Letters to the Editor



Every week, we publish our Letters to the Editor – the best comments and responses we’ve received regarding the previous week’s issue, taken from our very own forums. Every Escapist whose comments are published in our weekly compilation receives an exclusive badge. Since this is a very special issue, the comments featured in this week’s Letters will earn an equally special and unique “Anniversary Letters” badge which won’t be available anywhere else. Congratulations!


In response to “Infinite Caves, Infinite Stories” from The Escapist Forum: Loved this game, glad it’s getting the acclaim it deserves.

The only real gripe I have with the ludic camp trying to ditch all linear moments in a game in favor of a purely emergent system is that in order for a deep, personal experience to occur you have to make the game complex to the point of unplayable.

The average personal player story from Spelunky usually sounds roughly the same to any other one. There are a dozen or so procedural scenarios that constantly change combined with a tight platforming design to make the combination of choices possible manageable. The only emergent game I’ve ever seen actually produce a surprisingly deep personal story was Dwarf Fortress. The thing is…who the f*** understands how to play that game? I don’t mean any offense to the proud gamers who can, but I struggled with it for hours and hear the same from most people.

Linearity may be a shortcut, but the implications of having it or abandoning it go way beyond just giving the player options.

L.B. Jeffries

In response to “A Delicate Balance” from The Escapist Forum:

I must say… that I don’t really know what to make of this article.

I’ve always considered ‘indie’ games to be games developed without reliance on a financial backer who distorts and controls the creative process in order to maximise profit. Companies that I think of when I think ‘indie’ are guys like Introversion (Darwinia, Defcon), and Bit-Blot (Aquaria), and ThatGameCompany (fl0w, Flower). There are also plenty of individuals out there who make indie games, of course, but none spring immediately to mind except the maker of Dwarf Fortress, Tarn Adams, and the maker of Battleships Forever, Sean ‘th15’ Chan.

This is, at least, what I associate with the label ‘indie’. But I’ve not really seen any pushes from bigger companies to try and mass-market the ‘indie’ genre. To try and make big studios make ‘indie’ style games. So… while I kinda enjoyed the read, I’m not really sure what the point Chris was trying to make was. Am I supposed to have a raised awareness of indie game companies? Feel wariness towards the (apparently looming) commercialisation of ‘indie’?

I suppose at the very least, I’ve reflected on what ‘indie’ means to me. So I guess the article’s done its job? *shrug*


As I said in the Editor’s Note section, the sheer lack of boundaries and the ability to be as creative as you want is what I love so much about the Indie scene.

I would think of it as a shame for the indie scene in gaming to disappear into obscurity, as it kind of has with music and (partially with) the film industry, as it is one of the few parts of the entertainment business that haven’t started to put emphasis on the business side of the balance rather than the entertainment side. Instead of just doing what everyone else is doing because what everyone else is doing sells and makes money, these people are trying to be original and don’t care about profit margins and sales.

However, I can see the idea behind what Carlos Bordeu is saying as well, about “Indie should still be indie, whether or not it is mainstream.” I can see where he’s coming from there, but that’s just not indie in my opinion. “Indie” is an abbreviation of “Independant”, and I just don’t think it’s standing up to its original meaning and objectives if it is part of a mainstream company. If an indie company and a mainstream company were to make the same game, the mainstream one wouldn’t be indie in my eyes. It would be “original”, but not “indie”.

All in all, I don’t think indie itself matters as a genre after reading that article. What matters, is what it stands for: Creativity, original ideas, clever designs that we wouldn’t expect as a player. These are all things that the major game developers could bring into their designs if they merely believed they would sell, but as it is they’re playing it better safe than sorry and as a result just stick to the same ideas that sell lots.

Any company could do what indie ones are trying to do, it just happens to be that the indie ones are the only ones doing it, thus indie gets thought of as a genre for any game that is original and creative.


In response to “The Death of a Manifesto” from The Escapist Forum:

I hadn’t even heard of Manifesto until its closure was announced recently. Based on this article, I missed nothing more than an ideal.

Looking at the state of the games industry today, I agree with Costikyan to an extent; large scale titles all follow the same tried and true formula for success and any originality whatsoever is often considered an “innovation”. As with any innovation, there are risks that must be run in order to get the concepts and ideas to work. These risks can be succinctly defined as a chance that the game will be terrible (id est: sell poorly) due to a new, but bad feature.

AAA titles require so much monetary investment that risks are rare; in order for a game to get decent returns, developers resort to pushing out endless sequels because they know that this development strategy guarantees a return. Indie games are small scale and small budget, allowing more risks due to a lessened necessity of generating a return. It is because of this that indie games represent what the industry should be about: creating new and engaging gaming experiences, as opposed to the graphically intensive, but ultimately lacklustre titles that most large mainstream developers and publishers are producing.

I must confess that I have played few indie games and enjoyed even fewer. That said, the ones that I enjoyed were much more engaging than most mainstream games I play. As with any medium of art or entertainment, for every piece that is great and awe-inspiring, we must endure about a hundred that are average at best.

It is sad that a game, such as a sequel to The Shivah, cannot get any distribution due to the presence of complex themes like religion, despite not including any objectionable or derogatory material. It reflects very poorly on the industry as a whole; it demonstrates the fact that the medium cannot evolve or grow into something more than mindless entertainment.


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