– by Brendan Reid, Editor –
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It’s no secret that games are getting more expensive these days. A new AAA title that used to cost $60-$70 dollars has now found itself in the $80-$90 range, and this pattern shows no sign of slowing down. Thankfully, there are many who have rejected this trend, and are working to deliver equally as enjoyable experiences on a much smaller scale (and for a much more affordable price). We are now entering the era of the indie game, and the future has never looked more creative. Here are five indie devs you should definitely keep on your radar.
What can be accomplished by two focused minds is an amazing thing. Amir Rao and Gavin Simon were working for EA on the Command And Conquer franchise, and decided they could do one better. They moved in together, hired a handful of freelance programmers, and crafted Bastion. Originally released on Xbox Live Arcade, Bastion found huge success due to its unique gameplay style and intriguing atmosphere, which was greatly facilitated by composer Darren Korb and the game’s moody narrator. After that Transistor was released, which built on Super Giant’s style, and left gamers wanting more. Now Super Giant is slated to release Pyre, which looks as though it will be yet another beautiful and unique experience to add to their already impressive catalogue.
The Chinese Room
The Chinese Room is a developer that refuses to follow popular gaming trends, and their originality has paid off. The team began as a group of modders based out of the University of Portsmouth, who were making mods in the Half-Life and Doom engines. Their first game, Dear Esther, started life as a Half-Life mod, but once its popularity began to take off, it was built from the ground in the Unity Engine and re-released in 2012. As a game, Dear Ester was unlike anything on the market. It featured no real objectives or puzzles, and by exploring a seemingly deserted island you were rewarded with a rich atmosphere and a tragic story about the inevitably of death. The Chinese Room’s following games solidified them as a developer that takes their art very seriously. Remarkably, the team at The Chinese Room only consists of 9 people, and they follow a strict set of values: “for us, it’s about the sense of being in the world that is unique to games. There’s nothing like that sense of discovery, immersion, wonder. We want to use this amazing medium to tell great stories and explore incredible new worlds.” (From The Chinese Room website).
Giant Squid is a Santa Monika based development studio that is an offshoot of thatgamecompany, consisting of only 15 people. Founded by the Journey and Flower art director Matt Neva, Giant Squid looks as though it will follow a similar philosophy as its predecessor. Their first game slated for release is Abzu, which shares a similar art style to Journey, looks meditative and abstract, and has a beautiful oceanic setting. Furthermore, Austin Wintory, the composer for Journey, is also on board, so audiences can be rest assured that Abzu’s music will hit the mark.
A resounding success story, San Francisco based Campo Santo blew everyone away with the wildly original and creative Firewatch. The studio was founded by only five people, including Jake Rodkin and Sean Vanaman, who were creative leads on Telltale Games Walking Dead series. Firewatch is a game like no other, and tells a powerful story through its impeccable voice acting and unique setting. The marvel of Firewatch is that it broke even on the first day of its release, and the game has gone on to sell over 500,000 copies. Such success is a practical guarantee that Campo Santo will release another game, and I for one am excited to see what they come up with.
There have been few games as beautifully twisted and puzzling as Limbo, Playdead’s first game and their magnum opus. Based out of Copenhagen, Denmark, Playdead was founded in 2006 by Arnt Jensen and Dino Patti, and in time of Limbo’s development only consisted of eight people. Since their first game’s massive success (over 1 million copies sold!), Playdead has expanded to 25 people, and is now hard at work on their second title, Inside. Inside looks to share a similar melancholic style as Limbo, but with a more fleshed out graphical engine and storyline, and will be released exclusively on Xbox One before being ported to other consoles. This is one you’ll definitely want to keep on your radar, for if the creative genius of Limbo is any indication, Inside is bound to be another incredible experience.
Brendan is an avid gamer and music enthusiast. He can often be found hiking through the woods, looking for reckless adventures to embark on.