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Game Developer's 2023 Wrap-Up: 10 Must-Read Featured Blogs
This year the blog section was our litmus test for industry sentiment on accessibility, generative AI, climate change, and the shift away from Unity in light of its Runtime Fee disaster.
December 15, 2023
11 Min Read
Image via Pexels user Cottonbro Studio.
In 2023, our featured blogs gave professional game development advice you can’t find anywhere else. But they also acted as a litmus test for industry sentiment on current events, be it accessibility, generative AI, climate change, or, perhaps the year’s most heated topic, the massive shift away from Unity in light of the Runtime Fee disaster. What were your colleagues and peers thinking about some of the conflicts of the past year? And how did those conversations affect the scope and shape of the resulting discourse?
For that answer, you’ll have to take a look at some of the featured blogs we published in 2023. Here are some of our must-read favorites from this year.
Game Preservation: Saving digital worlds for future generations of gamers
By Marcin Paczyński | Read More
“Preserving video games is not just about saving entertainment, it's about safeguarding our cultural and historical identity.”
One of the big topics in game development this year was the issue of game preservation; a study from Video Game History Foundation released in July stated that a whopping 87% of games from before 2010 are no longer readily available on the market.
In this post from GOG’s Marcin Paczyński, the author discusses why the platform feels their DRM-free approach is a vital aspect of game preservation, giving us an inside look at how tracking down and proving IP ownership, and polishing the final product, is a part of the process. He also gives several tips for what you can do to help the state of game preservation.
GamerGPT: What to Consider When Considering Generative AI in Gaming
By Andrew Tibbetts, David I. Schulman, Stephanie Perron | Read More
“Generative AI will play an important role in many industries in coming years, including in gaming. Game studios, if they aren’t already, will look at how to build this tech into their workflows and weigh how best to leverage it. In doing so, they should account for the legal and commercial risks that will arise, to avoid an opportunity turning into a problem down the line.”
What is legal and ethical within the burgeoning field of generative AI? Providing some insight into that are three lawyers from the firm of Greenberg Traurig, who give us a “snapshot of the issues in the current U.S. landscape, based on terms of service for several generative AI tools frequently used in gaming and on legal circumstances in the U.S.,” a primer that begins to explore those implications.
Evolving a studio from single to multi product, learnings from Super Evil Megacorp
By Ian Fielding | Read More
“One saying I’ve aimed to evangelize in this process is to turn stumbles (and sometimes frustration) into opportunities. As an example, when we’ve realized we really only have 1-2 people who have the skill set to solve a problem it's also presented an opportunity for us to recognize we need to train up more individuals (or hire in) more folks to be able to also become subject matter experts over time in that area. Or when we’ve had challenges prioritizing bespoke tech needs, we’ve taken a step back and looked at if there is a way we can extend existing tech or find a way to build systems that benefit all of our products saving us time in the long run..
…Evolving into a multi-product studio is an enormously challenging effort, and it’s one that many studios often struggle for years with, and sometimes never make it to the goal of multi-product. However, the benefits are significant if done well as it offers an opportunity to provide more player value, more opportunities for talent growth, de-risks being reliant fully on a single product's success, and more.”
Studio head Ian Fielding writes about the evolution of Super Evil Megacorp, telling our readers about the pitfalls of sudden growth and giving five tips for how to avoid some of the issues he and his company encountered during their own growth phase.
40 years and I'm still here
By Warren Spector | Read More
“The coolest thing I've seen in the last 40 years is that we changed the world - not me, not the individual companies I've worked for. But the game business and the medium as a whole and all the intelligent, creative people working in it. We went from games for geeks to games for everyone. Our sales dwarf those in any other medium of expression ever. Ever. Think about that. We’re a powerful cultural force. We've developed an entirely new art form. We’re the only medium in the history of humankind that can turn every consumer into a creator and, astonishingly, we do that through the power of play. Think about that!
We changed the world, yes, but we’re not done yet. As I said, we’re not a solved problem. Anyone reading this could be the next agent of change, whether you work for a huge company or a small one. There’s no telling where innovation will come from. So get to it! Give me a game unlike any I’ve ever played. Show me what you got! Change the world.”
Prolific game designer Warren Spector has been a supporter of Game Developer since, oh, the days we were a magazine (look no further than his 2000 postmortem of Deus Ex, or 1999’s System Shock 2 and Thief: The Dark Project postmortems, written by Jonathan Chey and Tom Leonard respectively). In this post, he makes his return to our blog section with a light history and ruminations on four decades in the industry.
The very best way the games industry can reduce its carbon footprint
By Stephen Richards | Read More
“The entire games industry and all the energy use associated with it might seem like a very small segment in the overall picture of the causes of climate change, when the most ideal conceivable savings lie in the realm of tens to hundreds of millions of tonnes of CO2-equivalent out of a worldwide total now surpassing 40 billion tonnes annually. But the problem here is, so does everything if you split it all into smaller and smaller categories: there’s no single global region, industry, or economic sector that can’t be divided up into small enough pieces that each one can look like it’s too insignificant to make a difference on its own. And in the context of the entire world’s carbon footprint, a single percentage point reduction is an absolutely massive impact. It’s an amount of change that, if a million people formed a company and then spent their entire careers in that one company dedicated solely to cutting off that 1% of emissions, they would each have done an astonishing good.”
As conversations around climate change, so too do the questions of what responsibility we really have as an industry, what impact, if any, we can actually have, and what areas should be addressed in order to increase that impact. In this blog, author Stephen Richards makes a darn good case for why the easiest and best place to put our efforts is in console power caps.
Unity's Just Not Into You, Indie Developer
By Petter Vilberg | Read More
“How can you trust a business partner that will radically change the terms not only of your future relationship, but your existing one as well?”
Frustrated with some of Unity’s business decisions this year? So was author Petter Vilberg, who spoke for many with this blog about the company’s callous attitude towards its own customers. Hear him make the case for why you should cut ties with Unity for good.
From Unity to Godot in a Weekend
By Sergio Flores | Read More
“Is Godot the new Unity? Not quite... yet. It has its charms and advantages, like full source code access. But it also has some catching up to do. For instance, Godot's profiler doesn’t yet support C#, meaning third-party .NET profiling tools are a must. But despite its quirks, I can safely say Godot is well on its way to being a formidable choice for indie developers.”
Developers looking to move away from Unity following their disastrous Runtime Fee fiasco earlier this year might have an option in the Godot platform. Is it the one for you? Read this rundown from someone who’s already been there.
Accessible, Not Utilitarian: Design for Everyone in Cosmonious High
By Jazmin Cano, Peter Galbraith | Read More
“We encourage interactions that come naturally while knowing every player’s “natural” is different. We also prioritize natural integration of accessibility features rather than having a bunch of menu settings for players to go through and customize. This is important for several reasons. By designing features as part of the game world, players can stay immersed by not having to go through menu settings which can also be overwhelming to navigate if there are too many options. When there are too many customizable options in a settings menu, the settings for players could get lost or be hard to find.
Additionally, by integrating these into the world, players who may not typically look for accessibility settings could find them helpful. Having it readily available in their world allows them to customize the experience to be more comfortable for them. By designing in an inclusive way and removing barriers, our games enable players of all backgrounds to enjoy the game equally and confidently. Having these established principles helps us decide how to design certain things in our game.”
Accessibility as a foundational design value is a necessity that will only continue to grow in the coming years. And providing some guidance into that is Owlchemy Labs, who describe their philosophical approach to accessibility in VR and what those principles look like in practice as they took player issues like mobility and readability into consideration in this blog from their senior accessibility engineer and their accessibility product manager.
The Generous Space of Alternative Game Engines (A Curation)
By Nathalie Lawhead | Read More
“In the end, you are responsible for ensuring your art’s relevance.
The pursuit of platform agnosticism, in this light, is a way of reclaiming power constantly lost to the game industry’s drive to maximize profits.
The tool is only as great as your ability to follow through on ideas and make it work. That talent to be flexible, to fit your ideas into the ecosystem of any tool (IDE, development environment, platform…) is something that can’t be taken away from you.”
The shift away from Unity means not just finding new, preferably open-source, engines to work with, but also thinking about who controls its distribution of our work and, thus, who holds its fate. This primer on some of the available alternatives by developer Nathalie Lawhead is a good place to get started, and an even better time to contemplate the future of an industry where entire livelihoods are so routinely upended on a whim.
Yelling is not journalism
By Brandon Sheffield | Read More
“The problem with IGN's video is it’s pure sensationalism. It poses itself as “just asking questions” when, if you actually asked the questions of the right people, or even thought about the question a little bit, you could actually get answers. The point from Xalavier is not that gamers should lower their standards. The point is that, to think of Baldur's Gate 3 as an immaculate polished release out of the gate is incorrect, and if you held other games to that standard it would not make sense - after all, Baldur's Gate 3 took three years from early access launch at $60 to where it releases in a polished state. Put simply, other games cannot be held to that standard because that standard is illusory.
There was an opportunity with a video like this to give players context for why games release the way they do, but instead, it was designed to incite anger directed at a few devs. That was certainly accomplished, as Xalavier is getting harassed relentlessly, but is that really the kind of anger you want? Is that the tactic you want to take in a post-gamergate world?”
Games media can be a cold place even for the most successful of developers. Here, former Game Developer EIC Brandon Sheffield explains why this year’s discourse over Baldur’s Gate 3 was a sorely missed opportunity to educate players on the demands of game releases and why we need to set more realistic expectations.
About the Author(s)
Community Editorial Coordinator, GameDeveloper.com
Holly Green has been in games media for fifteen years, having previously worked as a reporter and critic at a variety of outlets. As community editorial coordinator, she handles written materials submitted by our audience of game developers and is responsible for overseeing the growth of iconic columns and features that have been educating industry professionals under the Game Developer brand for decades. When she isn't playing about or writing video games, she can be found cooking, gardening and brewing beer with her husband in Seattle, WA.
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