Indie Games: A place for overlooked gems?

August 26, 2009, Author: Neil Hughes

For those that are not aware there are now two game marketplaces on Xbox Live; Arcade and Indie Games (formerly Community Games). Indie Games are very often overlooked so I thought we should have a look what to expect.

Recent Microsoft changes mean that the most Indie game developers can charge for their games is 400 Microsoft Points, with 200, and 80 price points also available, although to qualify for the latter the games must be less than 50MB in size. Theses changes go into force on October 22nd.

Microsoft have advised that these changes are to bring prices of Indie games “more in-line with other products available on Xbox Live Marketplace”. The immediate thought that comes into my head is so I can pay 80 points for a game, but 400 for a bloody light sabre for my avatar? Although a few developers will see this as bad news, I am hopeful that Indie games will flourish this autumn, and it will be cool to pick up cult small game for a few quid and whatever they lack in top graphics will make up for in pure gameplay which is something a lot of the big titles these days are missing.

Gaming has looked a little in danger of becoming a little too corporate lately as the same big companies release the same big budget sequels year after year, just like Hollywood. Gaming wasn’t always this way though and was built on weird, crazy and wacky ideas from the minds of unique individuals like Jeff ‘Yak’ Minter and his classic titles such as Llamatron and Attack of the Mutant Camels. Already Indie games are offering quirky yet fun games inspired by those of yesteryear such as “Cyborg Mice Arena” and the fantastic “I Maed A Gam3 W1th Z0mb1es!!!1”, but there is still much work to be done.

Major Nelson recently posted the top 10 Indie Games for the week. These are based on full versions purchased.

Top Indie Games

  1. Who Did I Date Last Night
  2. Physics Sandbox
  3. Digital Art Gallery Callad
  4. My Fishtank
  5. RC-AirSim
  6. Drop Zone
  7. Fireworks HD
  8. Aquarium HD
  9. Kodu Game Lab
  10. DrumKit

The problem at the moment is the vast majority of the games are very poor, and to find anything decent to play, you need to prepare yourself for a long wade through a pile of crap. Many of which are similar to the kind of games you find on Facebook or an iPhone App, but certainly wouldn’t pay for. Keep the faith however, there are some simply stunningly creative games on the way that make the future quite exciting, such as the Briefcase Romanin Promo. For me the artwork is out of this world and everything I am looking for in a unique gaming experience.

Indie games are not only for cult underground hits though, some games in the pipeline will have mass appeal like Basketball Three, which will be the first basketball game that allows you to play with your Xbox live avatars.  The game has already been entered into this years Dream Build Play competition. Despite not having a release date yet, early indicators show the game to be a lot of fun if you like that kind of thing.

Just like the movie world, I hope that creative genius enables Indie Games to rise like phoenix from the flames, as very often it’s these games that stay with you for the rest of your life. All too often we see huge companies throw millions into gaming projects that may look great, yet actually have zero playability, and there is something very special about a small group of guys that can create something that is ten-times more enjoyable and playable and its multi million rivals. As a gamer there is also no better feeling than searching through a pile of average demos to discover a golden nugget of a game that you can’t wait to tell everyone about, this is something embedded in any gamers psyche that some people will never understand.

With the Indie Games Arcade returning to the Eurogamer Expo in October, they are armed with more than a dozen of the best and most interesting Indie Games and projects on show, so I’m really looking forward to reporting back to you all on that one and proving there is more to gaming than yet another big budget sequel with the same game engine to play this coming winter.

In the mean time the best advice I can offer is to download I Maed A Gam3 W1th Z0mb1es!!!1, I promise you that it is the best 80 MS points you are ever going to spend. If you don’t believe me, then I guess you will have to wait for my review.