Seizonrenda is finally on the Markplace (whoot), and will be receiving an update in the next month or so.
When does a game stop being a clone?
It seems that, in all merchandising, there is an attachment to labels, brands, and common themes. People walk into restaurants and ask for “Coke” when they mean to say soda. I’ve known people who refer to all detergents as Tide in the same way. Once a connection of all 5 senses are complete, our brains refuse to accept an alternative, like Pespi or All detergent. Games appear to be no different. Over 20 years since the release of Metroid, games are still referred to as “Metroid clones” or “Metroidvania” games. We cling on to 20-something year old memories of our childhood and compare them to every other experience, moving forward.
Seizonrenda seems to have been fairly well received in the ratings (around 3/5 at the time of this writing), but the critics seem to be a bit polar. Some writers have definitely spent some time with the game, discussing strategies and breaking it down to it’s parts. Other writers felt more compelled to create a comparison matrix against Stardust HD. It is fair to compare the games, there are many similarities. They are in space, check. They take place on a sphere-shaped playing field, check. They have rocks in them, check. I had hoped that those critics would have looked past the visual similarities and dug deep into the gameplay to see what made it unique. I won’t defend the game. People can play it and judge for themselves. It is not illegal to judge a book by it’s cover, just heartbreaking for someone who put some real effort into the less obvious parts that make a game “fun”.
It does raise the question, when does a game stop being a clone? What does it take to break the spell of this permanent image of one game, nothing more? Truthfully, most of us could write down a list of all conceptual features that exist in games. Inventory, weapons, fetch quests, etc. For me, it is personal experience that makes a game unique, not a spreadsheet of who has more guns, or who reached the market first.
Don’t let the high price scare you!
By far, that was the most popular comment I read from critics, “Don’t let the high price scare you”. Though I am absolutely flattered by their assessment of the game, and though it was stated as a form of compliment, I have some trouble with that comment. That comment is a clear reflection of the general consensus of indie games. When I started working on Seizonrenda, I purposely set out to make a game that rested firmly on the upper tier of quality Xbox Live Indie Games (XBLIG). I didn’t want to spend one sleepless night, punching out a fart app for $1, using a box a crayons and a bag of Cheetos. I wanted to create a game that threaded between XBLIG and the full XBLA Marketplace. Recent sales reports however have me wondering if that was a right decision.
I honestly believe that, with any kind of budget and a second pass of polishing, this game could have found it’s way into the ranks of XBLA for 800 MSP and no one would have questioned the price. It doesn’t help that Microsoft has now classified Indies as not real games, but instead a “specialty item”, like flamingo key chains from your Florida vacation. It is a pretty disheartening discovery when critics refer to a $5 price tag as a “death sentence” and so far, they might be right. If the situation does not improve after the next update to Seizonrenda, this may be my first and last legitimate attempt at quality games for XBLIG. I may have to follow in the steps of other top selling games like Rumble Massage, and Rumble Massage 2.