[Featurama] 10 Reliable XBLIG Developers You Should Know
The Xbox 360 has become a treasure trove of small independent game development through it’s XNA based Indie Marketplace. I call it a treasure trove because most of the good stuff is hidden beneath Minecraft clones, massagers and clock apps.
That being said, there are a host of great developers that have brought great games to the market consistently. Seeing as these developers have to struggle in a sea of games that are dubious in quality, knowing the name of a developer you can rely on is a blessing. I figured the best way to draw attention to these developers is to drum up a list of them, so the readers can double check to see what they are missing from their game collection.
If you haven’t tried at least one of these indie games from these developers, you are doing it wrong.
Who: James Silva was an early rock star of the Xbox indie development scene when he won the 2007 Dream Build Play contest with his hit The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai. Microsoft published the game for the Xbox 360 and the once former PC developer has been making XNA titles ever since.
Personal Favorite: I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB1ES 1NIT!!!1
This twin stick shooter didn’t revolutionize the genre. Geometry Wars did that. This however is a lot cheaper than Geometry Wars and is just as fun. By adding a really fun song and some creative changes to the background, Ska Studios made one of the must have indie titles on the Xbox market.
Future Projects: Currently work is finishing up on the RPG Brawler, Charlie Murder. The developer has stated that the game will be done, “when it’s done!”
Who: Arkedo was one of the earliest developers on the Indie Games market that had a quality you could see. They had mild success early on with Nintendo DS titles like Big Bang Mini and Nervous Breakdown before jumping to Xbox with their trilogy of titles. Their talents have moved them beyond the indie games market, but their trilogy remains as a must have download.
Personal Favorite: Arkedo Series 02: Swap!
It’s still hard to find a good looking puzzle game on the indie games market today. Not many people give Swap! a chance over the Jump! and Pixel! games because of this, but it is a much better puzzler than most of the XBLA titles on the market. This is woefully overlooked by many.
Future Projects: Arkedo is getting ready to launch their XBLA debut title Hell Yeah! Curse of the Wererabbit with their publisher Sega.
Adam Spragg Games
Who: Adam Spragg Games is a company that does nothing to hide what it is. It is Adam Spragg creating games. Adam is simply a hobbyist crafting and creating for his own personal enjoyment. What he has turned out is a series of surprisingly unique games on the market. We have a full interview with the developer here for those more curious.
Personal Favorite: Hidden in Plain Sight
Unfortunately, we still can’t play Spy Party. That’s fine though as Hidden in Plain Sight is an excellent title to bring out with your friends. It is a brilliant form of human interaction and is a must for anybody that has 2nd, 3rd or 4th players in their lives. By offering a handful of different challenges, Hidden in Plain Sight tasks you to find the other players without revealing yourself. It’s a brilliant concept and the most unique game on the system. If you were ever interested in Spy Party, Hidden in Plain Sight is a must.
Future Projects: Due to the hobbyist nature of Adam’s development, his projects begin and finish when he gets a creative itch. “Game development is a hobby, and if I’m not feeling it, I don’t force it,” Adam said. He is still making adjustments on Hidden in Plain Sight with a new update having released recently.
Fun Infused Games
Who: Fun Infused Games is an interesting developer. The company is essentially just Kris Steele, a web app developer by day and game creator by night. His games on the system are all different from each other, yet he still seems to show a growth in his development over time.
- Abduction Action!
- Trivia or Die!
- Hypership Out of Control!
- Hypership Still Out of Control!
Personal Favorite: Volchaos
Volchaos and Hypership were both running neck and neck, but ultimately the challenge platformer won out. Volchaos is a bit like Super Meat Boy but without all the wall clinging. It’s as much fun as it is difficult and well worth the $1 dropped on it.
Future Projects: Currently Fun Infused Games is working on porting their projects to new markets. Abduction Action! is coming to Windows Phone 7 and Volchaos is coming to PC. Fun Infused is also working on a sequel to Nasty and a new property called World of Chalk for PC.
8 Bit Fanatics II
Who: 8 Bit Fanatics II is a Japanese developer that designs primarily with an 8 bit aesthetic. Starting off with a doujin clone of Takeshi’s Challenge, the developer wosa then followed up with two freeware games before finally dipping in to XBLIG development.
Personal Favorite: Tempura of the Dead
With only two titles on the list many would question there inclusion on here and that’s understandable. Those two titles are exceptional in both their unique presentation and gameplay. Tempura of the Dead is my personal favorite as Aban Hawkins is essentially an excuse to fling controllers at walls. Tempura’s unique take on platforming with crazy story telling and an interesting in game character swapping mechanic makes it a great game to play through.
Future Projects: My Japanese reading skills are non-existent so I only know the bare basics for 8 Bits Fanatics II. All I know is that they are looking towards 3D porting some of their games for the 3DS and maybe Wii U. I do know that their most recent project was an April Fool’s game called Kikori no Saga II “Yggdra Cutter.” It resembles an early MSX title.
Who: Radiangames’ Luke Schneider has been making games with one goal in mind. Make good games quickly. His output and creativity in the market has been fantastic as a shmup creator. His unique takes on established genres has made quite a few excellent standouts on an already impressive resume.
- Radiangames Crossfire
- Radiangames Crossfire 2
- Radiangames JoyJoy
- Radiangames Fluid
- Radiangames Inferno
- Radiangames Fireball
- Radiangames Ballistic
Personal Favorite: Radiangames Fireball
Fireball is a simple game where you as a lone ball of flames must run from waves of bubbles looking to snuff you out. You must then spark exploding orbs to pop the bubble assailants. It’s a simple game that is fun to play again and again. I would recommend every game on this list, but Fireball is my favorite.
Future Projects: Currently the developer is working on iOS development to reach a newer market. His focus now is on making bigger games which have proven to be more successful for him. He just recently released Inferno+ on the iOS marketplace.
Magical Time Bean
Who: Ian Stocker began as an audio contractor for handheld titles like Spore. After nearly a decade of work for others in the business, he branched out and started work on Soul Caster. A quick mention from the Penny Arcade guys and he has become one of the breakout stars of the XBLIG scene.
Personal Favorite: Soul Caster
As amazing as Escape Goat is in design, Soul Caster is simply brilliant for me. Taking the established tower defense formula and transplanting it inside of a Gauntlet like setting really was something that knocked me over. One of my earliest games was Gauntlet and to see it in this new light was exhilarating. It is a great series from a talented developer.
Future Projects: Escape Goat was just recently ported to PC, debuting in the Indie Royale bundle.
Who: Miguel Herrero Obeso and Alejandro González Fiel make for a surprisingly good development studio. Milkstone is like a combination of the high output we see from Radiangames and the diversity we see from Fun Infused. These Spanish developers originally started with 3D software development before creating their first hobby project Little Racers. After the games success, they just continued further creating a laundry list of titles.
- Little Racers
- Little Racers Street
- Avatar Bump!
- Avatar Panic!
- Avatar Farm!
- Firing Range
- Firing Range 2
- Infinity Danger
- Zombie Football Carnage
- Avatar Ninja!
- Avatar Ninja! 2
- Red Invasion Tower Defense
Personal Favorite: Little Racers Street
Little Racers Street is such an unbelievable improvement over its predecessor which really shows you where this studio has gone since it started. Tons of options, great mechanics and a really great look to the game makes for one of the best buys on Xbox.
Future Projects: Their most recent release was in April with Firing Range 2, so Milkstone is mostly working on gameplay updates right now. Currently plans for an Avatar Farm update is in the works.
Mommy’s Best Games
Who: Mommy’s Best Games was founded under Nathan Fouts. Fouts’ resume includes titles like Postal² and a few Insomniac titles like Resistance and Ratchet and Clank. His expertise lies in the shooter variety and it shows through his work.
Personal Favorite: Shoot 1up
While I’m not the biggest run and gun or even shmup fan out there, I can appreciate a good idea. Shoot 1up is brilliant. The method of implementing collapsible ships does a lot to add to strategy and variation of attack between each session. It’s a really smart idea that makes for one of the best shmups on Xbox 360.
Future Projects: Currently the developer is working on porting the PC title Serious Sam Double D to XBLA. Afterwards Mommy’s Best Games will be finishing their work on Grapple Buggy. Fouts has expressed interest in bringing their “5 Button Competition” winning title Porkerpillar to XBLIG. Currently, their is no announcement on that.
Who: Robert Boyd began on the marketplace with a pair of humerous text adventures that didn’t really make a splash on the market. Soon after he paired up with Bill Steirnberg and Zeboyd was founded with the intention of making RPGs in a classic style with an emphasis on humor. Breath of Death VII came out and was a hit, making Zeboyd one of the freshest faces in RPG development.
Personal Favorite: Breath of Death VII
Super hard castle dungeon aside, Breath of Death VII was a breath of fresh air for this genre of gaming. Console RPGs have been a bit disappointing compared to prior generations and this just really showed up out of nowhere with its focus on humor and emphasis on battles over dungeon diving. It isn’t an overly long or complicated journey, but I found it to be quite a fun one.
Future Projects: By far there biggest undertaking to date, Zeboyd will be releasing Penny Arcade’s 3rd episode of On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness on June 25th.
This is just a small sampling of some of the talent that is available on the Xbox Live Indie Games marketplace. These are the ones you should know. There are plenty of others developers like Eyehook Games that are coming up the ladder by making some pretty interesting titles.
Gems are buried throughout the numerous titles buried under the Indie Games tab. These developers should act as your starting point for breaking in to the market.