10 Minute Read

The Storm That Broke The Teacup

Robert Howells
Head of Production

How tiny independent developers make waves in the gaming industry.

There was a time in gaming when the largest releases defined the landscape. Now, with a renaissance in indie development, smaller titles are making waves like never before - no longer padding out the release schedule but adding vital nuance to the conversation in ways that are exciting to see. And so the question remains; what’s the secret to making a splash?

Good Vibes Only

Cyberpunk 2077 was certainly testament to the power of PR. Now cemented in gaming folklore, CD Projekt RED suffered several unfortunate technical issues between release and playable version.  

Luckily for those still hungry for the neon-soaked melancholia of a dystopian future, we had Cloudpunk – an atmospheric delight that is as chilled out as it is immersive. 

ION LANDS no doubt pitched this gem as a companion piece to its brash, larger cousin, but it acted as a salve for many players while the myriad technical issues with Cyberpunk 2077 were fixed (hats off to CD Projekt RED for their commitment to those patches).

Cloudpunk by Ion Lands

Doing It For The Lulls

For those of us who remember the Zelda  days of yore, when the world of gaming was a little younger, it’s difficult to imagine how any modern game could compete with that sense of mystery and wonder. 

Then came Hollow Knight, by Team Cherry, a game that uses that same sweet melancholia to lull players into a false sense of security before challenging them with sadistically crushing combat that goes toe-to-toe with any gargantuan release by Fromm Software.

Hollow Knight by Team Cherry

Under promise, Over Deliver

For those gamers who tend toward the avantgarde, there is Undertale. An unassuming title that’s easily overlooked due to its prosaic style. It’s difficult to talk about Undertale without spoiling its conceit, but let’s just say it plays upon gaming convention itself to tell its story.

It’s rough around the edges, but that is to be expected from a one-man developer. If auteur theory can be applied to gaming, then Toby Fox is one for our era.


Crafty Mechanics

Crafting has become something of a punchline in recent years. So, it is doubly impressive that developer Thunder Lotus Games utilised this mechanic to create Spiritfarer

This is a game so lovingly crafted (excuse the pun) that it manages to turn a metaphysical farming simulator into a majestic musing on grief, loss and closure. 

Not only that, but  a pet cat joins you on your travels. Who could ask for more?

Spiritfarer by Thunder Lotus Games

Bending Genres

Roll7’s achingly fun skateboarding platformer OlliOlli World is a testament to how indie games can run with a tried-and-true formula (in this case, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater) and remix this into something just as addictive, but with a fresh take as well. 

Like its sister title from the same studio, Rollerdrome, these types of games break down the wall between sports and adventure gaming, allowing the player to blur the lines between genres, resulting in an experience that is satisfying on many levels.

ICHI was lucky enough to collaborate with Roll7 on the launch of OlliOlli World and being part of that journey was definitely not a grind for us (excuse the pun).

Rollerdrome by Roll7

Sink Or Swim

Frictional Games creates spine-tinglers like no other. In 2015, they released Soma, a deep-sea survival horror set at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. The themes it explores are just as deep, with echoes of Philip K Dick’s darker fever dreams.

This indelible playing experience haunted players long after they came up for air. One of those players was William Eubank, director of big-budget Hollywood film ‘Underwater’ starring Kirsten Stewart. Eubank is on record as citing Soma as one of his main influences for the film. 

With larger developers finally now basking in the glow of successful screen adaption, it is wonderful to see the ripple effect that smaller ones have on the wider culture as well.

Soma by Frictional Games

Wrap up

The above list is by no means exhaustive – which is kind of the point. The beauty of this era in gaming is that such titles are no longer few and far between in a sea of ever-expanding larger franchises. Independent gaming is blossoming, and here at ICHI, we love being along for the ride. 

To be clear, it’s a wonderful thing that so many AAA games are also thriving in today’s increasingly competitive market. But it’s nice to see that, in the end, all ships do indeed rise with the tide.

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