What is an indie game for you?

Antimatter

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Appreciate all the responses and the subsequent discussion regarding art. I'm not an art person but I would definitely qualify games as a form of art, similarly to cinema.

I think almost everyone responding here has defined the budget and the team size should differentiate an indie from other games.

When I first saw the discussion on Twitter (or should we call it X now), it seemed silly to me. Like, I understand Larian is independent, but it felt so off to see, even potentially, them competing with indie teams.

I guess, the question remains, just how small of a team the company (or its department) should be to be considered an indie.

Alan Wake 2 (just released) had a team of only 120 people. I can't call the game indie because of Epic being the publisher, but everything else about this game feels like a high-budget indie game.

https://www.remedygames.com/article/alan-wake-2-is-out-now

Would you, say, call Owlcat Games an indie studio? I would guess, depending on what we've all defined about BG3, Rogue Trader can't be called an indie as it's based on the Warhammer universe.
 

m7600

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I don't think that a small team size is enough. It's a necessary condition, but not a sufficient one. The lack of corporate ties is, I think, just as important. Recall DnD Beyond's 10 minute introductory adventure. That game was probably made by a much smaller team than Larian, or the team that made Alan Wake 2. It was probably made by two or three people at most. And with a far smaller budget, I would imagine. Still, that introductory adventure is not an indie game. Not by a long shot. The reason is that it was made by Wizards of the Coast, a big corporation. It doesn't matter how small the team is or how little money they spent on it. As long as it was produced by a big corporation, it cannot be an independent game, by definition.

The real question is if Larian and Remedy Entertainment are big corporations or not. I would say no, they aren't. Not yet, at least. Are they indie studios? Not quite. They're in a gray area. To use an analogy, Warcraft 1 was an indie game when it was released, because Blizzard Entertainment was arguably an indie studio at the time. Warcraft 3 is definitely not an indie game, because by that time Blizzard was a big corporation. Warcraft 2, by contrast, was in a grayish area. Blizzard was no longer indie at that time, but it hadn't become a big corporation yet. Larian and Remedy Entertainment are in the same gray area that Blizzard was when they published Warcraft 2.

Or at least that's my take on it, for now. I might change my mind, though.

EDIT: I forgot to mention Owlcat. I don't think they're an indie studio, but they're not a big corporation either. They're in the same gray area that Larian and Remedy Entertainment are.
 
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Antimatter

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Turns out, I didn't ask the question in the OP without a reason...


Seems like (and it's great) we all here are more reasonable than the jury members for the Game Awards.
 

m7600

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This part is mind-boggling:

"Various members of the jury that nominated Dave the Diver either didn’t know it was published by a huge corp like Nexon, or didn’t care."

It's one thing to believe that Dave the Diver is an indie game. I think it's a mistaken opinion, but at least it's an opinion. It's an entirely different thing to be a jury and not know that Dave the Diver was published by Nexon, or even worse, to just not care. Why would you even be a member of the jury in those cases?
 

Urdnot_Wrex

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Yep. "We need a human jury to decide where the blurry lines that define an indie game apply" is not the same as "it is an indie game if the jury says so".
But I'm not surprised the guy who earns a lot of money with these shows lacks objectivity here.

The very idea of indie game awards used to be, at least that was my understanding, that ambitious developers who couldn't compete with the marketing and resources of the AAA game industry had their own platform to present their games and compete in their own category.

As we all gathered thoughts above, there are multiple factors contributing to that.

The team working on a project is one point for example, but if Ubisoft made a niche game with a handful of people, it wouldn't be an indie game, and if 300 people who had a daytime job worked during their free time on an amateur project without outside support, it would still be an indie game.

Budget is another factor, but if Microsoft made a low budget game with few people, it still wouldn't be an indie game, while a successful kickstarter campaign might mean quite a high budget for an actual indie game.

The thing with publisher or no publisher is more tricky I think.
With book authors it's pretty simple, independent author is practically synonymous with self-publishing.
Is it, or should it be the same, with video games?
I have no idea how it works in the gaming world, how much say the publisher gets. They give money, but what can they dictate? On which platform it is distributed? Do they get to decide on people, time frames, content?

And if everything is produced independently and then you find a publisher who can afford big booths with huge cardboard statues at gaming conventions, cinematic trailer spots on the important shows, and posters in the Times Square, is it still an indie game because it's only a publisher, or is that an advantage that most of the others don't have?

So yeah, the lines are blurry, the criteria subjective, and humans need to decide, but to call it an indie game "because we said so", especially when a lot of money is moving to have their game in your show and to win an award, sounds awfully fishy.

It seems their definition is more like "a style that looks and feels indie to them", in which case they might as well make up their own categories.

Which, in fact, they have been doing either way, because look at the Game Awards last year and their nominations for "best RPG"... we couldn't even agree that some of them actually were RPGs.

I know all those awards are very important for the industry, but I'm losing interest in following them because it just seems to lack fairness and transparency.
 

Antimatter

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I mean, I'm not a fan of him, but what he's doing matters a lot for the whole industry. It's like following news about politics when you don't like what is going on, you still follow because you need to know, and you need to react. And preferably discuss with your peers so that you all collectively could resist the obvious dumbing down.

I see a lot of resistance and understanding from people in the industry. So most likely mistakes like this won't happen again, or at least, won't happen that frequently.

The discourse helps to inform people and make them understand better what independent games are.
 

Urdnot_Wrex

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I see a lot of resistance and understanding from people in the industry. So most likely mistakes like this won't happen again, or at least, won't happen that frequently.

That's a good thing. I guess it matters that the industry and its public appearance with stuff like the Game Awards is still very young compared to, say, cinema and the Oscar. So it's still a process to define what is what and how it should be handled. As long as resistance from people in the industry isn't overruled by the "authority", it's all human.
 
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