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Developers' Games of 2013

CD Projekt! Blow! Bithell! Molyneux! More!

We've had our say on 2013's best video games. And so have you. Now, it's the turn of the developers, the makers of the virtual experiences we so love. Read on for the games of 2013 according to the creators of the likes of Super Meat Boy, Assassin's Creed 4, XCOM, Oculus Rift and more, complete with Twitter bios.

David Goldfarb: Outsider, designer, writer. Game Director @ OVERKILL on PAYDAY 2. Ex-DICE, Guerrilla. Lead Designer & Writer BF Bad Company 2 and BF 3. Tweets != employer. Stockholm · locust9.tumblr.com.

"Didn't play much in 2013, to be honest, and what I did play was primarily indie. I remember Gone Home was a high point for me, although (spoiler: I really wanted it to be about monsters and a Lovecraftian grotto underneath the abandoned house...).


"I also played about 150 hours of Football Manager 2013 and thought it was genuinely outstanding. Mostly because the computer let me make some truly ridiculous deals."

Tommy Refenes: I'm the guy that made Super Meat Boy and I make other stuff and I have diabetes and a cat and a girlfriend that insists I state she exists.

"So I think my most favourite game of 2013 is a tie between GTA5 and Link Between Worlds.

"Link Between Worlds was wonderful and in my opinion it's the best Zelda game since OoT. I play through Link to the Past about once a year and I think I'll be playing Link Between Worlds right after I finish my yearly LttP playthrough.

"With GTA5... it's just fun. If I want to get on the back of a flat bed truck and shoot cars as the truck drives down the highway Matrix style I can do it and have a few minutes of fun doing so. It's a big playground at this point. I'm 85 per cent through the game and I still pick it up every once in a while just to mess around. I'm looking forward to some DLC. I hope they go crazy with it like they did with Undead Nightmare in Red Dead Redemption."

Adam Badowski, studio head at The Witcher developer CD Projekt Red.

"Grand Theft Auto 5 is a real masterpiece in terms of technology and gameplay. I really admire how Rockstar managed to get so much power out of current-gen consoles and take my hat off to how they put such an array of different kinds of gameplay into one, coherent experience. And there's also the fact that the game contains almost no bugs - it's really impressive when you think how big the project actually was."

Adrian Chmielarz: One of The Astronauts. Former Creative Director @ People Can Fly [Gears of War Judgment | Bulletstorm | Painkiller]. Poland · theastronauts.com.

"I loved this latest generation's swan song known as The Last of Us. It's an interesting mix of a developer trying something new while still lighting the candles for the Gods of Old School. I'll be honest, I did not trust this game until the very last second. But well, that last second was a stroke of genius and made me a believer. Apart from everything else, I was surprised how tight the gameplay was, how... humane was the combat. If a PS4 re-edition ever happens, I want to replay the whole thing on the highest possible difficulty level. So hey, Naughty Dog guys, make it available from the start, and not unlocked after at least one playthrough, will ya? Oh and btw, runners-up were Metro: Last Light and Gone Home."

"I don't like it when games treat me like I am dumb; unfortunately, most games do this. But Starseed Pilgrim does the opposite."

The Witness designer Jonathan Blow

Jonathan Blow: Game designer, previously of Braid, now of The Witness. Partner in IndieFund. San Francisco, CA, USA · the-witness.net/news.

"My favourite game of this year was Starseed Pilgrim (it actually came out in late 2012, but I only knew about it this year). I don't like it when games treat me like I am dumb; unfortunately, most games do this. But Starseed Pilgrim does the opposite. I think of it as one of the first games made for people who are at a high level of game literacy. It asks you to invest some effort so that you can understand, and in return, it keeps surprising you with new ideas and depth as it goes on. Most video games grow dull toward the end, once you have a clear view of what they are about, but Starseed Pilgrim just keeps coming.

"More recently, I have very much enjoyed the Heroes of Sokoban games by Jonah Ostroff. You can play them free in a web browser; they are made in PuzzleScript, a simple language for putting together puzzle games. Jonah Ostroff has apparently never made games before, but his design voice is clear, which is a rare and interesting thing. I hope he makes more games!"

Jean Guesdon: Design - Conception - Assassin's Creed.

"Tomb Raider. I loved the tone, the visuals and the very well-designed locations. Following Lara in her struggle for survival was a real adventure."

Jake Solomon: Designer of XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Loyal minion of Sid Meier. Husband of @JennyLeigh. Amateur lumberjack. Baltimore, MD.

"2013 was a strange year for games. I played, and really liked, the blockbusters this year, GTA5 and BioShock Infinite in particular. But I spent far more time playing independent games. Minecraft, old as it is, took most of my gaming hours by far. Papers, Please and Gone Home were, as a developer, exciting because they showed me that I still don't know what the medium of games is capable of.

"I unabashedly love games. I love them no matter what form they take, so even though it still surprises me when I say it, the Stanley Parable would have to be my favourite game of 2013. I got more pure, distilled enjoyment out of my time with the Stanley Parable than I did with any other game that came out this year. I smiled and laughed pretty much the whole time playing it. It deconstructs games better than most of the excellent criticism I've read this year, and with nary a whiff of cynicism. And let's not overthink it, if you love games, it's just fun as hell to play."

Jonathan Morin: Watch_Dogs - Creative Director. Ubisoft Montreal · designcave.typepad.com.

"To be honest, I spent most of the year catching up on 2012. Watch Dogs is taking a lot of my time! Dishonored was a gem of a game for me during these catch up gaming sessions. But since you are asking for 2013, I will say XCOM: Enemy Unknown (iOS). Yes, I was a latecomer on this one, but playing it on my iPad was perfect for the busy days. The level of engagement I had with my troops is a testament to how good this game is. I feel like the team shipped a XCOM testament of love in a box and I want to deeply thank them for that. It really is a great game."

"Spelunky itself isn't new this year, but the PC version and its Daily Challenge mode are, and nothing else has consumed me like it."

Gunpoint designer Tom Francis
Watch on YouTube

Tom Francis: Designer and writer of @GunpointGame, writer of some stuff for @PC_Gamer, two stories in the Machine of Death collections, and this blog: Bath, UK · pentadact.com.

"Spelunky itself isn't new this year, but the PC version and its Daily Challenge mode are, and nothing else has consumed me like it. The platformer randomly generates its levels, but each daily challenge is the same set for everyone. Comparing notes with friends became half the fun, and one by one we all graduated to recording videos of our attempts and uploading them. That turned into a community we called The Spelunky Explorers Club, and I became friends with people I hardly knew just through watching each other play the same horrible nightmares of traps and monsters we'd just died to."

Co-op heist game Monaco gets Redshirt designer Mitu Khandaker's vote.

Mitu Khandaker: Indie game dev of Redshirt. Games PhD researcher. Social justice and space-nerdery. BAFTA Breakthrough Brit. Married to @BurningNorth. UK · thetiniestshark.com.

"The game I 'enjoyed' the most in 2013 is tough. If you were to ask me my overall game of the year, I'd probably cheat and say Papo & Yo (hey, it had a PC release this year!) as that has become one of my favourite ever games. But, in terms of the game I got the most moment-to-moment enjoyment out of this year, it was probably Monaco; in particular, when played with friends. The beauty of Monaco, for me, exists in the moments of spectacular failure to execute a plan, then the hilarious-fudging which ensues, and that kind of thing is fantastic, and it reminds me of the beauty of playing pen and paper RPGs, where the fun comes from the group dynamic of enjoying misfortune together."

Sunni Pavlovic: Studio manager, thatgamecompany. All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost. Los Angeles.

"DEVICE 6 exhibits the potential of the interactive medium on touch devices with impressive polish. It's rare to come across an app that satisfies my desire to deeply engage in a game experience while also taking full advantage of a mobile touch screen."

"It might not be as beautifully heartfelt as Gone Home, or as surprisingly tight as Killzone Mercs, but Assassin's Creed 4 feels like a homecoming."

Volume developer Mike Bithell

Mike Bithell: Creator of the overrated Thomas Was Alone, and its disappointing follow up, Volume. Monetize the hell out of anything I make on YouTube. I do not have a castle. London, at a computer · mikebithellgames.com.

"Assassin's Creed 4. I've been a bit of a massive fan of Assassin's Creed since the start. I remember I actually bought my first HD telly to play the first game on. They started off as an awesome hybrid of my favourite genres, platforming, stealth and 'walk around a big map collecting meaningless trinkets'.

"It's always been a franchise of promises. The original was a flawed tech demo which ignited my imagination, but was a system in search of a game. 2 fixed a lot of that, and might have been the most cohesive to date, and unlike the rest of the universe, I loved the iterative improvements of Ezio's yearly adventures after that. Is it OK to admit that 3 was weak? The second I stopped being Kenway, I really struggled to stay interested. It felt diluted, and I'm far less familiar and attached to the setting than Europe.

"I put off buying AC4. It's the first one I didn't buy on release day. And yet, well, it's brilliant. Narratively, the franchise has finally learned to have a sense of humour, with both the pirate and the tech company stuff working as fun satire and silly adventure. Mechanically they've stuck with what works, while solidifying boat combat. And gone is the useless economy of previous games, replaced by very clever overlapping currency systems which promote diverse sandbox play. It's clever. Very clever.

"So yeah, it might not be as beautifully heartfelt as Gone Home, or as surprisingly tight as Killzone Mercs, but AC4 feels like a homecoming, it feels like a developer finally arriving at an objective they set themselves years ago. Time for the camera to sweep around and for someone to jump into a hay bale."

Dan Pinchbeck: He Do the Strogg in Different Voices. Brighton, UK · thechineseroom.co.uk.

Dan Pinchbeck of Everybody's Gone to the Rapture developer The Chinese Room picks Metro: Last Light as 2013 GotY.

"Fave game of 2013 has to be Metro: Last Light. When it comes to environmental storytelling, I just don't think anyone can touch 4A right now. The sense of place they've created in the Metro comes as close as any game I've played to Black Mesa, I really do think it's that good. The writing is fantastic. I love that the biggest reward of the stealth system is less about easier combat than getting to earwig the NPC dialogue, which is often brilliant. It's not a perfect game at all, but it's got that rare thing, which is real heart and soul."

Palmer Luckey: I am a technology enthusiast, a writer, a modder, and the founder of the ModRetro Forums and OculusVR Inc. Long Beach, California · oculusvr.com.

"Grand Theft Auto 5. I wish I could point to some sophisticated indie game and tell you why I liked it before it was cool, but GTA5 is a stellar example of what a game can become with a multi-hundred-million dollar AAA mega budget. Sure, I can't say the story or gameplay is inspired or innovative, but that is not why you play GTA! It manages to maintain a high standard of quality across a vast number of locales, vehicles, missions, characters, art and animations. Pretty much everything in the game is a best-in-class example of how to make a game if you have unlimited money.

"The multiplayer mini-games are a lot better than you would expect, the racing alone has more depth and variety than a lot of dedicated racing games! I have burned way too much time in online mode exploring the map and getting into random firefights and races. All the mind games that go on are insane. People will team up one minute and blow up personal vehicles the next, ride in a helicopter together for 30 minutes and strand their copilot in the wilderness on the 31st minute. You can pretty much always bet on being betrayed eventually. It makes everyone extremely paranoid, which is something you don't see in most online games that clearly define what team you are on. I don't know if the real criminal world is quite like that, but it lines up with what I imagine it to be, and that is good enough."

"There were combat sections in The Last of Us that were among the greatest experiences I've ever had in a video game, and it goes down as the best single-player game I've ever played. Incredible."

Scattered Entertainment boss Ben Cousins

Ben Cousins: General Manager, Scattered Entertainment - creators of The Drowning on iOS (Eurogamer 4/10). Stockholm · bencousins.com.

"My most anticipated game this time last year was BioShock Infinite. I had a lot of fun with that game, but it was astonishing how much better The Last of Us was in its implementation of most of the same ideas.

"Both were plot-heavy ultra violent single-player focussed AAA console games. Both had a world-weary morally ambiguous male lead and a sassy daughter-figure sidekick. Both had an action focus and RPG elements (ironically the Naughty Dog game had heavier RPG mechanics than Irrational's). For me, The Last of Us was the winner by an almost embarrassing degree. The world made more sense. The characters more believable and well-rounded. The plot more engrossing (and easier to grasp), and most importantly the gameplay was simply more fun.

"There were combat sections in The Last of Us that were among the greatest experiences I've ever had in a video game, and it goes down as the best single-player game I've ever played. Incredible."

"I just feel I am Trevor. I want to be Trevor! I've never empathised with a character so much!"

Godus designer Peter Molyneux

Peter Molyneux: A Designer/Director of computer entertainment. Guildford.

"That's easy. It's not only my game of 2013, it's the game that defined the last generation, and that's obviously Grand Theft Auto 5. It was stunning, in every way. The word is stunning. The realisation of the world. The refinement of the gameplay. The fantastic Trevor character. I just feel I am Trevor. I want to be Trevor! I've never empathised with a character so much! It was perfection. The bastards.

"They do have an awful lot of money, but other people have spent an awful lot of money. They've spent their money well. It defines this generation in a brilliant, amazing and incredible way. It's defined what a free-roaming game is, defined how you can weave a story into that free-roaming game. And all the mechanics I felt were pretty solid."

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About the Author
Wesley Yin-Poole avatar

Wesley Yin-Poole


Wesley likes news, interviews, and more news. He also likes Street Fighter more than anyone can get him to shut up about it.

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