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Holiday Gift Guide 2013 – Ron’s List

by Ron Duwell | November 14, 2013November 14, 2013 2:00 pm PST

A revolution in the video game industry has left an emerging indie market as the true stars of the gaming world. Traditional giants like Ubisoft are attempting to move in on this trend and console developers Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo are all reaching out to bring many of these small titles aboard into the big leagues.

There has never been a better time to make your own video game than now. If you or a special someone in your life is dieing to make a jump onto the indie gaming scene, then here are a few things you might want to invest in this holiday season.

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Money is No Object

GG2013 - Darksiders - Product - Hero

Failed Publisher’s Video Game Franchise

Why bother making your own idea when you can have the name recognition of something that is already loved by millions? Video game publishers are going out of business left and right these days with THQ being the highest profile bankruptcy of 2013. An auction following its collapse left plenty of wonderful properties up for sale to the highest bidders.

Some more expensive purchases might be met with competition, like SEGA nabbing Company of Heroes for $26.6 million or Koch Media getting Saints Row for $28 million. However, Nordic Games made off like a bandit by snagging Darksiders, Destroy All Humans, MX vs ATV and Titan Quest for as little as $4.9 million. Crytek even scored the Homefront series for under $500,000!

These are also all relatively current and popular franchises. Who knows how much older forgotten properties can go for?

If a giant video game publisher doesn’t make its mark this holiday season, be sure to keep an eye out or any properties they might be willing to part with for a bargain price to make up for their losses. Who knows?! You might be paving the way for the next ActRaiser or Ghosts ‘n Goblins game.

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Gifts Under $2,000

GG2013 - Unity3D Engine - Product - Hero

Unity Pro Game Engine

$1,500 + $75 a month

There is no getting around the fact that every indie developer needs to work with professional tools at some level. Assuming this special someone already has a capable PC, how about snagging him the Unity Pro game engine?

The development tool has proven to be the most successful and affordable for most indie developers to get their 3D games picked up by Nintendo and Sony. Disastercake is using it to power its successful Kickstarter RPG Soul Saga. PlayStation C.A.M.P. employed it when making its recent PSN release rain. Sir, You Are Being Hunted and Race the Sun have both found big support on Steam.

Its relatively easy programming language also allows for quick conversions to other consoles, so getting the game out on as many outlets as possible shouldn’t prove to be as big of a problem.

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Gifts Under $500

GG2013 - Nintendo Wii U - Product - Hero

Wii U

$299.99

There is no getting around the fact that the PC market is the best place to find other indie games for inspiration. Steam has a good many for sale, and free little gems can be found with just a simple Google search.

However, there is one realm that PC’s can never hope to (legally) explore, and that is the universe of Nintendo, your one stop answer to all your basic game design needs.

Want to make a good 2D platformer? The Wii U can play Super Mario Bros. Likewise, those interested in making a 3D platformer might want to check out Super Mario 64. Adventure game developers have the Legend of Zelda to turn to. These games are the basics, Game Developer 101, and must for anyone looking to jump into the indie realm.

The Wii U is a console that holds nearly 30 years of memories, like a snowy Christmas morning crammed in front of a wooden box TV and playing an NES, thinking “It doesn’t get any better than this.” Capturing that essence is what indie gaming is all about.

The Wii U also sports a rocking exclusive line-up with the likes of Pikmin 3, Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, The Wonderful 101, Super Mario 3D World, Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze, Mario Kart 8, and Super Smash Bros. You won’t find these games anywhere else.

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GG2013 - Kobe Beef Dinner - Product - Hero

Kobe Beef Dinner

~$300-$500

Indie development can be absolute hell, so perhaps a night out on the town eating some of the finest meat in the world will cheer your special someone up after grinding away at code for five straight days.

Granted, you can only get true Kobe “Wagyu” Beef by actually traveling to Japan. Kobe Beef is not trademarked in America like it is in Japan, so any old meat company can sell you a “Kobe” beef burger without actually meeting the criteria.

It comes in all shapes and sizes and can run from as cheap as $50 if you know which back alley of the city to look in.

However, for top of the line Kobe Beef, you’ll have to shell out quite a bit. A small hole-in-the-wall restaurant in downtown Sannomiya sports a meal which can cost a couple up to $500 for a single dinner. It’s worth every penny. Kobe Beef melts in your mouth, and the right chef can give you an experience you will never forget.

It will give your indie gaming companion inspiration and motivation to make it big, so he can do this meal every night of the week if he chooses.

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Gifts Under $250

GG2013 - Premiere Elements 12 - Product - Hero

Adobe Premiere Elements 12

$100

It’s done. Your special someone has finished his masterpiece and needs to get the word out there so that everyone knows where to buy it. What’s a better way than through the the power of the Internet?

All successful developers out there must have a way of making an exciting trailer for their video game, whether to push for a crowd-funding Kickstarter campaign, throw the game up on Steam Greenlight, or just make a trailer for his own website. Nobody is going to pay attention to just screenshots anymore. We need sound, motion, frame rates, action, story, voice acting before choosing to make an investment in your product.

Adobe Premiere Elements 12 doesn’t quite sport all the gizmos of the full Adobe Premiere experience, but it is enough to get the job done. Plus, your wallet will thank you for choosing the cheaper option this way around after eating all that Kobe Beef.

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GG2013 - Kotatsu - Product - Hero

Kotatsu

~$150

Sitting for hours on end programing, drawing, and getting the game finished is bound to take a toll on the comfort of your game developing partner. You could snag him a nice officer chair, but that doesn’t solve the problem of the winter holidays being really, really cold.

That’s where one of these comes in handy. A Kotatsu is a Japanese coffee table with a heater built right on the inside. Combined with a specially made blanket for the top and a heated carpet underneath, one of these could provide hours and hours of radiant and surprisingly economic heat.

He might have to get used to sitting on the floor, but with a back propped against a couch, proper butt support, and a keyboard within reach, it could take a bulldozer to get your significant other to budge out from under one of these things.

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Gifts Under $50

GG2013 - Outlast - Product - Hero

Indie Games!

$2.49 – $20 each

Nintendo might provide a pathway to the basics of game development, but what good are the basics when all of your competitors have mastered them and more besides. Take a break from yet another Call of Duty or Battlefield this winter vacation and try exploring some genius little titles which could cost your next to nothing.

My personal recommendation for this winter season is Yacht Club Game’s 2D platformer Shovel Knight. This throwback to the classic days of Mega Man scored big on the Kickstarter scene and is made by industry veterans who know the ins and outs of indie design.

A few other big indie games of 2013 include:

  • Gone Home
  • Gunpoint
  • Barkley 2: Revenge Of Cuchulainn
  • Monaco
  • Rogue Legacy
  • Octodad: Dadliest Catch
  • Volgarr: The Viking
  • Tiny Barbarian DX
  • Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
  • Castle Story
  • Sir, You Are Being Hunted
  • Ether One
  • Routine
  • Mercenary Kings
  • Broken Sword – The Serpent’s Curse
  • Race the Sun
  • Outlast

All are cheaper than the typical AAA games you can find on the shelves, and some might even be more enjoyable in the long run. Plus, when the Steam Holiday Sale rolls around, some of last year’s indie hits could be as cheap as $2.49.


GG2013 - Indie Game the Movie - Product - Hero

Indie Game: The Movie Special Edition

$13.99

Finally, the most important present of them all. Buy this before buying anything else on the list and sit down and watch it because it might save you a lot of money. This Sundance Film Festival award-winning documentary perfectly captures the hell that is indie development.

Follow the lives of Team Meat and Polytron’s Phil Fish as they create their future indie hits Super Meat Boy and FEZ. Destroyed relationships, strained loved ones, deadlines, anxiety, pandering at conventions, Internet heckling, mental breakdowns. The whole nine yards about what it means to make an indie hit.

When you are finished, maybe you might want to rethink the whole indie gaming development thing. At least you got a sweet movie out of it.

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Ron Duwell

Ron has been living it up in Japan for the last decade, and he has no intention of leaving this technical wonderland any time soon. When he's not...

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