You will not sell a publisher on a title unless the marketing weasels know how to pitch it to the retail channel. If it fits into an existing, established game category – an RTS, an FPS, an RPG, action adventure, driving, sports – then they know how to sell it. But if you’re doing something novel – forget it.
An industry that was once the most innovative and exciting artistic field on the planet has become a morass of drudgery and imitation
Thus saith Greg Costikyan, founder of Manifesto Games and one of the foremost advocates of independent game development. According to its proponents, indie games present a haven from the stultifying pressures of risk-averse publishers more interested in games-as-commodity than games-as-art. Free from corporate suits, marketing execs, and the epidemic of sequelitis that has afflicted the gaming industry for far too long, they claim that developers can realize their visions and lead the gaming industry into a new golden age of innovation and compelling new content.
That’s if you believe the hype.
But even if indie games frequently fall short of these lofty aspirations, they can usually be counted on to produce a quality product. Most of the time, they operate like PC’s Xbox Live Arcade or PlayStation Network- offering smaller, less technically accomplished games with free demos and cheap prices, and low system requirements to boot. In addition to the wildly experimental games, these outlets also serve traditional markets now all but abandoned by the big corporations. Here, the 4X and Turn-Based Strategy genres never died; here, point-and-click adventure games flourish; here resides many throwbacks to the days of 16-bit RPGs.
Despite producing some compelling, if fairly niche, products, this platform has been almost completely ignored by the gaming media. We here at StuffWeLike.com hope to fill this void in a new, hopefully regular feature called Indie Watch, where we point you towards some of the best games the field has to offer.
Today’s featured game, called Ballistic Wars, is an odd amalgam of turn-based strategy, pool, and puzzle gameplay. So odd, in fact, that I’m not even going to try to describe it; it’s best that you experience it for yourself. While it’s not the best game in the world, it’s worth the download for the novelty alone. Check it out here.