Just like great authors got good by constantly reading, and famous artists got good by consistently painting and drawing despite the odds, developers have the same journey. It’s long hours of coding, rendering, writing and iterating. Hours spent teaching yourself Unity and making connections with other game developers.

But a lot of it is also taking the time to look around at what everyone else is doing. Seeing who failed and why, just as much as who did well and why.

And luckily, despite the many downs that 2017 has brought to the gaming industry, there have also been some raving successes. Let’s look at the top 3 indie games of the year, and why they’ve succeeded.


Night in the Woods

Mae Borowski, a feline returning to her sleepy, rural childhood town has faded red, dyed hair, a notch in her ear from a dog attack, as well as depression and anger issues. She tried college, but it didn’t pan out. The town isn’t in the best shape, much like Mae.

What makes this eye-catching, artistic game so good is that it’s all about dealing with the obstacles that come with everyday life – the things that people don’t really like to talk about, like failure. It’s programmed in us to avoid it at all costs, to succeed, to aspire to grand things, but the reality of life is a different story.

With this game, everyone can cope with disappointment and pain. It’s a coming of age story that focuses on the harsh truths, on taboo topics like losing your sense of self and sight of your dreams, all wrapped up in a puzzle, adventure game.

Oh, and did we mention how amazing the art style is?


Hollow Knight

You know how all sorts of developers are trying to create Metroidvania games that make an impact? well, Team Cherry didn’t. They didn’t make that a goal, they just did what they wanted to, and it resulted in an epic Metroidvania game consisting of a 2D style with hand-drawn elements and addicting gameplay.

Picture an adorable, yet spooky-looking character that actually does as he’s told, moves correctly and smoothly, and hits like the hammer of Thor. Jump, dodge, hit and get skills that build on these basics, and you have yourself a game you can’t put down.

Much like Metroid, Hollow Knight barely ever tells you where to go and what to do. You’re left to discover things, explore and fend for yourself. And we’re talking a huge world, with a lot to explore. It’s perfect for anyone looking for a lengthy game to play on PC.


Nidhogg 2

It’s multiplayer, has 1 v 1 matches, violent clashes, and intense back-and-forth action. It’s Nidhogg 2, and it’s a gem of a game, courtesy of Messhof Games.

Those who excel at this game are the ones who know how to balance skill and wits. It’s no walk in the park, in fact, it takes plenty of time to master it, making it ideal for players looking for challenges, PVP, and rewards.

Furthermore, the game has a retro, yet artistic style to it, making it perfect to play for long periods of time. There are so many hidden details in every setting that it’s a joy to play. Oh, and the music isn’t half bad either!


What Exactly Can You Learn From Others?

If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, then you know it’s not a smart idea to blatantly rip people off. As always, we like to stress inspiration rather than highway robbery.

For instance, if you look at a successful game and promptly decide to copy the art style, the story, the play style, the everything, you’re essentially recreating their game with your name on it. That’s not a tribute, an homage, nor being inspired by the game. That’s just you stealing the game.

On the other hand, if you look at these 3 indie games from 2017 and think about what makes them flow, what makes them addictive and what about them appeals to the masses, then you’re on the right track. At that point, you can think things like “the light and shadow work really accents the storytelling, making me care about it suddenly, even though I normally have no clue what’s going on in a game.”

It’s the little things that add up by forming the perfect combination of elements. A few awesome characters that pop up here and there are an incentive to keep playing. The use of bright color and hidden details keeps players entertained for hours. The use of light and shadow can keep things hidden until the right moment, causing shock, surprise, or even fear.

Basically, rather than steal what’s on the surface, like an art style or combat system, it’s smart to focus on the little things, or concepts. Even an atmosphere. Maybe you felt something while playing the game and now you want to create a game that may give someone else a similar sensation.

As always, best of luck on your projects!

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