Indie Games Spotlight for September 9th, 2012

By mancide,
Indie Games Uprising III kicks off tomorrow with the first game qrth-phyl. Over the next nine weeks our weekly Indie Games Spotlight article will be dedicated to covering each of the titles in the promotion this year.

As a special treat, I got the chance to talk with Michael Hicks and Dave Voyles, the coordinators of this year's Indie Games Uprising promotion.

As a way to get more familiar with your video game history, do you care to tell us a little bit about your gaming history and share with us some of your favorite games (indie or not) that you have played over the years?

Dave: I started gaming during the NES/Master System era and had both. I was milked on classics like Super Mario Bros., Ninja Gaiden, and Mega Man 2 before moving onto the Genesis and SNES when I finally got my training wheels off.

I still prefer the 8 and 16bit era of titles over today's contemporary ones, but I still play my fair share of modern games.

I realized that I always wanted to do something in the industry, but never had a clue of what I wanted to do, so I just played a ton of games until I decided what I wanted to pursue!

I actually go over this list in my head on a daily basis, but my top 5 games (in no particular order) are:
- Mega Man 2
- Resident Evil
- Final Fantasy VII
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
- Night Trap (Don't ask)

Michael: I grew up playing computer games on my dad's lap. But my first console that I owned myself was the N64. My favorite childhood games were Jet Force Gemini, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, Star Fox 64.... I could go on for a while! Pretty much any Star Wars game is on this list!

I really don't play a ton of mainstream stuff anymore... but my favorite big games from the last decade are probably Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and a game from Lionhead called The Movies.

Some of my favorite games so far this year are Dear Esther,, qrth-phyl, and this really amazing flash game called Personal Trip To The Moon. Also among my current favorites is this game called Wither, and One and One Story. Those are free to play, so check them out!

Do a barrell roll! I remember being blown away by the first time I played Star Fox back in the day.

Since you are now on the third iteration of the Indie Games Uprising program can you tell us what originally drove you to create this program, and how do you feel the program has impacted the developers who have participated?

Dave: Well I wasn't part of the original one - that was the genius plan of Robert Boyd (Zeboyd Games) and Ian Stocker (Magical Time Bean).

But around May of last year Kris Steele (Fun Infused Games) stirred up the idea again in the App Hub, which is Microsoft's forum for XBLIG developers. I loved the idea of doing another promotion, and we began the planning stages soon after that.

It was a success by most regards, and certainly got quite a few of the developers and XBLIG the exposure it deserves. Many of them have moved onto other services like Steam, Apple's App Store, an Amazon.

Some saw more sales than others, but overall it allowed for their games an studios to become everyday names in the gaming press and development circle.

I personally am glad you helped keep this program going. I have been exposed to many great titles through my coverage of the program here. Michael, do you have anything to add?

Michael: No comment. Dave summed it up!

Can you describe the selection process for the games? I noticed this years games appear to be a little heavy on the 3-D style? Was that an intentional decision?

Michael: We pretty much tried to pick out great games, and stuff that we found exciting.

Dave: I think it was by complete chance that many I the games are 3D in nature, as we were just looking for the best titles we could, which would also be able to hit the early fall release date.

It started with Michael and I putting in a request in the App Hub to get developers to submit what they believed were some of the most polished titles from Microsoft's current Dream.Build.Play promotion.

After a number of them were brought to our attention, we collectively began to eliminate the ones we didn't feel would be appropriate for one reason or another, and then began to contact the ones who we wanted to work with to see if they could hit the tentative date.

Once we had a solid group of 5 or 6 developers we began to talk among one another to add the final pieces. This far it's proven to be a great process.

Since the Uprising promotion began, we have seen several iterations of the Xbox Live Indie Games store on the dashboard. Do you feel these changes have been positive or not? What changes would you like to see in the future? And do you feel the latest changes in the Fall 2012 update are moving us in the correct direction?

Dave: In some regards the most recent dashboard update has been a benefit to us (XBLIG), but in others not so much .

For one, it has nearly put us on a level playing ground with XBLA, in terms of exposure. We're in the same tab, and located or box over, however we do not receive dashboard promotions, such as select XBLA titles. We also don't pay the advertising fees either, so as far as I'm concerned, this is an extremely fair deal.

For $100 each year, we have access to an active consumer base of nearly 40 million individuals - that's nothing to scoff at.

On the other hand, games as a whole are buried under the mess that is the current dashboard. You need to scroll over past 4 or 5 tab to even get to the games tab now.

Again, I understand Microsoft's decision here, especially when you consider the recent Penny Arcade Report, where Ben Kuchera illustrates the rates to advertise on the dash. As a gamer though, and someone trying to reach an audience as a developer, it can become frustrating.

Michael: The downloads from my very first game were completely dead around mid 2011. After the dashboard update last December I'm getting about 200 downloads a month on it. I think the user base is growing and the games are getting better and better, it's just been happening so slowly that it's not really noticeable on a day to day basis.

I’d like to think that sites like TrueAchievements, who are exposing some of the best titles available on the program have helped gain exposure for all titles as well.

I'm sure you hate answering this question, but is there a particular title in this year's Uprising that you are looking forward to playing?

Michael: I've really enjoyed playing pretty much all of the games, but qrth-phyl is really compelling. Matt from hermitgames was able to turn classic snake mechanics into something intellectual. I really think there's something for everyone with these games, so be sure to try them all!

Dave: I never have a problem answering this. I love JRPG's, so my favorite game from the last promotion was Doom and Destiny. This time around I'm most looking forward to Diehard Dungeons. I mentioned that A Link to the Past was one of my favorite games, and the parallels are pretty obvious.

Everyone has their preference, in terms of genre, so I completely understand that all of these games are not for everyone, myself included. Still, all of them together cost less than one Summer of XBLA title smile.

The Indie Games Uprising III promotion kicks off tomorrow, September 10th, 2012 with the release of qrth-phyl. Be sure to check back for our weekly coverage of each game released in this year's promotion.

If you have an Xbox Live Indie Game that you feel should be featured in an edition of the Indie Games Spotlight, please PM your suggestions to mancide.
Written by mancide
When not enjoying video games, our fearless newshound enjoys an nice pint of fermented barley and hops in a variety of styles. India Pale Ales, Stouts, Porters, Witbiers, Saisons, Gose, Lambics, Barleywine, you name it. If it has water, malted barley, hops and yeast in it, I'll consume it.

I also enjoy all things technological, Doctor Who, wrasslin, traveling, and spending time with my family.