It´s all the fault of George Clingerman, or his son – because when George asked him “…what makes a game an indie game?” the answer was: “This is easy. Indie games have less than 100 people in the credits.” And then George posted it to Google+ where Philippe Da Silva and I started a small discussion. Then Philippe wrote a blog about it “Indie” = “Startup”.
I don´t really share Philippe´s point of view, even though he does make some good points.
So here comes what I define as indie (today – my opinion here is not set in stone):
You are indie …
… if your game design decisions are not based on exterior influences (like money, a boss …)
… if the motivation to create a game comes from yourself and not an exterior influence (like like the need for money, or a boss…)
… if you´d rather give away your game for free then see it getting lost
… if you know everyone involved in the creation process by name
… if you are free in the choice of your distribution channel (no that does not mean you need to be able to publish via XBLA!)
… if nobody else has a sayso in any decisions in your “company” (if you want a yellow bath duck in your company logo, then you can have it!)
Now these are a bit black & white, of course a team can still be indie, even if the decisions are shared. And if an indie game developed for the XBLIG channel is picked up by Microsoft for XBLA, then I might still consider it “indie”. There are lots of shades in between. But the more a company (or single game designer) is moving away from these guidelines, the more it/he becomes commercial. Not necessarily a bad thing – if you trade the freedom to choose the distribution channel so your graphics designer can start working full time on the project because you get external funding, then you could still be “indie” and get even more freedom with the game design decisions. You know it´s not a good idea to say “I want to create a Crysis 2 style game with more cut scenes and better graphics” if you are not on a multi million dollar budget – freedom in decisions is always limited by exterior influences.
Sometimes a tradeoff is what gives you the freedom in one area, because you don´t mind loosing it in another.
My guess is, that the highest average indie levels are achieved in the flash game community when the games are released for free.
What do you think? Complete bullshit, missing some points or total agreement?