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 era. Much 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?