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Austin skyline

Austin Paradise

Is there something about Texas’ capital city that makes it a thriving scene for indie developers?

By Chris O’Connell • August 6, 2013

“I spent three-and-a-half years on a game that wasn’t even ever announced,” David Kalina told me. The veteran developer was reflecting, with a hint of bitterness, on his time spent at big game companies, this stint specifically at Midway. “That was a little discouraging.”

Kalina, along with Randy Smith (formerly of Ubisoft and Electronic Arts), own Tiger Style Games, an Austin-based studio known for the award-winning iPhone title Spider: The Secret Of Bryce Manor and a more recent release, Waking Mars. And they don’t miss working for the big guys.

Waking Mars

Waking Mars by Tiger Style Games

“I was a creative director at EA, never building something myself, mostly just talking to other people about what they were making,” Smith said. Like Kalina, he spent an exhausting amount of time working on a game that never came to fruition: the ill-fated Steven Spielberg collaboration LMNO. “With Spider, I got to hold the pen again—it was exciting, not being so distant to the software. That’s what appeals to me as an indie.”

Many designers in Austin like Smith and Kalina are eschewing larger studios, even those with local offices like BioWare and Activision, to stay small and make games on their own terms. Tiger Style even lives by a strict code that no major game studio could ever hope to adhere to, not with anxious board members and multi-million-dollar budgets: no guns.

God Of Blades

God Of Blades by White Whale Games

“We make games without guns, not because we are against guns or violent games. It’s that it’s just overdone,” Smith said. “By not allowing ourselves to make games that are violent, we have to think, ‘How do we invent [a] new type of gameplay?’”

Tiger Style and other Austin indies—like White Whale Games, Stoic, and Karakasa Games, to name a few—are free from the fiscal and managerial responsibilities that work in a larger studio entails. The upshot is that they’re not forced to create, say, another first-person shooter starring space marines. “My last game at Midway was a failed clone of Grand Theft Auto,” Kalina said. “It’s the same ideas over and over again, repackaged. They’re evolving—to a degree—but it’s hard for a bold idea to crack through when the budgets are that high.”

Additionally, the creative freedom afforded by staying indie has created a community in Austin built not on competition but on camaraderie. Indie game creators and enthusiasts meet the first Thursday of every month at an art space on Austin’s East Side for an event called Juegos Rancheros, a name that gives a playful nod to the Mexican brunch dish eaten by thousands of Austinites every weekend. Here, game designers play each other’s games, give notes, hang out, and take the temperature of what is going on around town.

Adam Saltsman (with Kingsley Saltsman)

Adam Saltsman (with Kingsley Saltsman)

“I moved to Austin in late 2008, and at the time, while it was still a fantastic city for game development, there was very little that you could call a ‘game scene’ here,” said Brandon Boyer, a co-founder of the Juegos event. Boyer met Kalina and indie developer Adam Saltsman (Canabalt, Capsule) shortly thereafter—they both showed up for an impromptu indie game gathering at an apartment complex’s pool party. Over the next year, the gatherings became more frequent, and attendance swelled. By the end of 2009, the seed of what would become Juegos Rancheros was planted. “Just before the new year, we had a big drink-up at a local bar, mostly to celebrate the fact that Eliss creator Steph Thirion and Kokoromi’s Heather Kelley also happened to be in town, and I remember it being that night that I felt like, ‘This is what a local indie game scene should feel like,’” Boyer recalled.

Boyer and Saltsman joined up with local video game whiz Wiley Wiggins—famous for a few dozen nose-pinching moments as Mitch Kramer in 1994’s Dazed And Confusedand on May 1, 2011, with a helpful push by the owner of the Alamo Drafthouse theater, offered up the first public playable demo of Twisted Pixel’s The Gunstringer. The Kinect game undoubtedly helped prompt Microsoft’s buyout of Twisted Pixel not six months later. Juegos Rancheros was born.

Jo Lammert

Jo Lammert

“I’m mostly another pair of hands and wheels and a spare computer or two,” Wiggins said. “In Juegos, we are all equal parts community cheerleaders and equipment schleppers.” In reality, Wiggins is working on his first game, coordinates the annual Fantastic Arcade showcase, and has helped grow Juegos Rancheros from a couple “local indie game folks in a bar” into a must-see event every month.

If it seems odd that individual members of different studios come together frequently to champion and improve each other’s work through beta testing and constructive criticism, it doesn’t to the members of the tightly knit Austin scene. “I think Austin has a way of pulling in lots of interesting people with a plethora of unique backgrounds and interests, and that in turn helps things like Juegos flourish,” said Jo Lammert, a director at White Whale. “It’s a uniquely supportive city.”

Gunstringer

Gunstringer by Twisted Pixel

Saltsman argues, though, that the collaborative spirit is more about vocation than location. “I think there is a pretty healthy level of camaraderie in Austin now, and it’s definitely good for my ego to pretend that I had something to do with that,” Saltsman said. “But I’m not sure if that is really unique to Austin, so much as it is a basic survival instinct for small studios anywhere, like little baby otters forming a pack to help scare off crocodiles.”

While the local talent is split on Austin as the singularly convivial city for game developers, they’ve all come—from Ann Arbor, Long Island, Chicago, and beyond—and stayed in a city that is without doubt a smaller market. Tiger Style’s Smith, who began his journey in the ’90s at Looking Glass Studios in Cambridge, Mass., sums up why being indie in Austin is 100 times better than most places. Cambridge “was a totally un-fun, uncool city,” he said, matter-of-factly. “And I learned of the existence of cool cities when I visited Valve in Seattle. Little did I know that Austin was 10 times cooler than Seattle, which is 10 times cooler than Boston.”

It’s simple math.

(Austin skyline photo: Robert Hensley)

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  • Spacemonkey Mafia

       Does anyone here (is that word applicable?) live in or near Austin?  I’ve heard nothing but great things about the city. It has a fantastic established indie music scene and seems to exist as a single-word rebuttal to the otherwise sweeping negativity whenever Texas is mentioned.
       If it weren’t for the state-wide legislation I’d just as soon not subject my family to, It seems like a really exciting city to live in.
       But then again, I couldn’t just give up my interminable and wind-blasted Minnesota winters, livened only by eating stinking river fish preserved in drain cleaner.

    • George_Liquor

      I’ve heard great things about Austin’s music scene. The Chaos in Tejas punk festival plays there every years, and they usually manage to book some spectacular bands. 

    • DrFlimFlam

      Austin sounds far too cool for me. I think they’d bar me entry and tell me my transplanted home of Iowa is juuust right. Oh, sure, I can listen to their great music and play their fun games, but otherwise, if I just stay right where I am, that would be ideal.

      • Uncle Roundy

        I live in Denton, about 30 miles north of the DFW Metroplex, and being similar to Austin except much smaller and quieter it works well for me. I have sort of an Austin mentality but absolutely no inclination for the night life or partying or anything like that. There’s enough local stuff going on here that the scene feels healthy to me.

        • DrFlimFlam

          I bet you get a lot of Mountain Goats jokes out there about Death Metal bands.

    • Kyle O’Reilly

       I would flay a human being to get to Austin but as is the case with America’s young hip, food-truck laden cities (i.e. Portalnd, Seattle, Chicago, et al) the job market is as competitive as Super Smash Bros with the items turned off.

      I’ve got a decent job in a decent city but oh lord if I could get a transfer to Austin.

      • DrFlimFlam

        I only recently became aware of this weird “Final Destination NO ITEMS” thing.

        SSB is all about chaotic ludicrous fun for me. If I can tell where my guy is all the time, I feel like I’m playing it wrong.

        • Kyle O’Reilly

           I’m with you all the way there FilmFlam but the people who are puritanical about the game’s pureness are out there and one of them is my goddam brother who will cry like a 22-year-old baby if you get the hammer.

          “BUT IT TAKES NO SKILL!”

          “Shut up and eat steel Jigglypuff!”

      • PaganPoet

        Meh, food trucks are overrated. Honestly, if I had a choice between an expensive roast beef and avocado sandwich on a quinoa bun, or some larb and sticky rice from a small Thai restaurant, I’m going with the Thai food.

        • Kyle O’Reilly

           True, but stumbling drunk into the street to find out there’s a big metal soul-food restaurant on wheels outside the bar is how I imagine pirates felt when they tumbled onto an island and stubbed their two on a box of Spanish Doubloons.

    • boardgameguy

      I live in Minneapolis now, but have also lived in Texas. Yes, Austin really is that fun and hip. It has a whole lot going on for it, including a thriving indie game development scene that I was previously unaware of. Lots of great tex-mex foods but summers can be fairly miserable if you want to spend time outside.

      I’ve personally chosen to stick with Minneapolis given the parks, restaurants, the arts and culture scene, affordable living, commitment to building infrastructure for bicyclists, and its access to places like the Boundary Waters. From Austin I guess you could go visit Big Bend National Park, but it doesn’t even compare to the Black Hills.

      • Spacemonkey Mafia

        I joke about Minneapolis, but it really is a pretty great town.  The MIA alone is worth living here.  Especially if followed up with a trip to Quang’s afterward for Pho’.

        • boardgameguy

          Or Harry Singh’s for the jerk chicken roti.

        • PaganPoet

          Are there any good African restaurants there? I know there’s a significant refugee population there, particularly from Somalia and Ethiopia. I tell you, the Somalian variant of a samosa, filled with ground beef, minced onion, and usually served with REALLY spicy mint chutney, is delightful.

        • boardgameguy

          there definitely are some great ones. Afro-deli for quicker stuff. Blue Nile if you are looking for sit down dining (probably my favorite). heck, you can even buy injera at some of our local grocery stores and make some of it at home.

        • Spacemonkey Mafia

          @PaganPoet:disqus   Yes, what @boardgameguy:disqus said.
             Though I have to admit, I haven’t really explored the African cuisine here.  Though I ought to, since picking up cabbage with a chunk of teff pancake is always a good time.

    • BillyNerdass

      I grew up in the strange hinterland between San Antonio and Austin known as the Texas Hill Country, taking many trips there throughout childhood and living in Austin itself from 2006 to 2011. There are a lot of things to love about Austin but many times you must wade through bullshit to find them. There are a lot of fantastic people along with plenty pushing vapid hipness. 

      The much-heralded music scene has its share of great bands. But it also has more than its share of really mediocre bands, truly awful bands who moved there because of said music scene, and dudes trying to eke out a living playing bad covers in bars. SXSW was fun when I was going as a visitor to the city a decade ago but was feared as a week that plunged the city into full-on clusterfuck as a resident.

      There is also a great film scene with a ton of talented people. I did UT’s Radio-Television-Film program in college and it was great. But it also meant there were a ton of people willing to work for cheap/free and it was tough to make a living.

      The food is really good in Austin and Tex-Mex is a birth right for all South Texans. (AND DAMMIT TEX-MEX IS NOT JUST SHITTY MEXICAN FOOD IT IS A SEPARATE CUISINE WHICH IS AMAZING AND I WILL FIGHT ANYBODY TO THE DEATH OVER THIS). But San Antonio blows Austin’s Tex-Mex out of the water. 

      This concludes Billy Nerdass’s “Austin is Pretty Cool but Not Perfect Like You May Have Heard and I Live in Chicago Now and am Never Moving Back.”

      • Spacemonkey Mafia

        It’s not maybe as involved as Tex-Mex, but as far as I’m concerned, a good Vienna beef or other Chicago-style dog is completely un-fuckwithable.
           Plus the architecture.  And the Field Museum.  And the advantageous location to both Gary, Indiana and Kenosha, Wisconsin.

        • BillyNerdass

          Like many Tex-Mex specialties, the Chicago dog is a regional delicacy delivered from on high, perfect in every way. 

      • Nominoe

        BillyNerdass, are you me?  I grew up in the Hill Country between San Antonio and Austin, I live in Chicago now, and I am probably never moving back.  If you don’t mind me asking, where did you go to high school?

        At any rate, I completely agree with your assessment of Austin.  I find the “Keep Austin Weird” sentiment a little oppressive.  The Tex-Mex is better in San Antonio, the BBQ is better in the Hill Country, and the job opportunities are better in Houston and Dallas.  

        Austin is a really fun town to visit for a long weekend, but I wouldn’t want to live there. 

        • BillyNerdass

          Oh god. I always feared this would happen: My psyche splitting in two in order to make redundant comments on message boards.

          But, I went to Smithson Valley. I actually know a few people from high school who ended up in Chicago for a variety of reasons.

        • Brainstrain

          “…the job opportunities are better in Houston and Dallas.”

          Ha. Ha ha ha. Ha! Ha…

          (Been job hunting since graduating in May. There are many jobs, yes. Very few which actually want to hire you, though)

      • PaganPoet

        NEW Mexican cuisine > Tex-Mex and the rest FACT

        I can’t forgive Tex-Mex food for trading roastign green chile for pickled jalapenos. Blech.

        • BillyNerdass

          I SAID I WOULD FIGHT TO THE DEATH

          What gets called Tex-Mex in other parts of the country is just watered-down shitty Mexican food for white people. Unless you’ve been to Texas (preferably South Texas), you’ve never eaten it. Authentic Mexican food is a different animal, which is also present in Texas (and great here in Chicago too) but real Tex-Mex is Mexican food with the spirit of Southern comfort food. The thing I miss most after moving, save select family and friends, are some damn breakfast tacos.

        • PaganPoet

          Well, to be fair, I’ve never been to South Texas, only to Dallas-Fort Worth, so I’m sure the food there is heavily altered for them rich gueritos.

          New Mexican is still my favorite variant of the cuisine. Calabacitas, caldillo, biscochitos? Yes ma’am.

        • Hey, Free Dummy

          *eyes the leftover bean and cheese breakfast taco from this morning*

        • BillyNerdass

          @heyfreedummy:disqus I would kill a man in cold blood for a leftover bean and cheese right now.

      • Nominoe

        Weird.  I did not know there were any other SV alums in Chicago, but I suppose it makes sense.  It’s a nice compromise between a small town in Texas and East-coast style craziness. 

        • BillyNerdass

          Damn, the internet gets smaller everyday. I graduated in 2006. Did we go at the same time?

        • Nominoe

          Ah, no, I’m an old man (class of 2001).  You probably know some of my numerous and belligerent younger brothers, though. 

        • BillyNerdass

          Man, if you wanna grab a beer and commiserate over the lost state football championship games, let me know.

        • Nominoe

          Sure, I’d be up for that.  I was in attendance for all three losses, so I have plenty to commiserate over.  

        • BillyNerdass

          Shoot me an email: wdoakneal@gmail.com

    • Cypher_Raige

      I am one of the few and the proud who was actually born and raised in Austin.  It is truly a great city.  The food scene has blown up here in the last decade or so, the music and bar scene has always been great, and there is so much to do and see here that even as a native I have not hit it all yet. It’s a young, active, liberal, intelligent city (for the most part), and while certain parts can be a bit too hipster-y, it’s still a hell of a lot of fun.

      The negatives: the summer heat can be incredibly oppressive.  I was born here and can handle it pretty well, but it can get rough even for me when gets over 100 degrees every day (like now).  Also, traffic can be a bitch.  For several years, the Austin city council actively pursued a “no growth” policy, meaning they wanted Austin to remain a small city, so they purposefully did not upgrade the roads and major highways.  But people came anyway, and now we find ourselves perpetually 10 to 15 years behind where we need to be in terms of road development.  By the time our major road projects are completed, they are already obsolete.  That said, I have been caught in LA traffic before, and Austin is a breeze in comparison to that nightmare.

      Austin has changed a lot in the last decade, and the old hippie “Keep Austin Weird” thing still exists, but it’s slowly getting pushed out by a younger, hipper crowd (and also a lot of yuppies, but that happens).  It’s not quite the hippie oasis it was for so many years anymore, but I’m starting to feel like that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  From hippie oasis to hipster oasis. 

    • Hey, Free Dummy

      A few years ago when I first moved to San Antonio I was seriously jealous of all awesome food trucks and concerts and cool stuff in Austin, but after spending every other weekend there for about a year the traffic and the insane levels of doofus hipsterism started to get to me. So many ironic mustaches. It’s a nice city but all the bullshit of so many people constantly trying to out-cool each other can be grating after a while. There’s also the downside that attracting so many young, smart, qualified people means the job market is super competitive.

      Now I prefer the SA vibe. Cheaper, more laid back, much less pretentious and the craft beer/food scene is really starting to take off. Music scene’s kinda lackluster unless you’re into metal or Tejano but, hey, it’s only an hour’s drive up to Austin.

      • Cypher_Raige

         Don’t forget country!  Seriously, San Antonio has the hugest metalhead crowd of any city I have ever seen.  It’s bizarre how much they love their metal.  But yeah, country and Tejano are the only other musical styles you’re likely find in SA. 

    • PaganPoet

      Can I go ahead and plug for my home, Denver?

      Sunny and dry summers, mild winters; A short drive’s away from the mountains for you outdoorsy folks; A diverse mix of cultures and ethnicities, with plenty of festivals, restaurants, etc. to sample; Comparatively friendly people compared to other cities; We’re also the healthiest big city in the United States.

      So ya. Denver. Come here. *is handed bulging sack with $$$ printed on the side*

      • George_Liquor

        Big, huge, stinky, smelly, wretched, intolerable con: LoDo.

        • PaganPoet

          I haven’t stepped foot in LoDo since I was like 22. Blegh.

          That’s not entirely true, I do enjoy that candy and soda shop in Writer’s Square, Rocket Fizz. They sell Manzanita Sol there. <3

        • George_Liquor

          @PaganPoet:disqus Leave it to Denver to dedicate an entire neighborhood to attracting the worst kinds of douchebags imaginable, getting them completely shit-faced, kicking them all onto the street at the same time, then wonder why crimes rates in that neighborhood are higher than anywhere else Downtown.

    • The Guilty Party

      Ehh. My sister & parents live there now. I visit. It’s not a terrible place; you could do a lot worse from randomly chosen American cities. But I feel it’s been pretty oversold. I’m not sure where this ‘So much cooler than Boston’ comment came from at the end. That reads more as ‘I lived somewhere for a long time and I’m tired of it’ rather than a useful judgement that someone who hasn’t lived in either place could use.

    • Captain_Tragedy

      Austin is pretty cool but not nearly as cool as it thinks it is. It’s become way, way overcrowded in the last 10 years or so, and now it’s way too white and packed with hipster doofuses.

      I live in Houston, and while I’d much prefer clean air, live music, and actual geography in my city, it’s hard to complain about the racial and cultural diversity, cost of living, and economic opportunity Houston provides.

      • not_Bridget

        Not to mention the food! 

        On behalf of all Texas cities, I’d like to point out that we are the “blue” spots in a sea of red. Or, increasingly, purplish….

  • http://www.facebook.com/deejaytaufiq Mohamad Taufiq Morshidi

    How affordable is Austin for a foreigner planning to move to America?

    I plan to move to the US, and i have a choice between LA, San Francisco, New York, Austin and Portland.

    Which of these cities should i move to?

    • Buttersnap

      In regards to affordability, Portland isn’t even worth another thought compared to those other places.

      • The Guilty Party

        Huh? At a glance, it looks somewhat pricier than Austin, but cheaper than NY and SF. So … it seems like a reasonable thing to keep under consideration?

        • Buttersnap

          I hadn’t done a very detailed comparison to Austin (which I’m assuming is the only market even similar to Portland in cost), but was just going off what I know from family that lives in Portland and trulia. It doesn’t appear to be as far from Austin as I thought.

          I live in Seattle so my opinions on Portland’s housing market are most likely skewed…

        • Malkovich Malkovich

          I’m a bit confused too. Are you saying Portland is more expensive than Seattle? I live in Seattle too, and it’s becoming a very expensive place to live. I always assumed Portland was much cheaper, hence all the hipsters and bohemian types, but I guess I could be wrong.

    • i and 1

      I’m pretty sure Austin would be the most affordable of those five cities (not completely sure about Portland, though).  I’m in San Antonio, which isn’t far away, and is butt-cheap.  Austin is hipper than SA by a longshot, but I gotta believe it’s significantly cheaper than those other places.

      I have no idea about the film-making scene there.  Pretty sure there’s some genuine Austin people at Avclub you’ll be hearing from if they see you asking.

    • Sam Huddy

      San Francisco and New York are phenomenally expensive, but they are also phenomenal.

      Because you’re interested in filmmaking, I’d actually advise against Los Angeles. The film industry there is really insular and in decline; in many ways it’s easier to make movies anywhere else. OTOH I’m in Los Angeles and I’m a film student, so collaboration could be in order so long as you keep the anime talk to a minimum. Move Downtown and you can get a loft and not need a car.

      Unless something or someone is constraining you to these cities, I’d reccomend you add Chicago and Detroit to your short list. Chicago is a place that has to be seen to be believed, and apparently Detroit is the new Berlin.

      • http://www.facebook.com/deejaytaufiq Mohamad Taufiq Morshidi

        Nice advice, thanks!

        • The Guilty Party

          As far as film making in SF goes, as the husband of a graphic designer that sometimes does title sequences for movies, there’s certainly stuff going on here. She says you don’t get the big titles like you would in LA, but the odds of actually getting one of those contracts and not just seeing it done by some competitor are low.

          On the other hand, SF is incredibly expensive. Especially right now, rents are through the roof. I think the average for a one-bedroom is approximately $3000 a month. If you live out by the ocean in the more residential area, you can get down to maybe $2000. You can live outside the city in a neighboring town, but you lose the easy-access to the cool things that’s sorta the point of living in a city anyway. (BART is a pretty decent rail line, but it stops late at night and you have to get to and from it and bleah.)

        • Conatonc

          The Detroit area is super-affordable since they were hit so hard by the recession, which began in Michigan around 2002 or so and hasn’t really stopped. There is a mix of old inner-ring suburbs that have been revitalized by gentrification and further out suburbs that have nice neighborhoods and cheap houses.

          Detroit itself is mostly for the very brave or uniquely artistic. Large swaths of the city have been essentially abandoned, city services are in complete flux due to the current bankruptcy proceedings, crime is still a huge issue, and outside of the nicely developed Woodward Avenue corridor you’d be pretty much on your own. But housing is really cheap there.

          I’d say Austin is probably the most affordable on your list, although it’s gotten much more expensive in the past decade. It has a thriving film scene, though, just like pretty much everything else artistic in town. Detroit was on the brink of a film renaissance a few years back, but the all-Republican state government was elected in 2010 and cut about 80% of the funding set aside to entice film and television projects to come to the state.

      • George_Liquor

        Post-war East Berlin, maybe. Detroit just declared bankruptcy fer cryin’ out loud! Who knew Robocop would turn out to be an optimistic view of Detroit’s future?

    • Pgoodso

      I’d actually add Atlanta to the list, too. There’s been a huge boom here and in Savannah that’s led to multiple studios, even from outside the US, to start building multi-million dollar production and post production facilities in and around Metro Atlanta (Pinewood Studios and Medient are the biggest ones). Not to mention the established properties like the Turner conglomerate of Cartoon Network, CNN, and TNT, or even Tyler Perry Studios. A lot of shows that come from out of town to film get their production labor and some post work contracted out to locals here, too, like Walking Dead and Vampire Diaries.

      In terms of affordability, I’d actually rank Atlanta as similar to Austin as pretty easy to rent or buy in. The rest of the cities you mentioned are expensive as HELL, which is tough for a feast-and-famine career path like film. I know plenty of people that can do films in Atlanta maybe 4-5 months out of the year and live comfortably without a day job.

      • KHalleron

        You beat me to it, I was also going to recommend Atlanta. It has a thriving theater community, so it’s easy to get decent actors.

        And for a big city, it’s fairly affordable, too.

      • http://www.facebook.com/deejaytaufiq Mohamad Taufiq Morshidi

        Cool, thanks for the advice!

    • Cypher_Raige

      Austin is much more affordable than any of those other cities you mentioned.  By a long shot.  Homes can be had in the suburbs for well under $200,000, but that price goes up as you move into the heart of the city.  In terms of rent, I really couldn’t say as I have not rented since 2005, but back then a friend and I split a two bedroom house in North Austin for $900/month.  

      • http://www.facebook.com/deejaytaufiq Mohamad Taufiq Morshidi

        Nice!

  • quiverest

    Any idea how to get a job at one of these studios?  I’m about to graduate with a CS degree and I’d really like to get into game development if possible and to live in the Austin area.

    • Kyle O’Reilly

      Most Indie studios don’t really hire on much but they dohire contractors a lot to help with programming and porting.  You might want to look into starting your own indie studio, either by yourself or with some other like minded fellows.

      • quiverest

         Yeah, I didn’t think they did.  Thanks for the help.

  • NakedSnake

    I really like the cooperative/collaborartive attitude described in this article. With indie games, I feel like it really is a case of “if one wins, we all win”. The opportunities available to indie game companies can draw a direct line from the success of such indie games as Cave Story, Meat Boy, and Alien Hominid. These games were created by hobbiests looking to make games they enjoyed, and they evolved into (or paved the way for sequels) that made enormous amounts of money for both the developers, and, perhaps more importantly, their publishers. The more that indie games can be shown to succeed on a wide scale, particularly on consoles, the more that other indie developers will be able to access development funds that will allow them to create the games that they envision. There are other factors in play, of course, such as the growth in the mobile game market and the rise (again) of PC gaming, but there really is no reason for these small companies to see each other as competitors. It reminds me of all of those alliances between micro-brews against the Beer Behemoths. They’re banding together to change the type of products that the market will support. Competition shouldn’t even enter into it. 

    • DrFlimFlam

      High tides, ships, all that.

      I have enjoyed various indie games to various degrees and have enjoyed the wide swath of preferences they cover. Most big-budget games are designed with the everygamer in mind, and that’s an easy way to play and enjoy games myself.

      With stuff like Humble Indie Bundles, it’s very easy to get into these games and support these studios.

    • The_Misanthrope

       You know, once upon a time, EA (or “Electronic Arts” as they pretentiously called themselves back then) were a small studio full of starry-eyed dreamers…

      The general impression always seems to be that big studios are always soulless profit machines where employees are abused and overworked to ship games out on time.  I’m not sure that is entirely true; I think it is possible to grow big (or at least medium-size) and still retain some of the altruistic goals of a smaller venture.  Valve is obviously the go-to example here, but I could also cite others like Bioware (even if they are on EA’s short leash), Rockstar, Bethesda, and Double Fine.  Granted, none of these examples are quite AAA-level, but if they sold enough of their soul, they probably could be.

      • Roswulf

         Genuine question- if Valve, Bioware and Rockstar don’t qualify as AAA what does the term mean? I’d always thought of the Mass Effects and especially the GTAs as iconically AAA, some of the best examples of what kind of scope and polish you can buy with truckloads of money.

        • The_Misanthrope

          Truth be told, they probable are, insofar as the “pay millions, sell millions” definition. I guess I just don’t think of them that way; That just shows how much ill will the term has acquired in recent memory.

      • duwease

        I distinctly remember the packaging from an old Apple II Gauntlet clone from EA (or was it Adventure Construction Set?).. it was flat cardboard, like a record sleeve, but it opened up, and the majority of it was taken up with a mission statement of the Electronic Artists to allow artists the widest range to fulfill their creativity, and even had snapshots of each developer and a a paragraph where they discuss their game philosophy.

        Man, do things change..

        • DrFlimFlam

          It turns out that creativity is most artfully expressed as DLC.

      • The Guilty Party

        At some point, there has to be someone in a company that says ‘okay, so how are we going to pay the bills?’ This is not synonymous with evil, despite the claims of most game-forum commenters.

        I think where it goes wrong is something like Activision, whose CEO is explicitly looking for commodities to flog and re-flog for reliable profits, at the expense of … everything else. But there can be a balance between ‘this is a game someone really wanted to make, that they put their heart into’ and ‘this is a successful franchise that keeps everyone employed, so we need another in 12 months, thanks’.

      • NakedSnake

        It’s been interesting also to see the rise of the “Super Indies” like Bastion or Journey or Shadow Complex. These games are made by independent studios with creative vision, but they nonethless have access to whatever resources they need while making the games, and they get big-time marketing once the game is made. It seems like a compromised vision against the 2 developers in a basement model, but honestly its a trend I embrace. There’s diminishing returns with big-budget games, but you have to make a lot of sacrifices with the no-budget games. If we could have more well-funded indie games, I think it’s a good thing for the industry.

  • BrooksyInc

    Another great thing about Austin? Roosterteeth/Achievement Hunter. 

  • DrFlimFlam

    Tell me more about these baby otters. I must know.

    • boardgameguy

      that comment also jumped out as me as particularly non-sequituresque. is that even true about otters and crocodiles?

      • DrFlimFlam

        I’ve gone down a rabbit hole of river otters and caimans in the Amazon.

        • boardgameguy

          amazon.com?

  • Flag On the Moon

    Nothing convinces like hyperbole. But still, it’ll be interesting to see how the scene develops when some people find success and others don’t, and you start to get separation like you always do. Or maybe it really is nirvana, but what “coolest place on Earth” ever stays that way? Plus, you know, Rick Perry.

  • BuddhaBox

    Now, I’m no zoologist, but I’m at least reasonably sure that the only time baby otters come into contact with crocodiles is in the course of a tragic mix-up at the Austin Zoo.

    • DrFlimFlam

      Tragically, it was during the Barton Hills Elementary field trip.

      There were no survivors.

  • BLM4L

    I hit Control-F and typed in “Taxes” and nothing showed up. This article is incomplete.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia

      “We all enjoy living here so much, we gathered some tax to hang our ‘Hooray Austen Indie-Development Scene!’ banner on the wall”.

         Now the article is complete.

      • Citric

        The Austen Indie-Development Scene did some great work on the Sense and Sensibility game, but their Pride and Prejudice adaptation really should not have been a FPS.

        • Spacemonkey Mafia

          I haven’t enjoyed the Austin Austen series of games as much as the Bronx Bronte ones.  Pressing x repeatedly to die of consumption never gets old.

        • Roswulf

           The Bronx Bronte games are vastly  inferior to the Charlotte Brontes.

  • Thomas Crane

    Texas is like Los Angeles, except hotter and none of the business crushing regulation that California has. As far as I know, Austin isn’t interested in shaking down every small business owner like they are the enemy.