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19 Jan 2015

Indie Developers: The Importance Of Revisiting Classic Video Games

Nearly a year ago, I wrote a post discussing the importance of finding time to play video games so you can grow as an indie developer. As an indie developer, you need to be playing video games on a regular basis. It’s a great way to broaden your horizons, come up with new gameplay ideas, and so on. It also allows you to stay current with what is going on currently in gaming, but that doesn’t mean you need to count out older games altogether.

In fact, it’s important to return to the classics. They’re classics for a reason, and they can teach you a thing or two about what makes a game truly ‘great.’ But that’s not the only reason! Here are a few more reasons why revisiting the past can make your future indie games that much better.


What makes a game timeless?

Very few games can truly be considered classics; even fewer can be considered timeless. What makes a game an ‘instant classic?’ Is it the strong and nearly perfect gameplay? The timeless game design that makes the game fun in any era? It’s all of those things and more, but the big question is not what makes these games timeless, but ‘why?’

Why does the combat system of Chrono Trigger still feel fresh nearly 20 years after its original release date? Why does the platforming action of the original Super Mario Bros. still feel just as awesome and solid as it did over 30 years ago?  It’s these things that make a game feel timeless, and if you can figure out the ‘why,’ you can use this knowledge to craft a truly amazing indie game.


Clearly see what worked, what didn’t

Hindsight is a powerful tool. It allows us to see exactly why something worked in a game and why something didn’t quite hit the mark like it should. Knowing what we know now and playing a classic game with opened eyes, it’s easier to see why a game failed in some aspects and why it succeeded in others. Time has an interesting way of highlighting the best and worst of games, so use that to your advantage.


You’ll learn a thing or two

By playing the classics, you are going to learn a lot about what makes a great game in a particular genre, and what you need to do to improve your future games altogether. It’s the same reason why we take history classes: by learning from the past, we can plan for the future and avoid the same mistakes. Boom: the very reason why you need to play classic games from time-to-time!

Plus, there’s a reason why some games are considered classics: they’re still that much fun to play. Dig in your old game collection, pull out a few classic cartridges, and play some of your favorite classic games all over again while paying attention to the positives and negatives of each game. Maybe (just maybe) you will get some awesome idea for your next indie game!

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