Why Unity and Indie Games are Good for the Industry

Written by: Mark Duque

Features | Aug 7, 2017

game developers indie games Unity

A while back, Jim Sterling released a video regarding the Unity game engine and how people regard it as the bad developer's engine. To his credit, he did defend it by saying the games released from Unity weren't a testament to the engine itself but more of the creators making bad indie games.

Games are hard to make. That's one reason why this site focuses a lot on independent games: to shine the spotlight on the lone developer working on his furry dating game in his mom's basement.

Though we might see a lot of triple A games on the front pages of Steam, there are still games that a bunch of talented artists and developers cooked up in hopes of showing the world their genius. You see, as triple A games turn proven game formulas into giant franchises, there will always be indie games that push new ideas forward.

Take DOTA for example. A decade ago, the concept of multiplayer arena games were about as novel as walking simulators. Making Warcraft mods was a nerdy pastime for people who spend way too much time in Blizzard's world editor. But since the mechanics were refined and polished in the indie scene, it was eventually taken to the mainstream world with its own conventions, clones, and cosplayers.

The same can be said about Counter-Strike. It wasn't a game made by a big company in their R&D lab. It wasn't even made by a hipster indie studio. It was made by regular people who played around with an existing engine. It's not the most sophisticated game in the world and they probably had to deal with millions of bugs, but good gameplay will always shine through no matter where the title comes from.

I think one of the biggest problems with Unity is how it markets its image. The engine has a "hobbyist-gets-to-use-it-for-free" business model, which helps lower the barrier to entry. If you compile a game on the normal version of the software, a splash screen that says "Made with Unity" will appear. You can purchase the pro version that doesn't have a splash screen, but it basically feels like how you notice bad CGI in movies but you never notice good CGI: you just know it when you see it.

The point is, Unity has democratized game development. Other publicly available engines have helped in pushing the envelope, but Unity gave hobbyists a chance to put their ideas into something more tangible. Democratization of a certain skill doesn't mean the rock stars of that field will be pulled down. The moment people develop an appreciation for the field, they'll realize how skilled these people are.

Game development isn't as magical as it once was. People can now see though a lot of hipster game developer wannabes and make their own games. And for the development of this young industry, that might not be a bad thing.
About the author: Mark Duque

Multimedia Editor. Mark is an avid player of games that his friends don't play. Happily in a relationship with a unicorn. Game development hobbyist and corporate art monkey by trade.

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