DISPATCHES JULY

EDGE - - DISPATCHES -

Indie la­bels

I am an indie game de­vel­oper. Not a par­tic­u­larly suc­cess­ful one, but one whose ca­reer has so far lasted over 12 years and 50 or so games. I am glad that indie games now com­mand so much at­ten­tion and cov­er­age from the main­stream games me­dia. How­ever, I have two is­sues with this cov­er­age. My crit­i­cism is not di­rected specif­i­cally at Edge, rather the me­dia in gen­eral, although I feel your mag­a­zine is just as guilty for not pro­vid­ing an al­ter­nate voice.

Firstly, I do not con­sider that some de­vel­op­ers who are con­sid­ered to fall un­der the ban­ner of ‘indie’ are re­ally that at all. Let’s con­sider two ex­am­ples: Mike Bithell and Lu­cas Pope. Both of these per­son­al­i­ties un­doubt­edly cre­ated in­ter­est­ing games, but both did so from po­si­tions within the in­dus­try.

Both were able to lever­age the me­dia and in­dus­try con­tacts they al­ready had, in or­der to get their games in the lime­light. To draw com­par­isons with the mu­sic in­dus­try, they were not mu­si­cians toil­ing away us­ing so­cial me­dia to grad­u­ally build up a fol­low­ing, un­til they gained the at­ten­tion of a ma­jor la­bel. They were Zayn Ma­lik, launch­ing a solo ca­reer af­ter leav­ing a suc­cess­ful group.

My sec­ond con­cern is the ap­par­ent re­luc­tance of the gam­ing press to draw at­ten­tion to the ob­vi­ous flaws in those few indie games that have be­come dar­lings of the in­dus­try. Braid is no doubt an in­no­va­tive game but it is also one that fea­tures some hor­ren­dous puz­zle de­sign. I can un­der­stand that Pa­pers, Please has an in­ter­est­ing story al­low­ing you ex­plore the moral dilemma of your be­hav­iour un­der a crush­ing com­mu­nist regime. But again, it fea­tures some dread­ful de­sign de­ci­sions, chief among them the fid­dly man­ual you must con­sult to learn the game facts and the cramped space it is con­tained within.

Fi­nally, I would like to briefly dis­cuss Su­per Meat Boy. I’ve watched a few in­ter­views with Ed­mund McMillen and he’s clearly a charis­matic guy. Also, I un­der­stand that there are fans of rock-hard games that love the chal­lenge that game of­fers. How­ever, Su­per Meat Boy has sold mil­lions of copies, and I would be will­ing to wa­ger that most of those cus­tomers gave up within a cou­ple of hours of first play­ing it. How can Edge rate so highly a game that many play­ers only see a frac­tion of be­fore ditch­ing?

Of course, there are many indie games that thor­oughly de­serve all the praise they have re­ceived. I would love to see Edge host a dis­cus­sion be­tween a group of indie devs who have in­ter­est­ing things to say, but haven’t nec­es­sar­ily hit the big time (I am avail­able!). I think in do­ing so you would be of­fer­ing your read­ers a much broader in­sight into the cur­rent state of the in­dus­try. I also feel it would be in­ter­est­ing to see a more crit­i­cal ret­ro­spec­tive of some of these games: those I have men­tioned above, along with Fez, Limbo and oth­ers. Sort of like Time Ex­tend but per­haps of­fer­ing not just a look back in time, but an al­ter­nate per­spec­tive. Jonathan Fisher

Pro­vid­ing a mix of high- and low-pro­file games isn’t al­ways easy, but we don’t have a strict rule: if a game cap­tures our in­ter­est, re­gard­less of its ori­gin, it goes in these pages. Now, what’s a Zayn Ma­lik?

Show floored

“How can Edge rate so highly a game that many play­ers only see a frac­tion of be­fore ditch­ing?”

E3 is ap­proach­ing fast once again, and the hype is start­ing to grow as usual. The world’s largest gam­ing expo is back. Or should I say the world’s pre­vi­ously largest expo is back?

Don’t get me wrong, E3 is still mas­sive and re­garded as a great event for all. But this year, it ap­pears to be chang­ing again. EA, Ac­tivi­sion and Dis­ney have dropped out

com­pletely and given up on the con­fer­ence, and Nin­tendo clearly has given its weak­est ap­proach yet, with Zelda for Wii U be­ing the only game we’ll see at their con­fer­ence.

Why is it fall­ing apart? Why are com­pa­nies all of a sud­den giv­ing up on the con­fer­ence? I’d like to see in ten years’ time what E3 will be, be­cause the real ques­tion is, will the three main com­pa­nies have com­pletely given up on it? One is al­ready go­ing, and it’s hard to see if it can gain any more strength af­ter EA, Ac­tivi­sion and Dis­ney gave up on it. Which is a shame. The ex­cite­ment is al­ways huge around E3, and it wouldn’t be the same if it was no longer one of the most im­por­tant dates of the year. James Bald­win

EA’s new event is just over the road from E3 it­self, Ac­tivi­sion will have a pres­ence, if only at press con­fer­ences, and Dis­ney’s re­moval is part of a big­ger is­sue. So E3 as a whole isn’t in such bad shape, and it feels like there’s a bit more gas in the tank. Rogue-like I’ve greatly en­joyed the re­cent Dark Souls cov­er­age in Edge. The ret­ro­spec­tive of the orig­i­nal Dark Souls in E291 granted me an in­sight into a series that, though per­son­ally ap­peal­ing, has fallen at an in­flex­i­ble time in my gam­ing life – two chil­dren un­der the age of three makes pro­longed gam­ing ses­sions hard to come by! – mean­ing my py­ro­mancer is doomed to re­main for­ever trapped in the Painted World Of Ari­amis.

Rather than the core game­play feel, which I per­son­ally found awk­ward and cum­ber­some, I now un­der­stand the series’ great­ness lies in its sys­tems and struc­ture, qual­i­ties that take time to ap­pre­ci­ate. The ap­par­ent in­flu­ence of the series as de­tailed in E291 (and re­in­forced in E292’ s re­view Post Script) has given me an in­sight into why so many gamers and de­vel­op­ers re­gard Souls so dearly. Now I can ad­mire the series’ achieve­ments de­spite be­ing un­able to pump 200-plus hours into three ti­tles, and I thank Edge for this.

I now hope that Edge might find some space for a ti­tle equally de­serv­ing of recog­ni­tion, not just for its bril­liance, but also its in­flu­ence in re­birthing the Rogue­like genre. I re­fer, of course, to Spelunky, a ti­tle des­tined to be re­garded as one of the most im­por­tant of this or any gen­er­a­tion.

I would love an in-depth ar­ti­cle to learn more of the rare alchemy that formed

Spelunky. Derek Yu’s in­spi­ra­tions are clear, but I’d ar­gue that his cre­ation out­strips even Miyamoto’s best, so per­fect is its feel, struc­ture, and depth. In­deed, if I con­sider the hours I scraped to­gether to con­quer Spelunky’s Hell, my ex­cuse for aban­don­ing Dark Souls be­gins to ring a lit­tle hol­low. That Spelunky com­pelled me where Souls (or any other game since par­ent­hood) hasn’t is my great­est en­dorse­ment of it. Edd Brown

We’ve never been shy of prais­ing Derek Yu’s game in these pages, but for the sort of in­sight you’re af­ter, you should try his

Spelunky book, which is part of Boss Fight’s lineup of stud­ies fo­cused on clas­sic ti­tles. Wait­ing for the drop A while back I typed ‘ Un­charted 4 re­lease date’ into my favourite search en­gine, only to learn that copies of the game were stolen dur­ing tran­sit. It just con­firmed for me Yoshi­nori Ono’s sen­ti­ment in E289’ s cover story that, “When in­for­ma­tion falls into the hands of the me­dia, or peo­ple out­side the com­pany, they can’t help them­selves.”

For such high-pro­file re­leases, are leaks in­evitable? With Game Of Thrones last year and Rhi­anna’s Anti in Jan­uary, it would ap­pear that TV and mu­sic are not im­mune ei­ther, but the lat­ter in­dus­try cer­tainly seems bet­ter at avoid­ing it.

Per­haps this is due to ex­per­i­men­ta­tion in re­lease strate­gies. Jay-Z and Kanye West stopped Watch The Throne from reach­ing the In­ter­net pre­ma­turely by re­leas­ing it dig­i­tally be­fore the planned re­tail date, and who can for­get when Bey­oncé’s self-ti­tled al­bum was up­loaded to the iTunes store with­out warn­ing? Both moves had an in­deli­ble ef­fect on the mu­sic in­dus­try, and other artists fol­lowed suit.

Such al­bum drops also make some fans go nuts. When I first heard about Le­mon­ade, the day came to a stop. Sev­eral im­pa­tient mo­ments later, I lay down on the couch to lis­ten, only to arise eu­phoric. Ob­vi­ously the mu­sic was the main en­joy­ment fac­tor, but the buzz of ex­cite­ment from learn­ing about its ex­is­tence mere min­utes be­fore­hand was no small part of the ex­pe­ri­ence ei­ther, and left me crav­ing for a sim­i­lar feel­ing in games.

Ad­mit­tedly, a lot more peo­ple can be in­volved in a game than an al­bum, so by num­bers alone, such re­leases may not be fea­si­ble. But Le­mon­ade’s gar­gan­tuan cred­its show it was a col­lab­o­ra­tion as large as any de­vel­op­ment team. Yes, the top artists also have such size­able and de­voted fol­low­ings that there will al­ways be an au­di­ence and renu­mer­a­tion for their work, but if Jen­ova Chen or Jonathan Blow sud­denly re­leased a game, wouldn’t most of us buy and play it as soon as pos­si­ble too?

Re­gard­less, un­til a high-pro­file de­vel­oper ac­tu­ally takes such a risk, and is suc­cess­ful, re­leases won’t change. We may all dream of boot­ing up Steam to be pre­sented with Half

Life 3, but it’s fan­tasy to imag­ine Valve, or any other de­vel­oper, cur­rently do­ing such a thing. We’ve seen it hap­pen in mu­sic, but the risk in games is sim­ply too high. It’s a shame, be­cause mu­sic and gam­ing sur­prises to­gether would be the ul­ti­mate fan­tasy.

Af­ter all, not much could be bet­ter than driv­ing down a high­way in GTAVI, min­utes af­ter first hear­ing of the game’s ex­is­tence, singing along to Wil­son Phillips’ Hold On. Ben­jamin Thomp­son

Ex­cept, of course, it’d be hours and hours af­ter first hear­ing of the game if you were down­load­ing it via PSN. The game in­dus­try works a bit too slowly some­times. The postal sys­tem means that you’ll have to wait for your New 3DS, too, un­for­tu­nately.

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