Indie development has been on a substantial rise in the industry. AAA developers are unable to risk a loss of profits to create unique, fresh, and new IPs. So it is up to the Indie developers to create these unique experiences. An Indie game a few years ago didn’t hold as much of a presence as it does today however. Indie games used to be just that, an independently developed game that was albeit fun, but nothing that could hold a candle to a AAA experience. Then all of that quickly changed as Indie development began to raise the bar with games such as Minecraft, Castle Crashers, and even more recent the upcoming No Man’s Sky all of which proving that Indie Games are also a force to be reckoned with.

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The chaotic brawler that was Castle Crashers had players coming back repeatedly to unlock every hidden character!

What seems like one of the biggest influences into the beginning of the Indie development scene was that of Castle Crashers. A game developed in the beginning by only two people Dan Paladin, and Tom Fulp both of Newgrounds fame, a site in which indie developers of all kinds can actually post various flash games for the audience to play. When you think indie games its hard not to think of the folks at The Behemoth and the great work that they’ve done to fund their own projects! A feat that is difficult to do for many starting indie developers. Castle Crashers wasn’t exactly their first foray into the scene either, Alien Hominid was the beginning of what kicked off The Behemoth, a brutally hard Contra like shooter Alien Hominid was a great stepping stone for the team. Both games were created a 2D flash games, Castle Crashers was a beat em up brawler that had plenty to unlock.  Usually this was the standard for indie games, but very few were looked at as worth buying. The indie development scene was something that the consumer needed to get its feet wet into before just jumping in. If you had been there from the start and knew what you were getting into you could easily buy into select indie games. But at the time good indie titles, or rather, an indie title worth spending money on was a bit of an unknown territory. Not that Castle Crashers or Alien Hominid aren’t good, or don’t stand out as some of the best indie titles of all time, Castle Crashers remained the king of Xbox Live Arcade for quite some time selling over two million copies on Xbox alone, until the release of Minecraft a game that also largely contributed to the growth of the Indie scene.

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One of the many monuments that can be made inside Minecraft, if you can think it, more than likely you can build it!

Minecraft‘s practically overnight success is a bit of an anomaly by a consumer standpoint. Its a game in which you can craft and create a world all your own, with many secrets and caves to explore, things that go bump in the night to terrorize your world that you so carefully built. When Minecraft officially released in 2011 it took the world by storm. But what was weird was that the game utilized extremely simple graphics, gave you very little knowledge of what to do, and didn’t even have a story! But for some reason the masses, myself included, found themselves addicted to the game. To put it simply, its as though we were all given a box of LEGOs, that never ran out and continued to increase in size, an were simply told, “have fun!” an boy did we! When Minecraft released on Xbox it sold over one million copies in its first week, by the end of the year it sold over four million copies alone! It even held the record for the most purchased game on Xbox Live at the time. Minecraft’s success both on PC and on console created a big franchise boom that included toys, shirts, posters, Minecraft was a smash hit. But an indie developed game creating such a huge fan following? How could it be possible? Its unheard of an Indie game to receive such praise. But with Minecraft, yet another of the big Indie games right alongside Castle Crashers, it showed indie developers all around the world that yes, it was indeed possible to strike gold with a team of perhaps seven people working day in and day out on a game for the love of it, and then gaining a fan following that share your passion in games.

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Creating a sense of helplessness, Amnesia took a unique direction with the survival horror genre.

Castle Crashers and Minecraft both were certainly figureheads in the direction of Indie development, but there are plenty of games that had released between now and then that also helped to push the idea that Indie developers should be taken seriously. These games tapped into genres thought to be a lost cause, or for some reason haven’t been as successful on a AAA scale. Once again, Indie development jumps in to save the day. Amnesia: The Dark Descent, certainly not the first from the developers at Frictional Games, but the first to gain noticeable following if you’d never heard of the company before. Amnesia is a first person survival horror game in which there are no weapons or combat, you had to run and hide in order to survive, and you had to worry about losing your sanity if you hid in the dark. A youtuber by the name of Pewdiepie could be said to of brought attention to this title in particular. His lets plays that were posted online as he screamed in fear at the horrors within, or simply for our entertainment, either way he was certainly a big contributor to gathering attention for the game. All over YouTube were videos of people being scared silly over this indie title. The popularity spread like wild fire, what was weird was that this was an Indie title that had literally no advertising, no outside source to gain interest, the only people that had pushed this game to a point of it getting a sequel was that of people who actually played! The people came together making Amnesia a success as well, setting it at over one million sold within two years since it’s release in 2010.

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Brothers was a unique single player co-op game that had you solving various puzzles to progress the story.

By this point in time, indie development had gained a vast amount of interest within the industry. Microsoft had created a platform in which indie development could grow, depending upon who you asked, but an effort that was made nonetheless to improve the way indie developers could be seen over the sea of AAA games. A new program called the Humble Bundle had been born as well, allowing consumers to purchase a set of games at a price that they named, all the while donating to charity too. Steam introduced Steam Greenlight, a platform in which the audience at large can vote on games that they’re interested in actually playing or purchasing. The people get to decide what games get to release and thus gaining sales and interest in those indie games! Things have quickly increased in the way that Indie games are now perceived. What was once an iffy purchase choice had quickly turned into some of the best games to come out to date on any given platform. Games such as Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons winning best Xbox Game over Grand Theft Auto V, Bioshock Infinite, and Tomb Raider! Hawken gaining massive rewards as best PC Shooter and best free to play. Even Bastion was praised with awards for its phenomenal soundtrack. Indie games have created a whole new opportunity for developers everywhere.

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A game like this, developed by a team of ONLY 4 people is crazy to think about!

Indie games have become such an integral part of the industry at large. Its become so large that even previous AAA developers have left their companies to continue to create indie games. Keiji Inafune opened Comcept, thus creating one of the biggest kickstarter successes Mighty No. 9 . But as time went on with the Indie scene whether big or small, an Indie Game can hold a lot of surprises for us as players. The independent developers have shown all of us that we certainly can’t just brush them aside, as they can give just as good, if not better, an experience with games than that of many AAA developers. The developers of No Man’s Sky is merely a four man team. The game is procedurally generated so no one is getting the same story, and everyone starts on their own planet! A four man team, creating an experience that would be expected out of a team of hundreds is certainly something to pay attention to! So if you haven’t jumped the Indie game bandwagon by now, I highly recommend that you get on it, because these developers are the future of the industry. An they have plenty of room to grow without a publisher telling them what to do creatively.