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February 17, 2010

The Top 6 Reasons to Support Indie RPGs

This topic has been addressed before by other people, but in light of recent news, I figured I’d compile a list that takes certain, ah, new factors into account.

So let’s say that you have some disposable income, and that you’re trying to decide whether to spend it on big studio games or indie RPGs. Here are the top 6 best reasons why you should spend at least some of it on indie RPGs.

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6.  They’re different.

Most indie RPGs aren’t like the games you can buy from major publishers these days. Square-Enix is never going to release a new game like Telepath RPG: Servants of God. Square-Enix made Final Fantasy Tactics many years ago, and they haven’t made a proper sequel since. Neither will Bioware. Bioware hasn’t ever released a turn-based strategy RPG. And you can just forget Bethesda.

The big developers have their own signature style of games they like to make. They’ve got their active-time battle systems, quicktime events and CGI teams to make use of. If you want an older style of game, a style that the big publishers don’t produce anymore, your only real option is to seek out a game of that style elsewhere. Usually, this means shopping for an indie title.

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5.  They tell unique stories.

Have you ever bought a book you really liked? When you were finished reading it, did you say, “Boy, that book sure was great–instead of buying another book to read, I’m just going to sit here with this one and re-read it over and over”? Maybe you have. Maybe you re-read it once or twice.

But at the end of the day, once you’ve read a book, you know the story. If you’re like me, you eventually want something new, so you can once again get that sense of wonder and adventure and discovery that comes with absorbing something you’ve never experienced before.

There aren’t very many RPGs that come out each year, and very few of those are even slightly well-written. If you want to keep experiencing new worlds, new stories, and new characters, you simply can’t afford to ignore indie RPGs.

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4.  Their makers love you.

It’s a known fact that indie game developers love their customers. We don’t have the huge marketing budgets that big companies do to drive sales into the hundreds of thousands (or millions) of units. Every fan, every sale–it all matters to us.

What does one sale matter to Square-Enix or Bioware? It’s a drop in the ocean to them. Your purchase of Final Fantasy XIII will have literally no impact at all on whether there is a Final Fantasy XIV. You and I both already know that there’s going to be a Final Fantasy XIV.

You can’t say the same of indies, however. You and your friends can make the difference between an indie game seeing a sequel, or the series dying off right then and there. If you want to support an RPG where your time and money and enthusiasm really mean something, support an indie RPG.

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3.  You know who made your game.

With indies, the game designer has a face and name. We’re the guys who talk with you on the forums and listen to your ideas. We’re the guys who answer your fan mail. We’re the same guys who make the game you eventually play. You know us, and we know you.

Have you ever talked to anyone from a Square-Enix or Bethesda game design team online? For that matter, could you even name the lead designer on any given game? These companies hire people just to talk to you so the creatives don’t have to.

I doubt I could wrap this point up better than Dan Cook already has:

You won’t find such stories told at press junkets. In fact, you may not even be able to find out the names of the people who actually worked on the game. Merely having accurate credits is still somewhat of a controversial topic for many large developers.

Games made by real people…there is something inherently valuable about the human story behind a game’s creation.

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2.  You can have it both ways.

Game ownership is cumulative, not zero sum. You don’t owe loyalty to just indie games or just commercial games. You are entitled to buy every game that you enjoy, whether it’s AAA or homegrown. A little of Column A, a little of Column B. Variety never hurt anybody.

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And finally, the best reason of all to buy indie RPGs!

Drum roll, please…

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1.  We will not screw you.

It’s weird to think about, but the way things are heading, sooner or later you might just have to go indie in order to really own the games you’ve paid for! Big publishers like EA and Ubisoft are making a name for themselves lately by finding new and creative ways to prevent paying customers from playing the games they put down good money for. Whether that be turning off servers that are required to play their games multiplayer, or making it so you have to be online to even play a game in single player, these kind of cynical tactics are utterly alien to indie developers.

Do you know what will happen when you buy Telepath RPG: Servants of God? I’ll tell you: you will own that sucker for life. Put it on all of your home computers. Play it on machines without internet access. It’s all good. There will be no limited number of activations. No selling you DLC that makes it so you can’t play unless some servers are kept online. No phoning home during your single player game to make sure you aren’t a filthy pirate. You buy it, you own it. Period.

  • cstern

    (Oh, and just so no one gets the wrong idea, I absolutely love Bioware to death. I’m just picking on them because they’re the best AAA development studio out there making RPGs right now, and my argument doesn’t work if it can’t account for the best of the big studios.)

  • Ken

    Hi, I found this page, and I agree with everything you’ve said…

    I’m exactly the kind of guy who SHOULD be supporting indie RPGs. But the thing is, until I randomly stumbled on your page, I didn’t even know that there ARE indie RPGs… Where are they? And why can’t their developers find people like me, their perfect customers?

  • cstern

    Hey Ken, that’s partly a problem of indie games news sites not paying much attention to the genre, and partly a problem of poor marketing by the creators.

    I’m actually going to start a blog soon at IndieRPGs.com to help folks like you find what you’re looking for. :)

  • Ken

    Hi again,

    The only indie game site I really know about is newgrounds, but it’s kinda overwhelming, and I think it’s not really the kind of place where you’d go to find a full-featured game… Oh, also the Indie Games on Xbox, but… uggh.

    I’ll check out the blog when you get it going! Hey, I read the interview you linked to on the sidebar, and now I have a million questions, but maybe I should just take it to the forums…

  • Julia

    You’re right! Indie RPG’s are so much better! Go Sinister Design! My concern is: will you have to BUY TRSoG instead of playing it in your browser? :(

  • Frosty

    Just out of the blue, but what Bioware games do you really like? There is one I’m playing and I’m absolutely stuck.

  • dan

    bioware games are amazing ^.^ for myself i have recently played mass efect 2 dragon age origins and neverwinter nights 2 … again

  • gfgdfg

    I don’t know. Both commercial and indie games are 90% crap as they have their own unique type of smells.

    Commercial games – security control with drm, required updates, being logged on is getting out of hand. Pushes people even more to pirate it to avoid dealing with it rather than what they intend/

    DLC is also getting out of hand. They are cutting content out and charging extra for it. Why create an epic game when you can create a half done one and milk $5-10 for every hour you add to it. Buy retail for helm of uberness and preorder for x. I miss the days when $60 for disc got you a complete no hassles game.

    As for indies

    Free rpgmaker style games are usually lazy junk. “usually”. You have to sort through mountains of demo’s labelled complete, projects people give up on and release anyways, people who have no place sharing it- just a mess.

    The charged style are free from the commcerical flaws but suffer from a terrible epidemic. Chapters or episodic releases. Basically they make a small game 6-8 hours and you have to wait 6 months (they like to claim 2 -yeah!) to get a piece of closure on the story and by then you lost interest, forgot what was done and such. That is if the project even gets finished. 9 times out of 10 they don’t and what a waste. Release a game good or bad but stop releasing incomplete ones people.

    So we are in a sewer but still somehow despite all these shitclouds a few diamonds can be found.
    Anything made by bioware (dao,jade,kotor1/2,mass effect 1/2) a million old rpg’s for playstation 1/2,snes, etc.. 1/5 of the ones they make now.

    For the free or rpgmaker mini business ones diamonds include exit fate,last scenario (two free ones which would be worth paying for much more than the stuff out now for like $10) legacies of dondoran,deadly sin,eternal eden, dawn’s light/other wizard stuff, dhux scar for a good short.

    Epic and complete indie games are harder to find than an ant turd.

    Your games (telepath rpg) are a fun enough short flash rpg and of higher quality then much of what you find in those. Good quality games like that are in just as short supply.

  • Dorgon 5000

    I agree, you have to think about it very clear before you buy a gmae.

  • Pino

    Don't forget Kongregate. It's full of good games, and I found a diamond in there too. If anyone likes the older style final fantasy games with a whole fresh story the Mardek series is something for you. You can find it at fighunter.com. It's another game being finished in parts, but the whole concept is an epic story really. I've played over 40 hours on the third chapter alone.

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  • henrik sætre

    Quite the old post, but still true :)