Small Indie Teams Making Big Waves With ID@Xbox – The Indie Informer


If you’re an indie fan, you should be watching Xbox closely. With ID@Xbox — an initiative helping independent developers self-publish on Microsoft’s console — offering opportunities like the empowering Developer Acceleration Program and recently announced spotlight Indie Selects, Team Green has been building an impressive ecosystem for gaming’s greatest smaller-scale gems. In its more than ten-year run, ID@Xbox has collaborated with a mind-boggling lineup of indie creators — some of the most astounding being developers making spectacular games with limited teams.

To salute and highlight these mighty-but-tiny developers, I present Xbox’s take on a 30 under 30 list. It’s a celebration of thirty teams accomplishing a Herculean task: producing phenomenal experiences with less than thirty developers. Below, you’ll find some of the indie scene’s top-tier creators sharing their thoughts on the struggles, advantages, impactful reflections, and lessons learned while working with a small team to build something larger than life.

There is no particular order to this list, but I have to start somewhere. And what better place to begin than Tunic’s creator, now taking the name Isometricorp Games? The leader of this studio, Andrew Shouldice, is mostly content to sidestep the spotlight. Whenever I’ve had the opportunity to talk to him, he’s extolled the efforts of his fellow developers. This go-around was no different.

Imagine a rainy, grey, and overcast afternoon. Cold and struggling with an umbrella, you walk through a doorway to find a world of glittering sunlight, stately rooms, and blooming flowers. This was my most recent experience with Botany Manor and my first meeting with its creative director, Laure De Mey. I heard many of her answers for this article from her own lips and, happily, get to share them as Ballon Studios claims a spot on this list.

Cococucumber, besides being one of the most fun names to say on this list, can boast of creating two titles with ID@Xbox that vary wildly from each other. So, I found it surprising when director and producer Vanessa Chia explained the projects’ productions were actually sandwiched between each other.

Celeste

Extremely OK Games/

Maddy Makes Games

Noel Berry, in working with me for this list, gave his title as game developer. However, I suspect this is just about as understated as the studio’s name: Extremely OK Games. Its flagship title, Celeste, is widely acknowledged to be one of the best indie games of all time.

Bright Memory: Infinite hit the gaming scene like a tidal wave. The previously unknown studio, FYQD, blew away fans and critics alike with the first glimpse of the game’s vivid detail and frenetic action. That the game began its life as a solo project was even more startling.

Iron Gate Studio’s Valheim ignited players’ love of the survival genre by offering them the chance to sail into the world beyond death as a Viking and conquer its fantastical creatures and plentiful landscape. Richard Svensson, Iron Gate’s CEO, explains how the mega-hit kicked off with an initial group of four developers.

I’ve never met anyone who has played Luis Antonio’s game, Twelve Minutes, who didn’t have an opinion on it, which made it interesting to be able to dive into the creator’s opinions in turn and see how the star-studded title came to be.

Birth, like its developer Madison Karrh, is singular. There really isn’t anything else like the game, even in a scene known for its creative and unique titles. ID@Xbox’s horde of small indie creators is dazzling, in part because titles like this shine through the program.

An indie fan favorite, there’s no way to put together a list of Xbox’s biggest little teams without throwing Slime Rancher creators Monomi Park on it. Among the interesting tidbits co-founder and CEO Nick Popovich shared about the studio is the fact that the group grew from a duo of developers to nearly three score by the time the sequel was released.

The team’s latest release might be the last case of the titular protagonist, but this 30 under 30 studio is far from finished. However, they might have trouble making it on the list in the future, considering creative director Bartłomiej Lesiakowski was leading a group of a category-pushing twenty-nine people when the game was released.

While the game is not out yet, a demo for Psychroma is now available for those attracted to its mind-altering, cybernetic style. But while we can’t experience the full title, co-founder of Rocket Adrift, Lindsay Rollins, lifts the veil on what’s been happening at the studio behind the story.

Truly, this list holds a litany of my favorite developers of all time. However, there are a few names that touch my life personally. Shedwork’s Sable was one of the first games I had the privilege to review at Game Informer, making the chance to understand it better through director Daniel Fineberg all the more exciting.

Murder, music, and magic blend together in last year’s melodic release, Stray Gods. But what was it like for the developers crafting this new take on the Greek pantheon’s tales? I turned to managing director Liam Esler to find out.

What is it like to reach for the skies as a development studio of one and make it onto Xbox’s 30 under 30? What does it take to make that kind of migration? How many bird references can I fit into one intro? Well, the answer to the last question is about two. But you’ll have to read Tomas Sala’s take below to quench your curiosity about the rest.

Another studio making an appearance on this list with a game set to release in the near future, Vivid Foundry’s CEO and creative director Allan Cudicio, saw his debut title hit early access in December of last year. While the team is still in the midst of development, Cudicio was able to slip away long enough to give me some insight into his studio.

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