Welcome to the indie cupypse
There will be over 60,000 games on Steam as of 2021. According to statistics from Video Game Insights, 96% of those games are indie games. It seems that there is an influx of independently developed games. At this incredibly high percentage, however, indie games only make up 40% of sales on Steam. Why is this? Does it have to do with the fact that the players just aren’t interested? With games like Among us and Valheim, Hades and Fall Guys, this idea is hard to believe.
Developer Noah Cai, better known on the internet as Pixel Architect, has both a term and an explanation for this phenomenon. He calls it: The Indie Cup. Cai, an independent game developer and founder of World2Studio, is currently working on his own game called Chef RPG. It refers to a term used by indie developers to refer to the end of the golden age of indie gaming. However, Cai has his own ideas about the phenomenon of the indie pocalypse.
“I think there is a lot of talk about the indie pocalypse.” said Cai in a Zoom interview, “People think it’s the amount of games that the indie cup is causing. But I actually think it’s not the amount of games, it’s really just the increasing standards that people have. ”
In his statement, Cai makes it clear how he understands the indie cupypse. The age of indie games is not over yet, on the contrary, gamers simply expect a different kind of indie game. According to Cai, the old saying “quality over quantity” seems to be true.
“If you played a game that was competitive, let’s say five years ago it wouldn’t go so well today. You have to put a lot of work into making your game really enjoyable. Artistic, gameplay-technical. “ Says Cai.
Navigating the indie pocalypse is both a process of creation and fulfilling expectations. While developing his own game, Pixel Architect brings his unique background to the development of Chef RPG. An attempt by the indie developer to meet the contemporary demands of indie game fans. But who is Pixel Architect as a developer?
The name of Noah Cai’s online personality honestly fits better than it already seems. Cai graduated from McGill University with a degree in architecture with a knack for design and wanted to transfer his design skills to the gaming world. He spent a long time browsing YouTube and watching videos from indie game developers. Consistently overwhelmed by the fact that many of these developers only had small teams, he was inspired.
“I saw that Stardew Valley was made by a developer, which is insane.” said Cai, “… based on my design background, I thought maybe I could do something cool in the play area.”
Soon, Cai began experimenting with game design. Mainly focuses on pixel graphics. He turned back to YouTube in search of a place to share his work. This is how Pixel Architect was born. From tutorials in architecture and design to development diaries of his own work, Pixel Architect has become a place for Cai’s name to grow as a developer. Today, his YouTube channel, with nearly 70,000 subscribers, is a place of learning and growth as an indie developer.
“I can do both, show my work, but also offer some tutorials, so I wanted to build an interesting channel around it.” said Cai on the Pixel Architect channel.
Invent a vision
With the idea of Chef RPG boiling inside his head and early designs appearing on his YouTube, Cai drew on his inspirations to really make the world he was trying to fathom a reality. From game worlds like Eric Barone’s Stardew Valley to restaurant games from the early 2010s like Restaurant City, he had a lot of inspiration to draw from. Full of design ideas stemming from his architectural background, he began to create a new world that would eventually form the world of Chef RPG.
“I think in general people love the bright colors. You love the opportunity to create your own space. I love that too “, said Cai of his love for pixel-based, less realistic looking games.
In addition to video game inspirations, Cai took inspiration from a different breed of creator. Famous, Master Chef Gordon Ramsey. Ramsay’s Show, Gordon Ramsey’s Great Escape, showed Cai another side of the cooking experience. An experience in which the chef leaves the safety of his kitchen and actually goes out into the world to collect, search for ingredients and learn new recipes.
“I found it (Gordon Ramsay’s Great Escape) to be an interesting concept. A concept that not many games have explored yet. ” said Cai.
Cai himself claims to be an avid RPG player. He felt that in his time playing her, many opportunities were being missed. Missed opportunities to build on. He says that while many claim to be vast worlds of exploration, the RPG genre is often constrained by expectations of the genre. He feels like the genre often turns into a collection of weapons and armor as tougher monsters are killed. Again, he sees Stardew Valley as a limitless example of how to defy the expectations in an indie game.
“Stardew Valley did well … I think RPGs can be much bigger (action RPGs for killing monsters) and Stardew Valley was more focused on things like socialization. It’s a very complete role-playing game. ”
Surviving the Indie Cup
With a fully supported Kickstarter behind him now and a small team of 3 people, it seems that Pixel Architect is actually surviving the indie pocalypse. The Kickstarter for Chef RPG has exceeded the intended goal by over 250%. As a small developer, Cai attributes both his team’s skills and his own abilities to designing things that people really like to the success of Kickstarter. Another part of him, however, believes that the allure of boss RPG lies in its promise, and not just in its looks.
“We want to create this complete RPG experience. We’re not forcing you to do anything. You create the kind of restaurant you want and you build it the way you want it. ” said Cai about the world he creates in Chef RPG.
According to Cai, the game should play as a player-controlled sandbox with RPG elements. He says there will be a detailed skill tree instead of just focusing on statistics. Everything from restaurant design to menu to staff is entirely up to the player. Hunting animals, gathering ingredients, and more. This is where Cai sees the appeal, which is why the community flocked to his indie game. He believes that the core fundamentals of Chef RPG as a game for the gamer and about the gamer really made the title special.
However, success does not come without a challenge. A small developer building its name in the midst of the sea of indie games doesn’t come without adversity. From learning new coding to managing a small team’s workload, being an indie developer isn’t all of the glory of a fully funded game. A big part of developing a game is actually developing it.
“We really want to cross borders on several fronts and not only develop a cool game, but also cross our artistic limits.”
Pixel Architect and World2Studio are currently aiming for a Steam release in September 2023. A Nintendo Switch release will arrive a few months later. For now, the small team of indie developers continues to navigate the treacherous waters of the indie cup and head for the bright shores of release day.
Read more about COGconnected’s chief RPG here.