Those who proclaimed the end of the console era of gaming seem to have spoken too soon. Sales of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are clipping along nicely, thank you very much. Meanwhile, the Steam platform continues to provide indie game developers, of which there are dozens in B.C., direct access to players. Things are looking up for those in the video-game industry. At the risk of being overly optimistic, we’re predicting a resurgence in the local scene, with more studios forming and even some additional publisher acquisitions in the near future.
Best studio that hasn’t released a game yet
Black Tusk Studios
Black Tusk had been stealthily working away on technology and ideas for a new game franchise for months before Microsoft finally revealed the existence of the studio in the fall of 2012. Those efforts will now be spun into a new Gears of War game for Xbox One, since Microsoft acquired the shooter franchise and assigned development to Black Tusk. Gears is almost as important to the Xbox brand as Halo, so it’s not overstating things to say there’s a lot riding on Black Tusk’s first game, whenever it gets released. We’re hoping to see it in 2015.
Best console experience that isn’t a game
Just downstairs from Black Tusk is BigPark, which got its start making casual games like Kinect Joy Ride but has since morphed into an “interactive TV studio”, in the words of manager David Seymour. The best “integrated viewing” experience coming out of the Crosstown building is how BigPark delivers the NFL on the Xbox One, for which Seymour’s team curates and blends together live games, news feeds, highlight reels, and fantasy-football results. It’s the kind of thing that showcases the potential of what television could become.
Best stealth developer
While TT Games is well-known as the studio that makes the fun and funny Lego video games, they don’t do it alone. Burnaby’s Hellbent Games does some of the development for TT, and in the past year has delivered Lego Friends for the Nintendo 3DS and Lego Ninjago: Nindroids for both 3DS and PlayStation Vita.
Best sports games
FIFA 14 and NHL 14
Not a lot of competition in this category, but don’t take anything away from the developers at EA Canada. The teams working on the soccer and hockey sims consistently improve on the quality of the experiences year in and year out, often adopting technology developed for the other franchise to make theirs better.
Best next-gen console experience
Dead Rising 3
Capcom Vancouver’s zombie game was certainly the best game available for the Xbox One when it launched last fall and was arguably better than anything that appeared on the PS4 when it was released. The PC version of the game, subtitled Apocalypse Edition, was released on September 5.
Best gardening game
Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare
What? You have to plant flora in this game, which to our mind easily qualifies the latest Plants vs. Zombies game as a gardening title. Unlike other PvZ games, Garden Warfare, developed at (sadly, now defunct) PopCap Vancouver, is a shooter game, with players choosing a side and going into battle in the suburbs. It’s crazy fun.
Best online game
This free-to-play Windows game gives players the chance to customize their own suit of battle armour that they can use to engage in 12-on-12 conflicts. That’s reason enough for recognition, but there’s also the fact that Piranha Games gave the MechWarrior community a mechanism to raise more than US$120,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society as a memorial to a young Vancouver girl. Bravo.
Best mobile role-playing game
Beyond the Dead
The first game from Gree’s Vancouver studio, the intricate and challenging Beyond the Dead is set during a zombie apocalypse and has players managing resources and training survivors to better eke out an existence.
Best mobile shooter
Warhammer 40,000: Carnage
With this blood-soaked shooter, Roadhouse Interactive has taken the crazy Space Marines mythology and spun it into a side-scrolling, Ork-slaying extravaganza that you can enjoy in one-minute chunks.
Best computer arcade game
From Vancouver indie studio Radial Games, this is a simple but raucous game—for Linux, OS X, and Windows—in which players fly rockets, duh, and try to shoot down other rockets. It’s still in an advanced-release stage, which means Rocketsrocketsrockets is still in development, but buying now gets you the game for cheaper and gets you into your rocket sooner.