Experienced Points: RIP, The Last Great Indie

By Shamus
on Jul 10, 2009
Filed under:
Column

I never saw this coming, and I’m still stunned. “More like Doom” is not the direction I would have chosen for the Fallout franchise. In fact, my desires run in the polar opposite direction. Still, I’m experiencing a giddy fanboy anticipation wondering what sort of Frankenstein monster technology we’ll have once we get done stitching these companies together. Perhaps it’s the programmer in me overcoming the gamer in me.

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  1. xbolt says:

    The announcement came as quite a shock for me as well…

    Now the next Doom will be an open-ended RPG titled Doom IV: Oblivion. :D

  2. Neil Polenske says:

    I think in a sense yer absolutely right there Shamus, and I think id (am I the only one who refers to them as ‘eye-dee’) does too. You didn’t much touch on why they decided get themselves bought up and my guess is they saw the end of the era as much as you did. The type of gameplay id games have featured are about as primitive as you can get and I don’t know of any run ‘n gun corridor shooters being made anymore. The type of games being released now are the type of games id simply does not make, so it makes sense for them to move in with the folks who do.

  3. Tarev says:

    After a quick search on Wikipedia, the oldest independent game developer I can find is Spiderweb Software, a small rpg developer founded in 1994. They actually look fairly interesting, with a range of games, each with a demo, for both Mac’s and PC’s. I’ve never heard of them or their products before, but with a bit of work, they could become the next big indie studio to replace id!

  4. Sheer_Falacy says:

    Spiderweb makes old-school RPGs. They’re good games, with demos that are basically just the first 1/10-1/5 of the game (and in fact you can continue from the demo pretty seamlessly after registering).

    The graphics are pretty abysmal. If you can play in spite of that, you’re in good shape.

    And I don’t really see it as the same category as iD. It may have been “independent” as in not owned by some huge company, but its games got mainstream publicity and it got space on store shelves. That’s not at all the same kind of independent.

  5. Telas says:

    I think Neil @ 2 has it. “Know when to walk away, and know when to run.”

    They probably got a great offer, knew that things weren’t going their way, and took it. Off to the villa to grope the Ferrari and polish the mistress…

  6. RPharazon says:

    I don’t much mind or care about id, since I could never get into their games. Maybe I’m just from a different era, or maybe I simply didn’t get the allure behind semi-twitch shooters in the vein of Doom.

    What I do mind is the silly (and frequent) assumption that id’s absorption into Zenimax will affect Bethesda’s game development, and vice versa. I’m not sure if it’s just one big joke I’m not in on, but this is no different than the interplay that happened between Bungie and Rare. Both were acquired by Microsoft, yet I see no interplay between their development cycles or even interplay between anything past the Dashboard system. Ditto goes for Rare and Ensemble Studios.

    Lastly, I think the main counter-argument to these accusations of developers intermingling because they’re owned by a publishing company is the fact that Relic and Volition haven’t done anything together. Surely Freespace-style gameplay in the Homeworld universe (or vice versa) would be an instant smash. Alas, nothing has come to fruition, and my point stands.
    id and Bethesda will most likely not intermingle in their development styles and cycles.

  7. ShockedMonkey says:

    According to John Carmack, it’s all about publishing. Being published by Activision, the folks at id felt like they were competing with Activision’s other products; they were concerned Activision wouldn’t be motivated to put their full weight behind an id product when they could lend better support to games made by their in-house dev teams.

    At Zenimax, they feel they can make the games they want and have a publisher that’s gonna regard their work with the same level of respect.

    Personally, I maintain a quiet fantasy in which Bethesda enlists Carmack’s engine prowess for help with the next Elder Scrolls. What? A guy can dream.

  8. Magnus says:

    I guess the question is, what sort of subsidiary are they going to be?

    For example, EA bought up Westwood and Bioware. One still exists and makes good games, the other… RIP.

    Will iD get the chance to make something good again? will they just be responsible for graphics engine work etc.? or will they slowly disappear?

  9. KarmaDoor says:

    Since Shamus brought up the topic of indies, I feel I should share a few sites that I usually frequent along with Twenty Sided.

    Tales of the Rampant Coyote
    Not only does Jay Barnson promote independent game developers on his blog, he is one himself. While it isn’t exclusively indies, almost every topic he brings up is interesting from a development point of view.

    ASCII Dreams
    Andrew Doull’s blog is almost entirely about his Rogue-like programming and design, but is worth following to see it progress as well as the occasional poll for players and in depth thoughts on game mechanics.

    Also there are a few blogs dedicated to reporting and reviewing independent games:
    Jay is Games and Play This Thing! are the two I follow on a regular basis.

    As for iD, they wowed me with technical prowess, but I enjoyed Commander Keen and Secret Agent far more than the D°°M series.

  10. Galenor says:

    NPC1: “How delightful! Welcome!”
    NPC2: “What’s new with you?”
    NPC1: “I saw some Cacodemons by the water recently. I steered clear of them!”
    NPC2: “Disgusting creatures, I hope to never see another.”
    NPC1: “Take care.”

  11. DJDD says:

    There’s no need to dream about where Beth will pick up some of id’s technology, it is going to happen. id’s co-founders have already been interviewed over the transition and they are excited about the idea of leaking knowledge andtechnology between the two studios.

  12. AR says:

    This is like hiring the world’s smartest aircraft designer to help you make tanks.

    An interesting comparison. Was this a deliberate reference to the fact that the M1 Abrams tank, generally regarded as the most advanced tank to date, is powered by a form of jet engine?

  13. bbot says:

    Carmack spends most of his time now building rocket ships.

    This may, just may, have influenced his decision to sell Id.

    (It’s a proper noun! I capitalize proper nouns! Fight the power!)

  14. GTB says:

    The hell with id. I want Origin back. I want Garriott to stop fruiting around, I want another top-down Ultima, and I want goddamn Wing Commander: Privateer 3. And I want them NOW.

    And I want my childhood back.

    …and a pony.

  15. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Funny thing,but if a successful band did that mitigation thing,theyd do far better than game developers.Music has more to the band/singer name than game developers have,so beatles west would do good no matter how bad their music would be.

  16. fefe says:

    Actually I’m sure 3drealms (Apogee) existed as a game developer from 1987 on and they just laid of their development team this year… ok given they did not develope a (completed) game since 1997, but they’ve been around longer than id and did not announce yet that they shut down.

  17. naa says:

    First, id has always been eager to do a med/fan game and failed. (quake was going to be a med/fan game).
    Second, carmack has often talked about the possibility of doing rpg or mmorpg with his engines, and their upcoming game contained hints about that. open world, quests, etc …
    Third, it’s not only that bethesda is lacking on the tech side but also since the big carmack/romero dispute over design/tech id has always been lacking in the design/creativity department, so they also could benefit from this.

    And last, the boss of ZeniMax Media is a Robert Altman who, according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_A._Altman , married Wonder Woman television series actress Lynda Carter.
    This guy knows what he is doing.

  18. Rob Conley says:

    When seemingly more sensible companies would take that heap of cash and grow the company, the id team took the money and bought themselves Ferraris

    Not quite true for one member of the team. He did a little more than just buy fast cars.

    http://www.armadilloaerospace.com/

    Not only John Carmack is a heck of a programmer. He is one of the world’s leading expert on building and flying VTVL rockets (Vertical Takeoff, Vertical Landing)

  19. KarmaDoor says:

    A correction on my part;
    Secret Agent was developed by Apogee directly, not iD. It is really easy to goof the credits between the two since iD was published by Apogee for years.

  20. Neil says:

    AR, you beat me to it, but I’ll add that they brought in tank engineers to build the A10 Warthog, and that is a plain fantastic aircraft.

  21. Steve C says:

    Shamus said: “I don’t know of any developer from 1991 that is still operating independently today.”

    Nintendo?

    Not exactly “independent” but they call the shots. As the leader the vast army I don’t think they answer to anyone. I think they should count in this context.

  22. Groboclown says:

    Personally, I’d love to see Bethesda and iD release a single player RPG version of Commander Keen.

  23. Deoxy says:

    Bethesda games have always been a little wonky in the technology department and they could certainly benefit from a robust and stable core for their games. This is something id Software has always done well. On the other hand, id Software has spent just short of two decades making linear games set mostly in dark indoor tunnels. Bethesda makes open-world sandbox games. This is like hiring the world’s smartest aircraft designer to help you make tanks. Sure, id is a smart bunch – but how useful will their skills be in practice?

    A great turn of phrase, as usual… but, in a very rare occurence, I feel that it would really have been better to say it the other way around. The “linear games set mostly in dark indoor tunnels” analogizes to the tank much better, while “freeform open ended” fits “aircraft”.

    As the Warthog, well, I rest my case… it does manage to fly, and it is a great killer of non-flying tanks, but it has no chance to survive a dogfight (speed and maneuverability decide those, something the “built like a brick” Warthog simply does not have compared to modern fighters). To beat this analogy far past the “dead horse” point, what we want is an aircraft that can take a lot more hits than a regular aircraft, not a tank that manages to get off the ground better than other tanks.

    This is not meant as a slight to the A10, mind you – it IS an amazing machine that does its job VERY VERY well.

  24. Doug O. says:

    Hrm. What category would Stardock go into?

  25. Document says:

    Also, does Bungie count as independent? They weren’t from 2001-2007, but I thought they were now.

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