Sunday, July 18, 2010

Cave Story versus Indie mentality

A word to you up-and-coming bloggers out there: There are way too many Journalists and bloggers out there that tend to state something and then wind up getting lost in some strange place trying to explain themselves. When writing about games you want to at least keep your fact straight, your points clear. When you fail to do that, you risk sounding uninformed and possibly lose credibility in the process.

The most recent offender of this was found in a particular blog post about Cave Story, by one Kira Godfrey. Let's see what Kira had to say about the game.

Anyway, in this expedition of enlightenment and discovery I recently came upon the game Cave Story, an older indie title which has just been re-released as a virtual console title on wii-ware. The game is free for download online or if you really wanna give your classic controller a workout you can buy it on the Wii shopping channel for some exorbitant amount of Nintendo dollars. Cave Story is arguably one of the most complete and finely tuned games ever produced independently, and by one person working over three years nonetheless. It is a solid play-experience harking back to the olden golden days of Game Boy and SNES rpgs and platformers. The story is solid, the level designs intuitive and the weapons downright fun. My biggest caveat with it is probably only that the enemies you fight in the early levels look a bit too much like Totoro for comfort.
 The bolded part could of been explained a bit more thoroughly. Mainly the actual price and the features that were added to the Wiiware version, and the 'exorbitant number of Nintendo dollars' (sure 1200 Wii points are a lot more than free-ninety-nine, but you'd risk losing out on the really nice additional content). It feels like the details of the game and the "indie cred" was more important than the rest of the success story which should be just as equally important to note. 
My biggest problem with the game is that as the golden child of the indie game movement, it holds that position for being so much like an industry game. It's a great game but its a game just like other games made by hundreds of programmers and artists for millions of dollars. The designer seems to do nothing with his outsider status but fawn at the heels of an industry he emulates.
The problem with this statement is that despite resembling an industry game, This game was developed by one person based on the values that seem to be completely lost on the industry at large save for maybe a handful of companies out there. Those values being displayed are clearly arcade values, and as we all know Arcade gameplay is the foundation of a good accessible game.

Furthermore, I thought the whole point of independent development is to show that anyone can create a good finished product regardless of manpower, money or resources. It's less about fawning at the heels of the industry, but showing gamers that creators like Pixel know enough about video games that they can actually produce and complete a well crafted experience.

You watch American idol anytime recently? No? Well I don't really either but when I do, the one thing that always strikes me is the manner in which the youngest of the contestants sing – high pitched from the back of the vocal chords in a ridiculously even tone - just like the stars. Our next generation is being brought up to sing in an impossible manner – to sing like an already auto-tuned voice because that's all they hear. Of course there are exceptions to this (thank god) but it strikes me as a kind of unhealthy copy-cating. There is something wonderful about the unadulterated human voice at its best and that's what I most enjoy hearing. Auto-tune is a program designed to compensate for error and it is used to overcompensate most of the time such that we loose a certain organic-ism which made the source, the singer, unique and special in the first place. Cave story strikes me as the game equivalent to these youngsters – an artistic parasite – inherently organic – trying to organically copy an ineffective mechanical process.

That's an interesting analogy. As Jonathan Holmes (I'm guessing that's Destructoid's Jonathan Holmes), said singing and auto-tune has little (if anything) to do in terms of explaining the nature of what Cave Story is trying to do. Organically trying to copy an ineffective mechanical process? I thought the areas of the game were quite well organically crafted - meaning they fllow naturally in terms of where the paths take you and how they link up to other areas of the game. This is a very important factor in game development, because as you may have seen in fan-games bad design takes you out of the experience rather quickly. As for the ineffective process...To be blunt; I think that statement is just blowing smoke up our asses.

Our industry, the game and entertainment industry is plagued with problems that keep even the most brilliant game designers down. Factory production schedules, outsourced labor, and over-focused-grouped market research has made the game industry what it is today, which frankly, is kinda broken. The biggest thing any indie designer has going for them is exactly what they have going against them – their solitude.

I can agree that the industry and the entertainment industry are plagued with problems.Though, it's far more than just what's being explained here. I can understand how being reigned in can impede the creative process, but looking at the extreme end of unchallenged creativity in the case of say the Star Wars Prequels or the fouth Indiana Jones film. I would say that I wish someone would have been there to tell George Lucas that more money doesn't mean more superfluous chaff. There's a phrase that I tend to use when creating things in art, and design. K-I-S-S : Keep It Simple Stupid. That means if it doesn't need to be there, don't throw it in there or else you risk losing the message you're trying to convey. Likewise in game design this is the same.

Indie developers have a lot more going for them than solitude. In reality what they have going for them is a wealth of knowledge from other developers who were in the same boat as them through older game design. where better to learn the value of good level design than from their favorite games of the past? Or learning what makes a great shooter than from games like Gradius or Contra?  To me it would be the same as going to the library to understand the intricacies of how to program in DOS or to better understand the M.I.C.E. quotient to craft a compelling tale. Ignoring this is tantamount to failing and thus falling into the "art trap". which occurs when we just throw random ideas together with reckless abandon in lieu of making them mesh together naturally and use the defense of it being 'art' to mask the game's failings. "if you don't get it then you obviously don't get art"  That's the line of thinking that needs to go, because that, dear reader, is a load of crap!

Source(s): Crispy Gamer

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