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The Case For Independent Developers.

I've been seeing a lot of stuff lately from small independent developers. One thing I've noticed about these people is an absolute love of gaming. These teams don't do it for the money (although I'm sure they would if they could) they create these games because no one else has. The great thing lately is that all the console makers are embracing these small companies. Microsoft has XNA, Nintendo was WiiWare coming, and Sony's own PSN is very friendly to the small developer. Just look at the success of Jonathan Mak.

Everyday Shooter isn't the only successful game out there for download. There are plenty of other small games that really innovate in ways that the big companies can only dream about. And it's only going to get better. The real test though is, how well are some of these games selling? They are selling well enough to keep this focus going. It looks like small and casual games are the next big thing. The situation is turning around for the consoles are far as homegrown products go, but the grandfather system of the small time developer is still, and will be for a long time to come, the place for independents. Of course I'm talking about the PC.

I may be a primarily console player, but I still can't pass up a good PC game, and let's face it, strategy games are just not that great on a console. Just take a look at all the space related games out there. Try to imagine Homeworld or Galactic Civilizations II on a console. A couple things that I came across recently really impressed the heck out of me. First up is the team behind the Battlestar Galactica game Beyond The Red Line. I just can't mention enough how cool all this is. Being a huge, and I mean huge (as in owning all the seasons, the season guide books, and most of the soundtracks) fan of the series I can't say enough about how impressed I am with this thing. It's only in demo form now, with patch number 2 having just been released, but these people are prepping the next big thing for scifi fans. The Beyond The Red Line Team is working off of Freespace 2 to create this fantastic experience. The whole flying a Viper thing is amazing and the game has a very authentic feel about it. Not too shabby for a mod based on an old game.

Next up is another favorite of mine, this one is a throwback to my childhood in the 80's. It's another scifi space flight inspired game, this one is a little different though. This game was created for a movie and, unfortunately, never released as an actual retail product. The dedicated team at Rogue Synapse have lovingly recreated a game that never was. I'm talking about the one and only The Last Starfighter. If you remember the movie you already know what the game looks like. Visually, it's a faithful recreation of the game, available for download and play on a PC. Without a joystick the controls are a little strange. Using both hands on the keyboard controlling both the reticle and the gunner chair is a challenge, but an interesting one at that. I just wish this game had been released in the arcades.

What does all this mean for the average gamer? It means that there will be many more unique experiences to be had in the coming years. Look to see more smaller games and more independent developers. This makes sense for Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo. The small games have a smaller budget and independents are cheaper to buy. This all means profits for the big 3, and the little guy too.

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After looking through my past posts I noticed a little discrepancy. I have a lack of Wii or DS content on my blog. I don't have many Nintendo articles, I admit that, but it's not because I don't like the Wii or DS. I like Nintendo, I always have. I still have my NES. I've owned a Gameboy, Gameboy Advance, Super Nintendo, and N64. I think I lost my interest after I first saw the Gamecube. Gamecube? Really? Why did they have to make it with a handle? I know the idea, take it to your friends house, get them to play it, and convince them to buy one for themselves. Overall the Gamecube was OK, but other then first party games, there wasn't much there that was decent to play. Before you go all fanboy on me, I know that it did have some good third party games. They just didn't have as many great games as the PS2 or Xbox. I realize that the PS2 had a huge release lead on the Gamecube, but Nintendo didn't help things by having a proprietary format that wasn't much better than a cartridge and lack of DVD support. The reasoning? They were making a games machine not a set-top box.

I understand the logic, I really do. The problem with that logic though is that the consumer wanted a little bit more then what they've had previously. While the PS2 and the Xbox had DVD capabilities, online possibilities and catered to the older generations of gamers, Nintendo stuck to the decision to just make games. That's all good and well, but when you are relying on first party support and don't have much in the way of third party support, you are not going to get many games out there. What they did have were some great first party games (you know the ones, the Mario , Metroid and Zelda games with a few others) and a bunch of kid friendly third party titles. I have no problem with games targeting younger gamers, that's where my daughter started, but you are not going to get many hardcore gamers (the primary game buyers of the time) buying your system with a line-up for children. That seemed to be one of the fatal flaws for the Gamecube. I know it was the reason I didn't buy one.

Fast forward to the Wii (the Revolution name was so much cooler). Like I said before, I do like the stuff from Nintendo, but I have yet to buy a Wii. I do plan on getting one, it's on my list. See, here is the previously mentioned list.

1. Xbox 360
2. Wii
3. DS

I do have the 360 listed first, but that doesn't mean I'll buy it first. It was just the first one I added to my list. Actually, I'm really considering picking up a Wii with my tax return money (if I ever get off my ass and file that is). I haven't played a Mario game in years, Zelda has always been and always will be a favorite, and the Metroid series was a dark breath of fresh air in Nintendo's bright and shiny world. But...I am conflicted. I've been a fan of more adult games for many years now, and for that reason, the conflict. I really want to play Halo (1-3), BioShock, Mass Effect and Gears Of War, games of that type are what I have been playing on my systems since the PS1 days. I haven't been into platformers for many years, but I really want to give it a shot again. Hell, that's why I'm into gaming, to play fun and innovative games. I tend to get bored playing the same genres over and over again. I'm ready to play something other than first person shooters.

The only problems I see with Nintendo now are the same problems I've always had with them, with one new one. First, when are the next series of first party games coming out? What's next with Zelda, Mario, and Samus? I know that Galaxy was released just a couple of months back, as was a Zelda game and the Metroid one, but what is next? The gap between first party games must be shortened, or risk failure like the last generation console. Personally, I would love to see a new IP come out of the minds at Nintendo. Next problem, and the new one, Nintendo has to get a handle on all the crap third party games that are coming out on the Wii. Before it was always a problem with a lack of developer support, now the problem is that every third rate developer and publisher are rushing half-assed games to cash in on the Wii craze. This will be a huge problem if Nintendo doesn't work on it. Ninjabread Man anyone? Oh, by the way, it's getting a sequel.