Official Codex Discord Server

  1. Welcome to rpgcodex.net, a site dedicated to discussing computer based role-playing games in a free and open fashion. We're less strict than other forums, but please refer to the rules.

    "This message is awaiting moderator approval": All new users must pass through our moderation queue before they will be able to post normally. Until your account has "passed" your posts will only be visible to yourself (and moderators) until they are approved. Give us a week to get around to approving / deleting / ignoring your mundane opinion on crap before hassling us about it. Once you have passed the moderation period (think of it as a test), you will be able to post normally, just like all the other retards.
    Dismiss Notice

Editorial Eisenwald, IndieCade, and the Cult of Simplicity

Discussion in 'RPG News & Content' started by Infinitron, Sep 14, 2014.

  1. Infinitron I post news Patron

    Infinitron
    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2011
    Parrots:
    72,045
    Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 BattleTech A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
    Click here and disable ads!
    Tags: Aterdux Entertainment; Craig Stern; Legends of Eisenwald; Sinister Design

    Yesterday, the developers of Legends of Eisenwald published a new developer diary blog post on their site. The main topic of the post was their attempt to apply to this year's IndieCade. In case you didn't know, IndieCade is an annual indie games festival, described on Wikipedia as "the video game industry's Sundance", which is "focused on innovation and artistry in interactive media, helping to create a public perception of games as rich, diverse, artistic, and culturally significant". Here's how it went down:

    In the beginning of the summer we applied with our game to IndieCade. We didn’t have many hopes to start with. Looking at the screenshots that are published on Facebook page of this festival one could think that indie games for them are almost exclusively pixel art, simple mechanics and other attributes of modern pop-culture. So, the response we were not selected for the final part did not surprise us. To the standard response there were attached a few sentences of a juror or a few of them:

    "I kind of don’t get it… When the game is defined as a “classic old school RPG with tactical turn-based battles, simple economic model” why would you enter it in indiecade?"

    "It seems weird to me, with no hook, no novelty and no tutorial, the game feels… Well, like a 90s game. It’s a “classic, yes, but “old school” doesn’t have to mean “old”."​

    "This game is an impressive technical achievement! Indiecade however looks for games that innovate in design or other categories, and Legends of Eisenwald is largely a worthy but loyal recreation of a well-trodden category."
    Clearly, there's indies and then there's indies. Not to mention that Legends of Eisenwald does in fact have a tutorial. So, what sort of games are prized at IndieCade? As it happens, there was another blog post about IndieCade yesterday, by Craig Stern, developer of Telepath Tactics. Its title is "Against the cult of simplicity", and it details Craig's thoughts about what he experienced at IndieCade last year. I quote:

    While at Indiecade in 2013, I had the pleasure of listening to Brenda Romero give an inspirational talk (one which she has evidently delivered elsewhere since) themed after the movie Hiro Dreams of Sushi. It was a talk about seeking perfection in game design. She described a triangle with one corner labeled on time, another labeled on budget, and a third labeled great. She exhorted the audience to disregard the “on time” and “on budget” sides of the game development triangle, and instead aim for a game that is truly great at all costs.

    Brenda is a funny and dynamic speaker, and it made for a very entertaining talk. I would have enjoyed it without reservation but for one moment where she exhorted the audience to design games centered around a single core mechanic. Romero indicated that that was the only way to design something truly perfect. I considered asking her to defend that position in the Q&A that followed, but I hesitated. “I already have a bit of a reputation as a gadfly in the indie community,” I thought to myself. “And I like Brenda. Is this really a battle worth fighting?” I chose to let it go–but the memory of that moment continued to nag at me.

    Later on in the weekend, I dropped by a tent where Jeremy Gibson was giving a talk on game design. I don’t recall the name of the talk, but it struck me as an intro-level lecture for folks who had not been making games for very long. He, too, apparently felt obliged to spend some time telling the audience to make games with only a single core mechanic. He did not give a reason; he did not limit his statement to new designers who are just finding their feet. He simply said that game designers should do it. Full stop.

    Now, here’s the thing: I genuinely enjoy games that employ only a single core mechanic. But I also enjoy highly complex games that leverage many different systems, and I admit that I am deeply uncomfortable with the thought that leaders in the indie community are running around telling everybody that one of these is somehow better than the other.
    Craig proceeds to thoroughly debunk the notion that all games should have a "single core mechanic", rightly noting that it de facto disqualifies entire genres from consideration, including RPGs. It's an excellent article and I highly recommend that you read the entire thing. It concludes with this impassioned plea:

    The nature of curated events is that some games will be chosen and others excluded. When that exclusion consistently keeps certain portions of the spectrum of gaming experiences from receiving proper consideration, however, something has gone awry. When celebrated developers tell other developers that using only a single core mechanic is good design, they provide a pseudo-intellectual veneer in which to justify their favoring more simplistic games. If anything, we should be giving festival judges the opposite message: slow down and take some time to appreciate the depth that more mechanically complex games have to offer.

    I write all of this not to criticize Indiecade (which is a worthwhile event), nor to embarrass Brenda Romero or Jeremy Gibson (both of whom I have nothing but respect for). I write this piece because I love diversity in the indie community. I love the enormous spectrum of entirely different experiences that games can give us. And yet, I see these events consistently failing a significant chunk of our community year after year.

    Bit by bit, I have seen our community growing, broadening, opening. For years, narrative titles fought a long and bitter battle to be included in the indie scene, and now we honor games like Gone Home and Depression Quest. We fought about whether games needed to have challenges and goals in order to be games, and now we honor titles like Panoramical, Dear Esther, and The Stanley Parable.

    We’ve made strides–but there is more to be done. We have gotten to the point where we now honor architectural installations and games with literally no interaction at all–and yet, I cannot think of even a single video gaming event anywhere in the world that can be bothered to validate the type of complex, long-form works that I’ve spent my life playing, loving, and creating. It pains me to visit indie festivals and see hardly any strategy games selected for inclusion. It pains me to hear people considered thought leaders in our community publicly elevate minimalist games above all others. And I am very, very tired of supporting events that have rendered themselves structurally incapable of supporting us back.

    I want to see games from all parts of the spectrum honored, not just the titles that are easy to grasp, fast to play, or which reflect a prescribed approach to design. Complex games with numerous mechanics are wildly popular with the gaming public, and they have been for decades. When will our legions of would-be indie taste makers catch up?​

    In short, the IndieCade jury's reaction to Legends of Eisenwald should come as no surprise.

    Let's face it - most of us have known for years that this was what the mainstream face of "indie" was becoming. There was a time when indie gaming was thought of as a brave opposition to big budget AAA decadence. But it's becoming increasingly apparent that the cure might be worse than the disease. Today, much of the indie games industry can best be described as existing in a kind of symbiosis with the AAAs. Both try to appeal to a certain lowest common denominator. Both stand in the way of the evolution of the gaming industry towards a sustainable model based on satisfying the needs of various submarkets and niches.

    We here on the RPG Codex will continue to fight the two-front war against both types of decadence. As one of our more notorious posters once said: Fuck indies. Fuck AAAs. Support good developers.
     
    • Brofist Brofist x 39
    ^ Top  
  2. Jack Dandy Arcane

    Jack Dandy
    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2013
    Parrots:
    2,864
    Location:
    Israel
    Divinity: Original Sin 2
    Great article, and a very interesting read from Craig as well. Really shines light on the subject.

    I'm not a part of the indie scene, but I think I understand WHY a good deal of people had a negative reaction to these "Narrative" sort of games. AKA artfag walking simulators.
    Where are the idiots who said "This isn't affecting other games, the kinds of games YOU like will still be available!" now?

    This is NOT what I want western indie to become synonymous with.

    How did it even reach this point? :?
    Hasn't any major indie, at any point, put his foot down and said "No, this shit ain't cool"? It's obvious a good number of them aren't happy with this situation.
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2014
    • Brofist Brofist x 1
    ^ Top  
  3. Zetor Arcane

    Zetor
    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2003
    Parrots:
    1,702
    Location:
    Budapest, Hungary
    Tangential, but I'm really getting sick of everyone repeating "less is more" as some kind of design mantra. Having less 'stuff' ('stuff' meaning gameplay systems, content, or even just descriptive text) in your game doesn't make it better. Yes, if a game overdoes it and adds 'stuff' just for the sake of adding 'stuff', it'll suck -- but I'm fairly sure that if the same developer made a game with less 'stuff', it'd suck too.
     
    • Brofist Brofist x 2
    ^ Top  
  4. Roguey Arcane Sawyerite Sawyerist Sawyer's Bride No Fun Allowed

    Roguey
    Joined:
    May 29, 2010
    Parrots:
    23,148
    Hypothetically less stuff = more polish. It's a difficult balance to maintain.

    :lol:

    From near-Seattle to near-LA? Not surprised at all.
     
    ^ Top  
  5. felipepepe Prestigious Gentleman Codex's Heretic Patron

    felipepepe
    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2007
    Parrots:
    16,115
    Location:
    Terra da Garoa
    And that's why the Codex should buff up our RPG of the Year award.
     
    • Brofist Brofist x 14
    ^ Top  
  6. Davaris Arcane

    Davaris
    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2005
    Parrots:
    6,317
    Location:
    Idiocracy
    They can't make anything anyone would pay for voluntarily, so they are pushing the arty angle to secure government grants. Bogus intellectuals pressing the hoi polloi, into paying for their lifestyle choices, is a very old game.
     
    • Brofist Brofist x 6
    ^ Top  
  7. mindx2 Codex Roaming East Coast Reporter Patron

    mindx2
    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2006
    Parrots:
    3,728
    Location:
    Gazing at his now empty game shelves :-(
    Codex 2012 PC RPG Website of the Year, 2015 Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire Serpent in the Staglands Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 BattleTech
    And that worked out soooo well for the last guy that tried that.... ;)
     
    • Brofist Brofist x 1
    ^ Top  
  8. SuicideBunny (ノ ゜Д゜)ノ ︵ ┻━┻

    SuicideBunny
    Joined:
    May 1, 2007
    Parrots:
    8,943
    Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Torment: Tides of Numenera
    quoted for truth, because brofisting is not enough.
     
    • Brofist Brofist x 1
    ^ Top  
  9. agentorange Arcane Patron

    agentorange
    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2012
    Parrots:
    3,540
    Codex 2012
    jesus?
     
    • Brofist Brofist x 3
    ^ Top  
  10. Bitcher1 Arbiter

    Bitcher1
    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2012
    Parrots:
    245
    This is like that thing skyway was talking about...
     
    ^ Top  
  11. Tical Arcane

    Tical
    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2007
    Parrots:
    4,723
    Location:
    Your closet.
    I don't know about anyone else but these quotes actually cracked me up. Let me guess: the jurors have colored hair, glasses and small sized t-shirts. No wonder we keep seeing the same old tired indie garbage. Nothing says creative, untrodden and not-old like pixelshit platformer #948543.

    These people... they.. are they even real?
     
    • Brofist Brofist x 1
    ^ Top  
  12. Spectacle Arcane

    Spectacle
    Joined:
    May 25, 2006
    Parrots:
    6,634
    Are you thinking about Bashar Al-Assads two-front war against the FSA and ISIL? Last I checked he was still in power.
     
    • Brofist Brofist x 2
    ^ Top  
  13. Admiral jimbob gay as all hell

    Unwanted
    Andhaira
    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2009
    Parrots:
    9,217
    Location:
    truck stops and toilet stalls
    Wasteland 2
    Indies should focus on providing experiences that AAA studios can't or won't. That does mean tightly-focused titles based on simple core mechanics, and games that provide that can be great. It's also understandable why they're so tempting to make - for a small team with less experience in game development, it means having a lodestone you never stray too far from, preventing development from becoming messy, over budget and over time, avoiding the doomsday scenario of having a bunch of idea guys half-heartedly working on what ends up being five totally different games.

    So yes, there's room for games like this, and they can be great - Hotline Miami, Super Meat Boy, Nidhogg, shit like that. However, they should never become the one face of "acceptable indie games" - what the fuck does that even mean? - because it ends up stifling ambitious projects completely, as these guys point out. And that's fucking tragic. If AAA games stand in the middle of a spectrum, it's the duty of indies to push the boundaries along both sides of the axis. For every Nidhogg, we need a Legends of Eisenwald. Otherwise it just ends up being a new, stale paradigm. Fuck it. Cock goblins. Ass faggots. There is no such thing as a faggot. Heil Hitler.
     
    • Brofist Brofist x 23
    ^ Top  
  14. Elhoim Iron Tower Studio Developer

    Elhoim
    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2006
    Parrots:
    2,562
    Location:
    San Isidro, Argentina
    The same happened to us when we presented AoD to the IGF. Those were the worst spent 100 bucks.
     
    • Brofist Brofist x 27
    ^ Top  
  15. Bio Force Ape Arcane

    Bio Force Ape
    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2014
    Parrots:
    2,143
    Fairly typical bad advice from creative types, i.e. "innovate! think outside the box! rules were made to be broken!" and, without pausing for breath, go on to list all the rules one must follow to "properly" create something.
     
    • Brofist Brofist x 12
    ^ Top  
  16. Morkar illiterate

    Morkar
    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2008
    Parrots:
    4,780
    Location:
    Germany
    Okay, now I understand where the problem is coming from. They don't pretend to be a regular games convention. Instead they are more aiming to an art approach, interactive art. That's okay and I can see why there is no room for regular games where gameplay comes first and not the emotional experience.

    Nothing wrong with artists being artists. But I question a bit the medium they chose. I think just doing some browserbased / webbased interactive art would more help to bring their point along instead of trying to hamfist it in a videogame.
     
    ^ Top  
  17. daveyd Savant

    daveyd
    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2013
    Parrots:
    219
    It's funny... I've been playing the Legend of Eisenwald beta recently, and my main complaint with it is that the game's combat is too simplistic; your tactical options are too limited. I think this criticism is the number one criticism you see of the game on the Steam forums. And yet apparently the pretentious morons at Indiecade are essentially complaining that the game isn't simple enough.
     
    ^ Top  
  18. Markman da Blitz master Patron

    Markman
    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2002
    Parrots:
    3,225
    Location:
    Sthlm, Swe
    Serpent in the Staglands Codex USB, 2014 Shadorwun: Hong Kong
    Yay, moar people to put on boycott decline list. But its funny, they have their own comfort zone and lke it there while cashing in on relatively small amount of money instead of expanding the indie scene.
    Seems like they want only 'murican hipster devs to attend, being russians(or was it ukranians) with a complex turn based game isnt really what they are looking for.
    But fuck em, I doubt being there would increase exposure with the regular Joe anyway. One day at the Steam front page is worth more than their whole fucking festival.
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2014
    • Brofist Brofist x 2
    ^ Top  
  19. Aterdux Entertainment Aterdux Entertainment Developer

    Aterdux Entertainment
    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2012
    Parrots:
    544
    Location:
    Minsk, Belarus
    Infinitron, thanks for the editorial and for bringing in Craig's words - this makes more sense to me know. I guess we should do more research next time we enter our game somewhere. Had I read Craig's article before, I wouldn't have even bothered, to be honest.

    And I like the ending :) We seem to fall through between indie then and AAA - for both we are not enough, damn.

    I would recommend to read some other reviews - negative ones about combat are with 5-8 hours of play. Our combat takes longer to appreciate, as unfortunate as it is. Here is a review that is kind of my favorite:
    http://steamcommunity.com/id/Terracorex/recommended/246760/
     
    • Brofist Brofist x 10
    ^ Top  
  20. WingedPixel Winged Pixel Developer

    WingedPixel
    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2013
    Parrots:
    79
    Location:
    Toronto Ontario
    I think a lot of indie developers don't really get what Indiecade is about, you have to understand both the format and the subculture.

    It's an arcade-like format, so it really is biased towards games that are pick up and play, pretty, have short playtimes (mins not hours) and/or local multiplayer. Games that have you sit down for a 30 min tutorial before they get interesting don't work well in that format.

    It's also part of the "indie scene" - a sub set of indie devs that like to think of games as art, and they believe they are some sort of mainstream game counter culture. So games that have non-traditional formats or address non-mainstream topics are popular there as well.
     
    • Brofist Brofist x 1
    ^ Top  
  21. J_C One Bit Studio Patron Developer

    J_C
    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2010
    Parrots:
    13,532
    Location:
    Hungary
    Project: Eternity Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong
    Then they should call it "pretentious artfag indiecade", instead of indiecade.
     
    • Brofist Brofist x 11
    ^ Top  
  22. agris Arcane Patron

    agris
    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2004
    Parrots:
    3,173
    Good post Infini, I appreciate the context you gave with the link to Craig Stern's article.
     
    ^ Top  
  23. Sranchammer Arcane

    Sranchammer
    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2011
    Parrots:
    13,011
    Location:
    Former Confederate States of America
    Just submit, already. It feel great!
     
    ^ Top  
  24. gromit Arcane

    gromit
    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2005
    Parrots:
    2,774
    Location:
    Gentrification Station
    This. And not to sound callous to the plight of the independent RPG developer, but I'll add "read their fucking mission statement" or even the brief bit that's quoted at the start of the newspost. It's not like "we" don't have our own definition of "indie," though most attempts to boil that down will probably result in either "I know it when I see it" or an essay slathered in asterisks for three-pages of exceptions.

    Don't like that particular part of "the" scene, or their output? Fine, me neither (for the most part.)

    Frankly if we need one then "someone" "should" start an Indie RPG Fest to address that. There's enough money floating around.

    The resources put into AoD over the years (or any other such project) could have just as easily been seed money for such a thing. Or Pillars of Eternity: The top 5 contributions account for $50,000 dollars. The top 15 for almost $100,000. 183 contributions, in total, paying $1,000 or more for a a handful of copies of the game: some maybe even purely to encourage the continued development of such, rather than for vanity items and NPCs.

    That's all their choice, and not an ignoble use of funds (as far as spending that much on entertainment goes.) But they are unmistakably personal ways to encourage the ideas they'd like to see, to flourish... as opposed to greater awareness or developer outreach.

    Nobody has done that, yet, which indicates a few possibilities:
    1. They feel the genre and followings are too disparate: we'd be reading articles about anti-blobber bias, anti-iso, anti-traditional, anti-experimental, etc
    2. They think the following is too scattered: experimentation breeds like fungus in urban areas, "indie RPG fans" are wherever they happen to be
    3. They know the genre isn't an easy fit for any existing format: Craig's essay touched on this, before its (excellent) counterpoint to a perceived argument
    4. They don't actually give a fuck about such things: the kid who feels sore looking over the fence, but didn't want to go to your stupid party anyway
    For my own part? I'd say a complete RPG needs coverage and exposure... not necessarily incubation, cross-pollination, and exposing the low barriers to entry. Those are a large part of what "the" scene is about. It's why Brenda's talk revolves around agility, experimentation, and laser-focus on whichever "innovation" they're trying to present.

    These things are more or less the backbone of any media "movement" (as opposed to "mere" participation.) You get an idea out the door, feel it out in the process. Then either latch on and refine it, or move on to the next whim and see where someone else runs with the last. Poetry, underground music, open-source, visual arts: pretty much anywhere where the the avant-garde relies on constant, outward, iteration and feedback loops: this is how the community operates.

    Many of the creators probably don't set out specifically to "make a good game" -- there are better venues, avenues, and methods for full-on production. They want to throw something new(ish?) against the wall... for results good or ill. The results can then inform the creation of "actual" games.

    Who hasn't read a list of influences by a (in any media) and thought, "who the fuck, what the fuck, why the fuck?" They think deeply about their field, and take each individual element for what it's worth (or discard it, for what it's not, and thank the gods someone else made that mistake for them.)

    Point being: the right things were said to the right people, and Craig was in the wrong chair. I do sympathize with him over any time, effort, or money he spent to sit in it. I do find it annoying that the media churns more stories out of that scene, simply because they more easily can.

    But I don't think RPG development has no place in that environment. If a system has a hook, or a twist, it can be prototyped focusing on that. That's good, solid advice 90% of the time... 100% when it's clear that's what [given audience] is asking of you.

    Something like, say, Blackguards with its emphasis on set-pieces, could fit in easily... if pared down to that core. Nothing to say the ideas couldn't be then expanded into the game as released. But to present it specifically in that kind of context, it's best not to kick things off by dapping mooks on the head with a blunt object.

    Without clear demonstrational focus, it's hard to blame anyone for seeing it as nothing more than a nice gait on a clearly-marked trail. That's what many indie RPGs are, let's not kid ourselves; fuck it's what many here insist they be. That's what we talk about on the Codex, and elsewhere they talk about other things.

    Due to the nature of RPGs, unless you do something truly wild, it's kind of like presenting SMB3 next to Kirby, Little Nemo, or Clash at Demonhead. It is astonishingly well-executed, and at its worst a better game than the other three put together. But if that's not the point of the exercise, there's little sense in presenting a largely linear worldmap, or allowing most of the game to be beat without touching a power-up, or lamenting how they didn't play long enough to reach Kuribo's Shoe or a Hammersuit.

    (It's no mistake that these are all choices which improved the game as a whole.)
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2014
    • Brofist Brofist x 1
    ^ Top  
  25. DeepOcean Arcane

    DeepOcean
    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2012
    Parrots:
    5,076
    There are three types of gamers, the engineer minded people that like systems working with each other like a machine (this is most the audience of kickstarter), the artsy types that like presentation more than mechanics and the casual gamers (compose most of the AAA market.) that are mostly impressed with graphics and cheap thrills. Indies attend the necessities of the second group, AAA the last and only now the first one is getting some attention. Going on events like Indiecade with AoD or Legend of Eisenwald is like you showing a really well built building with some quite new construction methods, it will make engineers have a hard on but will bore architects to tears as they only care with the building looks, if doesn't look like a landed strange alien space ship, they won't pay attention to you.
     
    • Brofist Brofist x 1
    ^ Top  

(buying stuff via the above buttons helps us pay the hosting bills, thanks!)