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The "Indie" Circlejerk's Botched Attempts at Game Design

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The "Indie" Circlejerk's Botched Attempts at Game Design

Unread postby icycalm » 10 Oct 2010 11:18

I plan on eventually publishing reviews of all the most prominent "indie" abortions and then creating a handy page from which all of those reviews will be linked, for easy access (and cross-internet linkage action). That page, along with my completed Genealogy, should go a long way towards countering the decadent artfag movement. At any rate further than any other art critic's efforts have gone to counter the equivalent movements in any of the other arts... My slogan will be:

"The counterfeiters must not be allowed free reign."

—Jean Baudrillard, The Conspiracy of Art

And now the question is, which games are worth taking apart in detail? The purpose of this thread is for people to bring such games to my attention (and to the attention of anyone who, like Icemael, would like to lend me a hand...) Please stick to the most famous games. None of this trash is really worth more than a couple of sentences, and the fact that we are devoting entire pages for a handful of them is already an extravagance (-- which is justified, however, by the menace to the artform that these games represent). So I don't want to be making any more effort than is absolutely necessary. All the lesser known "indie" abortions can be dealt with in a one-paragraph mini review, if at all.

So here's the plan so far. I'll be updating the list indefinitely, as the fags keep churning out more trash, and the pseudo-critics keep lapping them up and making them famous. (Note that Doukutsu Monogatari is not "indie", but is nevertheless included in the list as the game that, in a very real sense, started it all.)

FLOWER (March 2012)
** SUPER MEAT BOY (October 20, 2010)
** LIMBO (July 21, 2010)
** VVVVVV (January 11, 2010)
** MACHINARIUM (October 16, 2009)
* CANABALT (August 31, 2009)
** MINECRAFT (May 17, 2009)
* FLOWER (February 12, 2009)
** SPELUNKY (December 21, 2008)
** WORLD OF GOO (October 13, 2008)
* MEAT BOY (October 2008)
IJI (September 1, 2008)
** BRAID (August 6, 2008)
AQUARIA (December 7, 2007)
EVERYDAY SHOOTER (October 11, 2007)
* KNYTT STORIES (August 2007)
* KNYTT (2006)
* FLOW (April 14, 2006)
DARWINIA (March 4, 2005)
** DOUKUTSU MONOGATARI (December 20, 2004)
ALIEN HOMINID (November 18, 2004)
* SEIKLUS (2003)
Last edited by icycalm on 23 Aug 2011 22:50, edited 31 times in total.
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Unread postby immersedreality(old) » 10 Oct 2010 16:08

Anything by Jason Rohrer definitely deserves to go on the list. I can't count the amount of articles I've read praising his abominations. Passage, Gravitation, Sleep Is Death, etc. The thematic concepts behind his games are about as mature as a preteen's poetry.

Seriously, all you do in Passage is walk to the right until you die, and the game gets all sorts of praise for its insight into the human condition or whatever. It's completely ridiculous.

All of his bullshit can be found here, including essays, short stories, and music he's created too! He's a regular renaissance man, this guy!
Last edited by immersedreality(old) on 10 Oct 2010 18:52, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread postby faceplant » 10 Oct 2010 18:35

http://www.stfj.net/art/2009/loselose/

"Lose/Lose is a video-game with real life consequences. Each alien in the game is created based on a random file on the players computer. If the player kills the alien, the file it is based on is deleted. If the players ship is destroyed, the application itself is deleted."

This got a lot of publicity when it was released. Some anti-virus software even detects it as malicious, and quarantines it.
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Unread postby Pegote » 10 Oct 2010 22:11

I've heard of The Path (http://tale-of-tales.com/ThePath/) but even after reading a few different reviews, I'm still not sure what it is supposed to be. The closest I've read to a concrete description of the game itself is a short comment on a Gamespot review ("The Path plays like an adventure game, yet there are no traditional puzzles to solve and no inventory to shuffle").
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Unread postby Jared » 11 Oct 2010 23:06

http://thestoutgames.com/:DinnerDate

This game has not been released yet, but it fits the bill.

It's called Dinner Date and "You play as the subconsciousness of Julian Luxemburg, waiting for his date to arrive. You listen in on his thoughts while tapping the table, looking at the clock and eventually reluctantly starting to eat..."

It even comes with a wine recommendation from the developer!


[Banned for not bothering to read the OP, or else being too stupid to understand it. --icy]
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Unread postby Marble » 12 Oct 2010 03:36

I recall a lot of attention towards an indie game called You Have to Burn the Rope. It's a shitty flash 2D platformer that's barely a minute long and you can't die.

Apparently it's also a "thought-provoking attempt to make players question the meaning of why we play games" and a bunch of other things.
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Unread postby Bread » 12 Oct 2010 06:07

You Have To Burn The Rope is just a parody minigame that ends with a song longer than the game itself. The blogs and forum posts extolling its profundity are just playing along with the joke (at least they were initially).

Perhaps an interactive fiction review would be valuable. These games generally come from a movement and community that's distinct from the indie scene under scrutiny here, but shares some trends. Specifically, as opposed to older text adventures: increased focus on narrative, and reduced difficulty.

Photopia is an older (1998) game often praised and held up as a good introduction to the new wave and the genre itself. It typifies the two trends: trivial difficulty; the point is to lead the player through a short, linear script. The plot itself is non-chronological slice-of-life, spliced with fantasy segments. By the end it comes together into something mostly-coherent. I had to read the author's FAQ to get one major point.

I recently started playing Blue Lacuna. Well regarded (award-winning) in the IF community, I've rarely seen it mentioned outside. It seems like a much more traditional (and longer) adventure. The premise is a Myst riff off. There are some mechanical innovations to make it easier for new players, like highlighted key words and the option to just type nouns (as opposed to imperative statements with verbs). Playing the traditional way is also allowed. It seems like the main feature is the implementation of one non-player character, a crazy old island-dweller, coded with a lots of dialogue and some sort of dynamic relationship with the player.
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Unread postby cephissus » 25 Oct 2010 21:51

Super Meat Boy is the next big indie success story, and should definitely be added to the list.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Meat_Boy

Super Meat Boy is a platform game developed by Team Meat and is the successor to Edmund McMillen's and Jonathan McEntee's flash game, Meat Boy, originally released on Newgrounds in October 2008.


This Edmund McMillen guy was also involved with Gish and Braid, according to Wikipedia.

I got the chance to play it a couple of days ago, and it's very similar to games like VVVVVV and N+. That is, very simple graphics and controls along with super short levels / frequent checkpoints. It also has really bad cutscenes that look straight out of Alien Hominid.

It's getting rave reviews from the retards at GameSpot et al. Reading them, you'd think these people had never played a platformer before. Anyway, I don't think a game has emerged from the indie community and garnered this much critical acclaim since Braid.

The game is out for XBLA and is coming to Wiiware, PC, and (supposedly) Mac sometime in November.
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Unread postby icycalm » 26 Oct 2010 01:34

Yeah...

Reception
Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 91.1%
Metacritic 90/100

Review scores
Publication Score
Eurogamer 9/10
Game Informer 9/10
GameSpot 9.5
GamesRadar 9/10
IGN 9.0/10
Official Xbox Magazine (UK) 10/10


This is the kind of game we are talking about here. It doesn't look like anyone else understood what I am looking for, even though I was perfectly clear about it. I repeat: I am not going to waste any of my time playing and reviewing something that only the artfags have heard of. I am only going to consider games that have broken OUT OF the indie circlejerk; games that have somehow managed to reach also normal people. This is the case with Braid and Limbo and Flower, etc., and it seems to be the case with this stupid little thingy, which is why I added it to the list. There's not many of these games around yet, so I think I must have got all or at least most of them, but it's still early days yet. The "indie/art" pseudo-category is only at its beginnings, so this thread has a long way ahead of it. So keep me posted dudes: I honestly have no idea what's going on in the artfag world: without you I am lost.
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Unread postby icycalm » 26 Oct 2010 01:39

According to Metacritic, Super Meat Boy and Deus Ex are two games of equal quality:

http://www.metacritic.com/game/pc/deus-ex

90/100


That takes care of my lol quota for this week.
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Unread postby recoil » 29 Oct 2010 06:25

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minecraft

Wikipedia wrote:Minecraft is a sandbox building game which allows players to build constructions out of textured cubes in a 3D world. It is currently in development by Markus "Notch" Persson on the Java platform. The gameplay is inspired by Dwarf Fortress, RollerCoaster Tycoon, Dungeon Keeper, and especially Infiniminer. Minecraft was developed for about a week before its public release on May 17, 2009 on the TIGSource forums, where it gained a considerable level of popularity. It has been continually updated since then, and while still an alpha release, it has garnered hundreds of thousands of sales and critical notice and acclaim from many reviewers.

As of October 2010, Minecraft surpassed 1,500,000 registered users, and over 480,000 purchases.


The game's website: http://www.minecraft.net/
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Unread postby icycalm » 29 Oct 2010 14:49

As it happens, I have heard of this thingy. In fact my articles have been discussed on occasion in the Minecraft forum, and, if I am not mistaken, even praised by one of the forum's administrators. Not sure if that was the same guy who made the game or not...

In any case, from the comparisons to Dwarf Fortress, I would say there is a chance that this is not in fact an artfag game. This is a distinction that I will be making in the last part of the Genealogy. Stuff like roguelikes (ADOM, etc.) are not artfag games, nor "indie" for that matter. They are the Western equivalent to doujin games -- i.e. REAL games that are (or at least try to be) at the CUTTING-EDGE of their respective genres. For more on this wait for the last part of the Genealogy.

Back to Minecraft. Like I said, from the little I have seen of it there is a chance it might not be part of the circlejerk. So I am not putting it on the list for the time being. I'll check it out and see for myself. In the meantime, if someone who has played it wants to educate us on it, feel free as always to start a new thread.
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Unread postby icycalm » 15 Nov 2010 22:15

Via email:

Scott Brewster wrote:Hi Alex,

I noticed what I think is a mistake in the latest part of On the Genealogy of "Art Games": A Polemic.

"the case of two-dimensional platformers in videogames, this genre finally hit rock-bottom with Rohrer's Passage in 2007"

Passage isn't a platformer, it has no platforms or jumping, the main thing you do is navigate a simple maze. Were you perhaps thinking of another Roher game called Gravitation?

http://hcsoftware.sourceforge.net/gravitation/


Keep up the excellent work.

Scott



I wrote:lol, you can tell how little I know about these games. I just pulled the example out of my ass. Thanks for pointing it out to me. I'll either substitute Gravitation for it or something even worse, if anyone has a better suggestion.



Note that it has to be worse AS WELL AS at least relatively well-known and (pseudo-)critically-acclaimed. It's no good using some kid's game from the TIGSource forums, for instance, because no one is claiming that those games "are art".

In the meantime I'll be using Gravitation. It certainly sounds ludicrous enough:

Image

a video game about mania, melancholia, and the creative process


http://hcsoftware.sourceforge.net/gravitation/
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Unread postby icycalm » 15 Nov 2010 23:18

Changed it back to Passage after looking up a video of it on YouTube.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1sX6r7_SFxA

It's exactly as I had imagined it from people's descriptions on forums (I mean mechanically, because the graphics are lollerifically worse than anything I could have ever imagined), which means I didn't make a mistake. The fact that it has "no platforms or jumping" is precisely the reason why it constitutes the rock-bottom of the side-scrolling platformer genre.
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Unread postby icycalm » 17 Nov 2010 21:25

Added Spelunky to the list... I've been playing it, and it's pretty fucking terrible. I can't believe that all the hype had managed to get to me to the point where I was actually expecting a decent game.

Also added release dates (of the original versions of the games, naturally) and rearranged the list accordingly. Still missing the dates for Canabalt, Knytt and Knytt Stories though, so if you can find them from some trustworthy source please link it here. (Also let me know if any of the release dates I already have are wrong, because they are all from Wikipedia and therefore highly untrustworthy...)


Edit: Added also Meat Boy, since it must be reviewed before its sequel: http://armorgames.com/play/2388/meat-boy

Played five minutes of it. The only thing I'll say right now is that it's grotesquely ugly...
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Unread postby zinger » 17 Nov 2010 22:54

Do you need the exact dates?

From an IRC conversation:

J wrote:Knytt Stories was released around 26.8.2007
I know that from the date when I visited him [Nifflas - zinger] ;P
August 30th was the intended release date for KS, but he couldn't wait and released it a few days early
I'm 90% certain it was 26th, 10% on 27th

Knytt somewhere in late 2006, will need to dig in a bit further for that
Hm. First indiegames.com blog mention of Knytt is on December 3rd 2006
And the last Release Candidate version was done on 23rd of Nov


I played one of these games, maybe a year ago or so. It was basically just one long walk across a landscape that looked like it had been made with Microsoft's Paint.
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Unread postby cephissus » 18 Nov 2010 04:13

LOL! zinger, that's a great review!
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Unread postby icycalm » 18 Nov 2010 15:21

Yeah, that's hilarious. It's going in the review, regardless of who ends up writing it.

So I played it safe and put down Knytt's release as "2006" and Knytt Stories' as "August 2007". And I've got Canabalt's release in my inbox from the guy who sent me the Passage-related email above:

Scott Brewster wrote:Ha ha, I knew there was a distinct possibility that I would be wrong. Great explanation, hopefully I wasn't the only one who was troubled by your categorisation and it helps others who were thinking like myself.

Thanks.

Canabalt was released on August 31st 2009

http://experimentalgameplay.com/blog/2009/08/canabalt/
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Unread postby icycalm » 18 Nov 2010 18:51

And so it begins:

http://insomnia.ac/reviews/xbox360/limbo/

I figured we might take a break from all the theory and read something ligher for a while. Besides which, by the time we are through with these reviews people will be much more receptive to what I've got coming in the last part of the Genealogy.
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Unread postby zinger » 18 Nov 2010 19:47

I'll gladly take on reviewing Knytt. I think it could be fun.
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Unread postby icycalm » 18 Nov 2010 23:49

Okay, but it's got to be done within the next few days, otherwise I'll have to do it instead. I can review indie games in something like 2-3 hours now, including the write-up. Two hours to play the game (and for most of them that's even a great deal more than what's necessary...), and half an hour to an hour for the write-up. Add another twenty minutes to make the page, and voila.

I don't want to rush you, I realize that the write-up takes you a lot longer than it takes me, but I want to get this done asap and move on to bigger things.
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Unread postby icycalm » 19 Nov 2010 00:47

Here's what I am planning to review within the next week or so, roughly in order of appearance:

Flower, Spelunky, Canabalt, Iji, Meat Boy, VVVVVV, Braid, Darwinia, Super Meat Boy, plus Knytt and Knytt Stories if zinger doesn't do them.

Not sure if Knytt Stories is worth doing, actually, or even if there will be anything to say about it after the first game has been reviewed... but IF it is significantly different to warrant a full review (doubtful), then it'd be preferable if they are done by the same person.

So the only ones I won't be able to take care of anytime soon are Everyday Shooter (which requires that I also try a few of the other shitty multi-directional shooters that are flooding download networks these days), and Alien Hominid, because I don't currently have a PS2 with me to review the original version of the game.
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Unread postby icycalm » 19 Nov 2010 18:52

http://insomnia.ac/reviews/playstation3/flower/

It's going to be a bloodbath. I am going to get myself a good dinner and then I'll settle down to butcher Spelunky tonight.

I really missed reviewing games all this time. It's almost more fun than playing them! (Certainly more than indie games, at least.)
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Unread postby zinger » 20 Nov 2010 19:14

I started on the Knytt review yesterday but I'll need one more day to complete it. I'm free on Monday and can finish it by then if that's not too late.
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Unread postby icycalm » 20 Nov 2010 23:34

Oh yeah, you've got at least another five-six days for sure. Glad to hear you're taking this one off my hands.


Edit: If Josh is reading this, perhaps you'd consider taking Iji? It's a run 'n gun metroidvania, so perhaps you'd be interested in it?

http://www.remar.se/daniel/iji.php
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