Manifesto Games (xpost)

(Crossposted between the Resource List and Ideatrash)

As I spent the last few days sitting (I threw my back out over the weekend), I spent a lot of time installing software and migrating data from my old PC. During that process, I was reminded once again why I really like Manifesto Games.

Manifesto is a distributor of independent games, mostly for the PC but many also for the Mac. I recommend them for a couple of big reasons.

  • Their customer service is awesome. E-mails are returned within the day, and the staff treat you like a real person, not some cardboard cutout “customer” thing. When I was just moving to a new PC and had a problem re-registering the program, they were helpful and treated me like a truthful person. In contrast, DataViz (who makes a program for my Palm) recognized that I was the legitimate owner – but made me pay more to them in “download insurance” for a product I’d already bought.
  • They feature (good) independent games. Big game companies – just like big film and music companies – have big economic motives to make games that are just like everything else. Sure, the big franchises are fun, but that doesn’t mean they’re the ONLY things that are fun. Starships Unlimited is a fun, polished 4x game that rivals many commercial offerings. Mudcraft is a fun RTS (like Warcraft 1-3 or Starcraft) that *doesn’t involve combat*.
  • Indie games tend to focus on gameplay, not mechanics. Strange Adventures in Infinite Space is a fun casual game, but still ran well on my nearly decade-old computer. Oasis doesn’t have the most awesome graphics out there – but it’s a compelling, challenging game. How many games have had great eye candy – but were horrible (or worse, boring) to play?
  • Try before you buy. I love the shareware concept nearly as much as I do the open-source one, especially for games. It’s all too easy to buy a game because of a review or cool cover – and find out the play isn’t what you expected at all. This happened with my wife and NiGHTS Journey of Dreams. She expected a lush, visually rich RPG-ish game. It is lush and a beautifully rendered game but can’t play it because the roller-coaster 3D effect of the gameplay makes her nauseated. I had a similar experience with Lux Delux – it seems like a nice game if you like Risk-like games… but I didn’t find it to my taste. Likewise, I’ve seen games that claimed to run on older systems… and did… but so poorly that they were unplayable. Manifesto’s format of trying the demo lets you buy the games you’ll truly enjoy. Neither my wife or I knew if we’d like Virtual Villagers, but once we tried it we knew we would buy it.
  • Reasonable prices. Games on Manifesto average about $20 a pop. Some of the ones I mentioned are for $10 or $15. Not bad for something you already know you’re going to like.

So the next time you’re bored, give Manifesto a look. They’ve done right by me, and I think you’ll enjoy their offerings too.