At this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, currently underway in LA, much of the discussion is instead focusing on smaller independent titles and the developers creating them. The primary example of this has been No Man’s Sky from British developer Hello Games. No Man’s Sky is an exploration game in which most, if not all of the content, is procedurally generated on a massive scale. This procedural generation means that planets, ships, animals and more are being created on the fly by the game, rather than a designer. In No Man’s Sky the player can jump in a space ship and fly from one planet’s surface to another without encountering a loading screen and the game looks phenomenal due to the bright, vivid art style on display.
Little of the actual mechanics of No Man’s Sky apart from this ability to explore are actually known as of yet and this might be just the reason that the game is receiving more discussion than the bigger budget titles being exhibited at E3.
This year, more than any before it, has demonstrated that game publishers are looking to re-tread ground from which they have found success before. Titles like Assassins Creed: Unity, Battlefield: Hardline and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare are clear demonstrations that publishers would rather build on already successful franchises than seek to create new worlds, and fresh gameplay systems, for gamers to explore.
This isn't surprising – video game budgets have increased exponentially in the last decade and it’s predictable that publishers like Ubisoft and Electronic Arts would prefer to funnel production costs into proven franchises. The problem with this strategy is that without the creation of new properties consumers will eventually grow tired of the existing franchises and as sales begin to drop the bigger publishers may find they don’t have an alternative strategy to replace the failing titles.
Thankfully for gamers, independent developers are filling the creative gap left behind by larger publishers.
Minecraft has, over the last 5 years, demonstrated that indie games can find a mass audience by presenting new and interesting ideas with a simpler art style. This is what Hello Games hopes to achieve with No Man’s Sky and while it’s yet unclear if the game can actually deliver the promises made in its promotional videos, it’s still great for the industry that these ideas are being put out there.
Even larger independent studios such as Japanese developer From Software and Polish studio CD Projekt Red are presenting risky titles, by partnering with big publishers, which are changing the direction the video game industry – this is no more exemplified by the Dark Souls franchise, created by From Software, which has reintroduced the idea of challenging and difficult gaming in
an era when games are being criticised for being too easy.
Big budget game reveals at this year’s E3 may have been disappointing for many gamers, but with a thriving indie scene there’s plenty look forward to.