“Indie” Doesn’t Mean Anything Anymore According To Beyond Good & Evil Creator
Michel Ancel would probably like to think of himself as a more of an indie developer than a triple-A developer if you looks at his body of work ranging from Beyond Good & Evil to Rayman to the newly announced WiLD which is being developed under Ancel’s own studio, Wild Sheep Studios. At least, that was until he declared the very term “indie” to be defunct.
A few prominent developers from Gamescom last week are of the opinion that the term indie is a relic.
“Can you do an indie game with 100 people? It’s a very interesting question,” said Beyond Good & Evil creator Michel Ancel, speaking in a Q&A after the main Sony press conference.
“We shouldn’t say ‘indie game’. Now we should say ‘really innovative game,’ not especially based on production values and millions of dollars. We could say an indie game is a pixel [product] that costs ten bucks, but I think it’s more than this. It’s a game from real people that have passion and vision, and they can express that vision. This is what could define an indie game.”
This is nothing new as it’s always been a task to classify what is and is not indie. One thing that definitely does not fall under consideration in classifying indie is the type of game being made. Indie music isn’t all “hey” and cowbells. Indie is defined more by the budget, the funding, who is publishing it and the size of the team. Telltale Games for example used to be rather indie but has outgrown that moniker with a rather large studio now.
No Man’s Sky is being made on a small budget by a small team and is not tied down by any one publisher so it’s developer, Hello Games, is definitely still indie.
However, Media Molecule’s Rex Crowle is of the same opinion as Ancel.
“I would totally agree,” he said. “I think it’s more games that have independent thought in them than [the] financial model behind them, particularly.
“You can have a very indie game that’s actually a very generic first-person shooter, and you can have an enormous, big-budget, triple-A game that’s all about emotions. Those divides are not there anymore.”
Evolution head Paul Rustchynsky, too, believes the lines are now too blurred to mark real distinctions.
“There’s good games and bad games, and they’re all in the same pool together,” he said.
“We shouldn’t be saying ‘triple-A,’ we shouldn’t be saying ‘indie.’ These are games, and they’ve all got their own unique elements.”
In gaming, people often confuse indie (the studio model) with the “indie” feel. LittleBigPlanet is a big budget game from a developer tied to Sony. Not indie by a long shot however, the games feel hella indie.
In the context of what Ancel and Crowle are talking, indie doesn’t really refer to how the studio functions and operates but rather to a genre of quirky, whimsical and fun games.
Essentially everything that isn’t serious, brooding and covered in brown.
The Tomorrow Children, developed by Q, is a game that looks very indie but is published by Sony. Q boss Dylan Cuthbert believes the notion of “that indie feel” is outdated.
“Now there are so many professional indies out there,” he said. “They’re not poor anymore. They make a lot of money making their indie games. Are they still indie? Who cares?
“It’s in the heart, really. If you think you’re indie then you are indie, because the point of being indie is that you don’t have anyone else telling you what you are.”
“Hellblade called itself independent, and traditionally I think people think about indie games as smaller, two- or three-man teams,” Michael Denny, vice president of Sony Worldwide Studios Europe, told VG247.
“I think it does show where we’ve been going in the games development cycle. When we set out with PlayStation 4 we just wanted a system that would free up the creators and bring everybody to the platform, and I think one size doesn’t fit all with indie development now.
“There are small teams, but there are big teams that want to release their game independently as well. I think it all works. It’s more variety. It’s more choice.”
I firmly believe that indie still applies when you’re evaluating a studio and how it operates but when you’re looking at a game there is no such genre as indie in the same way that there is no genre called “money grubbing excuse for entertainment.” Although if there were, it would be dominated by EA mobile games.
Ubisoft is one of the biggest publishers in the world and they produced two very indie looking games called Child of Light and Valiant Hearts. Meanwhile genuine indie developers have produced some other tripe that you can view on Steam Early Access.
Does indie still have relevance? You tell me.