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Looking back at 2016 and ahead to 2017
posted on: Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

It's that time again. We've made it through 2016 and now it's time to reflect on last year and think about what we can expect in the next. If you're interested, read on for my thoughts on 2016 and hopes for 2017.

Best of 2016

2016 was a strange gaming year for me. As a father, husband, and business owner I have less and less time to sit down and enjoy gaming like I could in the past. Because of that I don't know that I can say what the 'Best Game of 2016' really was, because I may not have played it. Instead I'm going to talk about a few games that I did play this year that I enjoyed or made an impact on me.

Game I Played The Most (and kinda wish I hadn't) - Clash Royale

Clash Royale took hold of me early in 2016 and never really let go. Based on my number of games played I have logged at least 350 hours in Clash Royale since it's launch, and that boggles my mind.

Don't get me wrong, Clash Royale has some fantastic gameplay elements in it, but overall the game is a grind and at this point it really feels more like a compulsion than a good time. This is the first time a Free-to-Play Gacha mechanic game has pulled me in and I don't know that I'm happy with the outcome.

The matches are fun, the interplay between the units is very well thought-out, the skill of placing units in the correct place and time is real, and it's perfectly suited for mobile. It's really a great game, but it's missing something in the later stages as the monetization really starts to kick in that makes it feel more like work than I would like.

One of my resolutions for 2017 is to play less Clash, we'll see if it sticks.

Game I Didn't Start Playing Until a Week Ago But Really Love - DOOM

Confession: I'm a huge fan of the original Doom. When Doom was released I didn't have a PC that could run it but somehow I got ahold of a strategy guide for the game that had maps for every level with all the tips and tricks. I would actually read through that book and imagine that I was playing the game, that's how much I wanted to play Doom! I begged my parents for 4 Mb of Ram to upgrade my PC so I can play Doom. Months later when my birthday rolled around I finally got my Ram and started my journey into Doom and all the mods, multiplayer, coop, and map making that came with it. Doom was a huge part of my early teen years.

But, for some reason, when I first started to see trailers for the new Doom I wasn't all that interested. I think the 'Glory Kills' turned me off to it. It seemed like senseless gore for no reason, which fits right in with the vibe of Doom but because of the high-def graphics and the fact that I'm not 13 anymore it seemed un-necessary to me. So this summer Doom was released, and it got pretty good reviews, and I thought I might rent it, but I never did.

What I did instead was go back and play through the original Doom on my iMac. I was blown away all over again! After more than 20 years Doom is still incredible. Coming back to it after all these years with more experience in game design makes it even better. The level design is incredible, the action is fast and fun, the arsenal is perfect, the puzzles and secrets are great. Doom is absolutely one of the greatest games ever made, and I got to experience all of that again this year. That made me give Doom 2016 another chance and after playing through the first few levels I have to say, it doesn't disappoint!

Doom 2016 captures the fast action, exploration, and attitude of the original Doom and layers newer game mechanics on top of it in a way that enhances the original material. You can tell that every decision Id made while making Doom 2016 was looked at through the lens of the original Doom games. The fat has almost all be cut off of this game in a way that just doesn't happen in modern shooters anymore. Those 'Glory Kills' that turned me off in trailers? They are actually a brilliant addition to the game because they reward you with health each time you execute one. This make you constantly push forward from enemy to enemy in an attempt to keep your health full and clear out all the demons that are breathing down your neck. There was one point in the second level where I was in a large room with, I kid you not, 6 different paths that I could take to move forward, that never happens in modern shooters anymore. I looked from one doorway to another and thought 'This is Doom!'.

Doom 2016 is an absolute blast to play and I am really enjoying my time with it so far. If you have any affection for the Doom of old you should give this new Doom a try.

Best Mobile Game - Super Mario Run

You can play Mario on your iPhone with one hand. Those are not words I thought I would be able to write when 2016 started. Super Mario Run is a great game and an important release for several reasons. Maybe the most important reason is; in 2016 it became clear that mobile gaming is now so large that even Nintendo can no longer afford to ignore it.

Another aspect that I find really impressive about Super Mario Run is that Nintendo's designers were able to completely recreate the 'Mario Experience' after changing nearly every aspect about how players interact with the game. What is most impressive about this is that it's done so expertly that as you play the game it doesn't seem like that much has changed. You make Mario jump, just like you always have, and you move left to right to complete levels. It wasn't until I tried to create a Super Mario Run style level in Mario Maker that I realized how perfectly the level designers had to craft each of the levels in Super Mario Run to make this game feel like a Mario game.

Super Mario Run is a great game in it's own right, it could be better, but I have really enjoyed all the time I have spent with it. It's also great to see Nintendo bringing their un-beatable game design to Mobile and helping push the entire industry forward as a result.

Notable Mentions

I'm still playing The Witcher 3, my best game of 2015, and it's still incredible. Maybe by my end of year 2017 post I'll have finished it.

I've been slowly putting time into Uncharted 4 and it has that same level of game development mastery that we come to expect from Naughty Dog each and every time they release something. I'm only about a quarter of the way through the campaign at this point but it's been a fun ride.

I received No Man's Sky as a gift at Christmas and have really enjoyed the first 3 hours or so that I've played it. It is something that I can play with my kids and they have enjoyed finding new creatures and flying to new planets quite a bit.

I've decided that I'm done with 'Rogue-likes'. One of our best received games, House of the Lost, is a rogue-like and I have been all about playing them over the last couple years; but I just can't do it any more. After playing Doom (classic) and Teleglitch this year at nearly the same time I realized that I just enjoy a level based campaign progression much better than a game that forces you to play through random levels with permadeath. If I put permadeath in a game again it will only be as a super-hardcode difficulty level that you unlock after completing the game.

Looking Ahead to 2017

I think that 2017 is going to be another fantastic year for gaming, with mobile gaming in particular. The market for mobile games just continues to grow and there are more and more players available each and every day. I'm also very excited about jumping back into game development and releasing a new title for mobile this year!

I am very excited about the Nintendo Switch, and I can't wait to see the full reveal that Nintendo has planned for us in a couple weeks. I'm hoping that Nintendo will do a better job of marketing and reaching out to lapsed gamers to let them know what the Switch is, and based on what I've seen so far it looks like they will.

VR will continue to not be nearly as huge as everyone thinks it's going to be in 2017. In fact 2017 may be the year when people finally realize that it's not the next big thing and start to sour on it. There will probably be a few interesting titles but the market isn't there, the tech isn't there, and not enough people want to play games like that. It's a dead-end for mainstream gaming.

I hope we see something real from Magic Leap and that their AR tech can actually deliver what they have shown in demo form. Augmented Reality that can fit seamlessly into the real world could absolutely be the 'Next Big Thing' in a way that VR can't be and I hope we can start to make some progress toward that this year.

Here's To a Great New Year!

That's all I've got for now. Keep checking in on our Mario Maker Challenge over the next few months and be on the lookout for an announcement of our next game around the time that challenge comes to an end.

I hope you had a great 2016 and I wish you an even better New Year in 2017. Thank you to all of our players and fans and I hope to give you something new to enjoy later this year!