This week in Blaugust, it is Developer Appreciation Week. While I’m pretty content to wander off the themes, doing my own thing, I also do quite enjoy at least getting one post out for the theme of the week. I’d actually been hoping for more information on No Man’s Sky’s “Frontiers” update so I could sing Hello Games’ praises for the mother of all developer redemption arcs with something current to reference against.
Buuuut I have already done that in the past.
It might be time to dig at least a little deeper.
So here we go, in no particular order.
I first came to recognise the ‘Firaxis’ name with 2005’s Civilisation 4. I played that a lot. It was my return to the Civilisation series in a serious way since the original’s release under the MicroProse name. Despite 2005 being my earliest recollection of Firaxis now, they formed quite a bit earlier. Alpha Centauri — which before checking for this post, I would have sworn was released as MicroProse — was also a Firaxis title and came out in ’99.
The Civilisation line of games isn’t all though — as the selected screenshot may have given away if you didn’t already know, Firaxis breathed new life into the XCOM franchise with 2012’s XCOM: Enemy Unknown and followed up with the stellar — and all-time favourite game, for me — XCOM 2.
Not everything they do is gold (Civilisation: Beyond Earth, anyone?)
But at their best, it’s very good indeed.
Dark Souls isn’t a series I immediately got on with. It was my first foray into using a controller for anything more challenging than a JRPG or racing. Before Dark Souls II, I was staunchly Mouse and Keyboard for any character-driven games.
It is beyond easy to imagine an alternate world in which I never picked the game up again after bouncing off it the first time.
But hoo-boy am I ever so glad that that isn’t this world. Because Dark Souls and its various souls-like spinoffs from FromSoftware have been, almost to a game, amongst my favourite games. The ‘almost’ there coming from Sekiro. It was sufficiently different from the other titles, including Bloodborne, that my experience with them was a detriment rather than an aid. Still- I completely recognise this as a ‘me’ problem, rather than anything wrong with the game, so it is frequently on my mind to go back and give it another go.
Elden Ring is coming our way soon, and oh my god, I cannot wait.
Alright- this one is a bit of a cheat. Paradox is both a development studio and a publisher with other studios underneath them, and I’m going to throw all of ’em together in a blender for this point of appreciation.
I mean- I could talk about Paradox’ own developers in isolation- they have given us The Crusader Kings series of games for one. And Europa Univeralis. And Stellaris, for another. Between Crusader Kings II, Europa Universalis IV and Stellaris- I have spent countless hours getting wrapped up in their seemingly unique Grand Strategy genre games.
Colossal Order is the developer of Cities: Skylines, published under the Paradox banner. A different genre, sure, but another I’ve lost many hours to.
Paradox as a publisher has a DLC model that drives some people batty — it’s undeniable that coming in as a late entrant to a Paradox game is… somewhat expensive. To such an extent Paradox started their own subscription service as a means of getting in without having to buy everything. What’s also undeniable though is just how much gets added to the capability, scope and life of their games as a result.
Also; where multiplayer is concerned — Paradox takes the quite generous approach of enabling the DLC for all game participants that the host has enabled. :)
I’ve used the current company name but I’m talking back to the pre-merger (<2003) days of Square, as well. Final Fantasy VII — the original, PlayStation version — was my introduction to Square. It was a big deal, as the first game — to my knowledge, at least — to have TV advertising going on in New Zealand.
I watched that advertising with wide-eyed wonder. I’d never seen any game graphics like it. At that point though, the family wasn’t particularly well-to-do. Not by a long shot, so I didn’t have any real expectation of getting a PlayStation let alone this game… But… Through the magic of a wonderful mother and layby, that Christmas we got both. My brother and I played the crap out of it. The first section in particular — because, you see, we didn’t have a memory card to save our game. xD
It took a while longer for us to save for one of those and get to see the rest of the game beyond the reactors.
That was just the start though, my brother and I have played every mainline single-player FF game since (with the exception of FF9). There have been highs and lows along the way but we’ve finished every one we played, which for myself at least, is a big deal given the hours required for these things!
Of course, single-player FF isn’t the only kind. I never touched FFXI, but FFXIV has, of late, become something of a beacon in the MMORPG landscape- showing how it is possible for developers to respect players, their time, give them fun, and retain player and subscription metrics at the same time.
Thanks, Square Enix!