With New Year’s Eve behind us, it’s time once again to look forward and plan ahead for the coming year. How are you going to be better this year than you were last year? What are you going to do differently? What did you hope to do last year, but didn’t? Resolutions aren’t just for game players, though, but also for developers as well. There have been some great games released in 2023, but there have been some big disappointments as well. I don’t want to put words in anyone’s mouth, but there are definitely some things developers could do better for 2024, indie devs and big studio CEOs alike.
Listen to Fans
First and foremost, I simply cannot overstate the importance of listening to fans. Time and time again, games have fallen short of expectations, not just because of lazy development or budget issues, but because the developers have failed to listen to the people who play their games. You’d think this would be a no-brainer, the first step to making a game, especially if it’s a sequel or a game in a long-running series. Why would you go into making a game without knowing what people expect from it?
Pictured above is a now infamous scene from the Battlefield 2042 trailer, which depicted a favored tactic used by players of the game’s predecessor; using a C4 detonation to launch a friendly vehicle through the air. To the outrage of many players, despite featuring in this trailer, this very tactic was found to be absent from the game itself.
If It’s Broke, Fix It
Another one you’d think would be a no-brainer, but big game devs seem to forget this one all the time. It’s very simple: if your game is broken, FIX IT. It’s not a hard concept to grasp. A lot of developers (again, mostly big budget devs) seem to hold to the idea that once a game is out there, they don’t have to worry about it anymore, especially if they’re a popular game studio. But not fixing something that’s broken will show players you don’t care about them, only their money. No Man’s Sky and Cyberpunk 2077 were both previously huge letdowns upon release, but now they’re both actually fun, entertaining, and have active fanbases, because their developers actually cared enough to listen to their fans and went back and fixed their games.
Ease Up On the Graphics
There are plenty of examples of games that shine despite not having the most impressive graphics. Undertale’s 8-bit style, for a classic example, or my personal favorite, Barotrauma, both games with a simplistic graphics style and a lot of heart. That’s not to say we can’t appreciate pretty games. Ghost of Tsushima is fantastic (seriously, I have to stop and take a screenshot like every 10 steps), and the graphics of 2023’s instant classic Baldur’s Gate 3 left little to be desired. But game devs these days have a habit of showing off their hardware without realizing we players can’t do the same; the latest graphical marvels require the latest hardware to run, sacrificing accessibility for visuals that aren’t always necessary. I know there are more than a few titles I missed out on in 2023 because of my potato of a laptop. I’ve got student loan debt; I barely have the $60 to drop on these sparkling new games, let alone $4,000 to spare on a new next-gen gaming computer.
Support Smaller Devs
So this one might seem counter-intuitive at first–why would you want to support someone who could be competition toward your own work? But if you think about it, you’re supporting game developers any time you buy a game. And just as a good writer should read a lot so as to absorb the best of their peers, any good game developer should play a lot of games. And if you’re already buying games, why not shout out your favorites, give the good devs out there some credit, and get them some attention? Doing this will give you more attention and respect among the gaming community and will help fill the world with better games. A win-win for everyone.
Fan Games Are OKAY
All right, so this one’s mostly for a certain multi-billion-dollar company, famous for its Italian plumbers and pocket monsters, but it’s still worth talking about for game development in general. I never understood the approach toward shutting down fan games. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the need to legally cover your assets, so to speak, but why does that have to mean going after anyone who tries to express their appreciation and love for your work? If I were Nintendo, I’d have commended the guy who made Pokémon Uranium. If someone goes and does what cost your company hundreds or thousands of dollars, a team of devs, artists, and writers, and makes a game that’s just as good, on their own time, between a 9 to 5, all by themselves, why in the world would you want to punish them? Hire these people. If that’s not a heck of a resume, I don’t know what is.
Fan games show creativity, ingenuity, and love for your hard work. As the saying goes, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Game developers–all game developers–should make more of an effort to encourage fan games.
Ultimately, what you do with your year is up to you, but if you are a game developer, I’d ask you at least keep these five points in mind.