Rise of the Indies - Does Quantity Beget Quality?

Rise of the Indies - Does Quantity Beget Quality?

I've focused on indie games at PAX for a couple of years now, but there was something special about the show this year.

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I think quantity does beget quality, but not because of collaboration or anything but just shear number. Lets say 5% of all indie game are quality one, well if you have 10 000 more indie game you'll have 500 more quality title. I'd say democratization of the tool is bringing far more people in, but its probably also lowering the percentage of quality game, so we'll get more quality but we'll have to shovel even more crap to get to them. Just look at all the JRPG made with RPG maker that dot the steam landscape.

Collaboration is also pretty strange, at what point does multiple small studio banding together under the same umbrella stop being indie?

Honestly I'm not as enamored with the indie industry as most seem to be. There's lot of great game coming out of it, but here again I think its mostly due to raw number. Also that there copying different stuff, in the AAA world everyone copy the successful AAA game, so its very stale. In indie they just copy the successful indie stuff and occasionally the retro stuff. This mean that until not so long ago we were getting lots of new stuff because there wasn't much indie game to copy so people innovated (and the retro game were fresh since we didn't get any like those in years). But now the indie market seems just as stagnant as the AAA, we see troves and troves of minecraft clone, of gone home wanabe and retro platformer. I've been looking at every new release on steam everyday for the pass 5 years, and I'm not really seeing any increase in quantity over quality, there's just more stuff.

Well, as long as bad quality Indie games keep being a bad investment, I would say yes. Otherwise, bad apples will end up souring the barrel.

Meiam:
I think quantity does beget quality, but not because of collaboration or anything but just shear number. Lets say 5% of all indie game are quality one, well if you have 10 000 more indie game you'll have 500 more quality title. I'd say democratization of the tool is bringing far more people in, but its probably also lowering the percentage of quality game, so we'll get more quality but we'll have to shovel even more crap to get to them. Just look at all the JRPG made with RPG maker that dot the steam landscape.

Collaboration is also pretty strange, at what point does multiple small studio banding together under the same umbrella stop being indie?

Honestly I'm not as enamored with the indie industry as most seem to be. There's lot of great game coming out of it, but here again I think its mostly due to raw number. Also that there copying different stuff, in the AAA world everyone copy the successful AAA game, so its very stale. In indie they just copy the successful indie stuff and occasionally the retro stuff. This mean that until not so long ago we were getting lots of new stuff because there wasn't much indie game to copy so people innovated (and the retro game were fresh since we didn't get any like those in years). But now the indie market seems just as stagnant as the AAA, we see troves and troves of minecraft clone, of gone home wanabe and retro platformer. I've been looking at every new release on steam everyday for the pass 5 years, and I'm not really seeing any increase in quantity over quality, there's just more stuff.

Fair points all. There's certainly something to be said about the statistics approach. We've certainly got more devs which translate to more games, which, assuming a similar percentage of quality games, does bring a larger number of quality titles to market. It's definitely a factor here, but I'm not sure at this point whether it's the dominant force.

I think at the outset, and new set of tools will bring out a slew of low-end creators trying their hands at the craft. It's an odd comparison, but I think it's akin to the Magic: the Gathering metagame when a new set comes out. It offers new tools, which people are still learning the nuances of, so frequently the simplest decks will win the first few tournaments, until the more innovative deck builders have had a chance to really learn the new tools, and create the next big thing. I think as more advanced dev studios start pushing the envelope on quality, they'll force out the filler. It's anecdotal and speculative, but I think it's a theory worth considering.

As to the stagnation, there's some truth to that, but I've definitely noticed a lot of new ideas in the past few months, as well as well-executed adaptations of some of the tired genres/clones you mentioned. I finally got Circa Infinity written up today, which is, as far as I've seen, an entirely novel approach to platforming. It should be live shortly, if you want to check it out. Earlier this year was Hand of Fate, which pulled well-used elements from a variety of games and genres, but assembled them in a unique way. Leap of Fate is set up oddly similarly to Hand of Fate, though the dev at the show stated they were already in development when the Hand of Fate Kickstarter went up, so, despite the hyper-similar game design, they were ostensibly designed in separate parallel. (http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/video-games/conferences/pax-prime-2015/14495-Leap-of-Fate-Preview-PAX-Prime-2015-Indie-Rogue-Lite )

I covered Conflicks recently, which is a small-scale RTS with Angry Birds-style navigation, which are again both known concepts, but combined in a unique formula. Also, their dedication to the space chicken gimmick was beautiful.

I'm absolutely not suggesting that there isn't a glut of minecraft clones, retro platformers, etc. and I'm as tired as everybody else in the world of hearing "roguelike" or "procedural" as a game's biggest selling point. I've just seen some unique genre blending, interesting applications of well-known mechanics, as well as wholly new mechanics that strike me as important to furthering the industry's innovation.

The question of when an indie collective stops being "indie," I don't have an answer to that. It's like the "when does stubble become a beard" question, which doesn't really have a good answer. I think the definition of "indie" will continue to evolve over time, but whether it becomes more inclusive or less remains to be seen. "Triple-I" has already been coined to describe the more successful and better funded indie studios, which might be where we start seeing a distinction, or we may well just end up seeing a move towards a category in between AAA and Indie. All that said, does being able to ask a colleague from another studio for code suggestions or whatever actually change the status of the studio? It's not really any different than me asking another writer to help with wording a sentence. It's an interesting philosophical question, for sure. I don't have a good answer. Yet.

Looking at all the indie shovel-ware drowning the Steam store's frontpage, the kind of games that gives Jim Sterling enough to work with 24/7 making squirty play videos on - I get that more people want to get into making games...

I get that anyone can make games these days

...but for each quality indie game that comes out, we get a hundred RPGmaker/Twine/Unity asset repackaged zero-effort indie-game.

Newgrounds.com has its Portal, where people can up or downvote new content. On Steam Greenlight you can only upvote something. The ability to downvote things allows for quality control...

Right now a crappy indie-game can sit on green-light forever, waiting to get in. On Newgrounds your flash animation gets 'blammed' if it gets downvoted enough.

It won't prevent social-media savvy indie-devs from marshalling their online followers to get voted in - but it'll allow for some basic quality control, and encourage indie-devs to put some basic effort into their games before trying to cash in on them.

To answer the question. Yes. Of any form of creative media only a minority will actually be good. or quality. Quality being defined by any given person's subjective tastes. Call it 9%. That said. if a person will only find 9% of the material produced in an medium to be quality... then it becomes a numbers game. The more material there is, the greater the chance of something they like being produced. Ergo Quantity does equal quality Since you'd be very hard pressed to find a game that at least 1 person didn't honestly like.

I believe in the rise of the indies, but I don't believe quantity begets quality at all. I reckon it has more to do with the culture and expectations to really hit the high notes.

It's true the more games there is the more chance more good will come out of it, but looking over the decades of entertainment, there must of been something in the water to bring about so much creative talent before because I still see nothing now that compares to the highlights of the good old days (which I missed out on).

The more that the barrier to entry is lowered and the more visibility that the bad ones can get (looking at Steam on both fronts...) the more bad games are produced, and the higher the percentage.

It actually kind of sucks that games that wouldn't even make it onto Desura back in the day are now all over Steam.

 

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