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  1. Browsing the indie games in my Humble Bundle collection; I scroll through 33 games I have the best intentions of playing. Because I should. Because I know they are fantastic games. Because they sit in my queue looking at me sadly. My Steam library holds even more from seasonal sales and my penchant to collect digital wares. Why have I purchased so many indie titles? Aside from their generally affordable price, it’s because I should like indies, right? Why do we play indie games? Perhaps a better question is why are indie games made? I asked Dejobaan Games, Galactic Cafe, Gone North Games, Fire Hose Games, Image & Form, and Housemarque about independent game development. It’s an Indie Thing - What does it mean to be "indie" “It's an intensely personal thing. Maybe that is the heart of indie, the ability to move forward on things that are intensely personal,” shares Fire Hose Games’ Sean Baptiste. That intimacy is really a touchstone for many independent developers. Indie games have a rich recent history of being both provocative and evocative experiences. Indie games like Papers, Please and The Stanley Parable are rousing narratives that tend to get to the point and stay there. Whether with their message or function, most indie games have an opinion, usually rooted in their aforementioned passion. Brjann Sigurgeirsson with Image & Form shares similar thoughts, stating, “It doesn't have to do with how the company is set up. It’s more of a philosophy. We really want to be our own man, so to speak. We develop and publish our games ourselves. We don’t try to second guess what the market will want. But rather we want to make games that the market will embrace because of our games’ own merit.” Image & Form has managed to find a market to embrace Steamworld Dig as the title enters development on its fifth platform, the Wii U. “Nobody will love our games as much as we do. Or put as much love into both the development and publishing of it. That’s the strength that we have,” Sigurgeirsson adds. This flexibility to express opinion is of course influenced by relative autonomy from a publisher. Housemarque’s Tommaso De Benetti comments, "We are fortunate to have a management team that cares about money only up to a certain point. There is still passion in what we do. Being able to keep a degree of independence is important." Housemarque has a lineage of being independent. “Sometimes I see people say that Sony should just buy Housemarque, but we don’t want that. We have a great relationship with Sony, though someday there may be something we want to do that they are not interested in doing,” states Housemarque’s De Benetti. They intend to remain independent. The nature of being independent can shift depending on developer. Take the students who formed Gone North Games for example. Nominated for a Swedish Game Award several years ago with their prototype for A Story About My Uncle, the team began to develop a full game. Their inspiration came in the form of a directive from a class assignment. Gone North reached out to independent game developer Coffee Stain Studios, who also were nominated for a Swedish Game Award for Sanctum. The relationship forged allowed for the two independent studios to support one another. The connection between the two was markedly similar. “I think they saw something of themselves in us,” states Gone North Games’ Sebastian Eriksson. Coffee Stain agreed to publish A Story About My Uncle, which was recently released on Steam. Whether or not Gone North will continue to work with Coffee Stain Studios or self-publish is unclear, but perhaps a precedent has been set. It wouldn’t be too surprising to see Gone North pay it forward to the next up-and-coming Nordic indie developer. It has been discussed at length; the indie market has changed and continues change. The previously established champions of independent games are on their second and third passes, putting their independent status into question. “Jonathan Blow’s The Witness which looks horribly, annoyingly amazing, but is that an indie game? I don’t think it is,” says William Pugh with Galactic Cafe, creators of The Stanley Parable. “He’s already got a huge pot of money, he’s already got loads of people who played Braid. That’s not the same as the guy who made Ensign-1 on Steam Greenlight." But it seems that it is a fine balance between making games based on an artistic decision and making games that appeal to people. “At the end of the day you have to remember this is a business. We need to make games that can sell. If we don't, we have to fire people,” says Housemarque’s De Benetti. Whether your game is ready or not, you have to face the competition. Indie games are flowing to market at a relatively unchecked pace. Indies, Indies all Around - Visibility and discoverability of indie games Let’s say for a moment that indie games are a lot like baubles in a sea. Floating or bobbing up and down, making landfall and ending up a treasure on the shore. Maybe though, the sea is rife with baubles, and the shores are littered with pixel bits with little end to the tide. Once your shore is strewn with these shinies, how do you know what to take and what to leave behind? Steam Greenlight and Kickstarter have been gateways for a veritable deluge of games, though getting press and the Greenlight community interested in any given game can prove difficult. Merely being available is just a step in a process. Sebastian Eriksson from Gone North notes, “Before, getting onto Steam was like getting a golden ticket. But now there are ten or so games being released every day; it's still a struggle even though you get on Steam.” Ichiro Lambe, Founder/President of Dejobaan Games states, “It’'s all about discoverability. There needs to be a way for all the games coming out, or at least the good ones, to find their audience. I don't think that's happening yet, but it'll happen soon.” The developer’s title Drunken Robot Pornography may have found its place on Steam, with hundreds of player-created items in the Workshop. Elegy for a Dead World (currently in development), on the other hand, is an experimental writing game and may prove more difficult to find a niche. Lambe continues, “[the] indies' newfound ability to get onto platforms like iOS and Steam with relatively little pain has meant an influx of games. That's tough for established developers, as there are plenty of quality titles coming out.” With so much available in the indie game market, it can be difficult to maintain visibility. That sentiment is not uncommon among indie developers, especially those who develop primarily for PC. “The problem is that it is so wide open. Discoverability is a huge issue. It’s as wide open as music, anybody can do it, and everybody is,” says Sean Baptiste of Fire Hose Games. Fire Hose recently connected with Chris Chung, developer of Catlateral Damage. Chung's project screamed through the Steam Greenlight process. “[Catlateral Damage] was something extraordinary,” Baptiste states, “he made it through in seven days. Octodad took eight months. [Chris Chung's game] is a bit of an outlier.” Getting Paid - Making the decision of how to fund and when to crowdsource your project Connecting that game floating alongside so many others to an audience presents a challenge for developers without bulging marketing budgets. “Our marketing plan is basically screaming to avoid obscurity,” Baptiste laughs. The indie developer’s existence is not unlike that of other self-supported art mediums. The money to develop games has to come from somewhere. Independent developers may be hesitant to work with a publisher. They may surrender creative and philosophical tenets in order to have their game sent to market. That relationship between developer and publisher is an effective dynamic. “Whenever we have worked with publishers in the past you suspect they are not doing everything in their power to put out your game. There is no way of verifying that suspicion,” Sigurgeirsson with Image & Form states, “I think when you have a developer-publisher relationship there is always the risk that the developer wants to do as little as possible for as much money as possible and the publishers wants as much done as possible for as little as money as possible. In the middle is this poor, little game suffering. I think we can avoid that because we don't have a conflict of interest right from the start. Since we are doing it all ourselves, we only have the game’s best interests in mind.” While most independent games are funded privately or through copacetic publishers, some developers have seen success in crowdfunding. Whether it’s an effort to balance visibility and development support, crowdfunding can be an effective leveraging tool. “Being made aware of [a developer on Kickstarter], that’s a little stepping stone for people to be made aware of their game,” states Galactic Cafe's William Pugh. Kickstarter is used as a publicity platform as often as it is a generator for funding development. Many developers are carefully examining crowdfunding to round out development and bolster marketing. Visibility through crowdfunding combined with aiding development costs is becoming a consideration for indie developers. Though using the crowdfunding monster is not without its own set of challenges. While Kickstarter has proven successful for some indie developers, how it is perceived is varied. “I find it hard to justify the use of Kickstarter. The problem is if you see it as a pre-order. It’s weird kind of contract between the people backing and person who will be delivering. I’m wary about people asking for huge amounts of money they don’t really know how to deal with,” says William Pugh with Galactic Cafe. Being prepared is, of course, paramount. The consumer desires a degree of confidence that their contribution will garner a product. “We are looking into Kickstarting, not because we want it to fund everything, but rather to be able to insure that we get a few extra features into the game or more polish into the game,” states Image & Form’s Sigurgeirsson. Though he was sure to point out that, “it is also dangerous. If you don't get funded, it means your game is not good enough, not attractive enough.” The pitfalls of being unsuccessful are as severe as the laurels of winning are encouraging. “Any indie who is considering Kickstarter needs to take a really hard look at their project and be brutal about it before they even attempt it,” says Sean Baptiste from Firehose Games. Kickstarter also can be used to justify further funding, to prove that there is actual interest in the title being developed. Catlateral Damage has successfully completed its Kickstarter campaign, effectively reaching its niche. Finding Your Audience - Maintaining and growing your fanbase The nature of the indie tends to lend itself to smaller audiences. While this may mean smaller revenues for these titles, it also means audience with which you could actually have a relationship. Tommaso De Benetti advocates for this type of connection with gamers. “What we have been trying to do is build a friendly community. They are supportive. Sometimes people complain and they may be right. You try to have a dialogue. We are, if possible, making friends. It doesn't necessarily relate to direct sales. If you create friendliness around your game you get people playing who are willing to recommend your game. There is no reason not to do it,” De Benetti says. “Of course it helps that the games we make are good,” he continues, “it’s worth having the dialogue.” Being dedicated to your audience in earnest is important. While most companies do not have the marketing muscle, they do have the agility to interact with the individual. The individual can often have direct discussion with developers and their staff, something unlikely to happen with larger studios. ‘We work very hard to be to be likeable in social media and get the community to root for us. Now we know our communities and how to reach them. Wherever we can viewed in a positive way, it is vital, crucial for us,” Sigurgeirsson said, “We try to promote ourselves as human beings. I am talking to you, not just the company.” And this is where many indie developers shine, whether we appreciate their genuine self or not. “We wanted it to be organic,” states Sebastian Eriksson with Gone North Games, “ But its really hard. There really isn't a good channel where you can speak to the community. I've been a lurker [on neoGAF]. I was so happy when I saw thread for A Story About My Uncle.” He then laughs, “but unfortunately it died out after like ten replies or something.” Eriksson continues, “We believe in going grassroots and reaching out to smaller outlets. We will talk to someone who has just ten followers because they can be just as important.” That kind of contact can make difference as how a community grows around a game. Rallying a community around your game is nothing new. If an effective community manager or team can build a foundation for an indie developer (often managed by the indie developer themselves), this can have a significant return on investment. Your smaller fanbase can often connect to a developer on a more personal level. Social media is the most prominent place for these relationships to be formed. Follow any one of the interviewed developers and you begin to get a sense of who they are and what they want you to think about them. “We have to be super dedicated if we are not a real publisher. Meaning if we don’t have specific budgets for ads or events then everything we work through is social media,” says Sigurgeirsson. One of the more engaging means to connect with you audience new or old is, of course, Twitch.tv. If you are an indie developer (or any developer) and you are not using Twitch, you may be missing out on an incredible opportunity for audience engagement. “Twitch has identified our audience. It’s such a powerful tool to communicate directly with the people who play your games,” Baptiste states. I would be remiss if I forgot the Let’s Play community. Hundreds of thousands of YouTube views across hundreds of games creates devoted and vocal communities around games every day. Many indies encourage Let’s Plays to promote and create positive reception around their title. A Story About My Uncle utilized this avenue of support. “Let's Plays have been great for us,” Eriksson states, “lots of YouTubers have been supporting us. We decided to not put any restrictions on what people can show in the videos. The game mechanics are so unique that you can't really watch it and get the same satisfaction watching someone else do it and not want to play the game.” The Glittering Shore - The consumer reaps the efforts So, I navigate the shore of indie video games and feel overwhelmed by the treasures that beckon. I start slow, but I start. I try them on for size. Some have wooed me, most only summon a smirk, but several have floored me with their simple honesty. I have allowed a new breed of storytellers to share their tale or wrap me deep into their puzzles. The love in their games is evident and I feel personally invested because of it. Invested because they may struggle to remain relevant on a coastline brimming with other hopeful indie games. Invested because they will take the time to answer your question and strike up a real dialogue. These reasons move me to play the vast catalog I am curating. I can only hope to try enough of them in order to make room for the next tide. View full article
  2. Browsing the indie games in my Humble Bundle collection; I scroll through 33 games I have the best intentions of playing. Because I should. Because I know they are fantastic games. Because they sit in my queue looking at me sadly. My Steam library holds even more from seasonal sales and my penchant to collect digital wares. Why have I purchased so many indie titles? Aside from their generally affordable price, it’s because I should like indies, right? Why do we play indie games? Perhaps a better question is why are indie games made? I asked Dejobaan Games, Galactic Cafe, Gone North Games, Fire Hose Games, Image & Form, and Housemarque about independent game development. It’s an Indie Thing - What does it mean to be "indie" “It's an intensely personal thing. Maybe that is the heart of indie, the ability to move forward on things that are intensely personal,” shares Fire Hose Games’ Sean Baptiste. That intimacy is really a touchstone for many independent developers. Indie games have a rich recent history of being both provocative and evocative experiences. Indie games like Papers, Please and The Stanley Parable are rousing narratives that tend to get to the point and stay there. Whether with their message or function, most indie games have an opinion, usually rooted in their aforementioned passion. Brjann Sigurgeirsson with Image & Form shares similar thoughts, stating, “It doesn't have to do with how the company is set up. It’s more of a philosophy. We really want to be our own man, so to speak. We develop and publish our games ourselves. We don’t try to second guess what the market will want. But rather we want to make games that the market will embrace because of our games’ own merit.” Image & Form has managed to find a market to embrace Steamworld Dig as the title enters development on its fifth platform, the Wii U. “Nobody will love our games as much as we do. Or put as much love into both the development and publishing of it. That’s the strength that we have,” Sigurgeirsson adds. This flexibility to express opinion is of course influenced by relative autonomy from a publisher. Housemarque’s Tommaso De Benetti comments, "We are fortunate to have a management team that cares about money only up to a certain point. There is still passion in what we do. Being able to keep a degree of independence is important." Housemarque has a lineage of being independent. “Sometimes I see people say that Sony should just buy Housemarque, but we don’t want that. We have a great relationship with Sony, though someday there may be something we want to do that they are not interested in doing,” states Housemarque’s De Benetti. They intend to remain independent. The nature of being independent can shift depending on developer. Take the students who formed Gone North Games for example. Nominated for a Swedish Game Award several years ago with their prototype for A Story About My Uncle, the team began to develop a full game. Their inspiration came in the form of a directive from a class assignment. Gone North reached out to independent game developer Coffee Stain Studios, who also were nominated for a Swedish Game Award for Sanctum. The relationship forged allowed for the two independent studios to support one another. The connection between the two was markedly similar. “I think they saw something of themselves in us,” states Gone North Games’ Sebastian Eriksson. Coffee Stain agreed to publish A Story About My Uncle, which was recently released on Steam. Whether or not Gone North will continue to work with Coffee Stain Studios or self-publish is unclear, but perhaps a precedent has been set. It wouldn’t be too surprising to see Gone North pay it forward to the next up-and-coming Nordic indie developer. It has been discussed at length; the indie market has changed and continues change. The previously established champions of independent games are on their second and third passes, putting their independent status into question. “Jonathan Blow’s The Witness which looks horribly, annoyingly amazing, but is that an indie game? I don’t think it is,” says William Pugh with Galactic Cafe, creators of The Stanley Parable. “He’s already got a huge pot of money, he’s already got loads of people who played Braid. That’s not the same as the guy who made Ensign-1 on Steam Greenlight." But it seems that it is a fine balance between making games based on an artistic decision and making games that appeal to people. “At the end of the day you have to remember this is a business. We need to make games that can sell. If we don't, we have to fire people,” says Housemarque’s De Benetti. Whether your game is ready or not, you have to face the competition. Indie games are flowing to market at a relatively unchecked pace. Indies, Indies all Around - Visibility and discoverability of indie games Let’s say for a moment that indie games are a lot like baubles in a sea. Floating or bobbing up and down, making landfall and ending up a treasure on the shore. Maybe though, the sea is rife with baubles, and the shores are littered with pixel bits with little end to the tide. Once your shore is strewn with these shinies, how do you know what to take and what to leave behind? Steam Greenlight and Kickstarter have been gateways for a veritable deluge of games, though getting press and the Greenlight community interested in any given game can prove difficult. Merely being available is just a step in a process. Sebastian Eriksson from Gone North notes, “Before, getting onto Steam was like getting a golden ticket. But now there are ten or so games being released every day; it's still a struggle even though you get on Steam.” Ichiro Lambe, Founder/President of Dejobaan Games states, “It’'s all about discoverability. There needs to be a way for all the games coming out, or at least the good ones, to find their audience. I don't think that's happening yet, but it'll happen soon.” The developer’s title Drunken Robot Pornography may have found its place on Steam, with hundreds of player-created items in the Workshop. Elegy for a Dead World (currently in development), on the other hand, is an experimental writing game and may prove more difficult to find a niche. Lambe continues, “[the] indies' newfound ability to get onto platforms like iOS and Steam with relatively little pain has meant an influx of games. That's tough for established developers, as there are plenty of quality titles coming out.” With so much available in the indie game market, it can be difficult to maintain visibility. That sentiment is not uncommon among indie developers, especially those who develop primarily for PC. “The problem is that it is so wide open. Discoverability is a huge issue. It’s as wide open as music, anybody can do it, and everybody is,” says Sean Baptiste of Fire Hose Games. Fire Hose recently connected with Chris Chung, developer of Catlateral Damage. Chung's project screamed through the Steam Greenlight process. “[Catlateral Damage] was something extraordinary,” Baptiste states, “he made it through in seven days. Octodad took eight months. [Chris Chung's game] is a bit of an outlier.” Getting Paid - Making the decision of how to fund and when to crowdsource your project Connecting that game floating alongside so many others to an audience presents a challenge for developers without bulging marketing budgets. “Our marketing plan is basically screaming to avoid obscurity,” Baptiste laughs. The indie developer’s existence is not unlike that of other self-supported art mediums. The money to develop games has to come from somewhere. Independent developers may be hesitant to work with a publisher. They may surrender creative and philosophical tenets in order to have their game sent to market. That relationship between developer and publisher is an effective dynamic. “Whenever we have worked with publishers in the past you suspect they are not doing everything in their power to put out your game. There is no way of verifying that suspicion,” Sigurgeirsson with Image & Form states, “I think when you have a developer-publisher relationship there is always the risk that the developer wants to do as little as possible for as much money as possible and the publishers wants as much done as possible for as little as money as possible. In the middle is this poor, little game suffering. I think we can avoid that because we don't have a conflict of interest right from the start. Since we are doing it all ourselves, we only have the game’s best interests in mind.” While most independent games are funded privately or through copacetic publishers, some developers have seen success in crowdfunding. Whether it’s an effort to balance visibility and development support, crowdfunding can be an effective leveraging tool. “Being made aware of [a developer on Kickstarter], that’s a little stepping stone for people to be made aware of their game,” states Galactic Cafe's William Pugh. Kickstarter is used as a publicity platform as often as it is a generator for funding development. Many developers are carefully examining crowdfunding to round out development and bolster marketing. Visibility through crowdfunding combined with aiding development costs is becoming a consideration for indie developers. Though using the crowdfunding monster is not without its own set of challenges. While Kickstarter has proven successful for some indie developers, how it is perceived is varied. “I find it hard to justify the use of Kickstarter. The problem is if you see it as a pre-order. It’s weird kind of contract between the people backing and person who will be delivering. I’m wary about people asking for huge amounts of money they don’t really know how to deal with,” says William Pugh with Galactic Cafe. Being prepared is, of course, paramount. The consumer desires a degree of confidence that their contribution will garner a product. “We are looking into Kickstarting, not because we want it to fund everything, but rather to be able to insure that we get a few extra features into the game or more polish into the game,” states Image & Form’s Sigurgeirsson. Though he was sure to point out that, “it is also dangerous. If you don't get funded, it means your game is not good enough, not attractive enough.” The pitfalls of being unsuccessful are as severe as the laurels of winning are encouraging. “Any indie who is considering Kickstarter needs to take a really hard look at their project and be brutal about it before they even attempt it,” says Sean Baptiste from Firehose Games. Kickstarter also can be used to justify further funding, to prove that there is actual interest in the title being developed. Catlateral Damage has successfully completed its Kickstarter campaign, effectively reaching its niche. Finding Your Audience - Maintaining and growing your fanbase The nature of the indie tends to lend itself to smaller audiences. While this may mean smaller revenues for these titles, it also means audience with which you could actually have a relationship. Tommaso De Benetti advocates for this type of connection with gamers. “What we have been trying to do is build a friendly community. They are supportive. Sometimes people complain and they may be right. You try to have a dialogue. We are, if possible, making friends. It doesn't necessarily relate to direct sales. If you create friendliness around your game you get people playing who are willing to recommend your game. There is no reason not to do it,” De Benetti says. “Of course it helps that the games we make are good,” he continues, “it’s worth having the dialogue.” Being dedicated to your audience in earnest is important. While most companies do not have the marketing muscle, they do have the agility to interact with the individual. The individual can often have direct discussion with developers and their staff, something unlikely to happen with larger studios. ‘We work very hard to be to be likeable in social media and get the community to root for us. Now we know our communities and how to reach them. Wherever we can viewed in a positive way, it is vital, crucial for us,” Sigurgeirsson said, “We try to promote ourselves as human beings. I am talking to you, not just the company.” And this is where many indie developers shine, whether we appreciate their genuine self or not. “We wanted it to be organic,” states Sebastian Eriksson with Gone North Games, “ But its really hard. There really isn't a good channel where you can speak to the community. I've been a lurker [on neoGAF]. I was so happy when I saw thread for A Story About My Uncle.” He then laughs, “but unfortunately it died out after like ten replies or something.” Eriksson continues, “We believe in going grassroots and reaching out to smaller outlets. We will talk to someone who has just ten followers because they can be just as important.” That kind of contact can make difference as how a community grows around a game. Rallying a community around your game is nothing new. If an effective community manager or team can build a foundation for an indie developer (often managed by the indie developer themselves), this can have a significant return on investment. Your smaller fanbase can often connect to a developer on a more personal level. Social media is the most prominent place for these relationships to be formed. Follow any one of the interviewed developers and you begin to get a sense of who they are and what they want you to think about them. “We have to be super dedicated if we are not a real publisher. Meaning if we don’t have specific budgets for ads or events then everything we work through is social media,” says Sigurgeirsson. One of the more engaging means to connect with you audience new or old is, of course, Twitch.tv. If you are an indie developer (or any developer) and you are not using Twitch, you may be missing out on an incredible opportunity for audience engagement. “Twitch has identified our audience. It’s such a powerful tool to communicate directly with the people who play your games,” Baptiste states. I would be remiss if I forgot the Let’s Play community. Hundreds of thousands of YouTube views across hundreds of games creates devoted and vocal communities around games every day. Many indies encourage Let’s Plays to promote and create positive reception around their title. A Story About My Uncle utilized this avenue of support. “Let's Plays have been great for us,” Eriksson states, “lots of YouTubers have been supporting us. We decided to not put any restrictions on what people can show in the videos. The game mechanics are so unique that you can't really watch it and get the same satisfaction watching someone else do it and not want to play the game.” The Glittering Shore - The consumer reaps the efforts So, I navigate the shore of indie video games and feel overwhelmed by the treasures that beckon. I start slow, but I start. I try them on for size. Some have wooed me, most only summon a smirk, but several have floored me with their simple honesty. I have allowed a new breed of storytellers to share their tale or wrap me deep into their puzzles. The love in their games is evident and I feel personally invested because of it. Invested because they may struggle to remain relevant on a coastline brimming with other hopeful indie games. Invested because they will take the time to answer your question and strike up a real dialogue. These reasons move me to play the vast catalog I am curating. I can only hope to try enough of them in order to make room for the next tide.
  3. From 2009’s AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! — A Reckless Disregard for Gravity to this year’s Drunken Robot Pornography, Dejobaan Games has really built a name for itself in the industry as a developer that toys with absurd humor. I think that’s partly why I was so taken aback by the sincere and honest attempt at doing something new with Elegy for a Dead World. After I finished a single playthrough of the game, I sat back and chatted with Ichiro Lambe, the founder and president of Dejobaan Games. He asked me what I thought of the game and I told him that I’d have to think about it. It took me a while to answer. Elegy is unlike any game I have ever played. On the most superficial level, it is a side-scroller that tasks the player with moving from left to right in order to progress, but there aren’t any challenges or impediments. Instead, each section of game has a new backdrop of gorgeous alien terrain, depicting crumbling structures and technology. At certain points, the player will receive unobtrusive prompts to write something. The style the player is prompted to write in is determined at the beginning of the game when the player chooses between poetic, story, or blank verse modes. Elegy for a Dead World is all about how people respond to things and construct unique, individual narratives. It demonstrates how creativity moves all people, whether they think they’re creative or not. Each time the game prompts a new written input, it provides context (unless you are playing in blank verse mode) and leaves a number of blanks for the player to fill in with their own words. Of course, all text is editable, not just the blanks, so players never have words forced upon them. With this game, everyone can write a story, a poem, or something else entirely. Eventually, I told Ichiro what I thought about this strange game that’s based on the works of British Romance-era poets. I told him that the best way I could describe it would be to call this game an inspiration simulator. In a sense, it allows players to discover their own story as they tell it to themselves. That is a concept with which I could fall in love. However, I think there are several ways that Elegy for a Dead World could be improved. One of the main problems that I had was that the game seems to be fairly linear from left to right. Though my character had a jet pack, I never had a reason to use it other than to break up the monotony of moving from one side of the screen to the other. More exploration, more verticality to the levels, and more prompts would serve to fill out Elegy and make traversing the desolation of its world a bit more interesting. I would also be very curious see another implementation of this same approach to gamified storytelling that was based on different eras of poets and storytellers with different visual cues. I guess what I’m saying here is that I love the core concept of this game that I would like to see more of it in almost every respect. If you get an opportunity, check out Elegy for a Dead World. It is different in a way that should be appreciated and applauded.
  4. From 2009’s AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! — A Reckless Disregard for Gravity to this year’s Drunken Robot Pornography, Dejobaan Games has really built a name for itself in the industry as a developer that toys with absurd humor. I think that’s partly why I was so taken aback by the sincere and honest attempt at doing something new with Elegy for a Dead World. After I finished a single playthrough of the game, I sat back and chatted with Ichiro Lambe, the founder and president of Dejobaan Games. He asked me what I thought of the game and I told him that I’d have to think about it. It took me a while to answer. Elegy is unlike any game I have ever played. On the most superficial level, it is a side-scroller that tasks the player with moving from left to right in order to progress, but there aren’t any challenges or impediments. Instead, each section of game has a new backdrop of gorgeous alien terrain, depicting crumbling structures and technology. At certain points, the player will receive unobtrusive prompts to write something. The style the player is prompted to write in is determined at the beginning of the game when the player chooses between poetic, story, or blank verse modes. Elegy for a Dead World is all about how people respond to things and construct unique, individual narratives. It demonstrates how creativity moves all people, whether they think they’re creative or not. Each time the game prompts a new written input, it provides context (unless you are playing in blank verse mode) and leaves a number of blanks for the player to fill in with their own words. Of course, all text is editable, not just the blanks, so players never have words forced upon them. With this game, everyone can write a story, a poem, or something else entirely. Eventually, I told Ichiro what I thought about this strange game that’s based on the works of British Romance-era poets. I told him that the best way I could describe it would be to call this game an inspiration simulator. In a sense, it allows players to discover their own story as they tell it to themselves. That is a concept with which I could fall in love. However, I think there are several ways that Elegy for a Dead World could be improved. One of the main problems that I had was that the game seems to be fairly linear from left to right. Though my character had a jet pack, I never had a reason to use it other than to break up the monotony of moving from one side of the screen to the other. More exploration, more verticality to the levels, and more prompts would serve to fill out Elegy and make traversing the desolation of its world a bit more interesting. I would also be very curious see another implementation of this same approach to gamified storytelling that was based on different eras of poets and storytellers with different visual cues. I guess what I’m saying here is that I love the core concept of this game that I would like to see more of it in almost every respect. If you get an opportunity, check out Elegy for a Dead World. It is different in a way that should be appreciated and applauded. View full article
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