Firstly, the name of the blog is meant to be tongue in cheek.  It was partly inspired by blog Dubious Quality, of which I am a big fan. I’ve always appreciated how Dubious Quality has a core topic (video games), but feels free to stray into whatever other topic it sees fit.

One focus of this blog is going to be Xbox Live Indie Games. Part of the inspiration for that is an article I read on Kotaku (another blog of which I am a big fan) entitled Indie Devs Not Happy With New Xbox 360 Dashboard.

Now I’m not as sure as some of the developers quoted in the article that this is necessarily even that bad for Xbox Live Indie Games (or XBIL, if you prefer). That said, I did want to add my voice to the discussion of them. I share their passion for the Indie Games channel, though. I see XBIL as having democratised console game development this generation. I’ve read comments from people who, for as little as $100 to subscribe to Microsoft’s XNA development tools, are realising their dream to become a console game developer. First launched as Microsoft’s “Xbox Live Community Games” initiative, Xbox Live Indie Games are games made by small teams, often by a single passionate individual. These games are self-published through Microsoft’s Indie Games channel. Microsoft takes a 30% cut in exchange for providing distribution and an audience. Ah the audience. There’s the rub. Consider this blog, in part, an attempt to expand that audience.

There are now thousands of Indie Games available, some being sold for as little as 80 Microsoft Points (Microsoft’s prepaid currency system for Xbox Live, Games for Windows, Zune, and a few of their other devices and services); an 80 Microsoft Point game could cost as little as $1, depending on which country you live in. Xbox Live Indie Games have been criticised for their “diamonds in the rough” dynamic, where there are some amazing games at ridiculously good prices but finding them amongst the flood of lesser games can be a chore. Others have heralded Indie Games as one of the few places innovation still thrives in a hit-driven industry afraid to take chances, and one of the last places value can be found in an era of $60/60 euro console games.

For the next few days I will be chronicling the Indie Games I’ve bought so far, and then I will begin an experiment. To prove there are an absolute tonne of Indie Games worth owning, I will begin purchasing something from the Xbox Live Indie Games channel each and every day, and I won’t stop until I run out of good games. My criteria will be simple: the game (or other software, for there are a small number of non-game apps there) must be good, and it must not be among the top downloaded list on Xbox Live at the time I buy it.

Why will I avoid games on the top downloaded list? Well, Indie Games developers believe that because of the huge volume of games being released for the Indie Games channel, that many people use the top downloads list as a short list of what to try, and never look beyond it. I see a lot of anecdotal evidence that that is true. Therefore, I will avoid any game on that list in an attempt to bring other Indie Games to people’s attention. The game could have been on the top downloads list before, and might work its way back up there again, but it won’t be as of the day I purchase it.

There was another big inspiration for this blog: Kobun’s Xbox Live Indie Games site. He has done a better job of anyone else I’ve seen, and certainly more than any other individual I have seen, at tracking the good and bad of the Indie Games channel. I will definitely be trying out some Xbox Live Indie Games on his recommendation, and chronicling the ones I actually buy here. His site is also required reading for anyone who is interested in Indie Games.

Kobun and thousands of other people share the belief, as I do, that Indie Games are important. We want the Indie Games channel to continue to grow and be a hot bed for the innovation this industry so badly needs. Small developers risking nothing more in some cases than $100 and their time can take chances and create experiences that big teams spending millions of dollars dare not. And some of those risks are not going to pan out, but some are going to bring us amazing experiences we won’t see anywhere else.

So you’ll be able to check back daily to see what that day’s game is, and you’ll be offered the opportunity to leave your own comments, positive and negative, about the game, or about other thoughts on the industry. This is just the first of many topics I intend for this blog to cover, and there will be more news over time about that. Thank you for visiting Writings of Mass Deduction, where we’re still searching for the WMDs.

  1. lloyd says:

    Hey, well done on keeping this going, over 100 game reviews strong, however i think your sites missed the point abit

    i came here to see your reviews and look for what you see as the good games out of the ones so far. however the good game reviews are lost in a sea of other reviews.

    a bit like the games them-self, maybe somebody should review your reviews and point out which ones point out which are the good games, do you see what I’m getting at?

    You could put up some more pages showing which are the top games you really enjoy’d. or some type of game of the month each month down the side of the main page. :)

    all the best! keep up the good work


    • Hey, you will never have everyone agree on what is a good game and what games suck. But every game here is not only one that I enjoyed, but also one where I felt the production values were very solid. That doesn’t mean you will like every game I like, but they’re all based on a solid concept and strong production values. In addition to that, I enjoyed each and every one of them.

      I like your idea of periodic recaps of the best-of-the-best, though. I may start doing that, thanks for the idea. :)

      • Kobun says:

        Tying in a list on your sidebar with your favorite titles would be ideal. A simple text entry widget with HTML links to your top picks of what you’ve covered thus far would be fairly simple to maintain and do the job.

  2. Deejay says:

    Hi Steven,

    Love what you’re doing here. There’s lots of great XBLIGs and it’s good that in the absence of a decent way of finding them through the dashboard that people like yourself are highlighting them to the masses.

    You played my game Clover. I thought I should check to see whether you tried Clover or Clover: A Curious Tale. The latter is a much improved version, and if it was down to me the former wouldn’t be available for sale. Microsoft advised that they’d rather the original was still available, so anyone who bought the original can re-download it if they wipe their hard drive, for instance.

    So if you tried just plain Clover (without voice acting) I’d recommend giving Clover: A Curious Tale a look.

    Keep up the good work – we could do with more people evaluating XBLIGs qualitatively!

    • I purchased and reviewed the original Clover. I am aware of Clover: A Curious Tale, and at some point down the road I might get it as well since the puzzles are reworked in it and there is arguably reason to get both. :)

  3. Recaps is a good idea. The internetz = Attention disorders. If you write one, I´ll translate it to Swedish and post it on my blog.

    Congrats to the well deserved attention from Kotaku!

  4. Benhamish says:

    lol, that’s a lot of games. I was thinking that someone should create a list of the best of the back catalog to be featured on the dashboard. I’m not affiliated with the dashboard people, and in fact the dashboard people probably hate me, but you might be able to convince them that a list of the best of the back catalog is needed. Especially since the Top IGN picks list got taken down recently after it was neglected for a few months.

    • I would love to do that for them, in many ways this site is a best of the back catalogue (with the occasional newer one thrown in for good measure, like Paper Sky).

  5. Alex Mendez says:

    I have to agree with lloyd. I came to this site looking for a top ten.

    I want to give some ideas but do not want to impose anything on your beautiful creation here.

    1) I think it would have been nice to rate them on a scale from one to five. This way, even if you don’t want to do a top ten per se, I could at least filter it myself. This method would connect your fans to these games a lot faster which I believe is the ultimate goal.

    2) I also wish the games were categorized into shooter, side-scroller, adventure etc. I play games in different moods.

    3) Can fans also give them feed back and rate themselves? Amazon has a great customer ranking system and they encourage fans to rate to help others make a decision. Now we could have your score along with the customers. =) This would really revolutionize this site!!!

    I think that is it for now. Thank you for reading my post. I’m just a gamer who has been in love with games since the late 80’s. =)

    Feel free to respond back and chew me out!


    • I think there might be a way for me to do user ratings, let me sleep on it.

      The site can categorise them into shooter, side-scroller, etc. It’s a bit of work on my part, since I have to go back through over 100 reviews and categorise each one of them, but it’s something I’ll start working on since there’s clearly interest. Give me a bit of time to implement it. :)

      A question about the categories, though: the ones Microsoft use don’t make a lot of sense to me (for example, some puzzle platformers are categorised as Action & Adventure). Should I use Microsoft’s, so that they’re the same as the ones on the dashboard, or ones that make sense to me?

  6. Chris Hughes says:

    If you’re after poorly rated games that maybe aren’t as bad as all that, check our Chris Unarmed and Old School Adventure.

    They’ve sold less than 350 sales between them, but after 12 months of mediocre sales I sense that something special is about to happen. I was serving some dog food the other day, and the food fell into the bowl in the shape of a turtle. That has to mean something! Slow and steady wins the race, or something like that. They might as well change the top 50 lists to the top 48, because very soon my 2 games will cement their spots at the top of the lists! come aboard before the train leaves without you! :)

  7. Catherine Meyers says:


    My name is Catherine Meyers; I work as the admin of a web/blog directory. I have to say, I really enjoyed reading your reviews, Good job!. That is why, I would be delighted to have your blog in my directory, that way my visitors will also visit your website.
    If you are interested in this exchange, let me know.

    Good luck with your webpage.
    Catherine Meyers

  8. Felix Lau says:


    I am one of the students in a senior project class at the University of Utah. I believe you’ve interviewed with Mr. Gravity awhile back. Our game “The Last Pod Fighter” just released recently on the Xbox Indie MarketPlace and I was wondering if you would be interested in doing a review for our game. Thank you!

    • Funny that I find this while I’m looking to see if WMD would review our upcoming game or one of the other games in our senior production class. EAE all the way!

  9. mrdeeke says:

    Keep rocking the reviews, Mr, Hurdle! You’re a great source of inspiration for gaming journalists everywhere, and I love what you do. Your consistent reviews are impressive to say the least, and I’m always looking forward to your next daily review!

  10. Tammy Hicks says:

    Hello Steven Hurdle,
    I have a new web site since I am starting to create some Indie games myself for xbox. I could do reviews myself since I play the Indie games too but I really like your site much better. I was wondering if I could put a link to your site on my site. I have just bought the site phorplay but havent had time to set much up except maybe this weekend.Let me know what you think?

  11. Anonymous says:

    Awww – you left out poor Balloon Guard. :(

    • Ask and you shall receive (well, because it ended up being a really good game, that is): https://writingsofmassdeduction.com/2012/02/28/day-475-balloon-guard/

      • Anonymous says:

        Thank you for the encouraging review. I’ll let Matt know and see if he can post a couple download codes to the review page.

        I’ve looked at a few other reviews on your site, and I think BG may require a little too much “training” time for the Indie game market. It seems like alot of the other games are geared towards instant gratification. Do you find this to be so?

        In any event, I think your review is the first I’ve seen where it was obvious the reviewer played past the intro level.

        How do you compare to say the avatar platformer you reviewed the following day? I’m not looking for you to trash one or the other, but really get your opinion on whether a game should ramp up difficulty, or just toss the player into the peak of the action.

        For example, from the trailer, Balloon Guard has a snow level that looks pretty nuts, but I wonder if anyone will ever see it. Should an indie game just open up with the best it has to offer?

      • I think a game that jumps right into the action may have an advantage in some cases at converting a trial download into a purchase. As much as I absolutely love a game like Satellite, it’s impossible to even read through the documentation during the 8 minute trial! Didn’t stop me, and several Mass Deduction readers, from buying it though, so what do I know? :)

        Oh, as to the point about comments being immediately approved, Alan C with Tea is correct. They used to be moderated, but I was getting such a steady stream of quality comments lately from him, David Loves Sandy, and others, that I decided to turn off moderation. I felt deleting the occasional comment after the fact was preferrable to great comments suffering a delay before anyone saw them (as I have a day job, and have to sleep, and I would miss the odd one, so comments were sometimes going too long for my liking before being approved). I’ll keep it this way as long as it doesn’t seem to be being abused or creating any problems.

      • It’s an interesting question, and I broadly agree with Steven’s answer.

        For whatever it’s worth, I think there’s a very tricky optimum middle ground between immediate accessibility and longevity. Xbox Live Indie Games presents a unique problem, in that you have a maximum of eight minutes to make your pitch. Many Xbox indies go for a quick attention-grab, and while that may increase sales it seems to often result in never revisiting the game after the first half an hour.

        On the other side of the divide, one of my favourites, Flotilla, has depth and replayability but undoubtedly costs itself sales. I originally deleted the trial after playing it, because I found it dense and incomprehensible. I only gave it a second chance months later when someone told me how the game works, and suddenly I was able to enjoy it.

        Ideally you want the best of both sides; a trial that shows enough of the core gameplay to get the player’s attention, but keeps enough back to provide longevity through depth. I think Sequence did this quite well, putting you through a couple of tutorial battles and hinting at development of the core mechanic later, while also showing off the game’s sardonic tone. Cthulhu Saves the World is another example.

        It must be no easy job though, and I don’t envy anyone the task.

  12. – NOT A POST –
    (couldn’t find email address or contact page)

    Hi, I am contacting you on behalf of indie video game developer, Orbital Games. We are currently building a press list for our next game due for release on PC (Windows) and Xbox 360 (XBLIG) in a few months.

    Would you be happy to give us a contact email address so we can communicate directly with you when the time comes? We will also be offering review/press copies of our game on both platforms for anyone who is interested.

    Kind regards,

    Charlie Rawlinson

    Director & Artist
    Orbital Games

    • Sure. My email address is “steven . hurdle at gmail . com”. You know, with fewer spaces.

      And I thought about removing your comment, but you’ve already got 4 clickthroughs from Mass Deduction to your website, so I decided just to leave it instead. :)

      • David Loves Sandy says:

        The first time I clicked it didn’t go so I had to click twice…yea…I think you should leave it for the reasons you stated. I would never had heard of them hadn’t it been for that post. :)

  13. Oops, I guess posted comments don’t go through authorisation first then. Please remove,

  14. Odyssey3011 says:

    Is there any chance of a review of XBLIG game Odyssey3011 ? (http//:www.odyssey3011.net)

    With regards, dunxz23

  15. Hey Steven, just want to let you know that we’ve nominated you for a Liebster Award over at Continue Games. We’re big fans of your writing, and love the light you shed on XBL indie games – keep up the good work!
    And check out the post here:

  16. I’m not sure if you remember me Steven, I used to be DavidLovesSandy and Dream Poet. I am now the Editor in Chief at http://www.thehiddenlevels.com and thought I would reach out to you. I’m sorry I couldn’t find any other way to do so. I think you can see my email from this post and if you would reach out to me I’d like to touch base with you again.

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