This is what games should be like on XBLIG:
Before I explain why, let me start at the beginning…
The Microsoft Corporation of America spent millions developing the XBOX 360. They built a powerful online infrastructure in the form of XBOX Live. They coordinated with high tech manufacturers to provide the component parts for graphics and sounds. They coordinated with worldwide distribution chains to get the box on the shelves of thousands of electronic stores across the world. They did all this and they let me make as many games I want for it for just $100 a year.
I have nearly complete control over the hardware. Well almost everything. I can’t create achievements, read saved data from other games, or access the Internet. But close enough. Big game companies pay a lot of money for development kits to build games for this same hardware.
By developing an XBLIG game, I am playing on the same court as the big game companies. However, they have hundreds of programmers, artists, musicians and game designers who have much more experience than I do. They spend millions making games with the same fidelity of a Hollywood movie.
Why should I try to make games that any way compares to them?
To stand out and have a chance at being noticed by the millions of xbox owners, I need to go guerrilla. My games shouldn’t be anything like those. Avoid space games, abandon games set in a post-apocalyptic zombie infested city. Ignore the sweeping tales about the magical war-torn world of Av’an’gool.
Think Keita Takahashi not Cliff Blezinski.
That brings me to Pew Pew Pew Pew Pew Pew Pew.
These guys get it.
They made a game that doesn’t even use a controller. The game, made by a group of indie game developers named Incredible Ape, requires you to yell “Pew” into the microphone to shoot. A second player (also vocalizing) controls the height of the space man. It is the type of game that is so unique, so interesting, that it gets mentioned on podcasts. Blogs pick it up.
Listen, nobody wants to talk about your 4-level-long, side-scrolling shooter that has the crappy explosions (because you still haven’t gotten the hang of that particle generator). We must think way out into the nether regions of gaming.
A long time ago in XBLIG land there was a game named Remote Masseuse. Players connected remotely over XBOX live to could control how much the remote controller would vibrate. It was cheeky, and winking, but it was interesting. The game’s developer thought beyond what we could do with the hardware. Beyond what anybody at Electronic Arts would do. It sold quite a few and got mentioned all over the enthusiast press. It was so brilliant and simple that everyone copied it and eventually it became a punchline. But they had the right idea.
The big guys (like Activision) have to play is safe because they have share holders. They have to worry about selling in the millions. Why should we compete with that and try to make what will be perceived as budget, knock-off versions of their games.
Instead, subvert. Make odd games that you have to play with your dog. Make a games that requires two players but they must share one controller. Hell! Why not make a 64 player game that requires 4 controllers and everyone gets one button.
Try a game based on scanning cereal box covers (I think we can use the USB camera in XBLIG). Think beyond the limits of games that you find at Gamestop.
Look at the other XBLIG -released game B.U.T.T.O.N. It uses one button. The game prompts users to do something and the first one to complete it presses a controller button. It is clever and requires players to interact with each other outside of the digital realm. It is also up for a Nuvo award from the well-regarded Independent Games festival. B.U.T.T.O.N. is another game that got past the hangup about thinking like the big companies and what video games should be.
There is nowhere in the XBLIG license agreement that says we have to make either a zombie game, a side-scrolling space shooter, or a twin stick shooter. We have access to hardware that cost millions of dollars to produce. Why are we squandering this opportunity with traditional games.
If you want to get buzz for your game, no more side scrolling shooters. Treasure is already better at making them than you. No more top down twin stick shooters. There are approximately 1,000 produced every day. No more epic RPG’s. Bioware and Square already do it better. No more 2D platformers about restoring color to a black and white world. Nintendo is already there. Lets not try to beat them at their game. Lets make our own game. Or not even a game.