Small teams, lots of variety, and low cost releases – the indie revolution is a return to the industry’s roots, right? Nope, says industry veteran, Marble Madness designer and PS4 lead engineer Mark Cerny; it’s actually much better.
“Atari was one-person teams, or two-person teams. But because it was coin-operated games, there was dedicated hardware, and those cabinets cost $3,000,” he said.
So the games were inexpensive to produce but the cost of the hardware meant Atari was very controlling; Cerny said multiple levels of management had control over projects developed by teams as small as solo developers. It was quite similar at Sega in the 16-bit era, he added.
“If you look at what we were doing at Sega, that was, in some sense, I hate to say it, shovelware. It was one programmer, one designer, three months, and you just shipped it,” he said.
“And the quality was low and they didn’t care. That is so far from what we call indie today, which is a labor of love and you never know when it will be done. It’ll be done when it’ll be done, when it achieves the creator’s vision.”
Cerny’s latest game is Knack, a PS4 launch title for “the rest of the family”.