Filed under: Features | Tags: Braid, Cave Story, GamingUnion, Hello Games, Jason Rohrer, Joe Danger, Jonathan Blow, Passage, pc, PlayStation Network, Rob Fearon, Sleep is Death, WiiWare, Xbox Live Arcade
This is the golden age of indie. The past few years has seen an explosion of astounding independently developed games. Around the world, bedroom coders and small teams of devs are producing some of the most exciting, innovative and just plain fun experiences available. And what’s more, with the maturation of digital distribution on consoles, PC and handheld devices, they’re reaching ever larger audiences.
It’s never been easier to make them either. Tools such as Flash, the Unreal Development Kit, Game Maker, Unity and Microsoft XNA have made development ultra-accessible. The creation of videogames has been democratised. Now anyone with an idea and a little skill can realise their dreams in videogame form.
And what dreams they are. The indie scene is awash with interesting, challenging, charming and joyful games. While the mainstream seems intent on either playing it safe with endless franchise sequels or going after the Wii buck with motion-controlled casual titles, indie games are taking more and more risks and reaping the rewards.
It’s a notion that has been echoed elsewhere, but the current state of videogames echoes that of Hollywood in the ’60s and ’70s. At that time the major studios – the likes of MGM and Universal – were a factory, pumping out film after film, sticking to tried and tested genres in order to recoup the huge expense of production. It was filmaking as industry, not as an art.
However, the rise of a group of independent directors and producers revolutionised the system. The likes of Scorsese, DePalma, Altman and Peckinpah rejected or subverted the established norms, creating relatively cheap, experimental films that rejuvenated cinema. The boundaries had been destroyed and it had a trickle-up effect on the entire medium. The big studios couldn’t help but take notice.
Independent developers are beginning to do the same thing for videogames.
(Read more at Gaming Union)
Tiny UK development outfit Hello Games couldn’t of wished for a better introduction to the world. They’ve just finished showing their debut game to packed crowds at the Eurogamer Expo and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
It’s easy to see why. Just watching Joe Danger in action is enough to put a smile on your face. A gorgeously colorful racer-cum-platformer that just bursts with character, it’s a throwback to happier times. Oh and it’s fun too. Should have said that before.
We’ll have a proper preview of the game coming up for you soon, but in the meantime here’s our chat with Sean Murray, Hello Games’ Managing Director and one of the men that brought Joe Danger to life.
That VideoGame Blog (TVGB): First of all, your blog is outstanding, some of the best writing about games we’ve read in a while.
Sean Murray (SM): Oh thanks! I think we were probably too honest in it, about the mistakes we have made and stuff. But people seem to like it.
TVGB: It’s like the Show and Yell event last night (read about it here). It was a bit chaotic and mental, not even approaching slick, but really, really fun. It had character and you could tell that everyone was really in love with what they were doing.
SM: You’ve just summed up indie games, haven’t you? Pretty rough around the edges but fun.
Remember when games had blue skies? When environments were boundless playgrounds of imagination? When character models had just that, character? We do. But in a world of gloomy skyscapes, barren wastelands and gruff space marines, you could forgive us for wondering if we were alone.
But hang on a sec, who’s this flying over the horizon with a wink and a cheesy grin? It’s Joe Danger, ready to bring a bit of old-school joy back to gaming!
Here’s the premise: You are the eponymous daredevil, a kind of shop-worn Evel Knievel. Humiliated by the evil Team Nasty at the start of the game, you must guide Joe back to fame, fortune and his rightful place as the Master of Disaster. As set-ups go, it’s as gloriously silly as they come.
Everything about Joe Danger is inviting. The colorful environments, the cheesy Hammond-organ theme that parps along in the background, the big fat gold coins, even Joe himself has an air of approachable affability. Nobody ever fancied a pint with Marcus Fenix now did they?
The sense of enthusiasm that radiates from Joe Danger is a direct reflection of it’s creators Hello Games. The tiny UK development studio have poured every ounce of their infectious verve into bringing the game to life. It is a joy to watch in action.