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If Milo’s review of the games included in the rather excellent Humble Indie bundle (http://www.humblebundle.com/) hasn’t already convinced you to name your price and download the five indie titles on offer then you better listen closely, as this is important stuff… Indie games are the perfect remedy for jaded veteran gamers who are sick of seeing the same recycled ideas. The premium console games industry is ruthlessly competitive and it is getting harder and harder for new games to break even when they enter stores. It is for this reason alone that many studios pander to the masses and cheaply produce clones of titles that have done well in the past. Indie designers however, with their one man efforts and complete lack of overheads, make games that are completely different to the mainstream AAA titles. Although they might not be producing completely immersive experiences, you can be sure they’ll be experimenting with weird and wonderful new concepts that the big boys wouldn’t usually have the guts to tinker with.
Incidentally, Indie bundle buyers also get to trial Minecraft until mid August for free. It’s the indie success story of the year and the perfect example of how indie developers can afford to break the mold a bit. On paper, Minecraft sounds terrible. You get an infinite expanse made up of various types of cube which you can then ‘dig up’ and move to other locations, sometimes combining them at a crafting desk to make new types of block which you can then put down elsewhere. There’s no goal or scoreboard, just a massive sandbox with less than impressive graphics. It would have never gotten off the ground at the big studios but it’s been a huge success and no amount of personal recommendations from me can communicate how absorbing it can be. You just have to take a leap of faith and develop your own world despite any misgivings you have about it.
Anyway, the Humble Indie Bundle has gone all ‘In Rainbows’ on us by letting us choose what price we wish to pay for these five games. I downloaded it and the payment form suggested the sum of $29.95 – which I thought was a bit rich – so I went for the princely sum of $7 (which was still above average so go me). That’s more than Radiohead got so they should count themselves lucky. You can even decide where your money goes, whether it goes toward the developers of the five games, the supported charities or the people behind the whole scheme.
Just to illustrate, I could donate to something called the EFF, which is a digital rights group in the US which opposes government use of internet service providers to spy on civilians. As much as that seems like a decent enough cause, I can’t help but think that my money would be better spent at the Child’s Play charity, which buys in games, books and toys for kids who are in children’s hospitals all over the world.. You might disagree with me but that’s the whole point. Buy the bundle and direct your charity the way you think is best! Play games, make sick kids happy. What could be better?
It’s not all about the Humble Bundle though. Indie games should definitely be a part of your gaming vocabulary and they’re in plentiful supply if you know where to look. I’ll add a disclaimer now that websites like Kongregate and Adult Swim games are simply rammed with indie efforts from around the world and the quality can vary massively. To me part of the joy of indie is sifting through the rubbish to find the gems that demolish hours and hours of free (and what should technically be work) time. However, if you’re too lazy to go look for yourselves then I can heartily recommend the massive platforming adventure known as An Untitled Story, the epic RPG effort known as Mardek RPG and the immortal classic that will bring a tear to the eyes of everyone who manages to get to the final chapter: Quest for The Crown. Don’t say I didn’t do anything nice for you people.