Six Upcoming Indie Games Worth Keeping An Eye On

It feels like every year we see the release of higher quality independently developed games. With digital distribution quickly becoming the norm for PC games, and with digital distribution avenues available for all of the major home consoles, it’s never been easier for developers (often small one- or two-man teams) to ditch demanding publishers and self-publish instead.

Along with the ease of self-publishing, however, comes plenty of sub-par games. In order to help you separate the games better left undownloaded from those destined to become classics, I’ve compiled here a list of upcoming games that will almost certainly be worth your time and money.


Release Date: Unknown
Available For: PC and at least one console

Everyone loves a good heist. Hollywood continues to churn out big budget, well-received films like Reservoir Dogs, Ocean’s Eleven, Heat, and Inception. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about the gaming industry, which has a severe lack of high quality heist-type games. Andy Schatz of Pocketwatch Games is looking to change that with Monaco.

Monaco is a stealth-action coop game that tasks players with infiltrating an area in order to, well, steal things. Before each mission each player chooses a class. The Hacker, for example, is quick at shutting down security systems for other players, while The Muscle is good at hitting things in the face. Success comes from players using their strengths to work together to infiltrate their target, avoid guards, and get out safely.

There is no firm release date yet for Monaco, but it has been demoed at gaming conferences like GDC. I haven’t seen any bad press from people who have been able to play it, and it’s personally one of my most anticipated game releases.


Release Date: Unknown
Available For: PC, Mac, Xbox 360, and Playstation 3

I’m stealing a line from the game’s website here, as it does a better job of summing up the game than I ever could:

SpyParty is an asymmetric multiplayer espionage game, dealing with the subtlety of human behavior, character, personality, and social mores, instead of the usual spy game explosions and car chases.

Sounds pretty ambitious, doesn’t it?

In SpyParty‘s main mode two players compete against each other head to head, with one player taking the role of The Spy and the other playing The Sniper. The Spy attempts to complete his mission, which could be anything from bugging an NPC to stealing a statue, while remaining as incognito as possible in a room full of NPCs. The Sniper tries to pick out the sole human controlled player from the crowd and take him out before he can finish his mission.

Chris Hecker, the developer, looks to be taking his time with this one and there isn’t a firm release date yet, but so far everything about the game looks incredibly original and fun.

The Witness

Release Date: 2012
Available For: PC, Xbox 360, Playstation 3

The Witness is an upcoming title from Jonathan Blow, developer of the excellent Braid. Unsurprisingly, The Witness looks to share some of Braid’s mysterious intrigue.

People who have demoed early versions of The Witness describe it as a puzzle/exploration game, but not much more than that is known about the gameplay. Players wander the island shown above, completing various puzzles at their leisure. Most of Braid‘s charm came from exploration and discovery, so it’s not likely we’ll see many more gameplay details before release.

Blow is in no hurry to finish The Witness, and the game has a tentative release date of sometime in 2012.


Release Date: Unknown
Available For: PC

Nidhogg doesn’t look like much at first, but after watching a few videos its appeal starts to show. It’s sword fighting at its most basic, distilled down to only the essentials.

Each player’s goal is simple: run to the opposite end of the map. Getting there is the tricky part, as each player is also trying to impede the progress of the other player by stabbing them. The opposing player’s death grants you a bit of time to run unopposed, but the other player respawns after just a few seconds.

While Nidhogg looks nearly finished its developer hasn’t hinted at a release date or even any release plans so there’s no telling when (or even if) we’ll be able to get our hands on it.


Release Date: December, 2012
Available For: Most likely PC, Xbox 360, and Playstation 3

It’s been a while since the gaming industry has seen a decent mech combat game, but Hawken is looking to change that.

Hawken features game modes that should be familiar to anyone who has played a multiplayer FPS, but instead of playing as just a squishy human you get to take control of a few dozen tons of solid steel. The gameplay changes a mech provides should make for an interesting experience not found in the multitudes of first person shooters out there.

For an indie title Hawken looks fantastic. It’s running on the Unreal Engine so plenty of pretty graphical effects are present in addition to the amazing mech models and landscapes.

Hawken is gearing up for closed beta testing now, and official release is scheduled for December 12th of this year.

Prison Architect

Release Date: 2013
Available For: PC

After scrapping (at least temporarily) plans for their game Subversion, development studio Introversion has turned their attention to Prison Architect.

As its name might imply, Prison Architect is all about managing the intricacies of a prison. You decide everything from cell layouts to window placement, trying to figure out the optimal setup to contain a certain number of prisoners.

Fans of simulation titles like Bullfrog’s Theme Hospital or Maxis’s Sim Tower should find plenty to like about Prison Architect when it releases. Introversion is planning on releasing a paid alpha version later this year, with the full game potentially releasing in early 2013.

Tectonicus: A High Detail Map Renderer for Minecraft

If you haven’t heard (or you are a gamer that has been living under a rock), Minecraft is an extremely popular sandbox indie video game being developed by the Swedish company Mojang.  Currently available in both a free Classic version and a paid Beta version, Minecraft has exploded in popularity with over 10 million registered users and just over 2.7 million sales.  And the game is only a development version!

Checkout this fan-made trailer to get a glimpse of Minecraft.

One of the neat things about Minecraft is that the game worlds are never-ending.  As you keep walking and exploring more of the world, more of the map is generated. This can lead to some pretty vast maps, especially for multiplayer games where many individuals are constantly exploring the block world of Minecraft.  That’s where Tectonicus can help.


Tectonicus is a mapping application that can generate maps of your Minecraft world.  Tectonicus is different that other Minecraft map renderers in that it creates multiple zoom levels for your map using the same technology as the Google Maps website.  Take a look at a sample map rendered using Tectonicus.

To get started rendering your world, head over to the Minecraft forums and download the latest version of the Tectonicus.  Since Tectonicus is written in Java, it works on Windows, OS X, and Linux as long as you have the Java Runtime installed.

The second thing you need to use Tectonicus is a configuration file.  A sample configuration file is available for download.  The configuration file works after a couple of required settings are changed.

Some of the settings in your configuration file that you should look at first are:

outputDir – The location where your rendered map is saved.

minecraftJar  – This is not the minecraft.jar you downloaded from the Minecraft website, but the one in C:\Users\USERNAME\AppData\Roaming\.minecraft\bin on Windows and /home/USERNAME/.minecraft/bin on Linux.

texturePack – Unless you have a custom texture pack, simply set this the same as the minecraftJar setting.

logFile – A file that contains information about each render.

worldDir – The location of your Minecraft world files. Located in C:\Users\USERNAME\AppData\Roaming\.minecraft on Windows and /home/USERNAME/.minecraft on Linux.

With the newest version of Tectonicus you are able to render multiple layers of the map including day views, night views, and caves, along with the ability to render the Nether.  One word of warning though, each layer is rendered separately, increasing the amount of time to render the map and consuming more storage space on your system.

Other options you can change to customize the render process are camera angles, zoom levels, lighting levels, and texture packs.  A list of settings that you can change in the configuration file is available at the Tectonicus Minecraft wiki page.  Be sure to read through the available list of settings for the configuration file and understand what each does before implementing in your setup.

To render your map from the command line, use the command following command:

 java -jar /path/to/file/Tectonicus.jar config=/path/to/file/layerConfig.xml

Once you have configured and rendered your map, open map.html to see your Minecraft world in your web browser rendered in high detail.

The first time you render your map is the longest if you set up a cache in the configuration file.  With a cache, each render after the initial one is very quick since only the changes must be rendered.  If your Minecraft world is constantly changing, look at setting up a Scheduled Task in Windows or Cron job in Linux to automatically render your map on a certain schedule.

A few words of warning: It can take a few tries to get a properly working configuration file.  Be sure to check the Tectonicus log file for more information about any errors that you receive.  Also, rendering your Minecraft map with Tectonicus for the first time is a very intense process and may take a couple of hours to finish a large map.  Finally, the maps you render can consume large amounts of hard drive space, with each layer of a fairly large map consuming around 5 to 10 GB of disk space.

If you are looking for a cool way to view your Minecraft world be sure to give Tectonicus a try.  Do you have any maps rendered with Tectonicus?  Share the links in the comments below!