如果说有哪个活动能够作为台湾Indie game产业的气压表的话，那就非台北游戏开发者论坛（TGDF）莫属了。这是从几年前的一场小型活动发展而来的，致力于让Indie game开发者们在此分享自己的想法。而现在该活动已经变成了台湾最主要的游戏产业峰会，今年甚至吸引了超过800名参与者。它同时也吸引了来自世界各地的Indie game开发者的关注，并且带动了一批在世界舞台上逐渐发光发亮的台湾Indie game开发者。然而在几年前像这样的活动是并不存在的，而这些活动正是建立在那些身处被AAA级免费游戏和外包游戏所主导的台湾游戏市场中还敢于去挖掘独立游戏开发可能性的独立开发者们的绝对意志力之上。
那时候的Indie game开发者因为还找不到可行的分销渠道，所以只能选择与台湾的大型发行商合作，但这却不是一种平等的合作关系。大型发行商要求把握专有的发行权，享有游戏收益的大比例份额，IP，并且不留给Indie game开发者任何选择退出的余地。大型发行商坚信免费游戏是唯一的发展出路，结果便是开发者们只能局限于这一既定的业务模式中而不能寻求具有创造性的挑战。如此的必然结果便是，创造性游戏理念不断被掩埋在深不见底的地下。在这样的氛围中，独立开发者面对的是不可能有出头的日子，更别提发挥创造性这件事了。
随着iOS App Store和Google Play的发展，独立开发者最终迎来了可行的全球分销平台和模式。Unity引擎被广泛采纳也意味着游戏开发成本大大降低了，这对于那些想要挑战更具创造性内容的人来说是件好事。随着可行分销渠道的开启，开发者所面临的第一个挑战便是寻求创意认知。因为台湾Indie game游戏开发产业还很新，所以这里不存在有关独立游戏的文化，本地需求或意识。早前的独立项目必须基于故事，主题，艺术方向或机制去寻找来自国外的参考对象和灵感。其中一支成功做到这点的早前开发团队便是Monkey Potion。他们的游戏《Boonie’s Brunch》是一款精致的时间管理游戏，获得了广泛的称赞并向其他充满抱负的开发者证实了这条路是可行的。
同时，随着玩家开始厌倦那些翻新的项目并且更多玩家开始转向iOS，Android以及最近的Steam上的游戏，台湾的大型发行商需要开始好好努力了。意识和创造性实践的良性循环开始发挥作用，并支持着独立开发者开始逐渐获得更多关注。让我们以台北最大的独立网站IGDShare为例。他们一开始只有几个人，每个月会举办一些小型的会议，而在过去3，4年间，他们的社区已经发展到有好几百号开发者了。他们的发展同时也激励着台湾其它城市（如台中和高雄）的一些开发者去组建自己的Indie game团队。Indie game团队组合在一起将创造更大的网络并且他们也开始与台湾政府进行合作去组织一些之前在台湾从未有过的一些活动。
在过去几年里，台湾开发者经历了许多具有创造性的挑战，并且他们不仅获得了发挥创造性的发言权，同时也从当地文化中吸取了一些灵感。就像Sunhead Games中的团队便在快节奏的手机游戏《A Ride into the Mountains》中将像素作品与传统的中国主题融合在了一起。之后，在《The Swords》中，他们更是探索了中国的绘画，书法，剑术和武术等领域。
Red Candle Games也是另一家经历了创造性挑战同时也专注于本土文化，主题和艺术的独立团队。他们通过Steam的青睐之光的游戏《Detention》是一款以台湾黑暗时期为背景的恐怖冒险游戏。许多基于校园的恐怖小说和电影都是以那个时期为灵感。而《Detention》不仅抓住了其中的精髓同时也进一步探索了台湾的动漫。这是一个特殊的主题，并提供给玩家了解那个时期的绝望与动荡的机会。Game Stew的《Tower of Fortune》系列则是将Rogue机制与简单大胆的像素图像结合在一起，即同时包含了Cthulhu神话与台湾的宗教主题。
最近，有越来越多具有才能的人从国外回到了台湾去组建Indie game团队。在80年代的技术改革期间，这张情况只发生在硬件和电子设备制造中。而现在，这张情况也出现在了游戏开发领域，真是让人欣喜。AMD的前首席程序员同时也是《战神》的首席角色设计师创建的Qubit Games便专注于使用像素艺术去创造有趣的手机游戏机制。他们的游戏会突出他们自己所开发的像素编辑器。一群来自卡耐基梅隆技术大学娱乐技术中心的毕业生在2013年回到了台湾并组建了Team Signal，而他们也通过了自己的第二款游戏《Hyper Square》（游戏邦注：一块快节奏的手指游戏）获得了来自国际上的认可。他们的最新游戏，即获得IMGA提名的《OPUS: The Day We Found Earth》越过了宇宙和太空探索游戏玩法并致力于通过叙述内容去唤醒人们更深层次的情感表现。现在的台湾独立开发者已经开始将游戏作为提出具有深度的哲学问题并探索人类情感的深度和广度的一种方式了。
Rise of Taiwan’s Indie Scene
by Howard Tsao
If there is one event that serves as the barometer for Taiwan’s indie scene, it would be the Taipei Game Developer’s Forum (TGDF). It started a few years ago as a small gathering of primarily indie developers sharing ideas. From humble beginnings, it grew to be the premier game industry summit in Taiwan with more than 800 anticipated attendees this year. It attracts prominent indie devs internationally to speak, and it is inspiring a generation of Taiwanese indie developers who are getting more and more recognition worldwide. Events like this didn’t exist a few short years ago, and it happened through the sheer force of will of a few individuals who dared to see the possibilities for independent game development at a time when the Taiwanese game industry was dominated by AAA free-to-play and game outsourcing.
Whether it is by player base or spending, Taiwan is actually a sizable gaming market despite its tiny landmass. In the 80s, it had a nascent PC game market development scene, and entered a golden age in the 90s that saw the birth of a number of long-running titles that continues to influence to this day. Yet over time, bigger publishers emerged to dominate the industry largely by licensing foreign IPs to distribution and localize. This trend wasn’t inconsistent with the other Taiwanese industries and an overall economy that was outsourcing based. In the 2000s and early 2010s, because of the rampancy of piracy, Taiwanese game publishers became early adopters of MMOs, either by shifting their development focuses or by importing numerous titles from South Korea, and more lately from China. This also led to the early exposure of the business model now known as free-to-play. A number of publishers, such as Softworld and Gamania, exploded in size, and licensing plus free-to-play ruled the day.
As viable distribution channels for indie developers were yet to be seen, they tended to work with the bigger Taiwanese publishers, and the relationship tended to be exploitative. Bigger publishers would demand exclusive publishing rights, the lion share of a game’s revenue, the IP, and often leaving no way to exit the relationship for an indie. There was a prevailing belief by big publishers that free-to-play was the only way to go, and as a result, developers were severely limited by a desired or preferred business model to take creative risks. As a corollary, creative game ideas would be unlikely to see the light of day. In that climate, indie developers faced long to impossible odds to survive, let alone innovate or thrive.
With the rise of the iOS App Store and later Google Play, there was finally a global and financially viable distribution platform and model that was accessible to Taiwanese developers. The growing adoption of the Unity engine also meant that cost barrier to game development was lowering enough for people to want to start taking more creative risks. With possible distribution avenues opening, one of the early challenges was searching for creative identity. The Taiwanese independent game development scene was very new, and there was no existing culture or local demand or awareness for Taiwanese indie games. Early indie projects tended to find references and inspirations internationally in terms of story, theme, art direction, or mechanics. One of the early teams to find success was Monkey Potion. Their game Bonnie’s Brunch was a polished and well crafted time-management game that received critical acclaim and showed other aspiring devs what could be possible.
At the same time, larger Taiwanese publishers started to struggle as players began to fatigue over their retread projects and as more and more players turn to gaming on iOS, Android and recently Steam. A virtuous cycle of awareness and creative undertaking started to take place, and support networks for indies started to slowly gain traction. Take IGDShare, the largest indie network in Taipei, for example. They started with just a few people, hosting small monthly meetups, and over the last 3-4 years, the community grew to hundreds of developers. It also inspired developers in other cities in Taiwan, such as Taichung and Kaohsiung, to form their own indie groups. The indie groups together established a bigger network and worked together with the Taiwanese government to organize events that were unseen in Taiwan previously.
Over the last couple of years, Taiwanese developers have been taking more creative risks and not only finding their creative voices, but inspirations from their native culture as well. The team at Sunhead Games for example fused pixel art with traditional Chinese themes in the fast-paced mobile gem A Ride into the Mountains. Their follow up this year explored Chinese landscape painting and calligraphy as well as swordplay and Chinese martial arts in The Swords.
Red Candle Games is another indie team taking creative risks while paying homage to native culture, theme, and art. Their upcoming, Steam green-lit project Detention is a horror puzzle adventure set in a dark period of Taiwanese history under marshal law. The residue from that period led to a genre of fiction and film centered on school yard horror. Detention captures the spirit of that while exploring Taiwanese comic and animation art. It is thematically unique and offers its audience a window into the angst, despair, and uncertainty of that time and place. Game Stew’s Tower of Fortune series blends Rogue-like mechanics with a simple, bold, and no-holds-barred pixel art style that contains a mixture of both Cthulhu mythos and Taiwanese religious themes.
Recently, more and more talented people are returning to Taiwan from abroad to form indie teams. During the tech revolution of the 80s, this used to only happen in hardware and electronics manufacturing. Now, it’s happening in game development, which is exciting. Qubit Games, founded by a former senior programmer at AMD and the lead character artist of God of War, focuses on weaving interesting mobile gameplay mechanics with voxel art. The games feature a slick voxel object editor they developed. A group of graduates of Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center came back to Taiwan in 2013 to form Team Signal, and they garnered global recognition from their second game Hyper Square, a fast-paced finger twitch game. Their latest title, the IMGA nominated OPUS: The Day We Found Earth, transcends cosmic and space exploration gameplay elements to invoke deeper emotions and spirituality through its narrative. Indie devs in Taiwan are beginning to use games as vehicles to pose deeper philosophical questions and explore wider ranges and depths of human emotions.
At a time when Taiwan struggles with recognition and real economic issues and battles uphill to find an independent identity and its place in the world, people are increasingly looking to independent games as a medium of artistic expression, to tell their unique stories and to share measures of Taiwanese culture and tradition with the rest of the world. And they are succeeding.（source：gamasutra）