Skip to main content

Developers' Games of 2012

Levine! Molyneux! Dean Hall!

You lot have your fun with this. And we do, too. So it's only fair that game developers, the people who smash the virtual hammers onto the virtual anvils, get their chance. What are the games of 2012 according to the likes of Ken Levine, Peter Molyneux and other game design luminaries? Read on to find out.

Far Cry 3 (Ubisoft Montreal, Ubisoft)

Peter Molyneux is founder of 22cans, developer of Curiosity and Project Godus.

"My favourite console game, which surprised me an awful lot, was Far Cry 3. They got the balance of storytelling and characters and brutality and the guilty pleasure you get from doing bad, naughty things and the difficulty curve all right. For me it was the best open world first-person experience I've had. Previously to that it was probably Red Dead Redemption. I'm still playing it now and I'm really enjoying it. I've been flame-throwing things and doing things I feel guilty about but I think it's wonderful and fantastic."

Journey (thatgamecompany, Sony Computer Entertainment)

Chris Delay is co-founder of Prison Architect developer Introversion Software.

"Right from the very start I knew I was going to love the game for its incredible atmosphere and tone. I jumped around, I flew, I collected things, I admired the artistry and the sounds and the overwhelming sense of being isolated and alone, and for a while I thought this was a pretty good game. And then as I was trying to solve what seemed like a basic bridge puzzle something incredible happened - another player appeared in my game. I have no idea who they were, they weren't named or labelled or voiced, but we quickly learnt to co-operate and this became a shared experience. Even though they only thing we could say to each other was a symbol, somehow we communicated with ease. Something about the civilisation ruins around us and the incredibly sombre atmosphere, mixed with the anonymous stranger that you are travelling with, makes the feel of this game totally unique. As each chapter passed I found myself becoming more and more engrossed by the incredible visuals and the truly astonishing music, to the feel of sliding down the side of a sand dune together, and by the craftsmanship that had gone into engineering just the right environment that I could actually feel an attachment to such an unknown stranger.

"I knew this was a game I was going to play through in a single sitting. But just as we were climbing the freezing cold mountainside near the end, real life interrupted - my 11 month old baby woke up in the next room and started crying. I was totally torn in this quite unusual dilemma. Normally this would be a no-brainer, I'd just pause and come back, but I really didn't want to abandon my game partner that had been with me since the first zone. But I had to. I put the controller down and went next door, and tried to deal with my son as best I could. I was rocking him to sleep and at the same time I could see my game partner nudging my avatar, signalling to me, trying to figure out why I'd stopped moving. I had to turn away.

"I came back to the game ten or fifteen minutes later, and I was alone on the mountainside. I spent a while wandering around trying to see if I could find him, but he'd gone. With an incredibly heavy heart I pushed on, climbing to the very top and entering the final section alone. For anyone who has experienced it themselves, perhaps they'll understand just how overwhelmingly beautiful and joyous the final five minutes are, especially coming as they do immediately after the freezing and desolate mountainside  But for me it was tinged with an incredible sadness, that I'd abandoned my game partner so near the end, and that I (and he) had therefore completed our journeys alone.

"Journey is my game of 2012 because it made me feel something more keenly than any other game I have ever played."

Journey is my game of 2012 because it made me feel something more keenly than any other game I have ever played

Chris Delay, co-founder of Introversion

Ragnar Tornquist is creative director of The Secret World at Funcom and lead designer of The Longest Journey/Dreamfall: The Longest Journey.

"A single, heartbreaking moment in Journey made me realise that this would be my favourite game of 2012.

"Traversing a series of platforms inside a tower, I'd lost sight of my companion. Our relationship had been brief, but our shared experiences had - in my mind - created a real bond between us. I felt closer to this person than I've ever felt to anyone in a game. So I waited, for a long time. Until the moment arrived when I finally realised my companion was gone. And I would never truly know him or her. We had shared something beautiful, and I mourned the end of our relationship. I don't think any game has ever made feel quite so human.

"Journey isn't just my favourite game of 2012; it might be my favourite game of all time.

Massteroid (Jasonal, Xbox Live Indie Games)

Sheldon Pacotti was the principal writer for the original Deus Ex series, and creator of Cell: Emergence.

"Having spent most of my 2012 gaming hours on completely obscure indie games, very heavily centred on XBLIG, it's no surprise the game I remember most fondly is one I played as an XBLIG reviewer: Massteroid. In this game you are an asteroid that tries to grow as big as possible by smashing into space junk. Failure means burning up in the earth's atmosphere, moderate success means you kill a mailman, and the ultimate success means you destroy the planet. I can't describe the elation on my eight-year-old's face when he ran through the house proclaiming he had at last killed all seven billion inhabitants of our world.

"For me, Massteroid is a model for one ideal type of indie game: that of a simple concept executed extremely well and supported with just the right narrative touches at every level of the design. As the player lives the hopeful journey of a malicious asteroid, suffering under an exponential difficulty curve implicitly created by his own increasing size, every object in space becomes emotionally charged with the power of life and death.

"The game also has just enough 'whimsy', for instance the mode where you create an asteroid out of food, to give it the quality of a friendly companion who knows just when to crack a joke. A game like Massteroid seems brain-dead simple on the surface but is a surprisingly hard ideal to achieve."

Mark of the Ninja (Klei Entertainment, Microsoft Studios)

Tom Bissell is a journalist, critic, video game advocate and writer on Gears of War: Judgment.

"My favourite game of last year was Mark of the Ninja. It was bleak, stylish, weird and ingenious. Plus it gave you a hell of a lot of game in a pretty enticing package. The moment I finished, I started playing it again, which I did with nothing else this year. My other two favourites were Journey, both for its incredibly lovely re-envisioning of what co-op can be and its what-if-Tatooine-were-Islamicized art style, and Papo & Yo, an emotionally harrowing game that had the guts to be personal and not worry so much about how 'good' its mechanics were."

Jake Solomon, the lead designer, came up to play BioShock and I fanboyed all over him. It got kinda gross

Irrational Games' Ken Levine

XCOM: Enemy Unknown (Firaxis, 2K Games)

Ken Levine is co-founder of BioShock Infinite developer Irrational Games.

"There are some games I'm going to absolutely adore which I haven't got to yet, which are the big story-based games like Dishonored and Spec Ops. I'm playing XCOM non-stop. I'm trying to win Iron Man Classic. I'm not succeeding. I've probably started 50 games. It's good because I come home after working late and play a battle or two and you're done. It just scratches an itch I haven't had scratched in twenty years - that sounds kinda gross. First Encounter was twenty years ago and it was my absolute favourite game. I'm old as hell. It was terrific.

"Jake Solomon, the lead designer, came up to play BioShock and I fanboyed all over him. It got kinda gross. He scratched that itch. Thanks for scratching that itch! He's like, 'let me go home, please!'"

Raphael Colantonio, co-creator of Dishonored at Arkane Studios.

"For me it's XCOM so far, but I suspect that I will like Far Cry 3 a lot too. I've been wanting to play a turn-based tactical game such as XCOM since, well, since the original X-COM. It was great to feel that thrill again."

Harvey Smith, co-creator of Dishonored at Arkane Studios.

"I also loved XCOM. Additionally, Journey, FTL and Borderlands 2 would rank high."

Fez. It took five years for a reason

Diamond Trust of London developer Jason Rohrer

Fez (Polytron, Microsoft Studios)

Jason Rohrer is the developer of Diamond Trust of London.

"Fez. It took five years for a reason. In fact, it's astounding that two people could pull off something so massive in such a short amount of time. Every trixel in the right place."

Scott Warner is lead game designer of Halo 4 at 343 Industries.

"While there have been a lot of big AAA games that I really enjoyed this year (Dishonored and Assassin's Creed 3, just to name a couple) the game that filled me with wonder like no other was Fez. I'm sort of an explorer-type player so games that deliver unique universes that stoke the need in me to wander around and discover usually end up being my favourites, and Fez definitely nailed that for me.

"The art, music, puzzles and pacing of Fez are just perfectly blended together to create an experience that almost didn't even require a goal for me to enjoy; it reminded me in a way of Q? games like Rez or Lumines where so much of my enjoyment comes from the feeling of being in the experience rather than any specific gameplay goal. Hopefully Mr. Fish can chill out a bit and make some more great games because Fez certainly demonstrated a lot of future potential."

CSR Racing (Boss Alien)

Ben Cousins is general manager of Scattered Entertainment and head of DeNA's European Studios. Ben is working on the upcoming mobile FPS The Drowning.

"CSR Racing is one of those games that, as a developer, impresses on multiple levels. First of all there's a fabulously tight gameplay loop based around very simple, easy to learn single-finger controls that are incredibly hard to fully master. Secondly there's really high quality, realistic graphics that run on a multitude of mobile devices and don't require a massive download. Thirdly there's the very effective creation of a Need For Speed type universe without the titanic budget for cut scenes, celebrity cameos and big budget music. Finally there's the astonishing financial performance - balancing a top grossing game with legions of people enjoying the game for free.

"CSR is the game from 2012 that proves two things: one, there is a market for more high end 3D free-to-play games on mobile, and two, that you don't need to translate a big console IP to the platform to have success in this space."

Kerbal Space Program (Squad)

Dean “Rocket” Hall is creator of DayZ, the ArmA 2 mod, at Bohemia Interactive Studio.

"My favourite game, hands down, is Kerbal Space Program. I just love the freedom the game gives, it's approach to user generated content and the innovation that they have shown with the Unity engine. Everything from their pricing model to their liaison with the community is really an inspiration to me. I am not normally a fan of stylized games, but the Kerbonauts just feel exactly right. For me, it is hands down my favourite game for 2012. I'm really excited for the upcoming 0.18 patch that will be introducing some excellent new features."

It makes me want to write a new football game myself

Jon Hare, creator of Sensible World of Soccer

This article contained embedded media which can no longer be displayed.

New Star Soccer (Simon Read, New Star Games)

Jon Hare, creator of Sensible Soccer, Canon Fodder and now Word Explorer.

"The game I have most enjoyed this year is without doubt New Star Soccer on the iPhone. The game has managed to capture the spirit of Sensible World of Soccer and Football Manager, both classic UK developed football games, and execute them perfectly for the smartphone platform. The thing that immediately appeals about the game is the rhythm of play, it has been perfectly layered into small one or two second actions, saveable at any point, to fit in with the micro game snacking environment that we all live and work in, particularly with our phones, where we might be on public transport or hanging around trying to kill the odd minute or two.

"I also like the big world league structure and the fact that it is obviously unlicensed. Who needs licenses? In fact I am currently in the top ten on quite a few of the All Time Game Center leaderboards for this game, something I have never achieved or cared about before on any other game on any platform. Well done to Si Read for making it happen, to me he is a new hero of British games development, and it makes me want to write a new football game myself."

Final Fantasy Tactics (Square Enix)

Colin Johanson is game director of Guild Wars 2.

"Mine is sort of a weird one but it's based heavily in nostalgia. My favorite game this year was re-playing Final Fantasy Tactics on the iPad, via the War of the Lions port. This is one of my all time favorite games, and though the port had a couple of issues it still stood out to me as the best game I played this year.

And the rest...

Chris Roberts, creator of Wing Commander and now upcoming space sim Star Citizen.

"I don't think I've properly played a game this year (as in finished it) as I've been so busy with Star Citizen. Battlefield 3, Skyrim and Diablo 3 are the last three games I played (all PC) but I never got beyond playing them for a few hours as I didn't have the couple of weeks I usually devote to a hardcore game."

Chris Avellone is creative director of Project Eternity and South Park: The Stick of Truth developer Obsidian Entertainment.

"My favourite game this year is tied between FTL and Capsized, both of which I find I keep returning to again and again when I have some downtime just because the moment-to-moment fun is so good. I'm terrible at both, but the gameplay for both appeals to my predatory animal brain to move-forward-and-destroy-all-opposition."

Read this next