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Boys in their bedrooms, drop-out dreamers, shut-in gore fetishists - if ever a film were to quash the red-top stereotypes of game developers than this would surely be it. Indie Game: The Movie follows four of the most thoughtful, hard-working and sensitive young fellows you could probably find in this business or any other, and is both a clarion call for the thrilling creative freedom of independent development and a grim warning of its near-lethal stakes.



The sheer graft underpinning the development of Braid, Fez or Super Meat Boy is writ large here, and accompanied by no small amount of heartache. Charting half a decade of development, the filmmakers cherry-pick from a catalogue of dramas, as the four developers struggle with the threat of financial oblivion, acrimonious legal wrangles, corrosive relationships with corporate gatekeepers, depression, insomnia, bad diets and eccentric facial hair.



Just how much they sacrifice to ship their game, and just how much they suffer both before and after, makes for moving viewing. The film deftly sketches their characters, too: a shot here of the meticulous Jon Blow, developer of Braid, sitting with stiff poise in a bare apartment; a shot there of Super Meat Boy’s Tommy Refenes drowsily pawing through a pile of grease-stained to-do lists. Refenes and his Team Meat partner, Edmund McMillen, are an endearingly asymmetrical duo - the tattooed, moustached McMillen is relaxed and warm, but touchingly vulnerable, while the skeletal Refenes is dryly cynical and seems permanently exhausted. You suspect his energy levels might improve if he didn’t survive on microwave burgers.







It’s Phil Fish, however, who offers the most wrenching story of all. While everyone seems willing to kill themselves to make their game, only in Fish’s case does this appear to be a literal threat. His game, Fez, has been in development for years by the film’s start, and has yet to ship when the titles roll. You get a glimpse of the reason for this in Fish’s painstaking pixel-perfect overhaul of the game’s textures - the third they have undergone. Like all of the film’s subjects, this man is a perfectionist, possibly to the point of self-annihilation.



Curiously, though the film expertly explains the passion it fails to describe the projects at which it is directed. Sure, we know Braid does something funny with time, and Fez goes all 3D - but how these things are manipulated to create elegant puzzles and transcendent epiphanies goes unrecorded. Blow even describes sinking into a depression when Braid’s rapturous reception failed to acknowledge his meta-narrative, but we never even understand how brilliant Braid’s time-contorting mechanics are, let alone what its meta-narrative entails. For the uninitiated, all three of the featured platformers might end up looking very similar, and though the film focuses on the human story behind these developments, the intelligence and intent of their construction surely deserves more space. As it is, without a ready explanation of the games’ ambition and worth, the film undersells the development as something akin to tilting at windmills.



There are some striking insights when the devs are allowed to discuss the design process: Blow describes how he structures his game as a dialogue with the player, so that the mechanics tumble out as minor revelations during play. Making an intimidating conundrum isn’t the interesting thing, he suggests, but bringing the player to a comprehension of it. Perhaps this answers Blow’s own puzzle: one reason for the lukewarm response to his narrative ambitions may be that they appeared opaque for opacity’s sake.







Some of the connections the film makes are a little crude and possibly overly-manipulative: McMillen talks about his game’s protagonist, Meat Boy, a character whose absence of skin leaves him vulnerable and in constant pain. He needs his girlfriend, who is made of plasters, to complete him. Cut to: interview with McMillen’s girlfriend. It’s a metaphor, see.



The film also sags in its last part, apparently not quite sure what to do with Super Meat Boy’s tremendous success, except repeat it several times. Oddly, it even revisits a long mission statement Blow gives at the film’s start. Maybe the filmmakers were hoping for material provided by the launch of Fez, but Phil Fish’s ever-retreating schedule evaded them. The lack of conclusion to his tale does leave something of a void, although it is heartening to know, as we now do, that he has probably since become rather rich.



Was it worth the effort? Refenes pays off the mortgage on his parents’ house, McMillen buys his girlfriend a hideous cat, Blow pours millions into his next development (The Witness), all because they ship their games and people love them. By the fortuitous choice of its subjects the movie escapes the difficulty of wrangling a heartwarming tale from bankruptcy and suicide, but it’s not a story without moments of bleakness. Indie Game: The Movie is an inspiring film, and even if it is rather vague about the specific appeal of the games themselves, it delicately articulates the passion, idiosyncrasies and brilliance of the developers as they pursue uncompromised creativity - and at what cost.
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Come with me, back into the distant past. Don't mind that wibbly blurry effect and that "WooOOoOOooOO" noise, that's just what happens when you go back in time. We're almost there. All you have to do is click this link and make the transition to April 4 2011!



I've always wanted to say that. If you just took the trip, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. You'll also have a good idea as to whether or not you'd like to purchase the games going in the return of the potato sack sale on Steam.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Brendan Caldwell)

The long-awaited documentary about the creators of Super Meat Boy, Braid and Fez is out now and available for download from its own site, iTunes or Steam. Here’s Mr Brendy C to tell you a few things about it before you spend your digi-groats on this much-feted film. Warning: could be said to include spoilers, if a documentary about some guys making videogames can be said to be spoilable.>

Indie Game: The Movie is in the unusual position of being able to say it was using Kickstarter “before it was cool, man.” So it’s already vulnerable to the kind of folk who shout ‘hipster!’ at every twenty-something in a pair of milk-bottle glasses. Of course, our readers know better than that. As children, most of you will have undoubtedly been told the tale of The Boy Who Cried Hipster, the moral of the story being ‘don’t lie about there being a dickhead around, in case a real dickhead should actually show up one day to subtly insult your decor, or eat you.’ Being so well brought-up, I believe we can look at Indie Game: The Movie somewhat more fairly and see it for what it actually is: a good documentary which occasionally lapses into artificiality. (more…)

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

Men, at work

Grumpypants time: I worry slightly that focusing on Super Meat Boy, Fez and Braid risks painting an extremely narrow picture of indie gaming, and as such Indie Game The Movie might be suffering from some of the same echo chamber issues that some felt this year’s IGF did. But hell, let’s celebrate that it has successfully brought an image of videogaming that isn’t guns/boobs/guns/boobs/guns/boobs/guns/boobs into another medium and be happy about it.

After what feels like years of promotion, the movie is finally out. But not in cinemas! No, right on your monitor. You can grab it from its own site, from iTunes or, a little later today, the Steams. I hear mixed reports, but I shall be in all likelihood watching it tomorrow and can report back more usefully then. Oh, and check back on RPS in a few hours to read young whippersnapper Brendan Caldwell telling you just wot he thinks of this here film.

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Indie Game: The Movie is available to download on the official site and iTunes. It'll be released on Steam in about seven hours time, making it the first ever full-length movie to be released on the platform.



You could use Steam's remote download feature to kick it off from your office/school/college then watch it while eating your tea this evening. That's what I'm planning on do.



Alternatively, you can purchase on the official site and sneakily stream it in the corner of your monitor. Or just buy it on iTunes and watch it on your iOS device from a toilet cubicle.



Indie Game: The Movie was directed by Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky. It follows Tommy Refenes and Edmund McMillen as they create Super Meat Boy in late 2010 as well as Phil Fish, who struggles to prepare his first public demo of Fez. A post-Braid Jonathan Blow also features as he decides what to do after his massively successful indie. Jim Guthrie composed the score; he's the musician behind the Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP.



We'll have our review of Indie Game online soon. Are you excited about watching?



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Innovative platformer Braid, differently innovative platformer Super Meat Boy and horror adventure game Lone Survivor have been added to the already immensely successful Humble Bundle 5. Anyone who's already bought the bundle will be able to grab the new games gratis. If you haven't already bought the bundle (WHY???), you'll need to splash out more than the average (currently $7.87) to get the three games included.



The latest Humble Bundle has been the best yet, packing Bastion, Limbo, Amnesia, Psychonauts and Superbrothers into one tidy and cheap virtual box. Now it's hard to know how it could be any more awesome, unless it added Half-Life 3 to the roster. We're also not sure how any future bundle can stand a hope in hell against its sheer blinding awesomeness.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (John Walker)

Good blimey.

It’s arguable that the current Humble Indie Bundle is the best one yet. I’d argue it. I’m arguing it right now>. But incredibly, it just got better. Added to Bastion, Superbrothers, Limbo, Psychonauts and Amnesia are Super Meat Boy, Braid, and bundle first-timer, Lone Survivor. Oh my goodness.

When speaking to Humble’s Richard Esguerra earlier today, I took the chance to ask him about what difference these extras can make. You can see that below.

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Kotaku

Today, Super Meat Boy, Braid and Lone Survivor were added to the fifth installment of the Humble Indie Bundle. Just when you think things couldn't get more awesome. [HumbleBundle.com]


Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Adam Smith)

I’ve got a mighty fine idea. Why not point a camera at a bunch of creative sorts and let them speak their minds? That’s how Indie Game: The Movie was made, although I suspect editing the hundreds of hours of footage into something watchable, fascinating and entertaining was the hard part. Perhaps that’s why Swirsky and Pajot’s film won World Cinema Documentary Editing Award at Sundance 2012. Everyone will be able to watch it soon, or at least anyone near an internet connection, as it will be available as a downloadable purchase on June 12th. What’s most intriguing about this is that one of the download services carrying the film will be Steam. This leads to the obvious questions: will every film in the world soon be available on Steam and will Episode Three be a cinemovie?

(more…)

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Astronomers, heed my call: have the stars that control the fate of digital distribution may entered some strange alignment? After releasing a board game earlier today, we learn that Steam will be selling a film on the service next month. Appropriately, it's Indie Game: The Movie.



The Kickstarted film has been popping up in theaters since March, and will also be available on iTunes when it releases on Steam on June 12. I wouldn't expect this—at the very most, Valve is testing the waters for selling other content with something that's highly relevant to gamers.



If you're wondering if Fez might make its way to PC, I'll refer you to a quote from creator Phil Fish made to NowGamer: “Fez is a console game, not a PC game. It’s made to be played with a controller, on a couch, on a Saturday morning. To me, that matters; that’s part of the medium. I get so many comments shouting at me that I’m an idiot for not making a PC version. ‘You’d make so much more money! Can’t you see? Meatboy sold more on Steam!’ Good for them. But this matters more to me than sales or revenue. It’s a console game on a console. End of story.”
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