A year, is an eon in gaming industry time, particularly in times like these where the tools and intent have matched up with Moore’s law to provide an embarrassment of riches to indie gaming fans. Of course, there are countless titles that are DOA, just as there are countless titles meriting as much of the spotlight as all the elements that made them as good as they are.
At IGR, we polled the writers, the gamers, the communities, we argued and opined about how to create a list of ten titles from the mass of possibilities. We wondered and were often challenged by the idea that perhaps we should nominate and select games for each genre, but ultimately the answer is – no, we set up the challenge to identify the top ten games and so had weigh in heavily on impact, innovation, creativity, technical excellence, reception, adoption, implementation and so on.
In that context, we have selected ten games to represent all genres, known and emergent, that ultimately left the greatest mark, that either moved their genres forward or best represented them in their respective categories. These games will never form the definitive list, but we trust you will afford us the bandwidth that believes, we tried our best to help you remember what a truly amazing year it was for independent game development around the world.
Finally, some may challenge the definition of an indie game an whether some of the titles on our list qualify for this special category. We define an indie game as any title that is not created by an established studio with an annual budget that has a yearly development slate. In other words, small teams that generally form around the creation of a specific title and then reassemble to build subsequent titles.
Because indies are becoming bigger business and the audience is becoming bigger in step with such growth, budgets are also growing. Therefore we set the total budget cap at any title under two and a half million. That may sound like a lot, but if you compare it to the film industry where indies are made for as much as fifteen million, then it shouldn’t seem so inordinate.
Finally, an important distinction is that an indie title that is published by a studio (like Bastion being published by Warner Bros.) still qualifies so long as that publisher did not have a say in the game’s development. Again, in the film world, this is called a “negative pickup” – when an independent production company creates a film on their own, and a distributor or studio later picks up the negative film master in a marketing and release deal.
For this reason, we did not include From Dust which was designed by Eric Chahi and developed by Ubisoft Montpellier (which is sad because they made a great game and Ubisoft muddled its release with stupid DRM issues). [From Dust – Wikipedia reference]).
Looking at the SuperGiant site (the devs behind Bastion) – we can see from their description:
“Supergiant Games is a small developer with big ambitions: to make games that spark your imagination like the games you played as a kid.
We’re supergiant in name only. We’re seven people whose headquarters is the living room of a house in sleepy San Jose. But we make for a superstar team. We walked away from our jobs building major franchises for huge publishers to make original downloadable titles for people who love games and their loved ones.”
The Witcher 2, while by all appearances, a AAA title, is technically an indie title from Polish developer CD Projekt RED. We did not include it because, like Minecraft, we wanted focus on slightly smaller or lesser established developers. (Again, designing a top ten amidst such an embarrassment of riches is near to impossible).
Many thanks to the writers, developers and gamers who took the time not only to chime in, but to support the independent game community.
We look forward to your thoughts.
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