RIP, The Last Great Indie

RIP, The Last Great Indie

A lament for the last indie powerhouse becoming another cog in the machine.

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i always enjoy your articles they are unbelievable well written and interesting, and this where far from an exception.

i didn't even know that id was sold, but perhaps they will take it even further.

Great article, as usual. You are a fantastic writer. And hopefully id will still be a powerhouse.

I'd argue that the reason their recent games were derided was because they *did* change the gameplay significantly.

Play the first level of the original Doom and you can see how well you did. You know how many of the monsters you killed, how many secrets you found, and basically have instant feedback on how well you're doing -- not to mention incentive to go back and do it again so that you can do it better.

Now, play through the first level of Doom III and you can.. uh.. no levels.. right. Okay. Uhm. Play for the first little while, say to the first load point. You can .. oh.. wait.. you haven't actually DONE anything but follow instructions and listen to bad voice-overs. Okay, let's skip that bit. Move on to where you do some actual fighting. Cool. Now get to the next load point and you.. uh.. get to keep playing? No feedback? No idea if you missed any part of the level, or if you managed to clean out the area. Hm.

Alright, alright, ignore all that. Maybe this whole story thing is better somehow than achievement. Let's look at the gameplay itself.

Okay. Doom I, first level. Let's see.. big open space, little pool in the middle, Oh wait.. somebody shot at you from the right.. let's go see. Ah, down the hall there, there are three guys.. now I can try to pick them off from back here, and I'm more likely to save health, but if I get in closer I'll have a better chance of hitting them, even though I might take some damage. Hm..

Now Doom III.. Let's see.. little twisty corridor.. gah! Ugly guy just jumped out of a closet right in front of me. Okay. He's dead.. now where was I.. gah! Two down. Okay, sounds like there's some others up around that corner, I'll just take a peek..gah! What is this? There's no way to determine a tactic at all, it's all just can you react quickly enough before you get killed. If that isn't bad enough, the creatures are hard to see against the background, obscure your view with smoke and basically make it so that a large part of what you do is fire and hope the guy happens to be in front of where your gun is pointing at the time. And that's without even getting into the whole "It takes two hands to carry a flashlight" deal.

In short, Doom I was very much a game of skill. It let you choose strategies that matched your particular skills (I always tend to have an abundance of health and very little ammo, my partner the exact opposite), it gave you some means to measure that skill, and it did so in sections that had a clear beginning, middle, and end that you could run through between 20 minutes and an hour or so.

Doom III is a game of reactions, there is generally neither room nor time to work out a strategy before you're you have to react, there is no method to measure how well you're doing through a particular section other than whether you're still alive, and no nice break point where you can say, "Okay, that's enough for now"

It's all about the money. I was disappointed when BioWare took that filthy wad of cash from EA.

I think game development needs to go back to its roots of small teams that ride on the success of their talent. That's what gets me excited about indie games. When you get an artist, programmer, writer and musician in the same room with just enough talent, that's all you really need. A four-piece development team. Rock on!

Nintendo is the last development house from the golden age.

But Nintendo is giant, so it may not be the same thing.

I guess the question is, what sort of subsidiary are they going to be?

For example, EA bought up Westwood and Bioware. One still exists and makes good games, the other... RIP.

Will iD get the chance to make something good again? will they just be responsible for graphics engine work etc.? or will they slowly disappear?

[edit] The above post about Doom vs. Doom 3 got me thinking, I don't think I have enjoyed an iD game for quite a long time... maybe longer than 10 years...

Well, a couple of points:

Bethesda is a hit or miss operation, you look at their big successes which have been sandbox RPGs, but they have developed/worked on other titles besides those. Including more limited RPG fare like Battlespire, to action RPG fare like Redguard, to things like X-Cars, Star Trek, and I believe a Star Wars themed chess program. Outside of their core Elder Scrolls games and Fallout 3 (which was itself a modified version of Oblivion) I don't think they have been successful though they have tried to branch out.

iD Software might very well give them the technical support they need to branch out into other things successfully, though honestly I'd think letting Bethesda do anything besides Sandbox RPGs would be a waste of having obtained the company. They do one thing well, and have proven they really aren't good at anything else (apologies to them).

It also occurs to me that with a sequel to Fallout 3 doubtlessly ahead, they might be looking to remove the RPG elements or reduce them substantially and towards that end wanted a set of experts in the shooter genere, namely the guys who pretty much invented the FPS. Truthfully I think this would kill the franchise, but it could be what they are thinking.

-

As far as the analogy to the Beatles, well, I think the idea of splitting off usually involves people having differances of opinion on what to work on next and a couple of key members splitting resources to work on differant projects with their own teams. Oftentimes this leads to problems as described. I mention this simply because it isn't them generally just hiring 4 unproven bums to develop a game without any real plan and letting them use their name. Typically such split-offs make sense when they happen even if the underlying principle is to make more money.

On the other hand it occurs to me that if they did make a "Beatles West" and simply saw Paul and John splitting up to work on their own projects (since as I understand them the central conflict was the two of them disagreeing about what the music should be about) it might have changed musical history for the better. :)

What's more given that the Monkees were primarily a group of actors paid to pretend they were musicians (to my knowlege), and were ripping off (or paying homage to) the Beatles heavily in their style, becoming successful and well remembered despite everything, I'd imagine if The Beatles did decide to eventually split off, hire actors who could imitate their style, and have Paul and John do the actual writing... well they probably could have built quite the little clone empire there for a while.

Sort of like the amusing rumors that spawned a certain Bill Campbell comedy that Elvis Presley actually hired Elvis Impersonators to do some of his shows in his place (Bubba Ho Tep having taken the idea a couple of steps further than that... heh).

>>>----Therumancer--->

At least it wasn't EA.

ummmmmmm.......epic games anyony? last i checked they were still an independent studio, granted they make about as much money as some large publishers, but their still an independent studio.

anyway, nice article, but i do have one big problem with it. the fact is this: times change, things change and the world changes. you either change with it or get left behind. fact of the matter is that game development is more expensive then its ever been (with games quickly catching up to movies in terms of cost) primarily because of the increasing demand to make games look better (kind of ironic since it was id that was a major proponent of pushing graphics technology back in the day). these days a studio cant survive and produce these kinds of games with one small team, and for a studio like id to concentrate only on small, simple games would be odd.

lastly, with multiple teams if one fails the other CAN make up for its failure, where if they have one team and it fails alls pretty much lost.

FloodOne:
Nintendo is the last development house from the golden age.

But Nintendo is giant, so it may not be the same thing.

They are still around, but they don't want our money anymore. Its the people who DONT go to places like the Escapist who they are trying to get money from.

Great article. id have always been one of my favourite developers, and Quake II is still one of my favourite games of all time. Like you, I've always admired the fact that they kept doing what they were good at and didn't sell out to anyone, until now, at least. I doubt the move to ZeniMax will hurt them, since they'll have a lot more money to work with, but it's still a pity that they don't stand alone any more.

Radeonx:
And hopefully id will still be a powerhouse.

id was always a powerhouse, and I don't see that changing any time soon. Their games may not be particularly complicated, but they do what they need to: they're good, solid, and all-round fun. Sometimes, that's all a game needs to be.

Incidentally, am I the only one who actually liked Quake 4?

Anachronism:

Incidentally, am I the only one who actually liked Quake 4?

I did. It was a very solid old-school fast-paced type of shooter in a way that was refreshing compared to slower paced shooters like Halo, Killzone and the others. I wasn't really expecting much after Doom 3 to be honest but Quake 4 basically was what Doom 3 should've been.

The multiplayer was nice too, though it was just copy-pasted from Quake 3. You can't fail there.

Woe Is You:

Anachronism:

Incidentally, am I the only one who actually liked Quake 4?

I did. It was a very solid old-school fast-paced type of shooter in a way that was refreshing compared to slower paced shooters like Halo, Killzone and the others. I wasn't really expecting much after Doom 3 to be honest but Quake 4 basically was what Doom 3 should've been.

The multiplayer was nice too, though it was just copy-pasted from Quake 3. You can't fail there.

I dug Quake 4 too. Like you said, not high art - but fun. The biggest problem with the game was that they spoiled the best part (Strogification) in the previews. If that had been a surprise twist I think it would have really grabbed people.

Loved the article. ;)

I for one, never liked id Software very much. All they did was make games that constantly made me motion sick, something which was the sole reason for putting me off gaming when I was a young lad checking out this new PC stuff. Pretty much the same goes for Bethesda, their shitty and repetitive engine made me lose any interest I had within the story.

I'm very unsure what the two teams could cook up together, but considering how little either of them has managed to catch my attention, I doubt I'll be interested.

Well my jaw has dropped all the 7 floors when I heard about the acquisition of id. I mean, I sorta expected it (the money from Doom 3 etc. couldn't last forever and they had to know it), but still. Anyway, I then read all the Carmack's interviews about the thing and considering the current situation in AAA game development, that's the best thing for id.

For anyone who doesn't know, id was acquired, but the business is more like a joint venture - Bethesda is basically independent (seriously, who actually knew who their publisher/owner really is?) and so will be id. Also, they say there is no overlap among Bethesda's and id's games and I must agree - I don't own anything from Bethesda, while I own everything id has ever released. So they must know (and apparently they do) that both companies *must* stay separate in terms of games being developed.

In other words, I'm happy for id they will now have more cash to make games and someone to rely to when some of their games flop for some reason. If they'd have stayed indie forever and something bad happened, they would probably be swallowed by EA or Activision and join the rest of millions of their nameless employees.

But to be honest, while I loved all the id's games, the sheer brilliance have topped with Doom 2 and it's a bit of a decline from there. Still way better than any other developer, seriously.

Well... Their decision, we can't change anything...

Still, kinda sad to see the last one go.

Shamus Young:

Woe Is You:

Anachronism:

Incidentally, am I the only one who actually liked Quake 4?

I did. It was a very solid old-school fast-paced type of shooter in a way that was refreshing compared to slower paced shooters like Halo, Killzone and the others. I wasn't really expecting much after Doom 3 to be honest but Quake 4 basically was what Doom 3 should've been.

The multiplayer was nice too, though it was just copy-pasted from Quake 3. You can't fail there.

I dug Quake 4 too. Like you said, not high art - but fun. The biggest problem with the game was that they spoiled the best part (Strogification) in the previews. If that had been a surprise twist I think it would have really grabbed people.

I certainly that was major idiocy on the part of pretty much everybody. The manual spoiled it, the box spoiled it, the site I bought it from spoiled it... there was virtually no way of avoiding it being spoiled. I found the game itself fun, but not special. Shortly before getting it, I had been playing Fear, so the gunplay didn't spark as much. Plus I think by this time I'd gotten Body Horror fatigue from various games I'd been playing, so some of the set design manage to be both squicky and tiresome.

Great article, and very interesting as well, as I didn't know much about id beforehand.

Such a shame though to see the last indie maker go.

Of course, this is a stupid and terrible idea. The four new musicians would have no better odds at success than any other four guys trying to get into the business.

Oh, if only this were true! :-(

Dom Camus:

Of course, this is a stupid and terrible idea. The four new musicians would have no better odds at success than any other four guys trying to get into the business.

Oh, if only this were true! :-(

Nah, it is true. Try googling "Girl Thing". Note the coincidence of dates between the Spice Girls' rise to fame and their entrance into existence... their first single was tipped for #1. I believe it actually reached #8, then slipped to #19. Hah! Gotta feel sorry for the members of the band though... death by bad marketing is not a good way to go.

Grampy_bone:
At least it wasn't EA.

It actually was EA.

All development studios that have been purchased in the last five years have been bought by EA. EA actually owns all development studios and are trying to crash the videogame industry by forcing everyone to either make crappy games or remakes.

Anyways, nice article, Shamus.

I only own 1 id Software game, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars

tis fun, but punkbuster messes it up

Shamus Young:
I dug Quake 4 too. Like you said, not high art - but fun. The biggest problem with the game was that they spoiled the best part (Strogification) in the previews. If that had been a surprise twist I think it would have really grabbed people.

This. (And as Windknight already pointed out, they even had it on the back of the box. Just give away the entire plot of the game, there's a sound marketing strategy for you. [rolls eyes])

Even with indie companies being bought out. It means there is going to be an inflow of new independent dev. companies. Plus we will see the mainstream games incorporate more of what us indie gamers love.

Greatest FPS developer ever, end of an era :(

Mr. Young,

Great article. You touched on some of the negative points brought on by the latest news. However, I have to disagree with your comparison aircraft designer helping design tanks. I am extremely excited to see Fallout 4, or another Bethesda game with an id Engine.

For a great review of the positive aspects, check out the Octale and Hordak Vs. The World, a gaming podcast found on Itunes or at wcradio.com. Their episode "Quaking at the Fallout of Doom", discusses plenty of positive elements to the merger.

If you've got a spare hour or two, check it out. It provides a great balance to the points raised in your article.

Thanks,
Bellhop

Great piece, but isn't VALVe still an independant, privately owned company? Even if they are ridiculously profitable?

Edit: Yup, they're still independant and privately owned. I guess VALVe is overlooked due to how big Steam is getting?

At least one to go, Mr. Young, at least one to go.

Same, I thought valve was independent, and doing really well (although, prehaps they are evolving into a new machine with the steam platform)

 

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