In a previous article, I listed some of the less-than-stellar things to happen to the world of gaming in 2012. After all, it’s not every industry that releases a dancing game where Darth Vader does a move called “the trash compactor.”
But as a glass-half-full kind of person (and it was full before I drank half of it), I can always see reasons to celebrate. And without looking too hard, I found the gaming industry had a lot to be proud of in 2012.
10. Reddit rallies to end Civilization II war
Redditor Lycerius was a fan of Civilization II and had already put significant time into his Celtic empire when Civilization III came out. So instead of putting aside his old game, he kept going. And going. And going. Ten years later, he posted his results to Reddit. It seems that the game had locked itself into a 1700-year war. “The world is a hellish nightmare of suffering and devastation,” he wrote.
So why is this a good thing in the world of gaming?
Reddit’s response, that’s why. Over three thousands comments came Lycerius’ way, offering advice on how to end the conflict, now known as The Eternal War. In fact, a sub-reddit was created to solve this destructive conflict and bring order to the Civ II game. From there, short story writers contributed their take on World War E, creating yet another sub-reddit. Redditor Padthai93 even compiled a collection of these short stories.
(At one point, there was a push to create a fan-produced mini-series based on The Eternal War, although that project seems to have stalled for lack of artists. That hasn’t stopped one fan from creating the game-inspired theme here.)
Best of all, Redditor Stumpster figured out how to end the war in a relatively brief fifty-eight years.
9. Guild Wars 2 is genuinely free to play
It’s the end of 2012, and the awards for Guild Wars 2 (GW2) are starting to roll in. But it’s not on this list because of its gorgeous graphics, fun combat, and addictive crafting system. It’s here because of the money, honey.
GW2 charged players an upfront one-time fee…and that’s it. No monthly charges, no broken “free to play” gameplay that hobbles players in an effort to make them pay. Yes, it has a cash store, but it charges realistic prices not overinflated ones, and you’re not required to use it. You may recall this economic model as “buying a game.”
And with new content—so far, there have been three special events for the last three months with at least one more planned—I consider GW2 a terrific experience for the price of $44.99.
Gw2 reminds the world that paying up front for a good game, even if it is an MMO, is still a valid and successful business model. If only SWTOR had got that memo.
8. Steam on Linux
Steam is now on Linux. To most, this isn’t important news; after all, not many games support Linux directly (though many work under emulation through projects like Wine). But to more than friends of Linus Torvalds, this could be the most interesting development in the gaming space in quite some time.
Many see this move as a sign of Valve’s future intentions. As well as bringing out formal Linux support, Valve has also all-but announced a gaming PC for the living room, or “Steam Box.” Considering Gabe Newell called Windows 8 a catastrophe, it seems virtually certain that this will run Linux–and that’s a direct shot across the bows of not just Microsoft but Sony and Nintendo too. Play this just right, and Valve could steal the living room right out from under everyone.
Whatever you think of their chances, challenging the status quo can only be good for gamers, whatever your choice of platform.
7. The Space Sim is back
Despite our fond memories of Wing Commander and the X-Wing/Tie-Fighter games, Freespace 2, and Freelancer—not to mention the evergreen popularity of Eve Online–space simulators don’t get nearly enough love.
So it came as a pleasant surprise when Chris Roberts (creator of Wing Commander and Freelancer) announced Star Citizen as a Kickstarter project. Even more surprising, but immensely satisfying, for space sim fans, is that the project raised $2.1 million, exceeding the projects goal of $500,000.
And if that wasn’t enough, David Braben (Elite) returned from releasing the Raspberry Pi to announce Elite: Dangerous on Kickstarter. As of December 17, the campaign is still running and just over of £750,000 out of a goal of £1,250,000. As you may know, Elite, the great-grandaddy of the genre, introduced the world to 3D space games, as well as the motif of the scrappy independent trader struggling to survive in an indifferent universe. Many have followed, but Braben co-founded this genre (along with Ian Bell), so for space gamers, his return is equivalent to Steve Jobs returning to Apple.
Ooo, and if you support with £35 or more, you get a downloadable copy of the sequel to Robert Holdstock’s “The Dark Wheel,” a novel that came with the original game.
I’ll admit, when I saw the rendering of a Cobra spacecraft in docking maneuvers, my heart leapt just a little: The last time I saw one of ships, it was a wireframe. (Yes, I’m being retro. When you’re old enough, you’ll be retro too.)
6. Source Filmmaker
Machinima, simply put, is a way to create your own movies using assets found in videogames. The Source Filmmaker (SFM) beats machinima up in the schoolyard and takes its lunch money.
According to a YouTube introduction of what SFM has to offer, virtual filmmakers “can animate, create posters, and make movies, all by repurposing the videogame world into a virtual movie studio.” By using the world of Team Fortress 2, users can “reshoot, reanimate, and re-edit it to make it [the footage] your own.”
It’s powerful, it’s fun, it’s absolutely free. My only complaint: It’s PC only, so Mac users have to sit this one out.
Valve has a helpful series of tutorials to get you started. And with determination and practice, Whedon wannabes can create some excellent movies like this one, “Bad Medicine,” by Zachariah Scott.
5. Journey is nominated for a Grammy
Some game soundtracks are every bit as enchanting as music in the same space (such as classical or electronica). But until 2012, the Grammy Awards treated videogames as the red-headed stepchild of the music world. No longer. This year is the year that Journey was nominated for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media. (Sure, a song in Civilization 4 was nominated, but that track wasn’t originally composed for the game.)
In an email sent to me by composer Chance Thomas, “What many people don’t realize is how long we’ve been working towards this. Some of us started working on this back in the late 1990’s, as chronicled in Aaron Mark’s article for Gamasutra in 2000.”
Thomas gave credit to Diane Theriot and Leslie Ann Jones of NARAS for their work toward giving videogame soundtracks the legitimacy they deserve.
4. ArenaNet calls out foul-mouthed gamers
ArenaNet, makers of this year’s MMO success Guild Wars 2, decided that they didn’t want griefers in their game, ruining their players’ online gaming experience, because gamers would much rather fight dragons than trolls. So like many MMOs who want to keep their servers free from less-than-friendly smack talk, ArenaNet banned foul-mouthed gamers.
Unlike other MMOs, ArenaNet also called these out gamers on Reddit.
In ArenaNet’s reddit, “Suspensions for Offensive Names and Inappropriate Behavior,” many gamers asked the official support team exactly why they were banned. So the support team responded by (very publically) repeating the foul language that caused them to be banned in the first place.
As you can see from the over 5000 comments on this thread, much hilarity ensued.
3. Stealth ‘Em Ups win the year 2012
As Wikipedia will tell you, stealth has been an important element of gameplay since 1981, but it wasn’t until 2012 that stealth games became the new black: This is the year it became as popular to quietly take down an opponent from behind than it is to attack her face on.
Assassin’s Creed has been embracing this style of combat and shadowy ethos for years, but in 2012, Assassin’s Creed III has been only one of five entries in the stealth genre. Mark of the Ninja, Stealth Bastard Deluxe, Dishonored, and Hitman: Absolution also had a slice of sly pie. And after spending untold minutes in Hitman arranging for an enemy to electrocute himself on a fence, I can tell you that stealth ‘em ups are delicious.
2. Twitterer asks #1reasonwhy. Women answer #1reasontobe
Games project specialist Luke Crane tweeted, “Why are there so few lady game creators?” The answer: So many reasons, and female games developers spoke up with tales of work-related struggles with the #1reasonwhy hashtag.
But that’s not the end of that particular tweetstorm. In response, Rhianna Pratchett (writer of Heavenly Sword and the upcoming Tomb Raider) created the #1reasontobe hashtag, with female games developers explaining why they love their jobs.
Responses include Meguey Baker’s “Women 18 & up represent a significantly greater portion of the game-playing population (30%) than boys age 17 or less (18%)” and LM Lockhart’s “Because most men in the industry are accepting/inclusive/supportive. Don’t let the bad apples dissuade you from going for it.”
1. Steam Greenlight gives indie developers a leg up
Developing a videogame is a difficult enough process without the equally difficult process of bringing the game to market. Now Valve has a way for developers to get their game an audience on Steam, its successful marketplace: Steam Greenlight. Submit your game—in any stage of completion—and fans will vote on whether it becomes selected for distribution.
This gives many indie developers the tantalizing possibility to get their community-voted games into the living room without the onerous costs and restrictions placed on them by the traditional console makers.
And just to underline how cool it is, Valve green lit Black Mesa, a remake of one of its own games (Half-Life). Now gamers’ dollars are going to a developer who is competing directly with Valve’s own title. When you consider how tightly most companies hold onto their intellectual property, it’s remarkable just for that.