Eric Hunter remembers the first time he played an “indie” game, though he didn’t necessarily realize it at the time.
“I still remember the days of telling people about, what was at the time, super small games like Blood or Chip’s Challenge,” Hunter recalled. “I remember reading the credits for games like them and there was only five names. Five names! How do five people make a game?!”
That may have been the moment that really opened his eyes to the fact that maybe, someday, he might be able to make a game himself.
“I’ve always had a soft spot for indie games and their developers mainly due to my own childhood aspiration of being a game developer myself,” Hunter told me.
By his own admission, Hunter has made some half-hearted attempts at developing his own games. Even though to this point he hasn’t been able to create his own independent video game, his passion for the indie scene has never been stronger.
It’s through this passion, that RE:indie was born.
Like many young, impressionable kids of the time, Hunter grew up during the era of 8 and 16-bit console gaming. He’s an indie gaming fan today, but that doesn’t deter from where his true passion lies.
“Retro, hands down.” Hunter confirmed.
“[I still remember] sitting in a back room with green shag carpet, playing Super Mario Bros on my new Nintendo Entertainment System. I remember playing with my older brother and experiencing what will become a staple in my life: playing as Luigi… being ‘Player Two’. Even after my dad saying to my mother ‘This is a waste of money. It’ll be collecting dust in a month.’ Little did he know I would purchase my first house based on the square footage of the basement to ensure it would hold all of my video games.”
Retro gaming is as hot now as it ever was, evident by the incredible prices those old grey and black cartridges currently command in today’s video game market. Given their popularity, it’s led many current developers to not only create games in this mold, but the sheer nostalgia and simplicity of the pixelated game certainly provides a strong foundation for how many indie games are made today. And that’s what Hunter loves.
“I respect where gaming has taken us into the modern era, but I will always draw a smile when seeing pixelated graphics or someone saying ‘this game plays like Doom’,” Hunter said. “That’s a game I want to play.”
There are hundreds, likely thousands upon thousands of ‘games that play like Doom’ that are currently in development or that have already been made, all with their own unique idiosyncrasies. But if all of these games are out there, ready for consumption, why haven’t you played them?
Probably because you haven’t heard about them. Hunter recalled playing games like Braid, Castle Crashers and Limbo and realizing that all of those games were great and fun to play, but wondered why more people weren’t doing so.
“The problem is no one knew who these developers were,” Hunter said. “They weren’t names like EA, or Microsoft, or Activision. They had names like Behemoth, Ben Alan, or Cellar Door Games. Coming from a console gaming background, it’s hard to drop 20 or 30 dollars for a game that you have no clue who or what it is. Screen shots only go so far.”
Anyone who has ever put any labor of love into a personal project, be it producing computer software or developing a video game, knows how many hours are poured into coming up with a complete, polished project. But, if there’s no one there to enjoy it and utilize it, why invest all the time into something that won’t be consumed?
That’s what Hunter, and his partner Nick Prince, want to change for independent video game developers with RE:indie.
But what is RE:indie?
“RE:indie is a premiere video presentation showcasing indie game trailers to their audience regardless of their marketing/advertising budget,” Hunter stated. “[In short] it’s a Nintendo Direct style monthly video for indie games.”
Interesting concept. But it’s a concept that Eric felt could work for independent developers. When he saw ‘Nintendo Direct’ for the first time, Hunter said he was “floored” with the idea.
“These Directs reminded me of waiting for my Nintendo Power to come in the mail. Packed full of little goodies about new games that were coming out and updates of ones I already knew about.”
That’s when the hamster wheel in his head started to turn.
“Why not something like that, but for indie games?” he wondered.
Hunter got to work on a general concept, utilizing the Nintendo influence and some of his own personal ideas. It wasn’t long before he realized he couldn’t do it on his own. He needed help.
“Half way through my planning process, I realized that there’s just things I can’t do,” Hunter recalled. “ Nick is my video/audio guru and my grounding. His work is amazing. What’s funny is he doesn’t play as many games as I do, but once I broke everything down and showed him a few Nintendo Direct videos, he was 100% on board. I’ve known this guy since the first grade and he’s always jumping in head first with me into different projects. We’ve been doing it for years.”
With a partner and a plan, Eric and Nick got to work on what RE:indie would become. They knew the general idea…how it would look, how it would feel…but how would it appeal to consumers and video game enthusiasts? RE:indie is a simple idea, so the presentation would need to have that same approach.
“[Nintendo Direct] reminds me of the old Nintendo Power days which, as a console gamer before the internet, you long for those days sometimes,” Hunter said. “That’s due to the nuts and bolts approach. Here’s some really cool stuff and here’s when you can play. No opinions, no reviews, no stars or ‘out of 5’s’…just ‘take a look at this super sweet game we are working on.’”
In a nutshell, here’s what RE:indie is:
- A ‘Nintendo Direct’ style video where indie games will be featured and showcased on a monthly basis
- Connects gamers to indie games that they may not know about
- Games are not reviewed, but presented for what they are
- Developers can invest in a tiered format to ensure their game is featured
- Also an option for low-income developers to have a game featured without investing by entering a lottery system
After laying out the plan in more detail, it was clear that the concept would work. After a few finishing touches, Hunter came to the realization that an idea to help independent game developers could become a reality.
A reality that required a little bit of financial assistance as well.
Despite some back-and-forth conversation on where those finances would come from, Hunter ultimately decided Kickstarter was the way to go.
“I actually had this argument with Nick when we were planning everything,” Hunter said. “Why do we Kickstart? Why not just do it? Well, we don’t have the equipment. That’s it really. We don’t have a green screen, or lights, or even a decent camera. The Kickstarter video was created purely using borrowed equipment and we had to call in favors just to get them. We want to be on our timetable for creating and not someone else’s.”
”With this Kickstarter, we hope to raise the necessary funds to purchase the required audio and video equipment so that we can make the best damn videos possible.”
While the Kickstarter campaign isn’t asking for a large sum of money ($5,000 USD), it still requires additional investment to see the project come to fruition. Given the idea and what they’re trying to accomplish, Hunter sees the Kickstarter campaign as a realistic goal.
“I feel like the idea is sound enough to fund the project and I hope we hit it really early,” Hunter said. “I personally think that RE:indie, at its heart, just works. It is nuts and bolts. It’s real, and there’s true passion fueling the project in the background. It’s a community driven initiative. It lives and dies by the community. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Hunter is hoping to see a lot of indie developers come out in support, especially those ‘weekend warriors’ who have full time jobs but are also able to create and develop in the short time they have available to do so. He feels that’s the target investor for this idea and campaign. In Hunter’s opinion, that’s who needs the exposure and platform that RE:indies can provide.
“We are also hoping for that middle ground crowd that sees the foreseeable future ahead,” Hunter added. “With the release of Xbox’s Project Scorpio and Sony’s Playstation Pro, gaming consoles are becoming more and more like PCs. With that paradigm shift, console gamers will realize that PC gaming is cheaper and more accessible and they have expectations on what games should be like. Taking out as many roadblocks as possible to connect game with gamer is the core of what RE:indie is. Everybody wins.”
If any developers are interested in getting in touch with Eric, they can do so on Twitter (@reindievg) or by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Hunter is hoping to get a great response and help as many developers as possible.
“The one or two developer teams that create as a hobby,” Hunter added. “They deserve as much screen time and public eye as the multi-million dollar produced games do.”
“Budgets don’t make great games; gamers make great games.”
The Kickstarter goes live on November 15th.