EVAN: Two weeks ago our good friend Stew said:
You should write about indie game development and how it’s changing the industry.
And so, after avoiding the topic for a little while, here we are.
GORDON: For the sake of any readers who might not be familiar with what an “indie game” is, while definitions vary, the general consensus is that an “indie game” is any video game developed outside of the major/mainstream video game industry (sometimes called “Triple A”).
EVAN: A pretty good example of this would be Braid. A more well-known example that you’ve probably at least heard about [and that both Gordon and I have played a decent amount of] is Minecraft.
GORDON: Ah, Minecraft. You never forget the first time you play it, and you never truly can grow tired of it.
I guess to jump into Stew’s request, I’m seeing the industry changed in two major ways:
Firstly, it’s demonstrative that creating video games is becoming- how do I say this- less intricate? Certainly our growing digital literacy is making the ability to produce video games (heck, ALL programs) far more easy. It definitely goes to show that it’s creativity, not money, that makes a good game
Secondly, I believe Minecraft in particular exemplifies a positive trend in video game development
EVAN: I don’t know if “intricate” is quite the right word, exactly, since quite a few indie games have proven to be extremely complex, though perhaps a little lower in quality when it comes to graphics.
That being said, one of the reasons I believe that Minecraft in particular has thrived so much is community involvement, the only other game that I believe matches it in this regard being Team Fortress 2.
GORDON: I’m familiar with the background behind Minecraft– perhaps you could speak a bit about TF2?
EVAN: A lot of those nifty custom weapons [dragon-mouthed miniguns, nail-studded bats, etc.] were actually modeled by the community, and taken by Steam to be implemented into the game. This is true of a lot of aesthetic add-ons as well.
GORDON: THAT, right there is something we probably wouldn’t being seeing without Indie Games.
Open development (in one way or another). People have been modding games for ages, but actually working these ideas into games? I don’t think any major studio would’ve done that.
EVAN: I think it’s pretty fair to say that Steam is a major studio, though. Their Dota 2 tournaments have prize money in the tens of thousands of dollars.
GORDON: I was under the impression that Steam was more of an umbrella company over a loose confederation of smaller studios
EVAN: Oh, sorry, I meant Valve.
GORDON: But one way or another, the rise of indie games certainly have accelerated the growth of popularity of “open source” games, even if they didn’t invent it.
EVAN: Our readers don’t know this, but Gordon and I talk back and forth between our “actual” conversation, and we just agreed that this prompt is proving fairly difficult to create decent discourse about.
Therefore I suggest that we change the topic to Minecraft in general.
GORDON: Much agreed. And let me start by saying this: hardcore mode, people, it changes everything
EVAN: A little context for our readers? Really, a lot of context, since we’re shifting gears here
GORDON: “Hardcore mode” is an option you can turn on before you spawn in a sprawling world. While if you die in Minecraft you can typically respawn, hardcore mode gives you only one life and ratchets up the difficulty in a world where pretty much everything is trying to kill you.
EVAN: And Gordon has played it more times than any man should. But to veer away from his remarkable tenacity, let’s focus on how much the game has grown and expanded since its inception.
GORDON: Where to even begin?
Back in the game’s infancy, you spawned in a single latitude. If you found yourself in a winter wonderland, that’s all there was. It was a simple game of mining resources and fending off monstrous hordes that would attack you at night.
EVAN: Now there are several regions, each with their own climate and unique number of resources and oh my, the list really does go on. The very number of different resources has increased exponentially, as well as the items you can craft out of them.
GORDON: You can freaking teleport to different dimensions.
EVAN: There are witches who throw vials of potion at you.
GORDON: You can slay dragons.
And with a mere slice of the past covered, why don’t we talk a bit about what we’d like to see in Minecraft in the future? In the spirit of the subject of our discussion.
EVAN: Well, you’re certainly going to have to let me know what is in and what isn’t, since I haven’t played on nigh over a year, but allow me to suggest: more aquatic animals/creatures.
GORDON: I really couldn’t agree more. Water makes up what? 80% of any given Minecraft world (that’s a totally baseless percentage) and really is JUST water. And squids.
How about some whales? You could get oil from ’em and make superbright lamps.
EVAN: Heck, actual schools of fish that you could aim for with your fishing rod couldn’t be that hard to implement.
GORDON: Coral would be fun, even if just for decorative purposes, and sponge, which exists in creative mode, should finally be brought in. Not sure for what, but hey- we’ll find something.
Can we also get sheep to finally give us mutton in addition to wool? It makes no sense that you can starve to death on an island full of sheep.
EVAN: Gordon, you can’t eat sheep. Every sane person knows that to consume their flesh involves a very complicated process to drain every drop of their poisonous blood.
Here’s a big thing I’ve been wanting for a while now: a new monster.
EVAN: Whoa, I thought witches were post-Endermen.
GORDON: Witches did come after Endermen, but they’re rarer than diamonds.
See, readers, every once in a long while a new monster or “mob” is added. The last major one was the “Enderman” who, despite looking freaky, is about as dangerous as the chickens in the game.
What I want is this: a vampire.
Only appears during a new moon (yes, the moon goes through cycles), and he looks JUST like you. Which in a game where you pretty much inhabit an empty world is downright freaky.
EVAN: So what would they do, exactly? Besides scaring the bejeezus out of people.
GORDON: They actively hunt you down. Most mobs are territorial, and only attack you if you get too close. Not these guys, though.
EVAN: On the note of new mobs, I’d like villages of Pigmen, or something. Actual huts and things with crude farms and these aggressive villagers who just want to go about eating their melons or whatever and hate being bothered.
GORDON: That would be cool. And play into my theory that the nether isn’t a different dimension, but rather a terrifying image of things yet to come.
Fruit trees would be fun.
EVAN: How have fruit trees not been implemented yet?!
GORDON: You can legitimately expect fruit trees to be fun.
Well, apples drop randomly from oak trees, but as of yet there’s no way of creating orchards or anything like that. How about animals changing shape depending on which biome they’re in?
Cows spawned in the cold are yaks. Sheep in the desert are goats.
EVAN: I would love to see really big animals, like elephants or mammoths, that you’d have to really work to hunt down. Really play up the multiplayer aspect of things.
GORDON: That would be awesome.
Different colored stone would be a nice change.
EVAN: So that you could finally recreate Redwall Abbey in Minecraft without having to resort to freakin’ dyed wool.
GORDON: That freaking wool.
EVAN: Context for the under-informed?
GORDON: Stone is pretty much only grey in Minecraft. People resort to blocks of dyed wool to change things up.
EVAN: That’s right. For lack of a way to paint stone or wood, people are building immense structures out of the resource you can gather by punching sheep.
GORDON: You’d think they would’ve changed that by now.
EVAN: Okay, one last suggestion from each of us, and let’s make it good.
GORDON: I know it’s been theorized, but flight. I want to have the ability to create a flying machine.
EVAN: Considering there are flying dragons, I see that as not being out of the question.
My final suggestion is firearms, or at least more uses for gunpowder. Creating a cannon out of iron and firing cannonballs would be amazing. I’d really be content with any kind of siege weapon.
GORDON: That would be cool.
EVAN: In talking about the creative potential of a single game, Minecraft, we’ve discussed but a single facet of what makes indie games so awesome.
The fact that Mojang is so open to suggestions and implementing changes means that Minecraft will continue to grow and evolve long after Skyrim makes way for whatever Elder Scrolls game is next.
Indie games and the studios that create them are doing wonders for the industry, and it’s the way that they’re able to make decisions free of large corporations and they’re need to stick to a conventional format that makes them the way they are.
GORDON: Now once again, the comment section is open for your suggestions, requests, and angry, tearful demands.
EVAN: Do we actually have any more comments to follow-up, on? I think this may have been our last.
GORDON: It was. Hence the need for more. Or once again, we will be super passive-aggressive about it.
EVAN: Actually, I think Joe had a comment about the current state of the church.
GORDON: Well then, we’ll just generate some options for ourselves. People- you are now in competition with Joe. Let’s see what you got.
I second Joe’s request.
This just came up on Kotaku today: http://www.reddit.com/r/Games/comments/1decz7/minecraft_survival_wasted_potential/
What do you guys think about the new(?) trend back towards super-independence, by which I mean, growing your own food, creating your own textiles, etc (and taking pictures of it to put on your fancy blog….). Is this back to the earth movement a reflection of culture change or just another hippie permutation?
Alternative option. What is the role of poetry in culture these days? Should it have a place in the public forum?
You guys should play Don’t Starve. It sounds like Evan might already. The pigmen village comment…
Good topic. You could’ve stayed on indie games, because there are more points to be made. What about the way they are bringing PC gaming to the must-have market after the mainstream marketing of consoles seemed to put PC gaming into a niche market? Or how indie games are leading the way into new platforms like tablets and phones? No mention of the numerous Humble Bundles, which are super cool sales that Notch himself has contributed a lot to. Kickstarter, solo-produced games, independent studio start-ups are other topics. And shout-outs to people like Austin Wintory, who is a Grammy-nominated composer (mostly for “Indie” games… like Journey and Monaco) who still replies to a lot of comments on his Youtube videos.
Joe’s topic is way too broad… what would be a more specific discussion under that umbrella?