Indie Developers are Putting AAA Companies to Shame

Is there any drive in AAA companies anymore? These indie developer's efforts bring wonder and perspective.

At a point not long ago in time, indie games might've had the stigma that they are simpler (if not purer) expressions of the video game art form -- whether it be in terms of longevity, gameplay or the aesthetics. Oftentimes you might've envisioned indie titles as chiefly 2D, retro-styled pixel art games. But it would appear that stigma is ringing less and less true of late.

Several indie games have generated an excited following this year -- No Man's Sky and We Happy Few perhaps being the most relevant examples. Despite being developed by smaller, independent studios, a lot of these indie games are looking all the more polished for it -- both in terms of visuals and the presented gameplay ideas. 

One talented developer, Yang Bing, has taken 'indie' to the extreme by creating this masterpiece with Unreal Engine 4, all by himself:

The game depicted above is Lost Soul Aside, an action game with a fantasy-inspired aesthetic that the developer himself has described as "combining Final Fantasy with Ninja Gaiden". The game currently doesn't have a release date, but the trailer is yet another example of a fundamental shift in the quality of games that we can expect from different kinds of developers. 

It's beginning to show that in some cases, the lines between indie and 'AAA' titles are blurring, and small teams are putting together games that look and play just as good, if not better, than their AAA counterparts. This is an exciting prospect, as a big upside of indie developers is that they are much more likely to be able to bring their unique vision to life, without losing creative control and dealing with red tape from corporate bureaucracy, or rushed release dates -- the latter of which results in abominations like Aliens:Colonial Marines being released.

THAT'S what I was trying to say. (Obviously NSFW)

With Season pass culture becoming more intimately tied to AAA games, gamers are beginning to wonder whether too much thought is being put into a game's potential revenue, rather than the quality and originality of the game itself. It also fosters a track of thought that you're paying 'full price' for half a game, then paying again for all of it. This practice is much less common in the indie scene.

Of course, the downside to the creative freedom of 'going indie' can be funding the project. After all, masterpieces can't happen with empty pockets, and indie devs don't have larger corporations and conglomerates backing them. Such was the case for the team of three, NoMatter Studios, who had to reach out to the public and media via Kickstarter to fund their vision, Prey for the Gods. But in spite of their need for funding, what they created was a game that one could easily be mistaken for an AAA title. 

One final mention goes out to No Man's Sky, which by all indications looks to be revolutionary for the open-world genre -- or at the very least, a fresh approach to it. It sounds and looks like a huge undertaking, one that would only be suited for AAA hands. But in reality, it was developed by a 10-person indie team. 

Makes you wonder who's really moving the gaming medium forward, doesn't it?

So, to conclude, I'm just going to point a huge finger at those not-to-be-named AAA developers and raise the question: With an established company, superior human and monetary resources, and more experience to draw upon; why can't you do better, and do it faster? If you can't step it up, hopefully teams like Yang Bing or the Hello Games devs will.

Published Aug. 9th 2016
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