Video games, when created by individuals, often fall into the category retro games: A genre that imitates the style and design of games authored in the early decades of video gaming.
It’s a smart pick. If the hobbyist would try to compete with todays teams of specialists that transform millions of cash into AAA titles he were doomed to fail. But two decades ago team size or money weren’t the limiting factors – the constraints were of technical nature. Back then a talented individual with a good idea could create a state-of-the art game. And thanks to better tools, better learning resources and faster computers all these games are perfectly doable now for anyone willing to learn how. Pick this niche and suddenly you’re on a level with the competition.
Despite all the limitations the old games were fun and often still are. Fun has nothing to do with photorealism. Reading a Book can be a compelling experience – because the story is unfolding in the mind of the reader. When a couple dozen abstract black symbols used in alternation can achieve that how could eye-candy and sourround sound be a critical factor in games?
At the core of any good game is the gameplay and/or narration. And to get that right you don’t need a lot of resources. Quite the opposite: The games industrie is often critizised for its lack of innovation. And when a multi-million dollar budget is at stakes you really can’t make experiements. When you have “asset pipelines” and the likes it’s hard to establish a shared vision of what exactly you want.
I think it’s still possible for individuals or a small groups to create games that matter. Thinking “retro” might help. But instead of recreating what has been done before rather copy the concept:
- Focus on gameplay and narration
- Build your game around a key idea
- Think about efficient reuse of resources
- Use the players imagination to fill the gaps
There are vantages to being independent. And there are possibilities far beyond those available decades ago. Contrasting this the indie movement in it’s current state is – with exceptions – still rather insignificant.