Work: Independence Play

Forgive the awful pun, please.

I’ve fallen in love with indie games this year. Much of my life has been spent playing PC games – from Colossal Cave at my Dad’s office on weekends to the daily Quake 3 sessions when I worked at Next Media a few years ago. But when I left the editor’s chair of PC PowerPlay in 2005, I took something of a break from the PC and console gaming stepped in. Of course, I’d always played console games too, but for the first time they were now dominating my gaming hours.

My discovery of the “indie scene” has changed that this year. Today I’m more likely to fire up Audiosurf or Aquaria than switch on my Xbox 360. So I decided to write about the new wave of independent developers for PC PowerPlay. It’s in the new issue (on sale now!) and after the jump is a sample where I speak with Audiosurf creator Dylan Fitterer:

On his modestly-titled blog, www.bestgameever.com, Fitterer would set himself a challenge: to design a new game in just seven days. The wildly varied results – Free Parking, Loop Hoops, Travis Must Die, Gothic Blocks, to name but a few – would take a simple concept and build a playable, albeit again simple, game out of it.

Like a rock band improvising in the studio, these prototypes would contain moments of genius. One such moment arrived with a little thing called Tune Racer.

“Tune Racer stood out to me as a great experience that hit on something you couldn’t get from any other game,” says Fitterer. “It wasn’t the most popular of my prototypes, so it was a bit of a leap to choose that one to focus on, but it was my favourite. I kept going back over my music collection to get that rush.”

The nature of releasing each prototype on his blog meant that feedback from a diverse group of players was instantaneous. Fitterer took this idea further when developing Tune Racer into what would eventually be known as Audiosurf. He invited his readers to play.

“I emailed a thousand players inviting them to try the Audiosurf beta and within a couple days there were download links all over the net. It’s really important for players to see that the game is alive. It’s something they can help shape.

“My plan was always to sell it, but it took a lot of experimenting to figure out what it was. I just kept looking for something that I wanted to play badly enough to spend the time building it. That way even if it didn’t sell it would be worthwhile.”

For the feature I also spoke with Introversion’s Chris Delay (Darwinia), Jonathan Blow (Braid), Nicklas Nygren (Knytt), Joseph Tkach (Synaesthete) and Spiderweb Software’s Jeff Vogel (Exile), all of whom contribute some terrific and varied thoughts on the value of indie gaming to the PC platform.

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