These days, the number of great freeware games being released is staggering. But finding such games – let alone narrowing them down to styles or preferred platform – is a challenge. This week three years ago, somebody launched their answer to the problem. In the years that followed they also became an incredible help to would-be game makers.
But let’s not jump too far ahead in our story…
Simon Kaizen first became known in the TIGSource indie game forums in late 2008, as the creator of the ‘promisingly good freeware games in development‘ thread. (It’s been read a quarter of a million times in the four years since.) Soon, Simon went a step further, making a series of Youtube compilations that served as brilliant ‘samplers’ of indie games. Titles like ‘93 free arena shooters in 10 Minutes‘ give you a pretty good idea. And on July 30, 2009 he launched a site to even more effectively showcase the best freeware games to the world.
Pixel Prospector launched with approximately 90 freeware games in its database. If you’re familiar with indie games, you’ll have no difficulty guessing which genre covered 2/3rds of the entries. (For anyone else, see the 2nd box in the screenshot above!) But then a site such as this can only reflect the games being created, and Pixel Prospector was an immediate hit. Feedback via indie game forums was enthusiastic; Spelunky creator Derek Yu said the site “Looks fantastic“.
In the 3 years since launching, Pixel Prospector’s database has grown to over 500 games, 2/3rds of which of freeware. The database is searchable via genre, game engine and platform. Each title accompanied by a Youtube trailer, description and a number of useful links, so you get a great ‘taste’ before you download/buy. And over 70% of the games are ‘completed’ titles, ready to play/purchase now. Shmup developer William ‘the2bears.com’ Swaney says “It’s not easy to navigate through all the indie games that are going on these days. There’s a lot more available – and in the works – and PP makes keeping track of things incredibly easy. I love looking through what’s referenced, especially with the emphasis on the developers’ stories.“
If fans of indie games had previously struggled with finding good games to play, then would-be game devs faced an exponentially more difficult challenge. How do you make a game? Which engine to use? How do you find an artist to do the graphics? How do you promote your new game? There are a million questions to ask and previously very few websites attempted to cover all the basics in one place.
In July 2011, Pixel Prospector unveiled their indie resources section. It’s dominated by ‘big lists’ such as “The Big List Of Video Game Documentaries“, “The Big List Of Pixel Art Tutorials“, “The Big List of Indie Game Marketing” & “The Big List Of Game making tools“. To call the information on offer ‘comprehensive’ would be a massive understatement.
Jonatan “Cactus” Söderström (Clean Asia, Burn the Trash, etc) says the PP resource is “cool“. Robert “Oddbob” Fearon (SYNSO, Retroremakes.com) says “There’s a lot of resources out there for people who want to learn to code, but what there isn’t much of – is honest-to-goodness practical advice for people outside of certain communities. I wish I’d had that sort of resource around when I first started making games instead of the gaping internet void I had to make do with.” Animation Career Review.com included PP in its ’50 Essential Websites Every Aspiring Gaming Professional Should Know’. And Mike Rose (indiegames.com, 250 Indie Games You Must Play) says “I always point indie devs in the direction of PP when they ask me for pretty much anything – marketing, research, community, etc. I know I personally visit every so often to make sure I’m up-to-date with all the best sources, so it’s great for me too!“
The third part of Pixel Prospector’s offering brings us back to Simon Kaizen’s first contribution to indie gaming – Youtube compilation of freeware games. Each one jams game after game in a smorgasbord of gaming goodness, that’s mesmorising. Oh, and don’t worry if you find yourself grabbing a pen to take notes on which games to download next. EVERYONE does that. Rock Paper Shotgun’s Jim Rossignol refers to the clip 235 free indie games in 10 minutes as “epic” and Pixel Prospector as an “indie hero“.
And the PP site has plenty more content on the way with a huge Marketing Guide for Indie Developers ’95% complete’ and the release earlier today of their latest Youtube clip, 44 Free Indie Games In 4 Minutes (Multiplayer Edition).
So, happy 3rd birthday Pixel Prospector. When I finally free up enough time to get back to making my own indie game (Ahem, sorry) – I know where I’ll be heading first for practical advice.
Final words today go to Robert Fearon. “What Simon does is pretty great. And of course, there’s his tireless dedication to putting the word out about things. He’s one of the good guys and (indie game devs) need all the good guys we can get.”