As some of you may well know from the various reviews I’ve been posting on WGG, I have a thing for games of the ‘indie’ variety. Indie games are just games developed and published by people who haven’t received outside funding, but it’s an area that plenty of gamers tend to avoid because they’re not sure of what they’re getting. We’re far more comfortable paying $60 for something that’s almost identical to that last thing we bought rather than $10 for an unknown quantity.
This is a guide to help make choosing the second option easier. Though many of you will know some of this already, I always wished I had something similar to this when I started delving into indie games for the first time.
1) A Personal Computer
All roads lead to the PC in the world of indie gaming. However don’t think this means shelling out extra cash in order to get yourself a decent gaming rig. Most indie games will run on a modern desktop or mid-range laptop and indie developers make the extra effort to include multiple options to help the game run better on everyday machines. Indie gaming saves you money, so it’s best not to waste that advantage by dumping your money into unnecessary hardware.
You can check whether your PC can run a game using SystemRequirementLabs if you’re unsure about your PC’s capabilities.
2) A Gamepad
Some games are best played using a mouse and keyboard, but in my experience the way to make the transition from your 360 to the PC is to be holding the same controller. You can buy a Windows 360 controller or find a wireless 360 adaptor for around $10-15 these days and the majority of games that you think would need gamepad support have it. If you don’t want to shell out the cash or only have a PS3 I can recommend this informative clip on how to get an emulator running on your PC that lets you plug in your PS3 controller (links to relevant files included).
It doesn't really get much more complicated than this.
Steam is awesome. It’s the best piece of consumer software you can own and it will supply all your gaming needs indie or otherwise if you let it. Indie games are dirt cheap on Steam which is why it's the best place to start. Most of you guys will have Steam because Valve gives an obscene amount of stuff away but you should always check out the daily deals and specials as prices can get ridiculous cuts. There’s also a Steam app for iOS available so you can be sure you don’t miss a deal. Sometimes the greatest incentive to try a game you’ve never heard of is a price cut.
If you haven’t got Steam installed: Please please go here now
Steam Sales. You will love them
4) A Gateway Drug
If you’ve played nothing but full-priced games off store shelves for the entirety of your gaming life, or just pick up the Summer of Arcade games then it can be daunting once you realise the sheer volume of available indie games out there.
Below is a list of games that I think are perfect for getting your foot in the doorway of indie games. Some of them are also available on XBL Marketplace but buying them on Steam ensures more of your money goes to the people who actually made the game:
You should probably play Bastion
• Game Sites – Containing professionals who like indie games
Internet sites, like everything else, are best when they specialize in what they’re good at. Sites like Rock, Paper Shotgun are your friends because they cover the smaller scale games coming out rather than the news and reviews about major releases that every other site does.
I’d also recommend you follow Giant Bomb newsman: Patrick Klepek’s weekly “Worth Reading” articles because he usually recommends something indie that’s worth checking out. Other people you should keep an eye on are the guys at PC Gamer: Chris Antista, Tyler Wilde, Lucas Sullivan and co regularly cover independent stuff, as well as Kevin VanOrd from Gamespot.
The Independent Game Festival Awards are also a great way to find out what is good, as most of the games they nominate are quality titles and reasonably accessible. If you see an IGF nominee/winner logo on a game's store page on Steam then it's a good indicator that it's worth your time.
• An "Open mind"
Yes, twee and cliché, but it’s probably your most useful asset when it comes to trying something new and independent. If you have never played a rhythm game before, or have not come to understand the joys of the platformer then the barrier to entry cost-wise has never been lower than it is with your average indie title.
Try not to think of independent games as lesser or inferior to other more mainstream titles. They’re just games and you’re more likely to be pleasantly surprised while sifting through $10 games on Steam than you are perusing the shelves in Gamestop.
Waves is awesome, which is why it's here. And you may have played Geometry Wars so that makes it relevant.
Like every other facet of gaming, you won’t find diamonds of independent gaming every day. Indie games may offer ideas born from somebody’s inspiration rather than a focus group, but that’s no guarantee of the “innovation” that you’ll often hear referred to by critics.
However, the indie scene is one where games need to differentiate themselves with neat ideas and new mechanics in order to get attention and that’s more than can be said for your $60 retail games on sale today. With any luck, this “guide” has hopefully been helpful in giving you some inkling as to how you might go about getting into the wonderful world of budget-friendly indie gaming.
If you have any questions, issues, or want some recommendations for the good stuff then send me a message.
Thanks for Reading.