Joachim AnteBoyd Multerer Microsoft Microsoft's XNA framework (and associated dev tool XNA Game Studio) has been something of an unsung hero for indie devs over the last console generation, and since its future is in question (XNA applications won't be included in Windows 8's Metro UI or app store), we thought it only fair to give XNA—and Xbox director of development Boyd Multerer—proper acknowledgement. XNA has made it easier for small-time indies and hobby game devs to make games and put them on Xbox 360s, Windows phones, and PCs around the world. We're fans of tech that democratizes game development, and XNA was unprecedented in terms of how available and accessible it made the Xbox 360 and Windows Phone 7 platforms. We're hoping that XNA sticks around in some form—there are a few projects out there working to adapt XNA to other platforms, which could eventually enable XNA devs to build games for Metro, Android, iOS, Mac OS, and PlayStation Mobile—but even if the worst happens and XNA falls by the wayside, we want to salute Multerer for his excellent work. Simeon Nasilowski Two Lives Left There is something to be said for programmers who work on making programming more accessible to a wider range of people. Two Lives Left's Simeon Nasilowski did just that with Codea, a newbie-friendly iPad app that lets you quickly build game prototypes with Lua (see the June/July 2012 issue of Game Developer for the review). With Codea, anyone with an iPad and $10 can start dipping their toes in the game-dev pool, and we think that's pretty cool.
Niklas SmedbergJarod Pranno Phosphor Games Unreal Engine is a great piece of tech, but we can't forget to show some love to the devs out there who make it sing—and Jarod Pranno, studio art director on Phosphor Games's mobile title Horn (pictured above) did just that. With Horn, Pranno demonstrated that Epic Games/Infinity Blade dev Chair Entertainment aren't the only ones who can make a great-looking mobile game, and we're eagerly paying attention to see what Pranno and Phosphor will be doing next. Niklas Smedberg Epic Games By now, it's no secret that the Unreal Engine can make mobile games look amazing—and some of that credit goes to Epic Games's senior engine programmer Niklas Smedberg. Between Smedberg's under-the-hood look at mobile GPUs at GDC 2012, his work on the post-process graphics effects on the Infinity Blade series, and his current work on Unreal Engine 4, it's pretty clear that if you want your mobile game to look like it came straight from a console, he's the go-to guy. Patrick Wyatt N/A Patrick Wyatt is practically the definition of "industry veteran"; between his stint at Blizzard leading the original Battle.net, cofounding Guild Wars dev ArenaNet, and more recently working as En Masse Entertainment's COO (TERA), it's hard to find an MMO that doesn't have his fingerprints on its network code. When looking at a new MMO, it's easy to overlook the underlying nuts and bolts that keep customers happy. Wyatt's work on the platform underlying TERA's account management, billing, and other functions he described to Game Developer as "all the other unsexy parts of games" has shored up many player-experience design flaws others simply consider a fact of MMO life—such as beefing up account security, filtering spam from chat, building in better analytics to improve player retention rate, and so on.
Derek YuMore recently, Wyatt has been making efforts to share his knowledge on game server code by writing articles on his blog at codeofhonor.com and giving in-depth talks at the Game Developers Conference. Derek Yu Mossmouth Some games so tightly bind their programming and design together that it's hard to truly determine who deserves the credit. One such is Mossmouth's brilliant Spelunky, which released this year for Xbox Live Arcade. Spelunky's randomly generated levels are the cornerstone of the game's addictiveness—and a marvel of designer Derek Yu's algorithmic design. They're always navigable, always fun, and ever changing. You'll never complain that they weren't created—or at least not directly—by human hands. [You can subscribe to Game Developer magazine in physical or physical/digital combo form now.] Update: An earlier version of this article was erroneously published with only three of the seven programmers spotlighted here. The article has been updated with the additional four programmers.