The last column looked at a few games which I felt stood out from the rest of the crowd. This time, I’m looking at games companies. Don’t worry, I’m not simply going to repeat the publishing companies of the three games listed in part 1; that would be trite, as well as making this a pointless read. No, the companies here are different, and their inclusion is not based on any single title.
I guess this one does not surprise you. There is one reason Blizzard are on this list, and that’s Battle.net. Not just the set-up itself, but the entire philosophy behind it. The reason I bought the original Diablo back in 1996 was the little red corner of the box that said “Play FREE Over the Internet!” That was enough for me, and sure enough, Blizzard delivered on this promise. While Battle.net lasted about 8 months for me, I always held Blizzard in high regard. The number of hacks and PKs that infested the server and (for me) shut down the online side, was no fault of Blizzard’s, everyone was still learning the ropes back then.
The main reason I bought Diablo II was that it offered the same online play via Battle.net. Here we all are, years after the release, still playing online for free. The kind of goodwill generated from these actions is reflected in Blizzard’s immense pre-order sales.
That’s right, EA is on this list. Being consistently profitable is no crime. Their stable of sports tie-in titles, released with a slight change each year, is a great income stream for them, and they could stop there if they wanted to. The titles are such great sellers that they cost EA almost nothing to make; in-game advertising is sold and generates enough money to almost cover developments costs.
They could quite easily stop there and do nothing else. But instead, they have developed and published a number of innovative, quality titles. The risk-free sports titles are used to fund a number of risky titles. EA were there are the forefront of the MMORPG with Ultima Online, and they have recently re-defined what an online FPS can be with Battlefield 1942. Single player games have not been forgotten, through titles such as MOH:AA. They aren’t all successes, Majestic is one example of a failure. But EA is a company that can afford to fail now and again, a valuable step in any creative process, but one which few companies are able to recover from financially.
While the CRPG is no longer EA’s thing, I believe their influence of the games industry as a whole is for the good, and they deserve their place here.
There were a few contenders for the third spot here, but in the end, Bioware got the nod over SSI, makers of the famous ‘gold box’ series of games. The other group being considered here was creative Assembly, makers of the Total War series.
Let’s talk Bioware. Their infinity engine, and especially the Baldur’s Gate games, have been the best thing to happen to CRPGs since Ultima 7. While Baldur’s Gate was quite linear compared to the great Ultima 7, it was a good modernisation of this kind of game. Attention to detail was quite superb, and you could wander out of the way into all sorts of side adventures and sub-plots. Sitting on either side of the Baldur’s Gate titles are Planescape: Torment, a heavy role-playing piece, and the Icewind Dale series, which is basically a pretty dungeon hack. I prefer Baldur’s Gate to either of these, since it strikes a great balance between the two.
You can’t talk about Bioware without mentioning Neverwinter Nights. Construction sets are the dream of CRPG fans everywhere, and NWN is the most powerful one to hit the scene in a long time. In fact, I can’t even remember the last one- was it the Bard’s Tale Construction Set? Could have been. I still have not bought Neverwinter Nights; I dare not. I don’t have the hundreds of hours I know I would want to spend crafting and releasing adventure after adventure.
Over To You
As with last time, I’m interested in hearing your own opinions on the best games companies out there. What is it that they have done so well, for you to nominate them? Also don’t forget to be here in 2 weeks for part 3, which will look at individuals within the computer games industry.
What Happened in Part 1?
I put the call out in part 1 for some feedback, and I was duly rewarded, as over 100 of you wrote in with your best games nominations, as well as some great gaming tales that I enjoyed reading. I took the individual replies, and put them into a nice table to show which games got the most votes. The results show Diablo 2 and Starcraft the runaway leaders, which I guess reflects this site’s status as a Diablo 2/Blizzard fan site. Plenty of venerable titles made the list, not just my own favourite Ultima 7, but also Wolfenstein 3D and the original Pool of Radiance. The excellent Fallout games garnered 17 votes between them. I also found it interesting that the top three games were from three different genres (RPG, RTS, FPS). I’m glad I’m not the only one here with wide a wide taste in genres. Here are the results showing the top few games.
Game, and the number of votes it received.
[*]Final Fantasy 7—6
[*]Pool of Radiance—5
Disclaimer: The Ninth Circle was written by Lorelorn (David Kay) and hosted by Diii.net. The views expressed in these columns are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Diii.net.