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Indie vs The Big Guys

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When I think about my favorite games of the past few years, they have mostly been from the smaller independent studios rather than the big developers. 

When did this happen, and how? Is it the same for everyone else? In the 90s it was all about the “Big Guys” - Sierra, Lucasarts, Legend, Cyan. With a few minor classics from smaller, mostly unknown developers. Now, it is more the big studios who are more likely to disappoint and the little guys who come up with a hidden gem.

Is there an explanation for this change? Maybe that the resources required to make a great game are no longer huge, or that the artistic skills being honed by the smaller developers are further removed from the creatively bereft “corporate environment” which seeks only profit? Did Kickstarter and Steam play a role?

What’s your personal experience? I’m curious to know if anyone feels differently.

     
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There are no Big guys anymore, they evaporated long ago, in PS2 era, the only big AG in recent memory will be Lastguardian after Beyond and Until Dawn.
And even TLG is priced at 50$, Sony treating it as AA.
TLG will be true adventure with puzzles however Cage games are 25$+ million affairs and stuck in other genre.
Since PC has no company to back risky bets, there wont be AA or AAA adventure ever.

There will always be more bold bets in indie scene, AGs or otherwise.
And best is to have Stasis,Inside,Journey,Rapture type single A production that is good enough to challenge AAA.
In other words production budget,scope,gamelength(content) are the only thing separating AAA from single A or AA.
Otherwise quality Indie games on Steam are there thanks to UE4 and Unity.
I do not expect much from old vets like Tim since they are past their prime and get to fund other better games than AGs.

I think we need new Legends now and start treating JBlow as one.
Cage is another legend, whose record is good for finding the new expression in current market, despite the corny writing.

MKX outsold other genre games that year due to quality content.
Xcom and Civ6 plus other RTS are scoring sales too.
Lost genres are finding ways backed by Big publishers.
Content is king, indie can deliver in AGs because of small scope but no big publisher will back AG for big bang. 
So Sony and SEnix are new Lucas as long as UntilDawn,LiS and Qdream type games are breaking even.
Which they are because of mass reception and quality content.
Once these games will start flopping , AAA or AA AGs will vanish into oblivion.

Sorry for long post

     

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I don’t know… define “big”, define “indie”. Tim Schafer thinks of his Double Fine as an indie. But I don’t.

I like most games by Daedalic, Amanita, and TellTale. Are they big companies? You be the judge. Favorite games I (re)played this year are Obduction, The Witness, Deponia Doomsday, TWAU, Tales from the Borderlands, Life Is Strange, KRZero. I also played lots of disappointing games made by one or two developers.

     
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Karlok - 27 November 2016 03:58 AM

I like most games by Daedalic, Amanita, and TellTale. Are they big companies?

Yes. Double Fine as well, and Wadjet Eye. They may not be big on the scale of things, but they are as big as AG developers get these days.

     
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Cyan never was a big company.

     
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nomadsoul - 27 November 2016 03:23 AM

There are no Big guys anymore, they evaporated long ago

Yeah I agree. The only AG developer that even comes close to Sierra or LucasArts in their prime days is Daedalic. Wadjet Eye publishes a lot of AGs but only develops very few themselves.

So if 99% of all AGs are developed by small independent studios it is hardly a surprise that they are also responsible for most of the good games Wink

     

You have to play the game, to find out why you are playing the game! - eXistenZ

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Iznogood - 27 November 2016 01:48 PM
nomadsoul - 27 November 2016 03:23 AM

There are no Big guys anymore, they evaporated long ago

Yeah I agree. The only AG developer that even comes close to Sierra or LucasArts in their prime days is Daedalic.

How so?
Considering popularity i think Daedalic is far from scoring big Like sierra or lucas,
they are far from inspiring reverence like them or reaching TTG level popularity.
Sierra and lucas were not only popular as co. delivering puzzles format at its best,
they also succeeded in making them successful in masses.
TWD is MI of today in other words.
TTG is Sierra
If it wasnt for TTG , Activision would not have revived KQ as episodic and added QTEs
We all know that they are following TTG, like Ragnar with Dreamfall.
MI is what inspired AAA directors like lastofus,UC4 Druckman.
MI is what inspired SeaofThieves.
TTG type emotional punch is aspirations for many now.

Daedalic cant reach the levels of Cage or TTG. I did survey here and most voted Narrative over mechanics. I think Daedalic with Silence tried same thing, Martin with Stateofmind soon will do same,LiS and others people following that structure too, to resonate with masses.
Narrative based stuff where puzzles take backseat

Amidst of all this Witness deserve huge credit in making a puzzle game in Goty list
Its hard to make puzzle based game a mass and critical hit, Daedalic are not even known in outside world

     
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nomadsoul - 27 November 2016 05:35 PM
Iznogood - 27 November 2016 01:48 PM
nomadsoul - 27 November 2016 03:23 AM

There are no Big guys anymore, they evaporated long ago

Yeah I agree. The only AG developer that even comes close to Sierra or LucasArts in their prime days is Daedalic.

How so?

Oh I’m not saying that Daedalic is as big as Sierra or LucasArts, in fact I’m saying the exact opposite. But they are by far the biggest of the current AG developers, at least when counting the number of released titles, and will in fact soon exceed LucasArts in this department.

As for TellTale then they don’t make Adventure games anymore and haven’t done so for quite a while.

     

You have to play the game, to find out why you are playing the game! - eXistenZ

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i see the point here, tho it still gonna be confusing who are big and who are small..

the ‘niche’ is being niched, and there are less than a hand full of devs can still do (risk) it, WadjetEye, Micoriods, Daedalic (publishing)..who else?
Big guys will be setting the new direction, and small (unkown) will do it for the hobby.

The best thing that happened to the genre the past 10 years was daedalic, if they set foot into a new direction (even if it is not about storytelling for those who assume it is) it’s nothing traditional anyway, and that what i was trying to say in the other thread, that traditional are diminishing whether i hate it or not.. the plague is real now, its not controversial any more Smile

     
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Advie - 29 November 2016 09:57 AM

it’s nothing traditional anyway, and that what i was trying to say in the other thread, that traditional are diminishing whether i hate it or not.. the plague is real now, not conventional any more Smile

Yes because there is diminishing market for the need of puzzle as fun mechanic
I too got fed up with puzzles because they arent as clever or fun.
Even if you take all AG players and on other sites like JA
Market is still low
Devs want low entry point, or do some thing like Portal or Witness to market
I mean why Talosprinciple doesnt get much attention but witness
Why Firewatch sells more than Obduction
Why Ragnar spent more time on crafting choices based story but spent less on clever puzzles

In 2 years things will be more clear

     
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Advie - 29 November 2016 09:57 AM

i see the point here, tho it still gonna be confusing who are big and who are small..

the ‘niche’ is being niched, and there are less than a hand full of devs can still do (risk) it, WadjetEye, Micoriods, Daedalic (publishing)..who else?
Big guys will be setting the new direction, and small (unkown) will do it for the hobby.

The best thing that happened to the genre the past 10 years was daedalic, if they set foot into a new direction (even if it is not about storytelling for those who assume it is) it’s nothing traditional anyway, and that what i was trying to say in the other thread, that traditional are diminishing whether i hate it or not.. the plague is real now, not conventional any more Smile

Hmm.. from what I can see all the innovation is coming from the small, unknown developers. Daedelic have been putting out the most traditional adventures and have only just now released their first slightly non-traditional game. And Telltale didn’t mastermind the choice-driven narrative game - that was done way back in the 90s. Then again, were Sierra and Lucasarts ever leaders and not followers? Maybe back in the 80s. Otherwise, they were always late to the party.

I recently listened to Charles Cecil speaking at AdventureX and he really came across as a dinosaur of the genre, compared with some others who were speaking. Probably why his attempts at innovation (box puzzles) didn’t succeed and he reverted to a traditional style (BS5). And what are our other dinosaurs up to? One put out a ridiculously over-budgeted traditional game which turned out to be way overhyped (Broken Age) and the other is going even further back to 80s style (Thimbleweed Park).

     
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There is indie and indie…

More and more adventure games come from very tiny teams (or even one-man developers like myself) It always annoys me when people say “indie” for a studio like Daedelic or Double Fine.

But in any case, adventure games made nowadays seem to have tiny budgets overall, and this means more creativity because less risk. Combine this with more releases, and you’re bound to find quite a lot of adventure games that suit your tastes!

     

French creator & solo developer of “BROK the InvestiGator” (coming soon) and “Demetrios” (Available on PC, iOS, Android, PS4, Xbox One, PS Vita and Nintendo Switch)

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Oscar - 29 November 2016 11:23 AM

And Telltale didn’t mastermind the choice-driven narrative game - that was done way back in the 90s.

Choice-driven narrative games based on popular licenses of the time? Level 9 did that in the mid-80s:
http://www.mobygames.com/game/secret-diary-of-adrian-mole-aged-13
http://www.mobygames.com/game/archers
http://www.mobygames.com/game/yes-prime-minister-the-computer-game

But of course that doesn’t change the fact that Telltale (and Walking Dead in particular) revived/reinvented the style and that they are the main point of reference for contemporary gamers and inspiration for subsequent designers.

 

     

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Phlebas - 01 December 2016 07:12 AM
Oscar - 29 November 2016 11:23 AM

And Telltale didn’t mastermind the choice-driven narrative game - that was done way back in the 90s.

Choice-driven narrative games based on popular licenses of the time? Level 9 did that in the mid-80s:
http://www.mobygames.com/game/secret-diary-of-adrian-mole-aged-13
http://www.mobygames.com/game/archers
http://www.mobygames.com/game/yes-prime-minister-the-computer-game

But of course that doesn’t change the fact that Telltale (and Walking Dead in particular) revived/reinvented the style and that they are the main point of reference for contemporary gamers and inspiration for subsequent designers.

Yes Prime Minister and Adrian Mole sound like great ideas for games, get them re-made I say.

     
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Phlebas - 01 December 2016 07:12 AM

But of course that doesn’t change the fact that Telltale (and Walking Dead in particular) revived/reinvented the style and that they are the main point of reference for contemporary gamers and inspiration for subsequent designers.

Fahrenheit and HeavyRain.
TTGs popularized episodic trend

     
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Supplementman - 01 December 2016 08:16 AM

Yes Prime Minister and Adrian Mole sound like great ideas for games, get them re-made I say.

I’m actually most interested in the Archers one - quite an interesting and different idea, and if it could be done primarily in audio that’d be pretty much unique.

nomadsoul - 01 December 2016 03:00 PM
Phlebas - 01 December 2016 07:12 AM

But of course that doesn’t change the fact that Telltale (and Walking Dead in particular) revived/reinvented the style and that they are the main point of reference for contemporary gamers and inspiration for subsequent designers.

Fahrenheit and HeavyRain.
TTGs popularized episodic trend

Fair point. I guess I think of Cage’s games as a bit more action-focussed and console-flavoured, whereas TellTale came more from the Adventure side (as Level 9 came from more traditional text adventures).

     

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