PC Gamer
Indie Game The Movie review thumbnail


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.
PC Gamer
Steam potato sack sale


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.
PC Gamer
Indie Game the Movie thumbnail
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?

PC Gamer
braid
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.
PC Gamer
indie game the movie
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.”
PC Gamer
Bastion Stranger's Dream
Great news for two top indie games. A Team Meat tweet announces that "Super Meat Boy past the million sales mark last month!" The spattery plaformer recently featured in the superb Humble Indie Bundle 4, which took more than two million dollars in total donations before it closed. "PLATINUM BABY!" said the devs, understandably pleased.

The lovely indie RPG, Bastion has passed the half million mark. "It’s been a good year," said writer, Greg Kasavin on the Bastion blog. Sales on Steam and Xbox Live Arcade pushed Bastion over the half million mark and its success put Supergiant in a good position to start work on their next title. "It goes to show that a lot of folks out there like what we’re doing and want us to keep going, which is great, because we intend to stick together as a team and do just that," says Kasavin.

Woo! We liked both games very much. Find out why in our Super Meat Boy review, and our Bastion review.
PC Gamer
HumbleBundle4
The well-meaning earnestness and awesome gaminess of the Humble Indie Bundle IV are being exploited by evil internet users who would probably sell their own grans to be in with a chance of winning the latest Steam competition.

According to the Humble Indie Bundle blog, distinctly un-humble buyers are using the Steam codes from the Humble Indie Bundle to legitimise throwaway Steam accounts created specifically to enter Valve’s current raffle. “It’s a lose-lose situation for the indie developers, charities, Valve, and Humble Bundle,” says the blog.

To combat this, the minimum you’ll have to spend in order to get Steam keys in your Bundle is $1, instead of 1 cent. If the Scrooges among you can’t afford the $1 minimum you can contact the Humble Indie guys and they’ll send you the Steam keys - if you promise not to resell them or otherwise abuse them.

The incessant, nauseating loop of Band Aid on the radio and tear-jerking ads for homeless dogs on the telly are there to remind us that Christmas isn’t just about being drunk for a whole day, but that it’s also about donating to charities and hard-up indie game developers. Let's just hope the Humble Indie guys don't lose faith in the goodness of humanity.
PC Gamer
Super Meat Boy
Humble Bundle 4 has made as much money in a day as Humble Bundle 3 did in a week. The total payments sum is shown live on the Humble Indie Bundle 4 front page (currently $1,261,341 and counting). The folks behind the bundle tell us that it took the last sale seven days to reach similar figures, adding that Humble Bundle customers have donated more than $3 million to charity in total so far.

The Humble Indie Bundle 4 is the most tempting bundle yet. You can pay anything for Super Meat Boy, Jamestown, Bit.Trip Runner, Shank and NightSky. If you pay more than the average donation (currently $5.36), you get Gratuitous Space Battles and Cave Story+. If the bundle keeps selling at this rate, it could hit the $14 million mark when it ends in 12 days time. Humble Bundle organiser Richard Esguerra is understandably quite pleased. "We're thrilled to see the gaming community respond so enthusiastically to this bundle, which has been about half a year in the making," he says.
PC Gamer
HumbleBundle4
After peeking out from behind Steam's registry files earlier today, Humble Indie Bundle 4 has made its official debut. And yes, it's everything you hoped for. I mean, if this is what happens when the Bundle Wars heat up, I'm all for it.

To start off, there's Jamestown, Bit.Trip Runner, Super Meat Boy, Shank, and NightSky. I know, I know. Your piggy bank just let out a frightened squeal and then exploded. But there's more. If you beat the average price, the masters of the not-so-ancient art of indie bundling will throw in Cave Story+ and Gratuitous Space Battles. As of now, said average is just a spec over $5.00. So yes, take your piggy bank's charred ashes and make with the spending.
PC Gamer
Alan Wake
Some inquisitive fellows on NeoGaf have been raiding the Steam content registry for clues, and seem to have come across some entries suggesting that that Alan Wake may be heading to PC.

In further support of the Alan Wake PC release rumours, Just Push Start spotted an interview on Finnish site YLEX in which Aki Järvilehto from Remedy said "we have received feedback from a lot of PC gamers, and I have to admit that yes, we somehow ignored that. Let’s see if in the near future we could have some positive news to tell you about dating!" We love positive news about dating!

Way back in 2006, Alan Wake was the poster boy for Intel's Core 2 Duo CPU, and was regularly demoed on PC to show off its multi-threading tech. Then, all of a sudden, it became an Xbox 360 exclusive, and the PC version vanished. As a PC version was worked on heavily in the run up to its release, it theoretically shouldn't be too hard to resurrect it for a Steam release. It'd coincide nicely with the downloadable Alan Wake follow up story, Alan Wake's American Nightmare, which is heading to the Xbox 360 early next year.

It's not just Alan Wake haunting the Steam registry files. DIY Gamer have spotted evidence of a very tasty new Humble Bundle. The registry entry suggests that a new bundle may include Super Meat Boy, BIT.TRIP.RUNNER, Jamestown, Nightsky and Shank as a starting lineup, with Gratuitous Space Battles and Cave Story+ to be added after the bundle has kicked off. If accurate, that's a fantastic collection. How much would you pay for that bundle, and would you like to see Alan Wake come to Steam?
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