When it comes to top game developers you may be tempted to think of the Nintendo’s, Bethesda’s and Square Enix’s of the world. However, thanks to things like crowdfunding and early access, game developers today come in all shapes and sizes. From 2-3-man teams all the way to bustling buildings full of people hard at work animating that next cutscene, lets take a look at just some of the developers you should be watching.
Unknown Worlds Entertainment
An independent game company hailing from San Francisco, Unknown Worlds Entertainment has produced and released a number of well-received titles such as Natural Selection 1 and 2, but has also been involved in a number of bigger projects such as Titan Quest, Mass Effect and Bioshock Infinite. Their latest title, the visually stunning underwater survival game Subnautica, is slated for release this January and, thanks to an extensive early access program, has already built up quite the following. With their goal being to “unite the world through play”, Unknown Worlds is definitely one to watch and, with the developers already having begun work on a new project (called Future Perfect) it seems we may not have to wait long to see what else they have up their sleeves.
Having garnered a massive following on Steam, producing one of the best-selling Early Access Indie titles ever, the Washington-based developers behind the massively popular dinosaur survival game ARK: Survival Evolved and its spin-off ARK: Survival of the Fittest, Studio Wildcard has made a name for themselves as a developer with big ideas. While work continues on their main project, with the third official DLC for ARK set for release sometime in 2018, and while the developers also continue work alongside Chinese video game company Snail Games on a VR focused title, called Ark Park, as well as the voxel-based re-imagining of ARK being released as Pix ARK, there are also rumours that the developers are working on a new, previously unannounced project. This past November, CEO Doug Kennedy revealed in an interview with PCGamer that there are indeed “unannounced plans” and, with over 2500 hours in their main title already, I personally cannot wait to see what Studio Wildcard has on their horizon.
Canadian software publishers Digital Leisure may be most known for the release of The Four Kings Casino and Slots for PlayStation and PC. The game shares many similarities with contemporary online gaming and the game mechanics are reflective of typical casino games which you can find free online, such as slots, blackjack, Texas Hold’em, and other classics. However, this game is not their only legacy. Digital Leisure have a dream: to “bring classic video-based games to the newest technologies of the future”. Having acquired the publishing rights to a number of retro arcade titles, and even having released remasters of Mad Dog McCree and Who Shot Johnny Rock? already, we may see Digital Leisure’s dreams made real in the years to come. After all, who doesn’t want to relive the glory days of the arcade?
Independent game studio Shiro Games may be a small team of veterans but they have produced a number of visually stunning, unique games since being founded in 2012. The developer is most known for their release of Evoland, a “short story of adventure video game evolution”, in which players explore how graphics and gameplay have evolved over the years as they navigate through a number of levels each showcasing a different gameplay and art style. Their latest project, the visually impressive Northgard, is a real-time strategy title inspired by Norse mythology and is currently available on the Steam Early Access program with a full release planned for the next year or so. While fully playable already, Shiro are continuing work on a campaign for the already robust title and I for one cannot wait to see how the project progresses.
Striving to create games that put themselves and the game industry itself at the forefront of the world entertainment industry, British game developer and publisher Frontier Developments may be best known for their simulation games. From Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 to Zoo Tycoon, and Planet Coaster, Frontier has made a name for itself as the developer behind some of the most entertaining resource management/simulation games of our time. For this reason, their upcoming project, Jurassic Park Evolution, is potentially one of my most anticipated releases of 2018 as I could think of no-one better to produce an entertaining but in-depth game centred around one of the world’s most awe-inspiring franchises.