Itch.io’s games are not “unspeakable”; they are revolutionary

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Chantelle McColl reflects on the role itch.io plays in supporting experimental game development, and why it benefits the entire industry – despite Apple’s protests.

Image: Terry Cavanagh VVVVV is one of Iitch’s many creative experiments that advance the genre.

Chantelle mccolle

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Epic Games recently released Itch.io, the marketplace for independent and experimental game makers, on their shop as the latest edition of their extensive collection of apps, joining Spotify, Brave, Kita, Ken Shape and iHeart Radio. The collection appears to be an attempt by Epic to expand its predominantly computer games store to a cross-platform app store like Apple, which they are currently suing for “a series of anti-competitive restrictions and monopoly practices.”

PUBLICITY

The lawsuit against Apple began on May 3 and contains two main arguments: the 30% reduction in the revenues they earn from independent developers and control of iOS platforms, subsequently excluding competing storefronts, apps and games from their products ; however, the latter is now used in Apple’s defense against Epic’s new Itch.io app.

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In a transcript provided by The edge, Apple’s lawyer expressed concern that Itch.io offers games “so offensive we can’t talk about it here” and that Epic distributing the app won’t meet iOS standards . The defense – hypocritical at best, given that the Apple Store distributes NSFW games and apps, and the Apple computer’s ability to access various third-party distributors like Itch.io, Steam, and browsers with “offensive content” and sexualized ”similar – is a weak attempt to prevent the distribution of Epic Games Store on iOS products; furthermore, it portrays Itch.io, an otherwise inclusive community of talented game developers, in a disreputable light.

COMMUNITY-DRIVEN CREATIVITY

Itch.io is a marketplace for independent and experimental game makers that encourages full creative license throughout the game’s development journey, from the types of creators and communities the games come from, to the style, duration and genre of the game, to the marketing design of the product pages of the game and even to determine the price set for the game. Additionally, Itch.io is committed to empowering creators by taking only 8% revenue from paid games and hosting events such as’Creators day“Where the creators get 100% of the sales. The website encourages community projects by hosting game jams – events where participants create games based on a given prompt within a set time frame – with easy access on their website. page with a calendar containing all future, present and past game jams and links to where you can sign up.

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Additionally, Itch.io has become home to many minority communities struggling to get their games published elsewhere, including providing a platform for LGBTQ + games and visual novels to shamelessly explore themes of identity and of sexuality without being censored. Community-driven initiatives are endorsed and supported by Itch.io, as evidenced by the recent Indie Bundle for Palestinian Aid created by independent developers on Itch.io which brought together over 700 games to be released as a bundle with 100% of proceeds going to UNRWA to help the Palestinian people. Itch.io has created an inclusive space and community for game developers who want to experiment, make a difference, and find like-minded creators.

Like most digital storefronts, Itch.io hosts sensitive content; but Apple cynically invoking its “untold games” in a billion dollar lawsuit obscures its creative reality. The games on itch.io are actually valuable, mostly non-commercial projects made by emerging game developers, typically during itch.io game jams, which without the rigidity of corporate consumption models of games, experiment the creative unification of style, genre. , game design and storytelling. The Unlimited Creative License encourages a unique approach to game creation that we see cultivated across genres across Itch.io.

REIMAGINED GENRE

In particular, Platformers, Metroidvanias, and Side-scrollers are redesigned to remain relevant in a gaming industry driven by fast-paced gameplay and immersive animation. Independent and emerging game makers have taken on the task of developing innovative and groundbreaking games from classics such as Super Mario 64, the Castlevania series and Super Metroid, potentially due to the accessible and cheaper software used to create these games, encouraging thus innovation. with visual and level design to create effective narratives.


Image: Super Metroid

Itch.io is one of the new, and arguably the best, hotbeds for these genres, as the developers are constantly reinventing them. Games you may already know include ‘Celestial‘,’A little hike‘,’Night in the woods‘and’Fine stripes‘which has gained enough popularity to be released on Steam with a fixed retail price; However, Itch.io’s free and cheaper games are an accessible and faster way to explore the new talent that will propel these genres into the future.

Traditionally, Platformers and Metroidvanias are tough and punitive, if Ghost ‘n Goblin is anything to go by. ‘Momodora I‘,’II‘and’III‘by Rdein is a Metroidvania series that takes persistence to complete – varied enemy attack patterns and challenging bosses will have you returning to distant checkpoints multiple times – but if you manage to win, the achievement is satisfactory enough to allow you to continue. Likewise, ‘VVVVVV‘by Terry Cavanagh is a puzzle platformer game that, if you didn’t think Momodora was difficult enough, will also test your patience. Don’t be fooled by the simple visual design and the singular game mechanics to control gravity: “VVVVVV” introduces new ways to use your limited abilities in all 400 pieces, by innovating on a single simple mechanic that will keep you obsessed. and frustrated the whole game.

SHORT AND SOFT

If you are interested in shorter games, Roguelight by Daniel Linssen and Duck Soup Dungeon by Richard Lems are both rogue-like platforms with distinct green and blue pixel graphics reminiscent of 8-bit games. Going through these dungeons is made possible by collecting items and upgrading your character or unlocking new ones upon death, which means short journeys are inevitable until the end of the game. “Roguelight” introduces an interesting concept where the keep is plunged into darkness; to progress you need to buy torches and use them sparingly to get to the last level. Both games use Roguelike genre flourishes that anticipate the resurgence of classic visual design in larger games like Hades and Dead Cells, while also implementing experimental gameplay mechanics – the torch system in “Roguelight” and them. character-specific skills in “Ducksoup Dungeon”.


Image: outline

Contour‘, also from the creator of Roguelight, is a Platformer that pushes the boundaries between abstraction and level design. Your character is an eraser that erases the platforms you interact with until they are unusable, generating a puzzle aspect in the game where it is necessary to take your movements into account beforehand.

THE FUTURE IS EXPERIMENTAL


Image: Self

This barely scratches the surface of the experimental realm of Itch.io games:, iii by Yukon W and Self by Dev_Dwarf are both unique explorations of visual design and plot execution. “Self” is a precision platform game with philosophical undertones and contrasting visual design with fast-paced gameplay and a matching rock soundtrack. Between the levels are some lovely ethereal imagery that involves a deeper meaning of the rat race you complete, but “Self” doesn’t allow you to dwell on it for too long before you dive back into challenging and intense gameplay.

But experimental doesn’t have to mean serious: ‘iii’ is a self-proclaimed ‘Catroidvania’, where you move through a minimalist underground cave like a cat, delivering packages to locals and learning the mundane details of life. This game is a relaxing break from the previous ones, as its puzzles are secondary to creating a simple storytelling experience.


Image: iii

While Itch.io is characterized as having ‘untold games’, the reality is that the website has created a space for game developers to experiment with unlimited creative license to reinvent genres that have no place. safe in the gaming industry.

The Itch.io community is pushing the boundaries of gaming, taking risks with level design, storytelling themes, and experimental aesthetics that commercial game developers can’t. Effectively establish an audience for offbeat games in order to hopefully eject individuality into the larger gaming community. The future is with the small game makers and we shouldn’t ostracize them; we have to support them.





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