Epic story, sublime design, and controller support

Why I Love is a series of guest editorials on GamesIndustry.biz intended to showcase the ways in which game developers appreciate each other’s work. Development is typically a team effort, and it’s about time we had a Why I Love column that reflects that in some way. To that end, this installment was contributed by a quintet of developers from Ghost Story Games, each one picking their own game to write about.

Why I Love Dota 2

Erik Irland – Lead Programmer

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I hate Dota 2. It’s five minutes into a match and my team is already down eight kills. I try to stay positive, but deep down I know there is no way we’re winning this game. Mistakes were made, and the enemy carry is two-shotting me now. Why do I even play this game?

You can’t talk about the highs of Dota 2 without talking about the lows. At its best, Dota 2 is a sublime gaming experience. When you pick the right hero for the situation, when you correctly predict what’s going to happen in the game, when you buy the perfect item, when your team comes together and uses all their abilities in perfect coordination, there is nothing I’ve experienced that is quite as satisfying. And let’s be clear, that’s partly because the game isn’t afraid to punish you when you get those things wrong. Your hand will not be held. This game may already be lost, but the way to get better is to jump back in the queue and try again.

Dota 2 is a game that isn’t afraid to give its heroes OP abilities and access to powerful items that enable a wide array of strategies because there is always a way to counter what your opponents are doing. Need a stun? There’s an item for that. Need healing? There’s an item for that. Getting wrecked by magic damage? Item. Mobility? There are several. Put all of this together and every game becomes a puzzle to solve. What is the enemy trying to do? What items are they likely to buy? Are they looking to end the game early? How can I counter their game plan? Every game consists of 10 heroes out of 115, and each player can buy any of well over a hundred items, so you’ll never have to solve the same puzzle twice.

The game also has a great esports scene. The production value for the large tournaments has made huge strides in the last few years, and Dota 2’s The International tournament is probably the best single event in esports. Around this esports scene are a bunch of great community personalities, shout-outs to my favorites: BSJ, Wagamama, Draskyl, Merlini, and Purge (his streams with Day9 are A+).

The game you’re down eight kills five minutes in? Rarely, you and your team will solve the puzzle, the game feels easy, and the world is a glorious place. I love Dota 2. And other times, you and your team will be up eight kills five minutes in and will figure out how to re-scramble the already solved Rubik’s Cube. I hate Dota 2.

Why I Love Doom

Leonie Manshanden – Executive Director

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Many years ago, Activision was publishing Doom 3 and I was responsible for launching the game in Europe’s Benelux region. I had never played any of the previous iterations, and my gameplay palate was very different at the time. I was hooked on colorful games like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 on the PlayStation and WarioWare on the Nintendo DS. I picked up a preview build of the game to figure out what this shooter was all about, and before I knew it, it was dark outside and I was the only person left in the office.

Never had I played a game with such intensity. Heart pounding, not knowing what’s behind that next dark corner. Terrified that somehow the battery in my flashlight would leave me hanging. I don’t even remember the details of that game. I was just too busy surviving.

In 2016, when Bethesda released a new Doom, my interest was immediately piqued, but I didn’t play it when it first came out, too worried that it could only disappoint. But boy was I wrong. Everything about the game just felt right. The controls were smooth and intuitive, the pace was perfect, the art and levels were solid, and the kills… The shots and the chainsaw felt so gratifying. The quests were being piecemealed to me in just the right order, and there was so much to explore when I felt like it…or to ignore when I wanted to just move on to the next area.

The game was the perfect combination of nostalgia and good game design, and I sincerely hope that everyone who worked so hard on it feels proud of their achievement.

Why I Love Final Fantasy X

Cheyenne Morrin – Assistant Dialogue Coordinator

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Even after multiple playthroughs and over 15 years since its release, I still love Final Fantasy X. There are few games that rival its breathtaking and attentive world-building. Spira is seething with fiends and languages, ideologies and Sin. And so many of the game spaces look and feel anthropologically informed, as if their art and design teams plucked its temples and villages from real-world places.

The developers practice the same passion with the game’s narrative. Each character has a rich backstory – their individual threads overlap and interconnect with other heroes and villains, weaving a striking tapestry of a dogmatic world striving for meaning. As a storyteller and game developer, Final Fantasy X will continue to be a driving inspiration for my own work.

Why I Love Final Fantasy XIV

Tom Brown – Quality Assurance Analyst

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There are so many ways I could sing the praises of Final Fantasy XIV – the way the 2.0 relaunch took something unpopular and turned it into something fantastic, the way it feels like both an MMO and a Final Fantasy in equal measure, the frequent high-quality content updates, the phenomenal soundtrack, the constant UI updates that I didn’t realize I wanted until I read the patch notes – but the thing I always come back to is much more mundane: the controller support.

Having played more World of Warcraft than I’d care to admit, I wrote off playing with a controller as something that’d never work. I like to raid, and I couldn’t imagine a controller giving me the feedback I needed to perform well in difficult content. Once I decided to give controllers a chance, I never touched a keyboard again. The button mapping, the UI, and even the way the game is balanced all facilitate playing on a controller. It’s the first thing that comes to mind when I start listing all of the reasons I love the game. You know, things like the beautiful environments, the top-notch localization, the exciting story, the great characters…

Why I love Kerbal Space Program

Seth Kendall – Senior Animator

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What’s not to love about Kerbal Space Program… Spending a week designing every part of a multistage lander craft and launch vehicle, two days piloting it, successfully negotiating a harrowing landing to be balanced precariously on the edge of a crater, only to discover on this distant moon that your antenna is blocking the hatch and you can’t get out. Then spending another two weeks designing an absurdly complex rescue mission involving multiple launches, building a craft in orbit, lowering a quad-engine lander crane to attach and lift the stranded vessel back into space, transferring the lander to another vessel to bring it back home and safely land it once again… only to realize you could have just sent a tiny little probe to break off the antenna… These are the joys of Kerbal Space Program.

After I enjoyed the career mode for almost a year and abandoned it after a particularly disastrous, and meticulously planned, mission to the Jool system (the game’s analogue of Jupiter), my son finally achieved the ripe old age of 7 and made me fall in love with the game all over again, this time revealing the fun one can have with the unlimited resources and parts of sandbox mode.

Together, we are slowly building an interplanetary empire while learning about orbital mechanics, thrust-to-weight ratios, valuable engineering concepts like center of mass, center of thrust, aerodynamics, drag, and the relationship between mass, thrust, and gravity, all brought to life through daily moments of panic, anticipation, victory, and failure. My son is learning how to quickly calculate half of his estimated burn times so he knows when to start a burn maneuver. He is working on addition of high numbers so he can figure out if his stages will produce enough delta-v to reach the desired target destinations. And all this from a kid who “hates” doing math. I can’t recommend the game enough for any parent with a kid remotely interested in science, engineering, flight, or space.

So whether one has an actual child in the house or just deep down inside oneself, I don’t think you can beat the meticulous craft building, daring self-directed missions, cheeky Kerbal humor, and real-world physics learnings of Kerbal Space Program. As may be obvious, I’ve been playing a lot of it lately…

Upcoming Why I Love columns:

  • Tuesday, February 27 – Caledonia’s Nels Anderson on Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
  • Tuesday, March 13 – Auroch Digital’s Tomas Rawlings on Dune II: The Building of a Dynasty/Battle for Arrakis

Developers interested in contributing their own Why I Love column are encouraged to reach out to us at news@gamesindustry.biz.