It wasn't supposed to be like this.
Stood at the end of 2011, staring down the barrel of 2012, one could have been forgiven for being a little pessimistic. We noted twelve months ago that, although high in quality, we hadn't seen anything particularly out of the ordinary emerge. Although Irrational's Ken Levine praised the likes of Naughty Dog, Epic, and Infinity Ward, they'd all delivered in much the same fashion as they had in previous years. We found ourselves hungry, back in January; hungry for something new - expecting news, expecting change, expecting some sense of progression from our industry.
Well, we got change, all right, and there was news aplenty, as certain quarters soared, new opportunities arose, and bright new frontiers presented themselves. On the flip side, the dark clouds of financial deficit, fan hysteria, confused markets, hack journalism, and patronising publicity threatened to ruin everything.
Let's start with the recession, which bit deep this year. Every fortnight, it seemed, there was another industry casualty. From the UK alone, we waved goodbye to Sony Liverpool Studio, EA's Bright Light, and Eurocom. We bid farewell to Bomberman's creators at Hudson Soft, to Monumental, 4mm, and Zipper. Thousands of voices cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced as NCsoft shut down Paragon Studios after seven years, and binned City of Heroes, much to the chagrin of an impassioned, dedicated fanbase.
Some closures were simply the nature of things running their course. Hogrocket, for example, were only ever designed to be a one-title studio, with Tiny Invaders proving to be a noteworthy collaboration between talented friends. However, there were others, it might be argued, who brought bad fortune upon themselves.Click here to read more...
We end 2011 staring down the somewhat paradoxical barrel of a gun. It's been a big year, for sure, and there's a reason to listen when someone like Ken Levine stands up and says that this has been a year to be proud of.
"It's a year to be proud of the Uncharted guys," said Levine a couple of weeks back. " It's a year to be proud of Epic. It's a year to be proud of the Call of Duty guys. It's a year to be proud of everybody because people are delivering this year in a way the industry hasn't delivered in a very long time." And he's right, to a certain extent. We've seen tonnes of huge games come out this, reams of blockbuster titles, a November sales window that's never been to utterly stuffed with big-budget quality. There's been more hype, more smack talk and seemingly more choice than ever before. There's more people playing too thanks to motion-control and, a year on, suddenly Kinect doesn't seem a ludicrous a device as initially thought. Indeed, if the latest Dashboard update is anything to go by, Microsoft are shoving it front and centre.
It's easy to sit back and revel in the games that this year has brought to our attention. The technical aspects of the industry are in constant improvement: the visuals look better than ever; sound design, effects capturing and original compositions can make the difference between an average product and a great one; the likes of Portal 2, Skyrim, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Bastion and Uncharted 3 have shown that good writing well implemented can make for some excellent games.Click here to read more...