If you're of that particular mindset, Introversion are the closest the 00s have to a genuine underground heroes. Its story is a dramatic one.
From an initial flush of success with hacking sim Uplink, to borderline insolvency as its sophomore masterpiece Darwinia's delays lead to all the team signing on - made worse by it not finding an immediate audience, to a rejuvenation through its games hitting Steam, critical affirmation by winning the Independent Game Festival Grand Prize (and THAT infamous acceptance speech) and most recently its first step into the world of multiplayer games with the Nuclear Wargame of DEFCON.
With that stepping off the internet, into tiny boxes and moving onto the high-street from June 15th (as well as the looming shape of Subversion and Multiwinia on the horizon) now would be a fine to catch up with the self-pronounced last of the Bedroom Programmers to see what's on their minds.
In an interview. Yes, that sounds like a fine idea.
Eurogamer: Start at the basics: in a fundamental way, what does a real retail release of DEFCON mean to Introversion?
Chris Delay: Although we often talk about the merits of online distribution we still believe that retail is an important avenue for the independent developer and definitely one that you can, and should, take advantage of. Publishers and distributors will have access to many more resources than the average independent and, if you are lucky as we have been with the DEFCON retail release, you will be able to work together with them to leverage alot more exposure and interest in your title. In that case, everyone's a winner. For us, its not really a matter of choosing one form of distribution over the other, and it shouldn't have to be - you can take advantage of both as each gamer will have a different preference when it comes down to how they choose to buy their games. So far we're very happy with the way the retail launch is progressing and we've got some cool things going on this summer, like our DEFCON LAN tournament which we hope will bring some new gamers to DEFCON.
Eurogamer: Speaking more generally, how do you feel about the game now?
Chris Delay: We've been delighted with DEFCON. It did great in the reviews, and its been really popular with our fanbase and a whole new bunch of people too. It's our most popular game to date. Opening up the Server Browser in DEFCON reveals between 20 and 60 games running at any one time, depending on time of day. On day one we had a couple of thousand game servers before our metaserver exploded, which shows the kind of interest people had in the game. Darwinia definately made the press aware of who we were, but I think DEFCON made the gamers familiar with our name.
Eurogamer: You've got an actual back-catalogue now. How do you think DEFCON fits into it?
Chris Delay: Comparing DEFCON to our other games is difficult. Uplink is rugged and buggy and ugly and still sells more than Darwinia every day. Darwinia is our oddball second album, our very own love letter to the Amiga and the Soul of great videogames, and the game I'm most proud of. DEFCON is a relatively simple multiplayer game idea and I think that's probably the key to its success. Most of our creative experimentation in DEFCON was in the audio - we really tried to build the atmosphere of a nuclear bunker through the use of sounds and ambient music, and to create that feeling of reckless and insane genocide in the minds of our players. Our audio guy Al Lindsay is a genius, and when your popution starts dying in their millions he made the audio hurt.
Eurogamer: Are there any aspects which you think the community overlooked?
Chris Delay: My own personal favourite game mode in DEFCON is Speed-Defcon, in which the game plays at the maximum possible speed and is time limited to 15 minutes. But you very rarely see people playing this mode on the server listing, and I'm not sure why. It's so wonderfully brutal.
Eurogamer: My favourite mode too, randomly. Generally speaking, while all your games have communities who've grown up around them, an ongoing, competitive community is a different beast from what you're used to. How are you dealing with that?
Chris Delay: It's very different, and the reason is that the game keeps changing. The current "best players" of DEFCON use very different tactics to the best players on launch day - tactics which have literally evolved over many months of practice and experimentation. We have a whole forum dedicated to discussions of different tactical ideas, and the results gathered from experiments. We've found if we try to play against the best players now, we basically get our arses handed to us.
One thing we are particularly proud of though - nobody has yet come up with a "winning" strategy. There is no Zerg rush that simply cannot be defeated. It was always our aim to make a wargame that was closer to a game of chess than C&C - moves and counter moves, different types of opening gambits, different types of end games, but never a definitive way to win. The way the units are balanced is kind of an extended paper-scissors-stone - every unit is essential and every unit is vulnerable. It's a tactical puzzle that can never be solved.