Yesterday I kicked off my own versions of the Developer Appreciation Week with five companies and game teams that I greatly appreciate it. It seems like we are starting to get some traction because yesterday MMOGames.com independent of my own intervention ran a piece of what we are doing. I still hope to see more people join in the fun and talk about the development staff that they really appreciate it. I play a lot of games… so I have a lot of love to go around.
Blizzard – World of Warcraft Team
Last night was quite possibly my single best night in World of Warcraft raiding. After some sluggish weeks we strolled into Blackrock Foundry and cleared seven normal bosses, then popped out and took down two heroic bosses… one of which was our first kill. To make the night even more special we managed to one shot all of them. After riding that high last night, it is impossible to do a developer appreciation week post without talking about Blizzard. World of Warcraft has been the juggernaut in the room for so long that I can barely remember a time when they were not the clear market dominator. While I have some disappointments about Warlords of Draenor, I feel like they are legitimately trying to turn the franchise around after what felt like years of neglect. It feels very much like they have doubled down on this game, and at the end of the day I am still enjoying playing it with my friends. For a ten year old game to still maintain relevancy is a pretty mighty feat, so my hat is off to the Blizzard staff who have supported it throughout the years and made it this experience that we judge all other MMOs against. It has been the gold standard for good reason. Even if World of Warcraft is not your game, you have to marvel at the level of polish that they deliver when they roll out a new expansion.
Bioware – Star Wars the Old Republic Team
Star Wars the Old Republic and I have somewhat of a checkered past to be honest. I went into this game feeling like it was going to be the WoW Killer for myself and my friends, but ultimately we lasted the same three months that we normally do in this sort of game. When they chose to go free to play, I was frustrated by how insanely restrictive the system ended up being. All of this said… if you can some how push past all of the limited time loot boxes and free to play cludge… there is a great game there at its core. With the launch of SWTOR I tried something that I don’t normally do… I leveled as part of a dedicated duo with my friend Euron. I played a Jedi Guardian and he a Jedi Consular, and we participated in each others stories. The way those two tales interweave was something to behold, and while it felt a bit confining to always have to make sure you and your friend were on at exactly the same times… it was a leveling experience unlike no other. The thing that stands out about SWTOR is the story, and what ultimately killed the game for me was when I ran out of it. Now I know I have several expansions that I can go back and experience and I keep thinking that one day I will do precisely that. In the meantime I have fond memories of the time we were all obsessed with this game, and give massive props to the folks who built such engaging content… that we pulled some fourteen hours a day to get through it all.
Zenimax – The Elder Scrolls Online Team
Since Daggerfall I have been in love with the Elder Scrolls franchise. Each time a new one comes out I end up devoting hundreds of hours to playing it, but all the while I keep thinking… this experience would be more enjoyable with my friends. So when I found out that Elder Scrolls was in fact being made into an MMO I was completely over the moon about it. I was lucky enough to be in the first round of alpha testing, so ultimately I participated in this game for over a year before launching it. Unfortunately this was a bit of a double edged sword because I got to see some features that worked better in early versions of the game, as compared to later more minimalistic ones. When you test a game that long it skews your vision of what the game actually is. Elder Scrolls Online has some of the best story content I have experienced in any game, and there are a number of quest lines that stick out in my memory. The whole concept of being able to continue into another faction after you have finished yours was inspired. The problem is by the time I hit the Aldmeri content I had lost a lot of my steam, and our guild was suffering the traditional drop off in players. Now that the game has shifted to buy to play however I am able to experience this game again and realize just how great it actually is. A lot of the problems I had with it early on have been smoothed out, and the post 50 progression no longer feels quite so grindy. I really appreciate the staff that has been plugging away quietly on making this game a better place to be, and I look forward to playing it more in the coming months.
Trion Worlds – Trove Team
Trove is this quirky world building game that blends MMO combat, MOBA style character design, and Minecraft style exploration and construction. I was lucky enough to be including in the first round of alpha invites for trove, and it has been insane to watch this game evolve. What I love the most is the way the developers have been meshed with the community since day one. Instead of a traditional forum, they decided to open up the process with a reddit, in fact I think this is the first game I can ever recall doing that. In those first days the community was so amazing, because it was so tight knit. You would log in and get welcomed by people that might recognize your name from the Reddit, and there was rarely a time when a developer was not in game talking to players. As the game has progressed the community has gotten larger, and the rigors of development have degraded this closeness a small bit, but it is still very much a game that draws its inspiration from the players. While I don’t play it as much as I should, I have loved watching it evolve around me. It feels like the sort of game you get when you throw a bunch of seven year olds in a room and tell them to solve a problem. It is pure unbridled joy and imagination… and has been good for my jaded soul to see that a game like that can exist.
Riot Games – League of Legends Team
League of Legends is 100% not my type of game. In fact I might never have played it were it not at the suggestion of my friends. Actually I rarely ever play this game other than when a bunch of friends want to do so. That said the experience of playing with a team of friends is contagious. There are a lot of aspects about this game that are problematic for me, a huge one being the still very toxic community. That said I give the biggest credit I can possibly give to the character designers. What League has in spades is the personality that seems to be lacking from so many other MMOs. The characters in League of Legends have a life of their own, and they make you fall in love with them. I have joked for some time, that this isn’t actually a game, but a modern sticker album… because I seem to largely collect characters and skins rather than actually play with them. Each character is really a triumph of taking what are mostly remixed elements and making them feel fresh and new. I tend to stick to the characters I know and love however like Darius, Graves, WuKong and Garen. My favorite gameplay mode however will probably always be ARAM simply because no one expect you to know what you are doing, which is about perfect for me.