雅达利因其糟糕的商业管理而引发1983年的电子游戏崩溃之时，它还留下了一个由起居室程序员来填补的空白，后者致力于在原本并非为运行游戏而设计的平台上开发游戏。得益于微机时代（游戏邦注：例如Apple II，Commodore 64和ZX Spectrum）的发展，这些天真的年轻人创造了一些行业最为大胆和原创的作品，当时还没有什么行业规则，所以他们定义了这些规则。以下就是其中一些典型例子：
它由当时还名不见经传的Richard Garriott用BASIC语言所编程，这是一款被公认为最早的RPG游戏代表之一。当时Garriott仍然与父母住在一起，该游戏最初是通过塑料包装出售，之后才在1980年获得更广泛传播。Garriott继续组建了Origin Systems，其著名RPG系列《创世纪》则继承了《阿卡拉贝斯》的精髓。这一系列成功令Garriott后来成了全球首批太空宇航员之一。
这是一款由Roberta和Ken Williams（这对夫妇的另一代表作为《Sierra On-Line》）推出的冒险游戏，同时也是史上首批图像冒险游戏之一。与Richard Garriott的《阿卡拉贝斯》一样，《神秘屋》最初也只是通过带有影印游戏指南的塑料盒在小店里出售，于1980年实现1万份零售销量——鉴于其开发者初出茅庐的背景，这在当时是个了不起的成就。
90年代来临时，诸如Atari ST和Commodore Amiga等家庭计算机正处于颓势，而世嘉和任天堂的得势则表明小型开发商更难获得关注了。由于商业推动以及专业人才需要强大的家庭计算机的需求，PC市场的发展为独立编码员开创了新机遇，从而诞生了“共享软件”这一概念。开发者可借此为用户免费提供一部分内容，只有当玩家想体验完整的内容时才需要掏钱。早年的id Software和Epic等公司正是通过这种销售方式成长为今天的巨头。
这是首批针对个人电脑开发的动作平台游戏之一，它借鉴了《洛克人》和《刺猬索尼克》等游戏元素，其开发者之一就是后来在Epic Games创造了《战争机器》的Cliff Bleszinski。该游戏划分成多个章节，第一部分内容也是以共享软件形式免费供应。该游戏多数内容是在Bleszinski的母亲家中编码，它的成功将这名年轻的编码员推向了事业的新高峰。
Xbox 360和PlayStation 3降临之后，Xbox Live Arcade和PlayStation Network也接踵而至——这两个数字商店降低了许多中小型软件工作室的准入门槛。微软尤其热衷于推广自己的设备，以《Braid》和《Limbo》等独特作品推动了独立游戏的复兴。这些低成本下载游戏原本被视为玩家消化“真正的”游戏之间的一种调味剂，但它们却播下了当前独立游戏的种子，后来的独立游戏所收获的关注度堪比出自动视和EA等大牌公司之手的AAA热作。
Jonathan Blow这款精美绝伦的平台谜题游戏至今仍是Xbox Live Arcade平台的一大亮点。表面上看它就像是深奥版本的《超级马里奥》，但添加了一个时间转换功能，以及一些令人费解的谜题，这些元素奠定了它现代经典游戏的地位。
这是另一款Xbox Live Arcade独家发布游戏，它是令人恐怖的2D平台游戏，借鉴了黑色电影元素，呈现了一些特别可怕的死亡场景。它赢得了数项大奖，也发布了其他版本，为其开发商Playdead赢得了不少商业回报——其XBLA版本收益就达到了750万美元。
这是由英国元老级程序员Julian Gollop最近发起的Kickstarter筹资项目（游戏邦注：他曾开发了《XCOM》原作），《混乱重生》翻新了其最早成功之作《Chaos》。这款基于竞技模式的回合制战略游戏的粉丝还包括《生化奇兵》开发者Ken Levine——他还出现在《混乱重生》的推广视频中声援这个众筹项目。
What was the greatest age for indie games?
The mobile era? The dawn of the PC? Have your say here.
Sometimes it seems like indie games by small-scale developers are a new phenomenon, spurred on by the age of smartphones, self-publishing, Kickstarter and encouraging successes like the mighty Minecraft. But that couldn’t be further from the case – video games started out in bedrooms decades ago, and while publishers like EA and Ubisoft have budgets in the tens of millions, a large portion of the development sector has arguably never left the garage. Join us as we chart a course through gaming’s chequered past to show how under-the-radar developers have always been an integral part of the industry – then have your say in the comments!
The 1980s – The Bedroom Era
When Atari brought about the 1983 video game crash with its terrible business management, it left a void which would be filled by bedroom coders working on platforms which weren’t originally intended to run games. Armed with micro computers of the period – such as the Apple II, Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum – these wide-eyed youngsters created some of the most daring and original titles the industry has ever seen; there were no rules, so they wrote them. These are just a few of them:
Akalabeth: World of Doom (Apple II)
Programmed in BASIC by fresh-faced Richard Garriott, Akalabeth: World of Doom is recognised as one of the very first RPG titles. Created when Garriott was still living with his parents, the game was originally sold in plastic zip-lock bags before it gained more widespread publication in 1980. Garriott would go on to form Origin Systems and his famous RPG series Ultima is considered to be a spiritual successor to Akalabeth. Such was his success that Garriott later became one of the world’s first space tourists.
Prince of Persia (Apple II)
Jordan Mechner had his first game – the martial arts simulation Karateka – published when he was still an undergraduate, but it is the Prince of Persia series which brought him global fame. The original game was groundbreaking in its use of rotoscoped graphics for fluid, realistic movement. Mechner used his brother to animate the smooth, lithe motions of the titular character, and despite the amazing commercial success of the game (it was ported to practically every gaming platform of the period), he joined New York University’s film department before working on the 1993 sequel – indie developers are clearly creative free spirits.
Mystery House (Apple II)
Mystery House was the debut adventure from Roberta and Ken Williams – the husband and wife team behind Sierra On-Line – and one of the first graphical adventure titles ever made. Like Richard Garriott’s Akalabeth, Mystery House was originally sold via small stores in zip-lock bags with photocopied instructions, but would go on to retail 10,000 copies in 1980 – an incredible feat for the time, given the fledgling nature of its creators.
One man band: The amazing games made by solo devs
The 1990s – Shareware Takes Over
Doom© id Software
By the time the ’90s arrived, home computers such as the Atari ST and Commodore Amiga were on the wane, and Sega and Nintendo’s newfound dominance meant that small-scale developers had a harder time getting noticed. The growing PC market – driven forward by business and the need for professionals to have a powerful computer at home – opened up opportunities for indie coders, with the concept of “shareware” coming into being. With this, developers offered the first portion of their game for free, with the full experience coming only when you shelled out your cash. This method of distribution allowed companies such as id Software (of Quake fame) and Epic (Gears of War) to become the giants they are today.
Following on from the success of Wolfenstein 3D, id Software created Doom, arguably the most influential first-person shooter ever made – it even got mentioned in an episode of the popular ’90s sitcom Friends, for crying out loud. Distributed as shareware back in 1993 – with the first act being given away for free – it eventually sold over one million copies, and Doom has since become a wildly successful franchise.
Rise of the Triad (PC)
Released a year after Doom hit the market and turned the first-person shooter into the hottest genre around, Apogee’s Rise of the Triad was seen as the next big step forward for the genre. Levels were larger in vertical terms, and you could carry two handguns for the true “John Woo” experience. The game’s multiplayer mode was notable for pioneering such elements as deathmatches and team-based combat, and like Doom, it was a shareware release.
Jazz Jackrabbit (PC)
One of the first action platform titles to be developed specifically for personal computers, Jazz Jackrabbit was inspired by the likes of Mega Man and Sonic the Hedgehog, and was co-designed by Cliff Bleszinski, who would later create Gears of War at Epic Games. The game was divided into episodes, with the opening segment being freely distributed as shareware. Most of the game was apparently coded in the home of Bleszinski’s mother, but its success would push the young coder onto bigger and better things.
The 2000s – Indie Gaming Comes To Consoles
Braid© Number None, Inc.
With the arrival of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 came Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network – two digital storefronts which lowered the barrier of entry for many small to medium-sized software houses. Microsoft in particular was keen to push this aspect of its machine, spearheading an indie revival off the back of unique titles such as Braid and Limbo. These low-cost downloads were initially seen as an appetiser for players to digest in-between “real” games, but they sowed the seeds of the current indie market, which arguably showcases titles which garner as much attention as Triple A blockbusters from the likes of Activision and EA.
Jonathan Blow’s painfully beautiful platform puzzler remains one of the highlights of Xbox Live Arcade, on which it was until very recently an exclusive release. On the surface it feels like an esoteric Super Mario, but the addition of a time-shifting ability – not to mention some mind-bending puzzles – elevates it to the status of a modern classic.
Minecraft is an indie hit turned global phenomenon and has been downloaded more than 35 million times since its launch on the PC in 2009. Half sandbox construction sim, half survival epic, Mojang’s game now challenges the likes of Super Mario and Angry Birds when it comes to popularity with younger players; this is arguably the biggest indie hit of recent memory.
Another Xbox Live Arcade exclusive, Limbo is a surprisingly macabre 2D platformer which takes inspiration from Film Noir and features some particularly gruesome deaths. It won several awards and has since been released on other formats, netting developer Playdead some serious financial rewards – the XBLA version generated $7.5 million in revenue alone.
The 2010s – The Crowdfunded Revolution
Kingdom Come© Warhorse Studios
The single biggest event in indie gaming today has to be the advent of crowdfunding. Sites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo have allowed bedroom coders to once again become an integral part of the industry – just like they were back in the ’80s, when it all began. Indie developers can now fund their ventures not with capital from aggressive and profit-obsessed publishers, but from their own fanbase. Self-publishing was once considered a pipedream, but it now very much a reality – and we’re seeing some amazing results.
Hyper Light Drifter (Various)
Pulling together elements from The Legend of Zelda and Diablo, Hyper Light Drifter is a 2D fantasy experience like no other, and it’s coming to a wide range of formats later this year. Creator Alex Preston only wanted to raise $27,000 in order to begin production, but such was the captivating nature of his vision that the Kickstarter campaign ended at over $645,000.
Chaos Reborn (PC)
Recently Kickstarted by veteran UK coder Julian Gollop – the man behind the original XCOM – Chaos Reborn is a reboot of one of his earliest successes, Chaos. This arena-based take on the turn-based strategy genre can already count Bioshock creator Ken Levine as one of its fans – he lent his support to Gollop’s crowdfunding campaign by appearing in promotional videos.
Kingdom Come (PC)
Warhorse Studios may be a new company, but that didn’t prevent it from raising almost $2 million when it ran a Kickstarter for Kingdom Come: Deliverance, best described as “Game of Thrones without the dragons”. Warhorse aim to mix “the freedom of Skyrim, the storytelling of The Witcher, the setting of Mount and Blade and the tough combat of Dark Souls” into a single package. We can’t wait.（source：redbull）