A reprint from the December issue of Gamaustra's sister publication Game Developer magazine, this feature asks notable developers to contribute what made 2012 significant to them. You can subscribe to the print or digital edition at GDMag's subscription page, download the Game Developer iOS app to subscribe or buy individual issues from your iOS device, or purchase individual digital issues from our store.
From crowdfunding to studio shutdowns, 2012 has been a big year for the game industry. We've seen indie studios surge to the forefront on new and established platforms, new business models and dev tools lower the barrier to entry, and all kinds of major changes that will undoubtedly be felt for years to come. Game Developer polled accomplished industry veterans and indies alike for their respective takes on what we're glad to be done with, looking forward to working with, year-end shout-outs, and more.
Out with the old: Physical distribution. Finally consoles are starting to catch up to PC and mobile and offer most of their game content digitally. Soon we'll be able to fully cut out this unnecessary middleman between the game developer and game player. The only downside to this is that game libraries in basements will look a lot less impressive when they're just posters of screenshots of your game collections.
In with the new: Personalities. With the rise of crowdfunding and indie games, there's been a stronger focus on the people behind the games again. This is a wonderful thing for me as a gamer, as I get to know whose vision I'm playing through and maybe understand the creators through their work. As a game developer, it also helps to get new heroes to look up to, which is something I miss dearly from the good old days.
Shout-outs: I could go on forever on this; it's been a great year! Brian [Provinciano] managed to release Retro City Rampage, and it is glorious; Terry [Cavanagh] made a game even more frustrating than VVVVVV, and it is wonderful; Firaxis somehow managed to make a worthy remake of X-COM, and it's killing all my free time; and Valve managed to go another year without giving us Gordon.
I told you so: Microsoft's choice of setting up their own store was a very predictable one, and it's a sad one, for a wide range of reasons.
One-sentence review: You know it's been a good year when you end up with a large stack of must-play games you haven't had time to play, and 2012 has been very good so far.
Out with the old: Old things don't go away, but rather take a backseat to the new shiny things. It's not like the console industry died in 2012, and Zynga-style social games are still being played.
In with the new: What I had feared (and predicted) was that there would be a strong consolidation on mobile, with a few leaders emerging to dominate the business. This didn't happen, and instead the biggest hits are still being created by new and/or small studios. Remember that even Rovio was a small company until after Angry Birds, and a tiny studio like Boss Alien created CSR Racing with Unity, which is probably going to make between $50M and $100M (!) in its first year. And there are many, many examples of this.
Shout-outs: Madfinger's Dead Trigger: an insanely cool triple-A zombie shooter on your iPad. InXile's Wasteland 2: badass indie development by rock-star developers doing crowdsourcing and running an open-development style. Defiant's Ski Safari: infinitely addictive and polished game, which started as a Unity-based Flash game, and which I still play daily on my iPhone after nearly a year. Endless Space: a visually impressive Unity-based 4X space-strategy game, created in a radically open-development style. Oh, and amazing UI work, too!
I told you so: How the mobile game industry "grew up." Last year, it became evident that small teams could have great successes in terms of ROI, and make a few million dollars with a great game. What became obvious this year is that similar or only slightly larger teams now make mobile hits whose revenues come into the range of console games, but with massively better ROIs. That's a big deal and is leading all of the big studios to jump in with full force (using Unity, of course).
One-sentence review: We finally stepped into a new era full force, where small studios are going to dominate, and where, soon, more players, games, and revenue will be on mobile devices than anywhere else.
Out with the old: Gamification: I think we've discovered that this isn't really a game and this word is way too buzzy to convey the next generation of gaming experiences tied with social applications. Ultimately, gamification isn't creating a game -- it's a way to fit a fun experience philosophy into a tiny crack of the social-application universe.
In with the new: Windows 8! I think what they are doing is sublime. They are trying to get the world to transition out of desktop PCs and into something more intimate. I think the idea that the PC is dying is a misdirection that the mobile/tablet world uses as a rally call. In truth, the PC is transforming into a new experience in the same way the first Windows trumped DOS. I get it.
Shout-outs: Hawken. I think Meteor Entertainment showed a guerilla product at the right moment at the right time and are capitalizing on the fury surrounding their upcoming launch. They are an example of a dev startup doing it right. They are also coming out at the height of the session-based gaming craze, most clearly driven by the success of World of Tanks.
I told you so: I saw 38 Studios' closure coming a while ago. From when they first started working on Copernicus, to the ensuing survival strategies of buying Big Huge Games to generate early revenue, this company showed struggle from the beginning. Also, hardcore games on Facebook -- I knew this was the next step in the evolution of social games.
One-sentence review: Stop copying Angry Birds!
Out with the old: Prefacing the names of apps, software, books, interior goods, and basically everything with "i," à la "iPad," in a now-awkward attempt to be clever. Oh wait, we haven't stopped doing that yet, have we? Sigh. Maybe next year.
In with the new: There have been a lot of efforts to encourage and welcome new creative people into the world of making games lately, which is great! It's something I personally think is an important part of the vibrant future of this industry -- I can't wait to play these newbies' second and third and fourth games.
Everybody can make games, and it's important that interested people give it a try, but it's equally important that they stick with it and learn and evolve -- as we each refine our craft, that's how our best ideas and concepts develop, so that potential is very exciting to me. It means better games for all of us!
Shout-outs: Queasy Games with Sound Shapes. It was an immensely challenging project for the team, and I was impressed at the way they persevered through the difficulties and focused on their intent to create something beautiful, and then I was doubly impressed at how well they pulled that off. Sound Shapes is gorgeous to look at and easy on the ears, but the best part is how it inspires players to become musicians themselves. Very cool.
I told you so: We at Metanet have been trying to finish a project that we've been working on for... geez, it feels like forever. It was supposed to be finished in September, but the deadline slipped again. I had a hunch. Seriously though, December. It's happening.
One-sentence review: There were so many updates in the last year to projects I'm eagerly anticipating, especially on the indie side!