Sorath’s Devil Daggers released today and it is fantastic. It’s fast-paced, it’s brutal and it’s relentless. What is most striking about how relentless it is, though, is not the relentless action – the type of overwhelming mayhem Vlambeer uses in our own games to force flow in the player – Devil Daggers is relentless in its identity. More than anything, it has become clear that independent titles that manage to relentlessly adhere to their internal style are amongst the only ones that really stand a chance. Games like Hotline Miami, Undertale, Her Story and The Witness are all games with their own flaws and strengths, but what they have in common is that they are succesful, and that they refuse to be anything but themselves. They have a sense of identity, and they understand that identity from start to finish.
I argued the other day that auteurship might have its potential pitfalls too, and this all seems to loop back to games and trees. Games grow an identity, and it’s up to the developer to recognize, amplify and communicate that identity. If you’re working on a independent game, see if you can find anything that looks, sounds or plays similar. If you can, you might want to think very carefully about where the identity of your game is.
And if you haven’t picked up Devil Daggers, you should do so.