as an example as they are the model which others may follow. This team had lived under Sony“s domain as they could not possibly fund and subsist off their games themselves. The team is certainly full of bright, creative individuals, but would have went bankrupt creating Journey if Sony hadn“t been there for them as part of a three game exclusive deal. Of course, we now see that the game has been a massive success. Because of it, they were able to move out from under Sony“s wing and have since made their development studio one which they shall self publish from. Hubris, whether warranted or not, is something multiple indie developers may struggle with after making a popular game. Although some have only ever self published, the success of doing well may keep teams pursuing the 100% “indieé label; one where the developer has no publisher. So far, it seems thatgamecompany plans to stay solo because they now have the funding to do so. However, in creating the games they truly want to make, they may eventually find that the money is not there. Thanks to the now inbuilt fan audience (mostly created with Journey) their fans will probably follow the next game. But what happens if it is not the experience fans expect? They may once again retreat to other games they feel are safer bets rather than the overly ambitious indie team. At that point, it seems we may see multiple indie teams who have seen success take hits due to lack of market attention. The indie marketplace is already heavily saturated with titles and more are added every week thanks to Steam Greenlight and similar initiatives. It takes a lot to get a gamer“s attention these days, and word of mouth is the most useful form for them. Triple A games never have to worry about this since their publishers designate millions of dollars to be spent on advertising; something which no indie team will ever have much of. And word of mouth, no matter how great, seems to lately revolve around the echo chamber that is Twitter. Games that are popular within your clique on Twitter will for the most part remain within that circle. Therefore, I predict one future of independent games is where the currently successful developers stay solo and attempt to create even vaster, more expensive experiences. However, they may see their fanbase falter and make far less than intended, which then forces them into restrictive relationships with publishers (if not destroy entire companies outright). This is hardly what they desire, and as it squelches out full artistic freedom, is not what gamers will want either. The other path is a much less dramatic one where indie games continue a steady increase in popularity, but do not try to do too much too quickly. Indie games will maintain a hold over Steam, XBLA, and PSN and net new followers. Although it may not be the most profitable method, it is also one with less chance for completely destroying the company. There are still many out there who have yet to experience many or any indie games, and at some point they will if they keep being shown shown such titles on digital storefronts. No matter what happens, there will always be indie games. They basically were gaming“s inception and have persisted alongside each generation. Even if once highly popular indie teams “sell outé or go bankrupt, there will be more to take their place. As long as indie games are being created, new developers were be inspired. From there, the cycle of inspiration and creation of independent titles will be able to live on through future generations.
  3. I“d like to start this piece off by asking a simple question; what exactly defines the term “indie gameâ€? We hear about it all the time these days, about the successes of small teams making equally small games and their gain in popularity, but what exactly are they? I suppose you could start by defining what “indie†means, because it“s not exclusively tied to the gaming world. We have indie artists, indie movies…the list goes on and on. The word “indie†of course is short for independent, and in the case of creators be it movie directors or game developers, being independent means you have creative freedom, no studio or publisher keeping you on a leash, making sure you “make that guy more evil looking†or “add some more koopas over thereâ€. Thus, indie games often tend to buck the mainstream trends associated with bigger productions. The gaming landscape is dominated by several game publishing giants, all of whom spend a great deal of money making sure they put out the next AAA title. Their goal is after all, to make money, and lots of it. But you really can“t fault them for that, can you? Sure Activision COULD start funding Joe Indie“s new project Super Blasterman, but why would they if they could churn out another Call of Duty and raking in a few more billion dollars? That“s where indie games step in. We“ve always had them, but they“ve really fallen into the spotlight in recent years due largely, if not entirely, to the marvels of digital distribution. 10 years ago it would“ve been impossible for a game with no or limited physical release, and no marketing or advertising, to reach even a few hundred people. But because of digital distribution making the selling and transferring of a game so easy and cheap it is now possible for a single creator to reach thousands if not millions of potential customers. Minecraft is possibly the best example of this, created by one man with a vision to make a game he wanted to play and made available for anyone to purchase, has sold well over a million copies worldwide, and its still being worked on! So what sets indie games apart then? Markus Persson (the creator of Minecraft) himself has stated that he not sure that there“s anything that indie developers can do that the big studios can“t. He refers to Portal as essentially being an indie game in all but name, a unique game that took a risk at being different. The difference being Valve chose to make the game on a small budget, whereas indie developers oftentimes don“t have a choice. However, there is still the fact that Valve is a major (albeit private) company and still lacks the ultimate creative freedom that small team of indie developers has. Another highly successful indie game studio, Thatgamecompany is one of the major players in the rise of the indie game craze of the past few years. They started with flOw a mildly successful title that garnered little attention, then moved on to Flower which was held up as “gaming artâ€, until finally releasing their Magnum Opus; Journey. But Thatgamecompany is but a drip in the giant pool of indie developers that have arisen these last few years. I already mentioned that the ease of digital distribution helped make the indie game craze possible, but there are numerous other reasons as well. While AAA game development costs continue to soar, making simpler games are a much cheaper task. The affordability and access to better hardware and software has allowed even those of lesser means to bring their visions to life. Even funding no longer poses as much of a problem as it once did, thanks to a rise in sites such as Kickstarter which rely on crowdsourcing to fund an otherwise un-fundable idea. Not only that, but smartphone use has seen a spike in usage in roughly the same amount of time as the rise in indie game popularity. Sure, indie games remain a largely PC staple but they are, and have been, branching out to mobile phones as well as other platforms, which also help increase their audiences. Rovio for example, made a simple little game called Angry Birds with a tiny team and tiny budget. That game is now more popular and widely played than most real videogames. Even now, with the dawn of a new generation on the horizon, indie games are looking to stay, and I believe they won“t be going anywhere anytime soon. The decrease in the amount of smaller game titles released each year in favor of a few major hits is being compensated by indie games, and if things continue to go the way they are now we may very well see the line between these smaller game releases and indie games blur and eventually, disappear.