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2011/01/12

Indie Games

I got to play several great indie games in 2010. Even some very small experiences have left a strong impact on the way I see games.

Minecraft

I've put more hours into Minecraft than any other game this year, indie or not. My main save world hasn't changed in weeks though. I built myself a luxurious castle and feel like a conqueror, but now I'm quite comfortable. Feels like I "won". Maybe I should build a town surrounding my castle walls, or nearby cities or dungeons.

Minecraft is a 3D experience that isn't overwhelming. The interface is simple, with the world divided into 1m^3 blocks. Most of the gameplay is taking a block or placing a block. Yet, with a simple set of blocks one can make anything. Minecraft also manages to make darkness scary again, without cheap tricks. Finally, Minecraft shows that a well-done algorithmically generated world can be inspiring.

Super Meat Boy

To me, Super Meat Boy is all about polish. The cutscenes are well-done and add a specific attitude to the game. Meat Boy is squishy, bouncy, and leaves red trails and splashes everywhere. Accomplishments are loud and satisfying. Controls are impeccable.

Replayability is finely tuned -- there are dark versions of most levels, secret levels and unlockable characters, rewards for doing levels faster (A+) or harder (bandages), and stats tracking for overall progress and number of deaths. This keeps many players at it until they have accomplished everything possible.

Mighty Jill Off

I played a lot of Mighty Bomb Jack back in the day so I'm glad to see that movement mechanic brought back. I actually enjoy the game's short length -- it does well to explore the basic combinations of obstacles and movement. Here's an example of a well-contained experience that doesn't take years to produce.

With Flare I took on a project at the edge of what I can accomplish -- been working on it a full year and still have a ways to go. After Flare I will probably make several small games. Mighty Jill Off is inspirational and shows how a game doesn't need hours and hours of content to be fun.

Of course I also like the human themes explored in the very simple story. Sex doesn't have to be gratuitous, or vanilla, or absent in video games.

Every Day The Same Dream

To me this stretches what games can be. It's an emotional piece of art with minimalist graphics and interaction.