20 for 20 vision: part two

After a lacklustre year for video games for me personally, on Monday I shared part one of my list of releases I’m looking forward to in 2020. The next 12 months are going to hold titles which are far more my ‘thing’ than those released in 2019 so there’s going to be plenty to play.

Forget Cyberpunk 2077 and The Last of Us Part II: indie games will continue to be the focus at Later Levels because they always bring us something new and creative. If you usually go for the big-budget releases and stay away from the smaller stuff, I’d encourage you to give indie a go because you might find something you’ve been missing. With the first ten on my list now behind us, let’s move on to part two and check out another ten upcoming titles which are waiting patiently on my wishlist.

11. In Other Waters

I added several games to my wishlist after the LudoNarraCon digital expo in May, including In Other Waters by Jump Over the Age. There are plenty of titles featuring artificial intelligence but not so many where you play as the AI itself. When a routine exoplanet study goes wrong and her partner disappears into an alien ocean, a Xenobiologist is left with little more than an antiquated diving suit. What she finds is a sea of extraterrestrial life; and it’s up to you to help her trace her companion and dredge up secrets that were meant to be lost forever.

12. Imposter Factory

Another release by Freebird Games, the creator of To The Moon and Finding Paradise? Sign me up. These are two of the most emotional games I’ve ever played and I can’t wait to try Imposter Factory. Things get a little weird when Quincy is invited to a fancy party at a suspiciously-secluded mansion and discovers a time machine in the bathroom. As with all of Kan Gao’s descriptions, the outline on the Steam page only hints what the title is going to be about – but it’s going to be something special.

13. Missing in Jericho

I discovered escape rooms in 2019 and have now completed seven of them. They’re the reason why I backed the Kickstarter campaign for Missing in Jericho by Crimibox in September: ‘an experience that will challenge you to become a real-life detective in your own investigation’. There’s a free preview you can try to see what it’s all about and, in the 30-minutes it takes to complete, you’ll be listening to strange voicemails, tracking down addresses, analysing photographs and even running real-world searches through Google.

14. Playerless: One Button Adventure

Playerless: One Button Adventure is a game set in another game, where your character has become self-aware and – yep, you guessed it – can only use one button to play. The AI has formed a sect, the game engine is a physical mechanism and you’re here to play a supporting role for the Debug Unit. Moonlit are focusing on the tiny elements to make their project memorable and feel that limiting the gameplay mechanics will help players to stay focused on the title itself. Intriguing.

15. Röki

The first time I heard about Röki by Polygon Treehouse was in a post about supporting originality over on Rendermonkee early last year and it was another one I wasn’t sure of at first. However, I completely changed my mind after having the opportunity to play the demo at EGX in October. The title isn’t as cutesy as it first seems because, as with a lot of fairy-tales, there’s a dark undertone; and the artwork is impressive, with a similar style to other narrative-driven titles I’ve really enjoyed such as The Gardens Between.

16. Someday You’ll Return

I had the chance to finally finish J.U.L.I.A.: Among the Stars after receiving a fix for a game-breaking bug from the developer in March last year. It was so enjoyable: the combination of point-and-click, science-fiction and female protagonist was perfect for me. I’m now looking forward to CBE Software’s upcoming release even more, because psychological horror Someday You’ll Return looks as creepy as hell. It will probably be one I get the other-half to play while I watch from behind a cushion.

17. The Murder Mystery Machine

The detective theme continues in The Murder Mystery Machine by Blazing Griffin, an interactive mystery title which popped up in my Steam suggestions one day. When local politician Frank Daniels is murdered in what looks like a botched robbery, it entwines Detective Cassandra Clark and her partner Nate in a complex, interconnected series of crimes that’s anything but an open-and-shut case. The content shown in the trailer reminds me a little of Knee Deep but without the theatrical setting.

18. The Procession to Calvary

One of my favourite titles at EGX Rezzed in 2017 was Four Last Things, a quirky little point-and-click adventure created by Joe Richardson. I went on to play it during our GameBlast17 marathon stream that year and then back the Kickstarter campaign for the sequel. If you’re a fan of Monty Python and unique art-styles then The Procession to Calvary is likely to be one for you: we’ll get to follow the same protagonist after he returns from his brief sojourn in hell and continues his quest for absolution.

19. The Shattering

‘The closer to any truth we get, the sweeter the lies become.’ This is the opening quote shown during the trailer for The Shattering by SuperSexySoftware and it seems as though it’s going to be more ‘serious’ than some of the other releases on my list. You’ll find yourself in the mind of John Evans, where you struggle to piece together the fragments of your past and present in order to find out what occurred. But what happens when you’re led down a path of fake memories in order to shelter you from the truth?

20. Theropods

A point-and-click featuring pixel-art, an independent female protagonist and an intriguing storyline with science-fiction elements is going to get my attention. Throw in some dinosaurs too and it’s no wonder why I backed the Kickstarter campaign for Theropods last year. The demo doesn’t give away much but it’s a nice introduction to the title and features some challenging yet logical puzzles. Hopefully we’ll get more of the same when Kostas Skiftas and Sarah Duffield-Harding release their game.

So there you have it: 20 games I’m looking forward to for 2020. It will be interesting to look back over these at the end of the year and see how many I’ve actually been able to play! Which releases have you got on your wishlist for the next 12 months?

We’re taking part in GameBlast20 to support SpecialEffect, the gamers’ charity.
Making a donation will bring you great loot, increase your XP by +100 and make you immune to fire.*
(*Not guaranteed.)

20 for 20 vision: part one

2019 wasn’t a great year in terms of video games for me. The trend of producing sequels, remakes, spin-off and ports makes it seem as though less space is being devoted to new ideas; and the ridiculous level of hype that’s the norm for releases nowadays leaves me cold.

But this month is the start of both a new year and decade, so it’s time to look forward to brighter days and new releases. Forget Cyberpunk 2077 and The Last of Us Part II: indie games will continue to be the focus for me because they aren’t afraid to take creative risks in order to bring us something new and inventive. There are plenty waiting on my wishlist right now and it seems like the perfect time to share some of these, so here are the titles I’ve got my eye on for 2020.

1. 12 Minutes

Although I wasn’t particularly impressed by Microsoft’s E3 presentation in June, 12 Minutes by Luis Antonio was the one title which stood out for me. Players take on the role of a husband who’s due to spend a romantic evening with his wife but things take a turn for the worse when a detective breaks into your home and you find yourself caught in a time-loop. Use the knowledge gained from repeating events to change the outcome – or relive the same terror over and over again.

2. 3 Minutes to Midnight

I didn’t think I was going to enjoy 3 Minutes to Midnight when it was recommended to me by nufafitc from Emotional Multimedia Ride. But after playing the demo at EGX in 2018, it earned its place on my wishlist thanks to its light-hearted humour and detailed cartoon visuals. It seems like it’s going to have an awful lot of appeal for adventure lovers with a fondness for the classics. I went on to back the Kickstarter campaign in October and can’t wait to get my hands on Scarecrow Studio’s release this year.

3. Backbone

I backed 2018’s Kickstarter campaign for Backbone for three main reasons. First, everyone knows how much I love a point-and-click game; second, I’m partial to a good bit of pixel-art too; and third, you play as a detective raccoon. I had the chance to check out the prologue a few months ago and if the full release is of the same quality then we’re in for a treat. I highly recommend giving it a try yourself but be prepared for some pretty dark subject matter: take a look at Luke’s preview on Hundstrasse for more details.

4. Beautiful Desolation

I was a Kickstarter backer for The Brotherhood’s first campaign in 2013 and really enjoyed isometric science-fiction adventure STASIS when it was released in 2015. It’s therefore no surprise that I pledged to their next project when it was announced in 2017. Beautiful Desolation is set in a post-apocalyptic future where mankind has hurtled forward on an alternative trajectory, and it looks gorgeous thanks to its use of photogrammetry to take hundreds of pictures before generating 3D-models.

5. Beyond a Steel Sky

We’ve had to wait 25-years for a follow-up to Beneath a Steel Sky, but Beyond is a Steel Sky is almost here. I had a chance to play Revolution Games’ sequel at EGX in September and then got to see Charles Cecil speak about the game in a developer session. This idea of ‘subversion’ has been a big influence: the team wanted to implement puzzles that not only felt as though they belonged to the world and the story, but which could be solved by changing the behaviour of objects and characters around you.

6. Book of Travels

Eastshade was my favourite game of 2019 thanks to its atmosphere and artwork, and was the reason why I backed the Kickstarter campaign for Book of Travels as soon as I saw the promotional video. It seems like Might and Delight are going to give us a lovely experience. Advertised as a ‘tiny multiplayer online’, its world is being built with a lot of content but few players on each server so temporary alliances are meaningful and your encounters are turned into powerful experiences.

7. Cloudpunk

Driver protagonists seem to be having a moment in the spotlight – take a look at Neo Cab and Night Call, for example – and Rania from RPG Cloudpunk is the latest one in my sights. Your first night in the city of Nivalis working for a semi-legal delivery company will see you meet humans, androids and artificial intelligence (AI), each with their own story to tell. It sounds as though it’s going to be a game more about narrative than action and what you find out may change everything.

8. Fable IV

I know I said my list was made up of indie titles, but I’m a huge Fable fan and couldn’t leave this one out. The only reason I tuned into Microsoft’s E3 presentation last year was because of the rumour there may be news about the game so I was sorely disappointed. Maybe the announcement of a series resurrection was a little premature; or perhaps there were so many other games to unveil that Microsoft decided to hold onto the next instalment until there’s more progress to show off. Hopefully we’re hear more details very soon…

9. Firmament

It’s no surprise I showed my support for Firmament on Kickstarter after backing Cyan’s previous campaigns for Obduction and Myst 25th Anniversary Collection. The story begins when you wake up in a glacial cavern, crowded with metal pipes and clockwork gears. Massive doors open to a chamber containing an ancient table holding a tea-cup on one end and a frozen body slumped over the other, the corpse’s hand clutching a strange device. Expect a title full of atmosphere and mystery just like the Myst series.

10. Gamedec

I love cyberpunk and detective games, so RPG Gamedec by Anshar Studios was added to my wishlist right away when it appeared in my Steam suggestions one day. You will hunt down the criminals of virtual worlds: spoiled businesspeople, mothers who want a better life for their children, or corporations with plans to rewrite humanity. Each decision you make shapes your character’s personality and the world around them, with the title continually adapting to your choices.

Let’s stop right there before the excitement gets too much! The next ten on my list for 2020 will be shared on Wednesday, so keep your eyes open for more games for your wishlist then. Which releases are you looking forward to this year?

We’re taking part in GameBlast20 to support SpecialEffect, the gamers’ charity.
Making a donation will bring you great loot, increase your XP by +100 and make you immune to fire.*
(*Not guaranteed.)

Beginner’s guide to indie (2019): part two

It’s time for the second part of my updated beginner’s guide to indie and, if you didn’t find something that tickles your fancy in part one on Monday, then hopefully we’ll manage to put that right today. Once again, a big thank you to Dan from nowisgames.com for suggesting I write a follow-up to the original series created around two years ago.

As mentioned in my previous post, it’s pretty obvious from the content here on Later Levels that I tend to favour the adventure genre or titles with strong narratives. The following list is therefore focused on these types of video games – but even if they’re not usually the kind of thing you’d play, I’d encourage you to check them out because they’re well worth a look. Hopefully everyone will find something that piques their interest. Without further ado, let’s round off 2019’s guide!

2018: Unavowed

Wadjet Eye Games takes what we love about point-and-clicks and throws in some new elements to refresh the genre for the modern day in Unavowed – and it totally works. You can choose your past career, which influences how you tackle certain situations and solve puzzles; and a party system allows you to select two members from your group whenever you go out to investigate a supernatural situation. The developer always displays a real talent for creating characters who stick in your head long after you’ve completed a title.

2018: Coloring Pixels

Feeling stressed or anxious? Then head over to Steam and download Coloring Pixels by ToastieLabs as soon as possible. Some may not consider it to be a ‘real’ video game but it’s definitely one of the most relaxing releases I’ve ever experienced. It’s a title you can chill out with when you’re not in the mood for taking down villains or saving the world, something to keep your hands busy while your brain winds down. And if the free version doesn’t offer you enough clicking calm, you can download additional colouring books.

2018: The Gardens Between

The Gardens Between by The Voxel Agents is proof that a video game doesn’t need to tell an epic story, contain dramatic battles or feature hundreds of hours of content to have an impact on the player. It tells a much more personal tale about friendship through a series of puzzles; and it left a mark on me because there were many things I realised long after playing which gave it a deeper meaning. It may be a short title that can be finished in around three hours, but it’s absolutely perfect just the way it is.

2019: What Never Was

If you’re trying to save your money in the run-up to Christmas, What Never Was by Acke Hallgren is one of the best free titles you can download from Steam. Gamers who love things like Firewatch and What Remains of Edith Finch will find plenty to appeal here and you’ll be crying out for more by the time you reach the end of this short experience. The good news is that the developer has confirmed they’re working on a second chapter – and if it’s as excellent as the first, this is going to be an amazing series.

2019: Eastshade

Imagine playing a game like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim but with no combat; somewhere you can explore without fear of getting attacked, where there are secrets and interesting characters to discover, and where you frequently pull back from the screen to admire the view. That’s exactly what Eastshade by Eastshade Studios is and it has been added to my all-time favourites list after playing it earlier this year. Everything about this title – the artwork, the music, the story – is beautiful. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

2019: Guard Duty

If you like the classic point-and-click adventures and love Simon the Sorcerer in particular, then Guard Duty by Sick Chicken Studios will be one for you. There’s something nostalgic about it which makes you feel as though you’re stepping back to the early 1990s despite it featuring a streamlined interface to bring it up to date. It’s a very unassuming title with pixel-graphics and a light-hearted nature. But these factors actually hide a very touching plot with a great message and you’ll be feeling all warm and fuzzy inside by the final credits.

2019: Ord.

I picked up Ord. by Mujo Games on a whim one evening after it appeared in my Steam recommendations and made me curious. Two hours later, and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s a release of tiny text adventures: each scene consists of only three words and those you choose affect the outcome. Only one story about defeating an evil wizard was available back in August when I played it, but a big update in August means that three more tales are now available for your enjoyment. I’ll therefore be revisiting this game in the near future.

2019: Flotsam (early access)

When my other-half and I saw Flotsam by Pajama Llama Games at Rezzed in 2017, it really caught our attention despite not being the sort of thing we’d usually play. We were therefore pleased to see the developer back at EGX last year and ended up buying the title after visiting their stand at EGX last month. It’s easy to tell while playing it that the game is still in early access as there are a few quirks that need to be ironed out, and the developer is working on adding further content. It’s definitely one to keep on your radar though.

Hopefully you’ve found an indie release among the 16 I’ve included in this updated guide that has inspired you to give them a try. If you have any other recommendations, please feel free to leave them in the comments below and give me a few more to add to my wishlist!

Beginner’s guide to indie (2019): part one

Almost three years after starting Later Levels, I’m still a huge fan of indie video games. Independent developers aren’t afraid to take creative risks to bring us something new; and their smaller releases aren’t as daunting as tackling a large, big-budget experience.

Two years ago, Dan from nowisgames.com asked for indie game suggestions and this resulted in a short series of ‘beginners guide’ posts. A recent ‘this time in 2017’ tweet then prompted him to ask whether I’d considered doing a follow-up – so I’m back once again thanks to Dan! I tend to favour adventures or titles with strong narratives and this will be obvious from the following list, but hopefully everyone will find something that piqued their interest. Let’s dig into the updated beginner’s guide to indie (part one).

2014: J.U.L.I.A: Among the Stars

Although it has a completely different setting and premise, I kept being reminded of playing Myst for the first time all over again when I began J.U.L.I.A: Among the Stars by CBE Software. It was that sensation of stepping into new worlds, and being confronted with strange contraptions and mysterious structures – albeit in the stars and through AI companions. The developer is currently working on their next title, Someday You’ll Return, and it’s one I’m eagerly awaiting the release of.

2016: Kona

James from Killer Robotics very kindly gave me a key for Kona by Parabole in October last year and, although this chilly walking simulator won’t be to everyone’s taste, I really enjoyed it. One of the reasons for this is the game’s narrator. This nameless voice has a wonderful personality about it and the script was written in such a way that you’re never quite sure whether he’s being solemn or joking in his observations. For a title that’s set in a blizzard with a theme of isolation, it lightens the mood when things start to get serious.

2016: Maize

It’s hard to explain what Maize is about for two reasons. Firstly, it’s difficult to hint at several plot points without spoiling the whole thing; and secondly, this title by Finish Line Games is just so weird. Trying to summarise the story here would make a lot of readers think it was probably best left in a dark corner of my library but I encourage you to give it a go if you’re a fan of the slightly bizarre. A game doesn’t need to be serious or challenging to make it worthwhile, and Maize is proof that sometimes a bit of silliness can hit the spot.

2017: Stories Untold

If you loved text-adventures as a kid, you need to check out Stories Untold by No Code. It was recommended to me by Bradley from Cheap Boss Attack and ended up being my favourite game of 2017. The fear slowly rises as you make your way through four episodes and see connections until the hairs stand up on the back of your neck every time you’re asked to enter a new command. It’s difficult to say more without spoiling the game for future players except that the developer has crafted some very special, atmospheric moments.

2017: Paradigm

One of Paradigm’s highlights is its comedy but this is also the reason why some won’t enjoy it. There are plenty of jokes about drug use, addiction, deformities and other sensitive subjects so if any of those topics are likely to offend, I’d recommend finding another adventure. But if you’re a fan of the absurd and can overlook how close-to-the-bone some of the gags are, there’s plenty of silliness here in Jacob Janerka’s release that will likely appeal to you – and the awesome Ellen from Livid Lightning agrees.

2017: The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker

Full-motion video (FMV) games are like Marmite: you either love them or hate them. I’m in the former camp and have been lapping up the titles published by Wales Interactive over the past year. D’Avekki Studios’ The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker has been my favourite so far because its characters have a way of sucking you in: will you, a psychiatrist, be able to solve your predecessor’s murder and fix the chaos he left behind? Be careful, because the questions you ask your patients will determine their fate and your own.

2017: Finding Paradise

To The Moon was included in my original beginner’s guide and it’s one of my favourite games. I’ve played it multiple times because I love its emotional story; the ending still manages to inspire all the feels because it’s just so bittersweet. When Freebird Games released the follow-up, Finding Paradise, fellow fan Chris from OverThinker Y and I got together to have a long discussion about the series so far. The title contains some hints about what’s going to happen in the third instalment and I can’t wait!

2018: The Red Strings Club

Let’s finish off today’s list with one of my favourite games from 2018: The Red Strings Club. It’s a release that asks the player how far they’re willing to go to suppress the worst aspects of our personalities for the good of the population, and whether it’s worth sacrificing negative emotions such as sadness and anger. Do our feelings make us who we are, are we shaped by our suffering, and is happiness at the cost of free will ultimately worth it? Deconstructeam has given us an experience that questions who the real villain is.

That’s it for today, so hopefully you’ve managed to find something new for your wishlist! For not if you haven’t though: I’ll be back on Wednesday with part two and eight more indie games worth checking out.

Indie darlings: just not getting it

I love indie games. Since being introduced by a friend years ago, they’re the releases I pick up most frequently. They give me more of what I want from my hobby than the triple-A stuff: creativity, great storylines and interesting characters removed from the limited representations.

When Red Metal from Extra Life very kindly nominated Later Levels for a Sunshine Blogger Award last month, one of their questions got me thinking: what critical darling do you feel completely failed to live up to the hype? There have been a number of indie games in the past that the critics have gone crazy for, declaring them to be pinnacles of gaming – but I just haven’t been able to understand what all the fuss was about when I’ve picked them up. Here’s a round-up of some of those titles.

2010: LIMBO

I realised that LIMBO was the game which had spent the longest in my Steam library while hosting #LoveYourBacklog week with LightningEllen from LividLightning in February. So after almost five years, I decided to rectify that by scheduling a stream for #MaybeinMarch the following month. I was looking forward to finally trying out the title critics had said ’empowered players to work through puzzle solutions themselves’ and which ‘offered up what feels like a world of meaningful possibilities’.

Four months later and I still don’t get it. Yes, I like the art-style and the way you can never guess what’s going to happen on the following screen; but it feels as though Playdead’s project is trying to tell the player a message in a vague and slightly pretentious way. I understand that not all games need to be completely explained but unanswered questions frustrate me, and I like at least a nudge in the right direction. I had a go at trying to figure out the ending but I still don’t feel the explanation I came up with truly fits.

2012: Dear Esther

It’s strange this title made it on to today’s list because I absolutely adore narrative games, but Dear Esther was one I didn’t gel with. A friend suggested it to me shortly after being introduced to the indie scene and I’d read several news articles which had intrigued me so I was keen to give it a go. Critics had said it had ‘an impressively ethereal atmosphere’ and were praising it for what it did differently: tap into unhappiness, an emotion that few games at the time dared to approach.

I thought it was boring. It was pretty and the soundtrack was good, but the story didn’t click with me and my main thought when I reached the end was: ‘Is that it?’ I went on to try The Chinese Room’s next release, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, in 2015 and it was the same experience. I still haven’t managed to complete the game because it doesn’t hold my attention – although I keep being told that its storyline is a fascinating one and I should try to stick with it.

2015: Undertale

I ended up playing Undertale long after its release, after so many friends and bloggers had told me I needed to give it a try. I could see why they’d enjoyed it: the twist on gameplay mechanics was clever, the soundtrack was excellent, and its story about determination and never giving up was very sweet. It had quickly gained a cult following, critics had said it was ‘unconventional, clever, and occasionally really difficult’, and more than a few ‘Best Game’ recognitions were awarded.

But it just wasn’t for me. Yes, the 12 hours I’d spent with Undertale were pleasant enough but I couldn’t see why everyone was going so crazy for it – and I certainly couldn’t face repeating the process so I could get the alternative outcomes. I thought this would be an unpopular opinion but when I tweeted a question about unliked indie titles recently, several blogging friends agreed. It seems as though Toby Fox’s game may have won the hearts of many but there are a few of us who it just didn’t click with.

2016: The Witness

I was so looking forward to The Witness. Jonathan Blow’s Braid was one of the first indie releases I ever played and I’d really enjoyed it, finding the narrative twist at the end to be unlike anything I’d experienced in the bigger-budget titles I’d been playing. After waiting eight years for the developer to release his second project, I was incredibly excited because the promotional screenshots looked stunning and critics were calling it a ‘beautiful, powerful and cleverly-designed puzzle game with a wealth of mysteries to unravel’.

And I did enjoy it to an extent. But during the 30 hours we spent playing, I kept telling my other-half that some big secret was going to revealed and he kept warning me to not be disappointed. He was right to do so. There was no big pay-off after completing all those challenges and even the secret ending wasn’t particularly fulfilling. I understand that The Witness is an experience – kind of like a mental holiday – but I came away feeling as though this was a work created by someone who spent too much time in his own head.

One of the best things about video games is that there’s a release out there for absolutely everybody, so I’m sure the titles above made it onto some peoples’ favourite lists! Which indie games have you just not been able to get?

Triple-A: down or up?

LLast year I published a post about the volume of sequels, spin-offs and remakes. After classifying over 1,500 titles and analysing the data, I discovered over half (59) of 2018’s top-100 titles were remakes and a much smaller number (12) were new IPs.

It seems as though the video game industry is stuck on repeat: publishers like the low-risk approach of something which isn’t entirely new, while gamers enjoy the nostalgia that comes from playing something which feels familiar.

This finding was echoed in an article I read the following day on TechSpot entitled Is the next AAA-games crash imminent?, which noted three factors that could mean we’re heading for disaster: creativity, stagnation and gamer backlog. Just a couple of weeks later however I came across a piece on IGN explaining Why 2018 was the best year for video games; followed by another on The Telegraph’s website called The 25 biggest and best upcoming games in 2019. With such a wide range of differing opinions, it’s difficult to tell what’s really going on with the industry.

Triple-A going down?

In the TechSpot article, author Cal Jeffrey discussed a video by TheQuartering in which he explained why he thinks the triple-A industry is on its way to a crash. Despite not completely agreeing with the YouTuber, Jeffrey wrote: “[Creativity as a selling point] is one that companies like EA, and even Bethesda with the garbage that is Fallout 76, seem to have forgotten. Big franchises have become cash cows that studios milk for every dime before coming out with a new iteration that is only incrementally different than the last.”

He points out that because of constant pressure from investors (almost all of whom ‘know next to nothing about video games’), developers are afraid to take risks. He said: “They are scared to put something new out there that has a chance to fail. They would sooner go with the winning brand, even though they don’t have anything new to put into it.” Jeffrey claims that this and other factors have lead to drastic dips in stock valuation for some of the biggest names, with both Activision Blizzard and Electronic Arts down around 45%.

There’s always a flood of articles about an industry crash at the start of any year and it seems as though the author’s negative impressions of Fallout 76 may have coloured his article somewhat. But I have to say he does have a point: my analysis showed that although the figure reduced slightly in 2018, almost 60% of the top-100 games last year were sequels and the overall trend is increasing. Only 16% of the 1,569 titles that made up my 11-year data set were new IPs. Is this an indicator of an impending disaster?

Triple-A going up?

On the flipside, Jared Petty from IGN thinks 2018 was the best year for video games yet. He wrote in his article: “It was a year of comebacks, re-imaginings, and some startling new ideas. Who knew a platformer about climbing a mountain could make us cry, or that we could have so much fun trampolining a VR robot or playing Tetris with goggles on? It didn’t seem to matter what platform we played… there were amazing things to behold just about everywhere, from Switch to PlayStation to PC.”

Despite the majority of titles mentioned throughout the piece being sequels, he claims the thing that made the year so great was how diverse its games were in terms of their creative focus and development scale. Petty went on to say: “After years of portended doom, console and handheld gaming were reborn in 2018 through an extraordinary fusion of AAA and small-studio projects of exceptional artistic vision and quality.” Independent creators have a task chance of making something just as good as the big names – if not better.

I get where he’s coming from with this opinion. When you consider previous titles such as Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice by Ninja Theory or The Witness by Thekla Inc, games celebrated for their quality in terms of both gameplay and design, it’s clear the line between indie and triple-A is becoming ever more blurred. But while things are looking rosy for the smaller creative teams out there, is the future just as bright for the larger companies?

What’s going to happen this year?

I find myself not agreeing with Petty because I don’t feel last year was one of gaming’s finest for me personally. I hardly played anything released in 2018; the majority of triple-A games didn’t appeal; and I found myself growing tired of the sheer volume of sequels, remakes and spin-offs continuously pushed out to market. There were definitely a few indie gems (The Red Strings Club, Unavowed and The Gardens Between were highlights) and yes, it does seem as though anything is now possible for small teams. But the big-budget stuff just didn’t quite hit the spot.

On the other hand I don’t entirely agree with Cal Jeffrey or TheQuartering either. As much as I’d prefer to see a higher quantity of new IPs in 2019, I understand that events such as Brexit are causing weary gamers and risk-adverse publishers alike to turn to the familiar. The global games audience estimated between 2.2 and 2.6 billion people and the software market expected to grow to an estimated $180.1 billion by the end of 2021, so it seems premature (and perhaps a little doing-it-for-the-views) to read articles about forthcoming crashes.

But with the current console generation now being five years old and world events giving everyone the heebie-jeebies, the industry seems in a state of flux. It feels as though we’re ready for something new. And if that means the triple-As taking a backseat while they take stock – therefore giving creative indies more space to shine – then I look forward to it.