Embrace retro and indie games – the cheap way
So you suddenly decided that you want to be the hipster of gaming and trade all your triple A titles for obscure underground indie games only bit-junkies have heard of? Congratulations, you’re in the right place, my Guybrush Threepwood roof rocker. Below are some tips on how to become an indie and retro gamer without getting too much money out of your pocket.
Step 1: Show off
You are not a hipster if you can’t show the whole world that you are one. So you need some nasty pieces of software platforms with buffed up communities to underline that you really mean business through your game collection. Who knows, you might even learn a thing or two about the nature of games as art.
If you don’t already own one, get a Steam account. Steam is quite convenient because it has a very balanced mix of indie games and triple A titles. So you can be a hipster and still play some of your favourite complex titles when no one is looking. In your own defence, they’ll be retro in a year or two anyway. There’s also treats for the achievement whore in you and you can easily find all your Facebook friends that have a Steam account.
If you’re safely sure you’re giving up mainstream for good, go for Desura (instead). With developers and players squeezed together in the same space, Desura has one of the most robust indie game communities on the web. It’s fun, interactive and might teach you stuff about what goes into game design.
Don’t forget about gog.com. Although GoG went mainstream to survive, it still features some of the best ‘good old games’ out there. And the forums are absolutely cotton candy. You also get around ten retro games for free as a sign-up bonus, including the wonderful Sci-Fi point and click adventure game Beneath a Steel Sky. This game alone is worth your email address and password.
Step 2: Soft up
Your games list looks kind of empty so far, doesn’t it? Fortunately, you can go hunting for indie bundles offers all over the Internet. What is an indie game bundle? It’s a collection of smartly-picked indie video games where you get to set the price that you want to pay for owning software legally. Some bundles also include Original Soundtracks, Concept Art or mobile versions. Ow, and you’re also helping the rainforest, diseased children, depressed aliens, maybe the developers and whatnot in the process, but hey what really matters is that sometimes you can get as much as five games for 1$ (if you’re THAT tight on money). If downloaded directly, it’s DRM free – you’ll get to love that key phrase. But we all love DRM when you can comfortably stack up and redeem games on Steam. So, rejoice, hippie, your Steam account will feature dozens of games in no time.
Ah, the mighty fine Humble Bundle. Already at its fifth edition, the Humble Bundle was the first website to ever have the idea of offering indie bundles. It’s also the most popular one and featuring some of the most successful indie games made. It comes with a clean design, an easy payout process and a lot of goodies if you beat the average price for each bundle. And don’t worry if you’ve missed the first offers, previous bundles are many times reintroduced as a bonus to generous payers on new iterations.
Indie Royale is my second choice. The site looks kind of beaten down and most of the titles are wannabes to unlock on Desura. But from time to time Indie Royale does offer some nice surprises. Another interesting thing is that the amount you have to pay to unlock the games varies according to how much customers before you have paid on them. Meaning that if people don’t pay a lot for the bundle, the price will slowly rise, while a large donation will suddenly bring the price down.
New kid on the block, the Indie Gala website looks much like a warez site but trust me, it’s all legal and nice. Five bundles ago, the Indie Gala attracted attention with some very nice indie titles all available for almost nothing. Lately though, their offers have toned down with obscure titles, but you never know when they might show up with new kick-ass content, right? Also, on Indie Gala the payment options are tiered and you pay according to what you want to unlock. Also, last tier usually includes music that has nothing to do with the game world, so if you’re also into discovering underground music artists, this is the bundle for you.
UPDATE1: I knew I must be missing something out. So here it is. The Indie Underdog Pack bundle. This is kind of very new on the radar (or at least on my radar). I wouldn’t have discovered it if it weren’t for ANerdOfGamers, actually. IUP is already at its second offer, which features some very nice games you can unlock on Desura, among others the very nice and fresh Ichi. It comes in two flavors, the basic one giving you five games for about a dollar each, while the Champion bundle gives you two additional games and some nifty visual and audio goodies. I’ve already tested it and I can guarantee it’s no scam. Better yet, 10% of your contributions go to ASPCA.
UPDATE2: And they keep coming. Here’s Bundle in a Box. This one’s a bit special, because the bundles are truly grouped around a very specific theme and, moreover, organizers try to convince game designers to create content which will exclusively be distributed through these offers. Your money goes to different charity organisations but also to the Indie Dev Grant. So you can sleep well at night, developers will get something too.
I really looked hard for other websites offering bundles, but none of them seem to have made it to the market. And if it’s not on Google it doesn’t exist :D. But feel free to poke me if you find anything else worth noting and I will update this article.
Step 3: La pièce de résistance
Now for the totally free stuff. Many of the old games created are now lost in the limbo of abandonware, meaning that their copyright ownership is fuzzy for various financial and historical reasons and that they have been 100% discontinued, forgotten and mostly lost. It’s up for passionate players to dig in their old school gaming shelves and bring them back to life, by uploading them to website like Abandonia or Home of the Underdogs. Of course, this is not fully legal and it’s still considered copyright infringement in the US, but copyright issues are so complex that their holders rarely make use of their rights. Of course, you’ll most likely need to use DOSBox to make them work, but I’m confident that if GoG can do it, so can you, right? It’s in my plan to actually make a compilation of some of these DOS games that are highly recommended for your general game culture. So, to be continued ?