Developers come and go. Such is the gaming business, such is life.
But sometimes, it can feel like the developers that have gone, never should have went. The video game industry is constantly changing and, as a result, even the greatest of developers can fall by the wayside, or otherwise lose the touch that made them standout.
It’s easy to mourn those developers gone by, but if you look closely enough you’ll find that for every developer that falls, another twenty rise that were clearly influenced by them. In some rare cases, you even get a developer who feels like the direct descendant of greats gone past.
So before you find yourself longing for those great developers of the past, be sure to check out some of these new comers who so often feel like the spiritual successor to those legends.
In my mind, there are few greater compliments you can pay to a developer than to compare them to Treasure.
Treasure‘s games were almost always of the highest quality, but what always impressed me about them was how unique they were. The studio rarely made the same kind of game twice, yet they maintained a standard of excellence throughout all their endeavors that made it so you always knew you were playing a Treasure game, based off the personal experience alone.
Vlambeer may be young, but they’re already exhibiting that same quality. They have this incredible ability to absolutely nail a fundamental game concept, then infuse it with so much charm, that the title becomes an immediately noteworthy experience, without real equal. Many have tried to copy Vlambeer’s efforts (the amazing Vlambeer Clone Tycoon emphasizes this), but it’s impossible to replicate the studio’s personality.
While Treasure still does make an occasional development appearance, if you want to re-live the feeling of playing something made by the legendary studio in their prime, without dipping into nostalgia, play anything made by Vlambeer.
Id Software/Flying Wild Hog
I feel like I’m going to regret not putting this in all caps, or meme form, but let me start this comparison by saying that Flying Wild Hog has not made anything on the level of Doom or Wolfenstein yet.
Rather this comparison stems from the similarity in style between the two studios. Id Studios used to be the undisputed champions of balls out first-person-shooters, that seemingly never aimed to be historically significant, but ended up being so due to how tightly structured, and just plain fun, those games were.
Flying Wild Hog‘s history may be limited to a remake and a so-so original effort, but even from that small sampling, it’s obvious that they’ve got an uncommon understanding for how old school FPS games worked. Their games retain the formula, and feel of those 90′s shooters, but also account for the innovations made in the genre since then, resulting in something both unique and familiar.
While Flying Wild Hog is still a breakthrough hit away from being truly on the map, I feel that they are a couple years away from being one of the premiere names in high quality shooters.
Sierra Entertainment/Telltale Studios
Telltale are often compared to LucusArts, but I feel they share more similarities with Sierra Entertainment, the makers of King’s Quest, Leisure Suit Larry, Gabriel Knight and others.
The biggest reason for this, is the way both companies maintained several major franchises, and spent most of their time developing those worlds further, while perfecting the gameplay formula they revolved around, as opposed to pursuing entirely new endeavors.
That may sound like a knock, but it’s really far from it. Sierra got to a point where their adventure game formula was down pat, and it allowed them to devote their efforts instead to exploring trickier domains, such as writing original plots, or crafting memorable characters.
The same could be said of Telltale. While Sierra eventually got away from adventure games, I’ll always remember them for those series, regardless of how good their other games may be. I feel the story of Telltale will largely be the same.
In truth, there is no historical equivalent for Simogo. Their games defy classification, and even at their worst are never anything less than intriguing. Unfortunately, because they’re primarily a mobile developer, you may not be aware of them.
In a way, they remind me of Bullfrog Productions.
Bullfrog were ambitious to say the least. A couple of sequels aside, their games routinely revolved around a concept that was never thought of before. What’s amazing about that is the final product rarely felt experimental, and instead was usually a confident embodiment of even the most outlandish ideas.
Bullfrog never seemed interested in re-treading the same design ground, and neither does Simogo. If you’re a fan of outside the box gaming, you have to be paying attention to them right now.
Rare Ltd./Platinum Games
It amazes me to think that there will be a generation of gamers who don’t know how great Rare was. The studio’s story may inevitably be whittled down to their status as a $375 million failure (which is, in and of itself, debatable), but there was a time when the Rare logo was synonymous with greatness.
Rare made games that required a concentrated effort to not fall in love with, and they did it across a variety of genres.
Platinum Games may not inspire the same awe the Rare name once did, but believe me when I say they’re getting there. Comprised largely of former members of Clover Studio (makers of Viewtiful Joe and Okami), Platinum have that Rare quality (no pun intended) of making games with qualities so obvious, that only the most scrupulous of nitpicking reveals their faults.
That’s not to say they’re perfect games, they’re often far from it, but each Platinum Games title is an experience that often goes beyond the traditional ways we judge and analyze games. That’s what made Rare so great, and that’s what makes Platinum worthy of the comparison.