This blog will focus on the year that was, the top 5 important events to come out of game development and what implications this had on the wider community. Bear in mind this is my opinion, but feel free to share other events you found equally as important.
1) AAA game engines become more freely available
As I mentioned in one of my first blogs of 2014, the Game Developers Conference this year was pretty spectacular for one reason. The three industry standard game engines, Crytek, Epic Games and Unity both announced major updates to their engines. Unreal introduced a price point of $19 a month to gain full access to their AAA engine. Crytek too introduced a price paint that is exceptional, $10 a month for their amazing engine, CryEngine. For these prices, not only can budding game developers finally develop awesome games, but the tools that were really for studio only, has now expanded to consumers such as you and me. This seismic change can only be a positive change for the game industry.
2) VR moved forward…kind of
As linked above in my first blog, I confessed I didn’t get Virtual Reality. This is mostly down to my genetics where I get motion sickness, but also because every time a VR headset is announced, it seems to get more hype than feels necessary. I mean take the Oculus Rift. People got excited for it and stated that both the headset and VR in general would revolutionize the way we would play games. As soon as Oculus Rift got purchased for a pretty handsome sum by Facebook, the critics and naysayers came out and went into overload. If Virtual Reality is set to be a big thing, and it’s my opinion it will be, then criticism should not be focused on whoever is developing the headset, but the technology itself. Don’t abandon a technology in its infancy because a social network you don’t particularly like has decided VR is worth investing in. Wait and give it a chance to mature. If you insist that the Oculus Rift is not the way forward, because heaven forbid, it has the Zuckerberg Curse on it, there are alternatives like the Project Morpheus from Sony, the Archos VR Headset and Samsung’s VR Headset.
3) Microsoft buys Mojang
Minecraft is a classic of a game. Endless hours poured into constructing buildings and structures, ranging from castles to the USS Enterprise as well as exploring a seemingly endless world. What also made Minecraft so special was that it wasn’t a large studio that made it; it was an indie developer, Markus ‘Notch’ Persson who lovingly created the game. So it came as a little bit of a surprise when Microsoft bought Mojang for a reported $2.5 billion. Whilst little has been done since the purchase (it’s only been 3 months) this purchase feels quite shrewd from Microsoft, bearing in mind sales of its flagship console, the Xbox One has been struggling against its competitor, the PS4. By purchasing such an iconic game studio as Mojang thus providing Microsoft with such a fanbase, this gives it a platform to again begin to develop and grow its gamer base.
4) Quality of games decreasing
This section is going to be a bit of a rant which I apologise for. Assassin’s Creed Unity was a highly anticipated game. Priced at a pricey $60 you would expect, as a hard working gamer, to get a high quality game on release. Sadly this wasn’t the case. There were so many glitches, particularly for the PC version that I felt quite embarrassed I had forked out $60 for it. Whilst a day one patch did happen, it shook my confidence in buying games at full price again. I would rather wait for a legendary Steam sale where the game has already been through several patches. Whilst I accept that sometimes, glitches just happen, the added pressure of both the price to the consumer, combined with other alternatives for gamers to enjoy, means that the game needs to be of the highest quality when released. The fact it wasn’t shakes consumer confidence and lessens the enjoyment factor. Plus not everyone has great internet speeds to download monstrous patches. It also beggars belief that none of the glitches were noticed when internal testing occurred. Having tested games briefly in 2008, I had many a great time glitching on various pieces of terrain. But it was reported and as such the glitch fixed. The fact that so many glitches went unnoticed suggests more to the internal testing then it does the time constraints of getting the game out on time. Nonetheless, Assassin’s Creed is a hugely popular franchise, as such, thousands of gamers purchased it and unfortunately (or fortunately if you are Ubisoft) the market has spoken and we will continue to purchase buggy games.
I was pondering whether to include this at all, given I’ve not blogged about it in the past and done my best to avoid discussing this in any of my blogs or tweets. The truth of the matter it has to be mentioned. For those that don’t know, Gamergate was sparked from an accusation that girl game developers slept with game reviewers to get more favorable reviews. From this spawned a wide ranging debate that can be interpreted by some as a necessary conversation for the gaming industry to have, by others as a cesspit of toxicity and harassment. The argument itself has mutated so much that as it stands I no longer know what it stands for. During its short time, it’s stood for free speech, video game journalism ethics, to connotations of racism, homophobia and a troll feeding pit. Sadly what it’s succeeded in doing is showing the video games industry in a negative light. This is a big shame, for an industry still arguably in its infancy stage. I hope that 2015 will bring about what makes the gaming community so special and we can get back to what it should be about, making great art that are loved by all. It will be interesting how the gaming industry grows from Gamergate and if it can.