Developers You Can Count On

It’s the weekend and that means there’s virtually no news in the industry, but it makes for the perfect opportunity to start a discussion on something unique.  Today we’re going to discuss developers you can always count on for a good time.  I’m going to list three different developers, but there are countless others.  It’s your job to think of some of your favorite developers and jot them down in the comments section below, try and list off why these developers made your list.  Keep in mind this doesn’t have to be your top five or anything like that, just developers that seem to always strike a chord with you.

I’m going to start with one of my favorite developers of all time, Naughty Dog.  These guys have been pumping out the hits since the early PlayStation days with Crash Bandicoot.  I remember being impressed with the original Crash, but what they would do with the next two sequels was truly awesome.  They upped the variety, the humor and the gameplay.  I was such a big fan that I didn’t think twice about purchasing CTR: Crash Team Racing when it was released towards the end of the PS1 eraMuch like Insomniac, I loved the effort the company put forward back in those early days of 3D gaming.  Surprisingly, the original trilogy holds up pretty good even today.

The Crash series was so over-the-top that it made Mario look like a child’s play thing.

When the PS2 hit the scene, once again I knew I could count on Naughty Dog to deliver the hits and that’s just what happened with Jak & Daxter, the two follow-ups and Jak X: Combat Racing.  Naughty Dog took the platforming genre and ran wild with it, eventually infusing combat into the series, an open-world playground and so much more.  When I think back to the PlayStation 2, this series is one that always pops out because of just how excellent it was.  It was also during this time period, 2001 to be exact, that SCEI purchased Naughty Dog, which meant I was going to have to keep buying Sony hardware to experience all the incredible Naughty Dog games.  I plan to do just that.

The Last of Us is shaping up to be one of 2013’s biggest releases and I can’t wait.

From Crash to Jak & Daxter, Naughty Dog quickly jumped from being a relative unknown to breaking my top five developers of all time, which was not an easy thing considering how many studios I adore.  It was their PS3 series that cemented them as a developer I will continue to follow from here on out, no matter what.  Uncharted has become one of the top three new IPs introduced this generation.  I’ve already gone on and on about how much I love the series, so I need not go over it again.  All I can say is that their next original IP, The Last of Us is shaping up to become another huge hit, and I’ll be there on day one because this is a developer I can surely count on.

The next developer I wanted to talk about is Bungie.  Bungie is a company I’ve been counting on for a very long time, much earlier than most.  I was originally introduced to Bungie through Marathon back in ’94.  At that point in time Bungie was primarily a Mac OS developer, which was extremely rare by the early 1990s.  PCs had dominated the scene by that time.  After working on the original Marathon Bungie let loose a series of hits including Marathon 2: Durandal (1995), Marathon Infinity (1996), Myth: The Fallen Lords (1997), and Myth II: Soulblighter (1998).  For those that don’t know the Marathon series is a sci-fi first-person shooter trilogy, and the Myth games are real-time tactics games.  After all the success the studio had during this time period they opened up another studio, called Bungie West (based in San Jose, California), which worked on Oni (2001) for the Mac, PC and PS2.  It was their first and last game they would ever release.

Looking back it’s hard to believe that Marathon is what would eventually lead Bungie to develop Halo.

These Mac and PC games would lay the groundwork for their next big game, Halo.  When I first saw Halo at Macworld Expo in 1999, it was announced by then-interim-CEO Steve Jobs, and I was completely blown away.  It looked like some kind of evolution to Marathon, but taken to an entirely new level.  From there you all know the rest of the story with Halo 2, 3, ODST, and Reach.  What you may not know is that Bungie lost the rights to both Oni and the Myth series during its sale to Microsoft.  Take-Two Interactive now controls those particular series.  In 2007 it was announced that Bungie would break off from the big M, but would no longer be able to produce Halo games, as Microsoft owns the IP.

This is the one you all know and love, but it makes you wonder what will come next.

So that brings us to the promise of tomorrow.  The developer is working on a brand new original IP, which based on their storied history should be a fantastic game, whatever it ends up becoming.  Bungie is a developer I can count on to release top tier games that push boundaries and try new things.  I’m very excited to see what’s next.

The last developer I want to shine the spotlight on is Valve.  In 1998 first-person shooters were mainly a PC genre.  ‘97’s GoldenEye 007 for the N64 ushered in a new era for the genre on consoles, but it was Valve’s first title that really shaped the genre into what we know and love today.  Not to discredit Rare, because GoldenEye 007 remains one of the most influential first-person shooters in history, but what Valve did with Half-Life changed everything.  For starters, no one knew what to expect back then.  This was an upstart company with no previous games on the market.  When they released Half-Life in 1998 most FPSs were still level-based, had enemies rushing towards the screen to kill you, and had health and other items scattered all over the environment.  What Valve did was nothing short of genius.  They created a narrative around the first-person perspective, so you didn’t just complete a task or make it to the end of a level; you experienced a story and simply weaved through it.  Health items were in areas that made sense, like on tables or via special generators that were located in areas that you would expect them to be.  Finally, the AI was fundamentally changed, you faced an enemy that wanted to live, and would work together with others to try and take you down.  Today we take all of this for granted, but back in ’98 this was revolutionary stuff.

It still blows my mind how influential the original Half-Life was.

From there the company would release a string of hits that includes some of my favorite games of all time including Team Fortress (1999), Counter-Strike (2000), Half-Life 2 (2004), and Portal (2007).  There were many more hits released in-between, and after including Day of Defeat (2003), Left 4 Dead (2008), Left 4 Dead 2 (2009), and Portal 2 (2011).  I’m not going to list everything the company has worked on because there are so many games to mention and by now I think you get the point.

Half-Life 2 remains one of my favourite games of all time. Where the heck is part 3 Valve?!?!

Not only do they work on excellent titles that are always enjoyable, but they have their incredible Steam platform, which fundamentally changed the way computer games are played and delivered.  It also happens to be the number one worst enemy to piracy.  Why illegally download a game, when you can buy it on Steam for $5?  Bottom line, Valve is a developer that I can count on and have been counting on since 1998.

The cake is a lie! What isn’t a lie is that Valve has become a developer millions of people count on to keep pumping out the hits.

So those are just three developers I wanted to talk about, but there are countless more.  BioWare, Insomniac, Blizzard, Kojima Productions, Intelligent Systems, DrinkBox Studios, Next Level Games, etc. the list just goes on and on.  I didn’t want to hog all the developers though, so you should have plenty to talk about.  I want to know, which developers can you count on regardless of what they work on next?

4 thoughts on “Developers You Can Count On”

  1. Here are some for me…

    Level-5. Dragon Quest VIII is one of my favorite PS2 games of all time. Also, the Professor Layton series is amazing. And Ni no Kuni is my most anticipated game for next year!

    CAPCOM. I know they get a lot of flak lately, but they’ve made a lot of my favorite games, and I could definitely argue that they have one of the most diverse release lists of any game company. Street Fighter, Mega Man, Devil May Cry, Phoenix Wright, and Resident Evil are very near and dear to me. I suppose I would probably mention Clover Studios here because of Okami and Viewtiful Joe, two games I absolutely adore, as well as Inti Creates, for the Mega Man Zero series, ZX series, and Mega Man 9. Capcom is also a company that is willing to take risks, with new IPs like Dragon’s Dogma, Ghost Trick, and more. They do make mistakes, but when they hit high notes, they do a wonderful job. They are also willing to collaborate and partner with so many other companies to try new things, like Asura’s Wrath with CyberConnect2.

    ATLUS. Shin Megami Tensei series and Persona are excellent. I absolutely love them. Not just an excellent publisher, they have solid development teams. I definitely have to give a shout-out to Vanillaware as well. I feel like they are rather similar (ATLUS did publish Odin’s Sphere). Vanillaware made Odin Sphere and Muramasa, two absolutely fantastic games, and Dragon’s Crown looks awesome.

    Platinum Games. Formed by Clover employees, they have a lot of talent behind them. Bayonetta is easily one of the best action games I have ever played. MadWorld and Vanquish are both entertaining romps as well. I’m also interested in playing their Wii-U game, Project P-100.

    Intelligent Systems. Fire Emblem, Advance Wars, Paper Mario, and now Pushmo!

    Monolith Soft. Xenoblade Chronicles is such a wonderful game, that alone makes me love this developer. But since they are also responsible for the excellent Baten Kaitos series, they get even more respect.

    Retro Studios. Metroid Prime Trilogy, Donkey Kong Country Returns, and work on Mario Kart 7! Retro did such a fantastic job with the Metroid series that for many, the Prime games now define the Metroid experience to them. That’s saying a lot, considering the quality of Super Metroid, Metroid Fusion, and Metroid Zero Mission.

  2. Yeah BioWare can always be counted on to deliver the goods. Really want to see what their next project is. Apparently The Old Republic isn’t going as smooth as people had hoped for. I hear it’s a really great game, but doesn’t have the “keep playing me for 17 years” that World of WarCraft and other MMOs have. I haven’t ever really devoted any time to MMOs to begin with, but it sucks that we can’t return to that awesome universe again.

    Anyways, really want to see what their next project is going to be.

  3. You named some great devs there Tim. I don’t know enough about Capcom’s internal development studios to really say anything fresh. You named some really big classics there.

    Atlus is a funny one because as a publisher they’ve had some highs and some omega lows. The lowest score I’ve ever given to a game was published by Atlus. They used to pump out the stinkers years ago, but they changed their business model about four years back and ever since then they’ve really turned things around. Their internal development studio has also been very good, as you mentioned.

    P Games is a good one. That’s another development studio that I feel has tremendous potential moving forward. They may only be starting out, but I think they’ve got a very bright future ahead of them. MadWorld, Infinite Space, Bayonetta, Vanquish, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Anarchy Reigns, and Project P-100 have all been or are in the process of being developed by P Games. That’s a fairly impressive line-up of titles already.

    It’s funny how you mentioned Monolith Software without mentioning Xenosaga, which is the number one series usually associated with them. Most people don’t know this, but they’re also working on Project X Zone right now. They have a really rich history between working with Nintendo and Namco Bandai.

    The last one on your list is one I was actually going to add to my list before I tried to trim it down to the point where I could let others have a say. Retro is Nintendo’s premiere North American developer. Retro has replaced Rare as Nintendo’s go-to team for a variety of projects, but I’m hoping we get to see a little more freshness moving forward. I completely agree these guys rock, but if you take away Metroid, they’ve done virtually nothing. That needs to change! I want to see them come out strong with an original IP!

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