From Fortnite to Red Dead Redemption, it’s been quite a year, writes Ronan Jennings.
Much like the biblical stories Christmas was founded upon, the tale of Sean Murray and No Man’s Sky is one of lessons learned. No Man’s Sky is one of history’s most vilified games, under-delivering on almost every promise when initially released two years ago. However, this year, Irishman Murray and his small team has stuck by the game, updating and improving it for free, transforming many aspects of No Man’s Sky and proving to fans that they really care.
As one developer claws back its reputation, another loses every ounce of good will. Bethesda, creator of the hugely successful Elder Scrolls and modern Fallout titles, gave a masterclass in how to treat customers poorly this year. They released a broken, unfinished online version of Fallout that nobody wanted, shipped shoddy plastic bags in a premium edition that had advertised high-end canvas bags, leaked customer data and, to cap it all off, they introduced hugely expensive micro-transactions to the game too.
We’re going to call it ‘two weeks’ because everyone is sick of hearing the name Fortnite. But truly, this was the year of Fortnite, Epic’s brilliantly opportunistic Battle Royale game that has eaten the mind of every child under the age of 60. How was Fortnite opportunistic? Developers Epic didn’t invent the Battle Royale genre – more on that in the next section – but they capitalized on the success of the game that did, by creating a child-friendly version that became a billion-euro juggernaut.
If you want to blame someone for Fortnite, then look no further than Irishman Brendan Greene. It was Greene’s game Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds that invented the Battle Royale genre and according to internet reports, Battlegrounds is neck and neck with Fortnite for popularity. They both have 30 million daily active users and a registered user base of over 300m. Astonishing. If you’re wondering why we hear more about Fortnite, it’s because children are playing that, while Battlegrounds is favoured by the Asian and adult players.
We removed ‘dead’ and ‘redemption’ from the game’s title, because neither fit the product in question. Red Dead Redemption 2 was a watershed moment for gaming, largely because of the ridiculous production values poured into it by developer Rockstar. We’ve never before seen such a slow-paced, detailed, cinematic and lived-in game world. Red Dead isn’t perfect by any means, but it is special nonetheless, a sign of where gaming is headed and what a team of 700 is capable of when given all the money required.
The gaming industry has a notoriously vocal minority online, which seems to comprise of young men staring into the void, and the void packing up and entering witness protection. But that doesn’t mean gamers shouldn’t have a voice. This year, we saw big companies like Blizzard, Bethesda and EA all back down or be put in their place by gamers finding a voice through social media and other channels, demanding that poor practices like loot boxes be fixed. Big companies seem to be getting message, as it’s hitting their bottom line – EA and Blizzard stock took big hits as a result of bad PR this year.
One of the year’s biggest surprises was that God of War, the sequel and reboot of Sony’s long-standing Olympic revenge tale, stands up to Red Dead Redemption 2 as game of 2018. We never thought a series that once saw us poking the eyes out from an Olympian god, before stamping on his head for good measure, would ever be considered measured and masterful – but God of War is just that. It’s a far more interesting and unique setting than Rockstar’s western, with the titular Kratos shepherding his son Atreus on a journey to deliver his wife’s ashes to the afterlife.
One of Japan’s leading developers finally got the megahit they have been stalking. Like one of the monsters in its meticulous world, Monster Hunter World grew into a behemoth, selling well over 10 million copies for Capcom. The Monster Hunter series has long been popular in Japan, but this western breakthrough means we can expect a lot more of the series on these shores – and potentially a few monstrous clones from other developers too.
Our favourite gamer events worldwide are the Games Done Quickly meet-ups, which take place at least twice a year.
The goal of GDQ, as it is known, is for players to display their ‘speed-running’ skills in the name of charity. In short, speed-running involves finishing the game as quickly as possible, often by exploiting genius bugs or through a literally mathematical knowledge of the game’s coding outcomes.
The real fun, however, comes from the commentary as players stream their runs, providing hilarious insight into much-loved and obscure games alike. This year GDQ raised almost $2m in funding for charity, more than ever before.
Finally, the Dublin Games Festival had its inaugural event this year and showed promise of things to come. While it followed the same agenda as other attempts before it, the weekend-long event was well run and organisers Aeonsparks Events seem to have an eye on the long term. Let’s hope that we’ve seen the birth of a proper, annual games conference for Irish gamers.