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Indie Mavens on 2014: The year of Threes, 80 Days, GamerGate and the promise of VR to come

It is the time for retrospection
 Indie Mavens on 2014: The year of Threes, 80 Days, GamerGate and the promise of VR to come

As the year that was 2014 comes to a close, it seems right to start reminiscing of how fantastic a year it has been for mobile games.

Think back to this year's biggest titles, and those that stayed with you for weeks at a time, and you'll surely have at least a fistful of praise for the past year. Mobile games truly are on top form.

And what a year for news it has been, with virtual reality given a kick into relevance with Facebook's purchase of Oculus VR, with Apple jumping into the smartwatch arena among other companies, and the recurring pressure of GamerGate on the industry. 

It all leads up to what will hopefully be another stellar year as we enter 2015. Where will mobile gaming be going next? Our Indie Mavens certainly have a few ideas.

So we asked them a three-part question to round off the year, looking backwards at 2014's best bits, and offering their hopes and predictions for 2015.

"What has been the biggest gaming news for you in 2014?

What have been the best games released in 2014 for you, and why?

What direction do you see mobile gaming and the wider industry / culture going toward in 2015?"

Mike Rose

Mike Rose

PR Manager and Developer Relations at Ripstone

Facebook buying Oculus was, hands down, the biggest video game news for me in 2014. Everyone is wondering whether VR is just going to be a fad all over again, and then all of a sudden Facebook piles $2 billion into it.

“There's going to be some sort of future for VR.”
Mike Rose

There's no way that Facebook is going to pay that much money and then just let it fade away, so there's now at least going to be some sort of future for VR in the coming years - especially with all the other big names like Sony and Samsung who have jumped onboard with their own devices. 

Best games were all mobile for me:

  • Threes,
  • Desert Golfing,
  • Framed,
  • Monument Valley,
  • Helix,
  • 80 Days.

Threes and 80 Days were particularly special for me, and the sorts of games that could only work on mobile. People who say "I don't play mobile games" really have no idea what they're missing out on.

Final question: I think the mobile game space finally began to mature in 2014. It's taken a while, and we've had to endure a whole lot of crap to get here, but dang, there were so many incredible mobile games out this year.

Inkle's <em>80 Days</em> - one of the best of 2014
Inkle's 80 Days - one of the best of 2014

I can only see it getting even better in 2015 as well, with more and more talented developers realizing the potential of the platform. We're (tinyBuild) planning a bunch of mobile games in 2015, having been PC-only up to this point, as it really feels like the perfect time to go mobile in terms of excitement levels, innovation and maturity.

Getting people to pay money for mobile games upfront is another thing altogether, of course! But we're excited nonetheless.

Richard Perrin

Richard Perrin

Owner at Locked Door Puzzle

Sadly, I think the biggest game news for me this year was the on-going GamerGate fiasco. Most of the developers and journalists I've known over the years have always been willing to have interesting discussions about ethics in our field.

“It really is time to move away from energy models and chasing whales”
Richard Perrin

So I was very sad to see that topic used as justification for a pretty horrific culture war. I just hope next year things can die down a little and we can resume a path towards inclusion in the industry as the industry continues to diversify in lots of awesome ways.

In mobile games, I think Sailor's Dream and 80 Days were absolutely stunning, but I sadly don't feel like either of them got enough attention. Outside of mobile, I loved Dark Souls 2 even if it wasn't quite as good as Dark Souls 1, but definitely has me very excited for Bloodbourne next year.

I do hope next year sees mobile developers adopting the more consumer-friendly free-to-play models seen in a lot of PC games. It really is time to move away from energy models and chasing whales. It's no secret people are being increasingly turned off by those approaches so, come on, let's do better next year.

Eline Muijres

Eline Muijres

Producer at Game Oven

Unfortunately, I would have to say the biggest news was - and still is - GamerGate as well, because it has affected so many people close to me.

“Having thick skin shouldn’t be a requirement to work in the game industry”
Eline Muijres

There’s so many things to say about that, and much of it has been said already. Having thick skin shouldn’t be a requirement to work in the game industry. I hope 2015 will be a year with a lot of positive news, focusing on the games and people we can be proud of. All there is in mainstream media about games has been nothing but negative lately, so I feel we really need to show the strong sides of the industry.

The best mobile game of 2014 for me is Threes - I keep coming back to it, it’s so brilliantly simple and challenging!

Other mobile games I’ve enjoyed a lot were Framed, Monument Valley, and Blek.

On other platforms, I loved Sportsfriends, Towerfall: Ascension and Gang Beasts (still in Early Access). Games that are perfect for either a quick or a long session of playing together with your friends.

A good year for math puzzles - <em>Threes</em>
A good year for math puzzles - Threes

I hope the ‘race to the bottom’ will be over in 2015, and people get used to paying for mobile games.One thing that will help I think is allowing more payment options. Apple has already taken a big step in this direction by partnering with the Chinese UnionPay, which caused a spike in our sales.

Most people in Europe don’t have credit cards, so something similar should happen over here as well. I just hope developers won't skip mobile platforms and will keep making beautiful and unique games!

Jon Ingold

Jon Ingold

Creative Director at Inkle Studios

The biggest event of the year was GamerGate, but I wouldn't call it "news" exactly - I think it was the culmination of a long-running cracking of "games" into a wide variety of different forms.

When the dust settles, I hope we'll start to see much clearer divisions between art games, triple-A games (I'm going with David Cage on this and calling them "porn games" because as a description it's spot on) - and most importantly, the new small-studio powered mainstream.

Stoic's <em>The Banner Saga</em> - enjoyed by Jon Ingold
Stoic's The Banner Saga - enjoyed by Jon Ingold

The divisions won't help any of the many individuals shattered by events this year, of course, but they might stop this sort of hatred flaring up again.

On a happier note, this year I decided to try and understand how the hell you're supposed to play RPGs, and have been enjoying Dragon Age. Apart from that, my PS3 has been gathering dust, and my favourite games were both on iPad - The Banner Saga and Out There. I've really enjoyed playing some choice-based games where I don't know the outcomes in advance!

Richard Perrin

Richard Perrin

Owner at Locked Door Puzzle

Just to reply to Jon, I'm not sure trying to distance interactive fiction from the rest of video gaming is a good future for the industry.

For one thing text adventures have been part of our industry for longer than most of the modern genres. However more importantly we should be embracing all the different genres of games being made now as part of a diversifying industry, not trying to establish exclusionary ghettos.

I don't really see how people using games to tell stories was a part of the "hatred flaring up".

Jon Ingold

Jon Ingold

Creative Director at Inkle Studios

Rich, I'm not really talking about interactive fiction at all. Rather, there's an producer/audience for blockbuster bombast, another for quirky/weird, and an interesting middle I see as low scope/solid.

And they feel (to me, anyway) like completely different products desired by quite separated audiences, but that get discussed and ranked in the same space, and that creates friction.

And separation doesn't need to be exclusionary: if conflicting things aren't in each other's faces, exclusion isn't needed - so like, separating theatre and film in a newspaper is practical, but not harmful.

But, yeah; you need to get the categorisation right.

Richard Perrin

Richard Perrin

Owner at Locked Door Puzzle

I don't really think the audiences are so disparate as you suggest. It's anecdotal but people I know who play games like League of Legends and Destiny are also fans of Fez, Braid, and Heavy Rain.

Sure some people stick to one genre but there's a lot of people who like to try things from across the gaming spectrum. We already have separation for these things in terms of genre, but games are fluid in what elements they pull from each genre these days, so I don't see how any kind of separation would even be practical.

Using your newspaper example, I wouldn't expect to see romantic comedies listed in a separate section to action blockbusters just because the audience isn't always exactly the same.

Oh, I should also reiterate I don't really see how this relates to GamerGate at all.

Shawn Allen

Shawn Allen


The Steam overhaul was the biggest news for me, I guess. Not much gaming news interests me these days, but as someone who will be releasing on Steam eventually, I follow that platform's every move. And, so far, it seems very flawed, we'll see how things change when I need to release.

This has been a weird year for me - my top game of all year didn't even make it out this year, the Apotheon Beta is the best game I've played all year, and will stick with me for years to come.

I was glad to get to play two Kickstarter games I backed, Broken Age and Mercenary Kings - but the jury is out on how I really feel about Mercenary Kings. I have a lot of conflicting issues with it. Broken Age was pretty fantastic, though.

  • The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is the game I played the most this year, and I've always loved the game since the original. Again, conflicted at the continual inclusion of "Shoop de woop" but, it's so infrequent that I can ignore it.
  • Crypt of the NecroDancer was my jam for a while, but I quickly fizzled on it after obsessing for close to 20 hours.
  • Super Comboman is really flawed, but also really good.
  • Joylancer released on Steam, and is worth it to check out the growth of the game.
  • Assault Android Cactus is pretty spectacular.
  • Screw Threes though, it was ruining my life for a better part of the year.

As for the industry - I want to see more success - access - exposure - and excitement for black and Latino game devs and their work. I'd like to see more from the Arab game development community too.

I'd also like to see local scenes in the US starting to create award ceremonies akin to the Dutch Game Awards. More local exposure would put less importance on things like the IGF and Indiecade.

Nicolas Barrière

Nicolas Barrière

Designer at Double Stallion

“We are seeing a resurgence of boutique publishers.”
Nicolas Barrière

I definitely join everyone on the events mentioned above. It's been a banner year, for both ill and good.

The most striking trend for me is indies starting to publish other indies. We are seeing a resurgence of small and boutique publisher/developers.

Independents teaming up together on different roles to make sure unique games keep coming out and find audiences who will support them. All mostly on PC and consoles.

It's really great to see a diversity of small and medium-sized games coming back.

Andy Wallace

Andy Wallace

Developer at Andy Wallace

Biggest gaming news for me is definitely the hugely upsetting development of GamerGate. I don't think I need to go into too much detail there, but it has been a source of stress for a while now.

In more fun categories, My top mobile picks this year are:

  • Threes - Obviously amazing little game
  • Dream Quest - An incredibly ugly, incredibly deep game. Almost certainly, this deckbuilding dungeon crawler consumed more of my hours than any other game this year.
  • Device 6 - So clever. This was like the game version of House Of Leaves.

Some non-mobile shout outs:

  • Sportsfriends - I love every game in the bundle, and I've been waiting for an official release of Joust for years now.
  • The Yawhg - So flavorful and so accessible! This game bridged the gap between my gamer/non gamer friends on more than one occasion.
  • ROCKETS ROCKETS ROCKETS - If you don't enjoy playing this then you are a bad person. Even with all of the combat removed, the game taps into a wonderful sense of fun just flying around the neon spaces and painting it with your trail.
  • Soundself - A hugely engaging, experiential game and one that is doing a great job of pushing the boundary of what counts as a game.
  • Luftrausers - Just like ROCKETS, the game feel is just so tight. I will always have fun ducking and weaving through the clouds in this game.
  • Nothing Good Can Come Of This - A free game by Michael Consoli, this minimalist versus game does a simple concept extremely well.