Jake Kazdal is the CEO, Creative Director, and Art Director at Kyoto-based indie studio 17-Bit, the team behind one of 2015's standout shooters, Galak-Z: The Dimensional. You can follow Jake on Twitter.
Hey, everyone! Honored to be a part of this!
As busy as I was shipping Galak-Z this year I wasn’t playing nearly as many games as I’d like, so I can’t say I even have a top 10, but I have a top few! Here goes!
Fallout 4 is not only GOTY for me, it’s like, game of the last few years. Its such a deep, organic, layered system, constantly requiring interesting decisions from the player that it almost is, at this point, unbeatable. It allows a staggering degree of player agency, in a beautiful, incredibly realized simulated world, I just can’t stop playing. I think about it all day, play at night, and wake up early so I can play some more before my kids get up. Its been long time since something grabbed me so completely and just refused to let go. Its not perfect--I still think the character models are decidedly last-gen looking, the dialogue system is kinda iffy, it's certainly buggy, and the Pip-Boy interface leaves a lot to be desired--but these are tiny blemishes in the face of the most gorgeous, engaging, incredible game of 2015.
The Witcher 3 offered another staggeringly large, engaging, beautiful open world game that took a good chunk of my time. It’s easily the most beautiful game of the year, both the world and the character models, the story is compelling, solidly acted, and very, very well done. I didn’t love the combat system but it was adequate, and rolling through the hills and dungeons of this dark, beautiful world were some of my favorite moments of 2015.
Aperture Robot Repair
It’s nearly 2016 and VR is about to explode. I first played this game/demo/experience at GDC2015 and it literally brought tears to my eyes. This is the future of interactive entertainment, and it's nothing short of stunning. It’s hard to even put into words; you spend the entire demo in the same room, not fighting anything but your emotional overload to what is clearly the future of entertainment. It's over way too quickly, and there is very little player agency in this demo clearly meant to simply fry your senses and give you an overdose of pure awesome to get people on board with VIVE. But it provides a crucial glimpse at what is coming--soon--and things will never be the same. Since we got our VIVE dev kits I’ve probably played this 5 minute demo 30 times, and its easily one of my "Game" of the Year candidates.
Dota Shop Demo VIVE
Much like its sibling, Aperture Robot Repair, the wizards at Valve have cooked up another demo meant to drop you into the game world like never before, this time in the Secret Shop from Dota 2. In this demo you have more toys to play with, poking and prodding at every book, sword, and frog in this magical wizards shop at night. The sense of "presence" is overwhelming, and while this too is a simple five minute demo built to impress, you can see how experiences like this will change gaming forever, starting in just a few months. Absolutely incredible.
This demo has been gaining a ton of buzz, and for good reason. It took me a few minutes to wrap my head around but once I got into the groove, I spent many a late night listening to funky music and taking turns building fantastic contraptions with my friends. It's like the golf of the future. You can spend hours building crazy machines to achieve your simple goal of putting the pink ball into a big pink cube on the far side of a ravine. Its cartoony and simple and utterly compelling. It starts to feel so natural you don’t ever want to go back to playing games with a game pad again!