As part of our ongoing Theme Week for January of 2016, we are looking back at some of the good and bad things about 2015. This time we wanted to take a look at some of the developers out there that are worthy of praise—those that go beyond just making a great game. Here's some of the praiseworthy developers our writers thought to mention.
CD Projekt RED by Kindra Pring
Konami by Don Parsons
Heading into 2015, Konami had a problem: they had an overpriced game, a slow developer, and a group of artists who weren't getting anything done. Many companies have folded under this pressure, especially with auteurs who are notoriously picky and like to toss away their own work they declare less than perfect. Buckling down, Konami started by forcing their studios to focus on one title instead of splitting their effort on their big title and some weird experimental stuff they were doing. When that led to a fight, instead of backing down, as often happens, Konami took a brave stand against the bully who was trying to run over everything and visibly slapped him across the face by removing his name from the box of the upcoming title.
However, there was need to further get everyone to actually get work done, and for that Konami began to implement a brave new program. By removing artists' access to the Internet they made them actually do their work instead of lollygagging around on company time and failing to release the products gamers wanted. Emails were intentionally obscured to help ensure people didn't run around the bans or talk with others—again to force the focus inwards to deliever the product gamers wanted.
It worked with a stunning success in Metal Gear Solid V, which received near universal acclaim. Konami saw what worked with its artists and applied it to reviewers, putting them in a closed time period to make sure they didn't waste their time looking for little gnarly textures or minor points around. They realized gamers don't care about minor points and that instead it's about knowing how the game feels and plays quickly without worrying about auxiliary details like story. This time limit worked beautifully to force focused reviews, and worked in conjunction with a staggered launch—similar to how they implemented their new office policies—to avoid letting crybabies create too much of an uproar in general.
If you didn't figure it out ... that was satire.
DICE LA by Alex Santa Maria
Some developers in our industry are rockstars. They have a defined identity carved out from multiple releases, they have a personable creative lead who appears on podcasts, or they have nostalgia on their side. These are the companies we think of when E3 rolls around, the developers who have a rabid fan base or even their own codified lore. DICE LA is not one of those developers.
DICE LA is a support studio, formed partially from the remnants of Danger Close following the failure of Medal of Honor: Warfighter. They have so far been tasked solely with maintaining Battlefield 4 while DICE proper moved on to Star Wars Battlefront and the inevitable Battlefield 5. It was an unenviable task, especially considering the state Battlefield 4 was in at the beginning of 2015, and the fact that another Battlefield game was just months from release. Yet, here we are a year later, and Battlefield 4 is more popular than Star Wars Battlefront and Hardline among shooter fans. A combination of free DLC maps and weapons and updates that are vetted by community leaders has turned the game around, and it’s all because of this skeleton crew chugging away in the corner of the EA machine.
There are plenty of these studios across the industry, supporting the massive shooter franchises and aging MMOs that run in the background while the press is focused on all of the newest releases. They’re the type of crew that have a thankless job, and that’s exactly why they’re worthy of praise. Here’s hoping that EA lets them try their hand at a game all their own when the time is right, because they deserve a bit of the rockstar lifestyle.