Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
The year is coming to a close and that always puts me in the mood to take a look back and to set some goals for the year to come. Today I'd like to do just that; take a look at some interesting things from 2015 and talk about where I'm planning to take F5 in 2016 and beyond.
Best of 2015
While there is no limit to the number of 'Best of' lists out there I thought this would be a good space to add my own two cents. While I honestly didn't play as many games this year as I have in the past I still feel pretty confident that I saw the best 2015 had to offer. My choice for 'Best Game of 2015' goes to The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.
The Witcher 3 has been winning awards all over the Internet for the last few weeks so you've likely already read about how great this game is. In short, the Witcher 3 is fantastic. The combat is fun and deep, the story is engrossing, the characters are interesting, there is very little of the open-world 'busy work' that you often find in RPGs, and the technology is incredible which makes this one of the most visually impressive games I've ever seen.
In addition to all of those points I feel like the game really excels at telling a deep and adult story. Not adult in that there is violence, nudity and sex but adult in that it shows a world that isn't idealized, and that reflects our own in ways many people may be afraid to admit. Your choices matter in the Witcher 3. They matter in determining what happens in your version of the story and also in determining who lives and who dies. They matter in determining who will be allied with you later on and who will be out in the world, either fighting for your enemies or dead at the hands of some other character. They also matter in how you interact with your adopted daughter Ciri in ways that few games have ever managed.
With all that said, there is one problem that I have with the Witcher 3 which is informing how I make my own games in the coming year. The Witcher 3 is BIG! It's such a hugely massive game that I've been playing it since release and still haven't finished it! I have three small children in the house running around and doing wonderful kid things all day, which means I don't have much time to sit down and engross myself in a game like the Witcher. I have to steal hours at night when everyone else is asleep so that I can live through the adventures of Geralt, and I think that is actually a pretty big problem, not just for me but for gaming in general.
If The Witcher 3 is the best game of the year, and it does have this incredibly deep and engrossing story that resonates with an adult audience, then I want the largest number of people possible to be able to enjoy it. But The Witcher is limited in the audience it can capture, both by it being released on consoles, it being a 'difficult to play' RPG ( in that it is intimidating for many people to try and play games of this type ), and that even after you jump those hurdles you then have to dedicate dozens of hours to the game to see it through.
I'm not trying to fault anyone for this, CD Projekt Red made the game they wanted to make, and it's fantastic. But as I think more and more about it I'm afraid that the traditional 'gamer' game is getting in it's own way and not allowing itself to expand to a broader audience. This is something that I want to try and explore at F5 in 2016.
My Game of the Year Runner-up is Super Mario Maker by Nintendo. I don't think any other game has been played more at our house this year than Mario Maker. Nintendo has done the impossible with this one, they turned a 'productivity app' into one of the most entertaining games of the year. Nintendo literally released a level editor as a game and it's a blast to play with. My 6 year old son has created dozens of levels and loves to see how many people have played or stared them online. He has also played hundreds of levels made by other users and it is incredible to see the inventiveness and imagination that people have come up with.
Mario Maker is obviously a very different kind of game than The Witcher but it excels at being easy to pick up and play either in short bursts or over longer periods of level design. It's depth comes from the constant discovery of new things you see in the levels of other or in trying to accomplish something that the tools don't quite allow and then being wowed at the outcome. It's absolutely a must play.
What's next for F5 in 2016
I'm very excited for 2016 as it will see the release of our next game, and our first release in over a year! As I mentioned above, this year I am very interested in trying to create a mobile game that has the ability to reach a massive audience but that can also communicate something more to them than just mindless or time-wasting action. To accomplish that we are currently working on a new RPG for mobile that will combine a tactical combat system with a story that I hope will resonate with players and engage them on a level that they don't usually see in a mobile game.
As this is a mobile game you'll be able to play it in short bursts whenever you have a couple free minutes but I'm hopeful that the story and character elements will stick with you in between sessions and not only entice you to play more but also give you something to think about and discuss with your friends.
It's a tall order, but I've decided that if I am going to continue making games they need to have more weight than the games I have created before. We'll see how it turns out, but hopefully at the end of 2016 I'll be writing a very different kind of year in review post.
Happy New Year! And thank you to all of our fans and player, I think you'll really love what we have in store for you this year.