Usually with an indie game, if it isn't shining and picking up an audience relatively quickly, it just might be in trouble. Zandagort has an audience; I can see players in the outer reaches of space. I am not going to pass judgment on the number of players simply because indie budgets are often easily supported by a smaller playerbase, but I wonder what type of audience it is. I am open-minded and enjoy the occasional slog through an intense "spreadsheets-in-space"-style game, but Zandagort really wore down my patience.
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Still, I know that indie developers are often programmers or coders first and designers possibly never. I have seen the strangest, ugliest games made by some of the smartest programmers. I can't program myself, but I am an artist. I would never attempt to make a game without a good programmer. Yet, somehow, programmers often feel the need to completely ignore any sort of original art design. Yes, I know it is "hard" to make an original game, but let me give you some examples of overused words that can easily be replaced with almost anything and would instantly become that much more original:
Stop it. Stop it right now.
I grew some of my planet. I sent my ship off to explore but found that I could not loot anything but other players. Dozens of empty planets surrounded mine, but there seemed to be nothing to do with them. I could attack other players, but of course I could not figure out how to make more craft that might be more effective. I did try to follow the tutorial, which again was more like a step-by-step instruction guide from IKEA -- it didn't really teach me anything, but it did tell me where to put the allen wrench! I do want to acknowledge the fact that making a game with a handful of people is hard. But creativity and knowing how to work within your bounds, as well as recognizing how the game might be interpreted by a brand-new player, make up a set of talents that are hard to learn but can serve the indie dev like nothing else. I don't need to bring up examples of games that are brilliantly designed but simple games. It's possible, indie devs.
"I don't want to search a wiki for basic information. I want the game to explain it to me right away."
So yes, Zandagort does have some potential. Some. It needs work, and I am sure the developers are aware of that. As someone who has at this point seen literally hundreds of games, I urge the developers to spend some time on giving the game just a smidge of soul. Give it a story, an intense story. Spend a week and make it more immersive. Maybe add a bit of eerie music or come up with more original ship names and designs. If you do, I might just be back to play it again.
Next week I am looking at Stronghold Kingdoms, an indie MMORTS that seems to be doing quite well by topping the charts on the Steam download lists. I may not like Steam, but so far the game looks promising. Watch me livestream the game on our Massively TV Twitch channel at 5:00 p.m. EDT on Monday the 9th of April. See you then!
Each week, Rise and Shiny asks you to download and try a different free-to-play, indie or unusual game, chosen by me, Beau Hindman. I welcome any suggestions for games -- drop me a note in the comments or email! You can also follow me on Twitter and Facebook!