A few days ago I somehow ended up on the website of Aquaria. I don't really remember how I came to be there but I think I read something about it somewhere and just clicked the link. Anyway, I downloaded the demo and gave it a try. After playing the demo for two or three hours I continued to program on one of my projects. I didn't stop playing because I didn't like the game but because I still wanted to finish something that day. ;)
However I really liked the tune of the game and so I looked for the soundtrack. I was surprised to find it directly on the website and with just one click you can actually hear the music. I looped over the first 7 tracks for about an hour and then I thought about buying the soundtrack (only fair after listening for an hour). However I'm somewhat of an audiophile and therefore I usually by real CDs and rip them into FLAC files. But surprise: for 5$ you can already download the soundtrack as FLAC! That usually would make me totally happy but 5$ felt a bit… to cheap for the whole soundtrack. Hey, it's 50 tracks long, that must have taken quite a while to do! So I finally bought the 20$ limited edition, primary to support the artist but I also like to have a real CD with a very nice cover.
Two days later after finishing the demo I then bought the game for 15$. After a small transaction you can download the game and the installation is straitforward (more or less a standard Nullsoft installer) and also asks about the save games of the demo. I really like games that keep this stuff simple. The best part however was a message from the developers at the end of the installation:
Thank you so much for purchasing the full version of Aquaria. The development of this game has taken our two-man team two years of hard work, but every minute has been worth it. Thank you for supporting us, and for supporting independent games!
Now I felt really good about this game. Not only I have something to play now but I also supported these two developers. While I'm sure it takes a lot of people buying the game to fund two years of development it still feels good to get such a message from the developers.
If you want to play a game with great open gameplay, a very well done story and beautiful music, take a look at Aquaria. It's really worth a look.
That whole experience made me think about the game industry. Compared to big commercial titles like Mass Effect 2 it's a totally different experience (great game tough). The main difference I suppose is the copy protection and how you feel as a customer. With Aquaria I got the feeling the the developers were thankful for me buying their game. With Mass Effect 2… well, I never really had the feeling to be connected to the developers. Sure, you learn a lot about the publisher of the game (the guys that gave the money for the development) but to be honest I don't care about them. Giving money to someone isn't that hard (choosing to whom might be) but making a great game is a hell of a difficult job. And I really care about the developers behind Mass Effect 2 because all of them did an extremely good job and deserve quite a bunch for it. However I never got the feeling to be able to directly say "thank you" to these developers.
Instead many modern games have some kind of "social network". Nothing more than "we want more information about you and want you always to be connected to our copy protection server". I still fail to see any technical necessity in all these "social networks" but as for copy protection. Instead of appreciation for buying a game you get a lot of stuff at least I don't want and are instantly put under suspicion of piracy. At least that's what it feels like for me. Since it's getting worse with more recent games I don't know how long I will be buying "top titles"…
I also failed to find a high quality version of the Mass Effect 2 soundtrack. All I can find is about downloading MP3, either on
Amazon or on iTunes. Apart from the fact that I really hate iTunes and Apples politics in general I just wanted a clean set of
FLAC files to hear. Yet even worse some tracks are missing in the "official" soundtrack (e.g. the menu loop music) and because
these were the parts I liked most I extracted parts of the ambient music directly out of the game. It's not perfect and I feel
bad about not being able to give proper credit to the composer (Jack Wall) but that's the only way I can hear the sound files
I bought with the game on Linux (while programming). In contrast the music of Aquaria are simple
ogg files in a music
directory I can play everywhere. Yet I still bought the Aquaria soundtrack for 20$.
All this made me realize how badly messed up the "big game industry" really is. And everything only to protect itself from it's own customers… sad situation right now. :(