It’s impossible to be a gamer and not get excited about 2015, a year that’s setting itself up to be one of the biggest software-wise in a long time.
Developers are hard at work finishing up games like Batman: Arkham Knight, Uncharted 4, the next Legend of Zelda, and other highly anticipated 2015 titles that are sure to make next year’s Game of the Year decision a tough one to make.
But before 2014 draws to a close, let’s take a look at three game developers that deserve praise for more than meeting expectations, overcoming the negative effects of hype, and earning the trust of their community. Sometimes there’s more to being a good developer than creating the best-selling game of the year.
When you’re tasked with making yet another entry in perhaps the most acclaimed fighting games of the last two decades, the last thing you’d think about doing is making two versions. Unless you’re Masahiro Sakurai, of course, who led a large team of proven game developers to create both a 3DS and Wii U version that both have sold in the millions.
In short, it takes a very good developer to create two versions of a game that both serve as near-perfect examples of what it takes to make a fun game. Super Smash Bros. for 3Ds and Wii U have improved upon their predecessors in almost every way, resulting in a game that’s polished, detailed, and insanely fun.
Whether it was their decision or Nintendo’s, it’s also worth mentioning that Sora’s Wii U title is the first game to make use of the Amiibo figures. Had the Amiibo implementation felt too gimmicky or unsatisfying, perhaps Nintendo would be sweating at the thought of their latest idea being poorly received.
Amiibo figures have instead become a massive hit. And thanks to Sora, Nintendo is seeing profits for the first time in several years.
For 13 years Bungie has been at the helm of the Halo franchise, arguably one of the most successful and influential series of games ever released. With each Halo game, Bungie showed they knew what it takes to create a first-person shooter that delivers both captivating storytelling and a competitive multiplayer that keeps players hooked long after release.
However, 2014 would be the year where we all found out if Bungie is capable of producing a good game outside of the Halo universe. Destiny proved to be so anticipated and backed by such incredible hype that, despite being a good game, many reviewers felt disappointed by what they played and released less-than-stellar reviews.
Instead of buckling from all the hype and plummeting Metacritic score, Activision continued their massive ad campaign while also giving players an early trial of the game to develop their own opinions. And despite the mediocre reviews, Destiny ended up being one of the most successful new gaming franchise launches of all time and now has nearly 10 million registered players.
Instead of buckling under the pressures of review scores and journalist opinions, Bungie went full steam at launch and saw that “expert reviewer” opinions still fail to represent gamers.
Known mostly for their highly successful 2004 sandbox game Garry’s Mod, which has sold more than 6 million copies, the British developer released another hit at the end of 2013 by the name of Rust. However, Facepunch isn’t on this list for Rust’s 2 million sold copies, but rather for their open approach to game development when it comes to their community.
A few months after Rust became one of the most popular games on Steam, Facebunch admitted to their players that the code base for the launch version was unsatisfactory. Thus, they had to extend the development time of the alpha version many had already paid for. Because of this, they would need to stop updating that version of the game and start working on a completely new version.
But instead of being met with an angry community of players that had spent money to play the Early Access game, most understood the situation and anxiously awaited the new version. By being open and honest about a development issue they couldn’t get around, Facepunch was able to keep the trust of their players and find success when the new Rust hit.
When you look at developers like Ubisoft and EA receiving such tremendous backlash from fans that purchased their unpolished games, one can’t help but wonder how much more reasonable gamers would be if they were more open with their community.
If more developers were like Facepunch and actually made an attempt to be honest with their gamers, perhaps the industry would see more excellent games being released.