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PlayStation developers’ favourite gaming moments of 2016

Top games studios talk their favourite experiences of the past 12 months (warning: spoilers within)

It’s been a truly momentous year for PlayStation in terms of games. 2016 has offered one of the more diverse 12 months in PlayStation history, whether you’re exploring exotic locales, screaming at friends in an overstressed kitchen, becoming an iconic dark knight, or punching the air after scoring ‘Play of the Game’.

With so much choice, it’s impossible to choose an easy top ten of the past year, so instead we asked those who’ve transported us to worlds beyond our imagination for their personal favourites. These are the best PlayStation gaming moments of 2016, as chosen by developers the world over.

Batman: Arkham VR

As chosen by…

“Its use of the Move controllers for accessing gadgets, navigating and interacting with items and scenery really set the standard for an intuitive and compelling experience in VR. The game is full of memorable moments but the standout for me took place in the latter part of the game in a prison cell. Without saying too much it made me feel completely absorbed into Batman’s world where I felt anxious, vulnerable and overwhelmed, but all in a good way and gave me an experience that could only be had in VR.”

Phil Nightingale, Senior Designer, Tethered, Secret Sorcery

Battlefield 1

As chosen by…

“There are a lot of speedy shooters out there these days, where you’re rushing around killing everything, but Battlefield 1 is a little slower, in a good way. It sort of matches the era that’s depicted in the game, so it was a fresh perspective on recent shooters. That’s why I really enjoyed it.”

Yosuke Hayashi, Game Director, Nioh, Team Ninja

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

As chosen by…

“My new guilty pleasure: COD’s zombie mode. It’s strangely relaxing to kill zombies while flowing through the map. I’ve skipped the franchise for many years and so this is my first time trying this out. I’ve always enjoyed co-op survival modes ever since Unreal Tournament 2004 Invasion Mod!”

Dominic Guay, Senior Producer, Watch Dogs 2 , Ubisoft Montreal

Darkest Dungeon

As chosen by…

“There are so many reasons to love this game: the narrator, the gameplay, the punishing, brutal failure, the tense exploration, the whole theme… Yeah. I love this game. I come back to it again, and again, and again… and again. (I worry about that, though. It is brutally unforgiving. Is there something wrong with me?)”

Jason Vandenberghe, Creative Director, For Honor, Ubisoft Montreal

Dark Souls III

As chosen by…

“It’s a no-brainer: Dark Souls III has the fullest game experience, a universe that’s both rich and consistent, an unparalleled depth in all game aspects – definitely my champion in 2016.”

David Guillaume, Artistic Director, The Crew, Ivory Tower

“I watched one of our animators take part in a Dark Souls III speed challenge at EGX Rezzed and it piqued my interest to finally take the plunge and give the series a go. The sense of threat, trepidation and subtle world building sucked me in utterly. Sure, it’s punishing, but the sense of achievement after cracking a tricky section or boss is unparalleled. It’s a strange compulsion, like eating chilli. I was hooked.”

Alex Kanaris-Sotiriou, Art Director, RIGS, Guerrilla Cambridge

“There’s a lot of opinions in our company which one is the best [game in the franchise], but in terms of what’s the best series out there, I think that’s one of the clear winners. There are a lot of odd titles here and there that improved what gameplay can be in games. There’s a few shining lights out there [of that], and Dark Souls has been one of the strongest.”

Mikael Haveri, Head of Publishing, Nex Machina, Housemarque

Dishonored 2

As chosen by…

“My personal favorite gaming moment of 2016 was finding and eliminating the Crown Killer in Dishonored 2. The entire Addermire Institute environment was soaked in history and atmosphere, and the act of non-lethally dispatching the Crown Killer (with all of the surrounding circumstances, which I don’t want to spoil here) was an awesome sequence of events.”

Matthias Worch Design Director, Mafia III, Hangar 13

“I had already spent a good amount of time in the game already, and was loving it, when I came upon the fourth mission The Clockwork Mansion. Not going to lie, entering a level that involves a lot of puzzles and a constantly shifting landscape made me nervous. However, it quickly became my favourite level as I felt constantly challenged and when I figured something it out was very emotionally rewarding. Just talking about it gets me hyped up to play again, so off I go for a second playthrough!”

Lilith Newman, FX/Tech Art Producer, Borderlands, Gearbox Software

Doom

As chosen by…

“Doom was a delight to play, and a tour de force of genius level design. The whole game was a nonstop barrage of enjoyment, but it really reached its peaks during the forays into hell. What an homage to and leap beyond the original.”

John Watson, technical director, The Banner Saga, Stoic

“I really enjoyed it. I thought it had a great balance of risk and reward and the game design really encouraged you to engage with the opponent.”

Gavin McCarthy, Art Director, Way of the Passive Fist, Household Games Inc

“I’ve had a lot of fun with it – it’s not trying to be more than what it is. At the beginning of the game you have a sequence where a guy pops up on a monitor and tries to explain what’s going on, and your character just smashes it: there’s no time for story. You just take a gun and start killing demons. No nonsense.”

Andrew Kephalidis, Gameplay Animator, Watch Dogs, Ubisoft Montreal

Dragon Quest Builders

As chosen by…

“I’ve played several games, but the one I’ve spent the most time playing was Dragon Quest Builders. There’s a bit more guidance than in Minecraft, and it made me understand the appeal of the phenomena.”

Fumito Ueda, Game Designer, The Last Guardian

EVE Valkyrie

As chosen by…

“For me it was the first ‘real’ space battle I had in VR. I’m a big fan of films like Top Gun and Star Wars, especially for the epic dogfights, whether that be in fighter jets or starships. Playing a game like Eve Valkyrie for the first time in VR was incredible, you really feel like you are actually sitting in that starship cockpit. Whether you are pulling a “fly-by” up close to a massive carrier ship or dodging in between gaps in asteroid fields to chase down and take out other players in multiplayer, it feels unlike anything else you’ve played. All this with the added bonus of being able to look around 360 degrees with 3D audio is an incredible feeling.”

Mark Lintott, Technical Director, PS VR Worlds, London Studio

Far Cry Primal

As chosen by…

“To me, Far Cry Primal is without a doubt the best player experience of 2016. Being fully immersed in a wild, hostile environment alone brought some nerve-racking moments – and some long distressing nights listening to the wolves’ howling!”

Stéphane “Fergus” Beley, Game Director, The Crew, Ivory Tower

Final Fantasy XIV

As chosen by…

“Catching up to endgame content in FFXIV. Being able to play with my wife and friends from work and getting the sense of accomplishment of defeating brutal bosses with friends is hard to match.”

Jason Schroeder, Senior Producer, South Park: The Fractured But Whole, Ubisoft San Francisco

Final Fantasy XV

As chosen by…

“My favourite moment of 2016 has to be the title sequence of Final Fantasy XV. At the surface, it is just the user holding a button to push a car. But in the context of the game’s interminable development, the moment when the strains of “Stand By Me” plays over what sounded like the Final Fantasy arpeggio was sublime. It felt like a huge weight was lifted from the chests of fans and devs alike, and I was happy to be a part of it. I can’t imagine a song better suited in keeping with the theme of brotherhood and thanking fans for their dedication.”

Ken Chua, Associate Software Engineer, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Crystal Dynamics

“Finally, getting to play Final Fantasy XV! It’s been a long time coming, but Tabata-san and all of the development team made it worth the wait.”

Spencer Yip, Director, Fallen Legion, YummyYummyYummy

Firewatch

As chosen by…

“The entire game kept me hooked from start to finish. The intrigue and the characters are so well fleshed out. The beginning of the game, where you just make some text choices over a black screen while ambient music plays, gave me more emotions than all the blockbuster games out there. It’s a testimony to the developers’ sensitivity when it comes to crafting a very human, very profound narrative experience. Definitely, one of my highlights of 2016.”

Jean-François Dugas – Executive Game Director, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Eidos Montreal

“My favourite gaming moment of 2016 was the very opening of Firewatch. You’re presented with the back story of Henry, the protagonist, and the events that have led to him taking a job in the wilderness at Two Forks Lookout. The back story is told through simply presented lines of text, but the writing is so brilliant and the narrative so compelling that you can’t help but be completely sucked in. The simplicity of the presentation makes you pay attention to every word, making the writing hit home hard, setting you up perfectly to feel and think as Henry throughout the game.”

Dominic Matthews, Product Development, Hellblade, Ninja Theory

“I’d have to say the start to Firewatch. The opening hits me with an emotional gut punch similar to what I felt while watching the beginning of Pixar’s Up. The artistry of the forest vistas following that incredible introductory story led me to want to visit Wyoming. That desire was a first for me. Campo Santo did an amazing job and Olly Moss is a master at creating a memorable aesthetic. It’s rare when a video game can incite transference to inhabit a certain place in real life just using its pixels and rendered scenes.”

Eric Monacelli, Director of Communications, Infinity Ward.

Hyper Light Drifter

As chosen by…

“It’s got to be Hyper Light Drifter. I absolutely love this game, it has so much style. I knew from the moment I saw it on Kickstarter I would play the heck out of it. I’ve recommended Hyper Light to nearly everyone I have spoken with. You can really see the meticulous care and passion the Heart Machine team put into it. The world design, visual storytelling and ethereal music by Disasterpeace, all comes together to create an atmosphere that I want to replace my eyes and ears with. If you haven’t played it yet, you are missing something special.”

Jeff Shaw, Game Designer, Plants v Zombies: Garden Warfare 2, PopCap

Inside

As chosen by…

“Getting chased by creepy humans and rabid dogs during the intro of Inside was one of our most intense gaming moment this year. It reminded us the intensity of a normal day at E3. Joking aside, the emotion and anxiety communicated through that sequence greatly inspired us. This is one example showing how indie developers are able to push new experiences and new gameplay for the players to discover!”

Guillaume Voghel, Producer, Mordheim: City of the Damned, Rogue Factor

“I was amazed by Playdead’s Inside. The art direction was just brilliant, and the gaming experience was very pleasant and frictionless. This game is full of very interesting, moving moments, and the last part is just totally mind-blowing. If you think that games with horizontal scrolling are dead, play Inside and you will be surprised at how talented people can take an old concept and make something original and meaningful with it.”

David Cage, Director, Detroit: Become Human, Quantic Dream

NBA 2K17

As chosen by…

“In 2016 I’ve had a great time with NBA 2K17. How you enjoy games is also linked to who you play them with. This social aspect is very important for the games I work on. And this year I was able to play NBA 2K17 with my seven year old son; for the first time he is getting better than his dad!”

Nouredine Abboud, Senior Producer, Ghost Recon: Wildlands, Ubisoft Paris

No Man’s Sky

As chosen by…

“I think for me it was waiting for No Man’s Sky to come out; that was definitely the most memorable moment for me this year, I couldn’t wait for it to come out.

“The game made me feel really happy. The pacing was just what I needed. It was calm, ambient. I could explore and take on whatever it had to throw at me at my own pace and in my own time. There was no pressure and that was really refreshing. It reminded me a little of Animal Crossing New Leaf. That sounds like an absurd comparison but I love those sorts of games where you can plod along and do things how you want to but with no time pressure or no big bosses to deal with – I can make the game my own and imprint my own stories on to it.

“It was really exciting and is still really exciting to play and to watch others play. I love the sci-fi genre in the way it makes you question existence and being and No Man’s Sky really ticks those boxes for me. I’ve particularly enjoyed watching my partner play it; there’s something calming and peaceful about watching someone else play and discover and commentate along the way. You sort of feel like you’re going on a journey together, but in the safety of your home, on your sofa.”

Michelle Ducker, Producer, Dreams, Media Molecule

Overcooked

As chosen by…

“Realising how Overcooked, the most fun party game this year and my GOTY, is also a huge test on friendship and relationship! Come on, I get shouted at for not cutting the onion fast enough! Love it!”

Audrey Leprince, co-founder of The Game Bakers, Furi, The Game Bakers

Overwatch

As chosen by…

“Pulling off 10 victories in a row using an all Mercy team in Overwatch was pretty epic and chaotic at the same time. Trying to fill the niche roles using only a support character was a fun and challenging experience. The coordination of keeping each other healed and powered up was something to behold, especially when the opposing team focused their efforts on one individual.”

Matt Grise, Associate Producer, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Crystal Dynamics

“It’s been awhile since I played a shooter game, and it was really interesting as a developer to play a game were you don’t really notice any flaws. The last game that had that was Journey. You play Overwatch and ask “where are the edges, where are the cracks, where can I see there’s been a shoddy job?” But it’s just so polished. And the sound is amazing. You can hear who it is coming after you based on the footsteps. It’s so expressive. It’s a joy to play.”

Martin Kvale, Audio Lead, Mosaic, Krillbite

PlayStation VR

As chosen by…

“It’s not a particular title, but the PS VR release was definitely my best PlayStation moment of 2016. It’s been awhile since I have seen gamers get so excited about something, and seeing everyone scrambling to get their hands on one felt good. It was the first time in a while I had seen such long lines outside of stores for gaming, and it was quite exciting to see.”

Katsuhiro Harada, Project Director, Tekken, Bandai Namco

Rez Infinite

As chosen by…

“I was a massive Rez fan when it first came out years ago, and bringing it to VR has ignited that for me again. This is the best that the game has ever been, and has completely immersed me visually and aurally for weeks now. I play it after a long day of developing MEA.”

Michael Gamble, Producer, Mass Effect Andromeda, BioWare

“A sensory rush greater than getting your pants stuck in the doors of a Tokyo subway train. Crashing through a nightclub. In The Matrix.”

Andy Robinson, Writer, Yooka-Laylee, Playtonic Games

The Witness

As chosen by…

“My best PlayStation gaming moment of 2016 was the several times in The Witness that I thought my brain would crack and fail. A few times I would start in on a puzzle, thinking at first, “What is this? There’s no way to do this!”, only to break through the preconceptions I had about how a puzzle worked and have the impossible turn into common sense.”

Ian Milham, Game Director, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Crystal Dynamics

“I thought it was cool, thought it was interesting. It wasn’t a regurgitation of something else.”

James Austin, Director, Boundless, Wonderstruck

The Last Guardian

As chosen by…

“It has to be The Last Guardian. Mainly because it’s now seen the light of day. But also because it’s a very personal story. We haven’t learned too much about the game. It’s about the relationship that you, playing as a boy, make with Trico. So it’s going to be something that’s very unique to everyone who plays it. And my experience playing it has been phenomenal, very personal and it literally made me cry at the very end.”

Dave Thatch, Senior Director, International Software Development & Special Operations for SIE Worldwide Studios America

Titanfall 2

As chosen by…

“I was rodeo-ing an enemy Titan and the pilot ejected sending us both flying sky-high. Then he grapple-hooked me out of mid-air and melee drop-kicked me for the kill. Yeah, my favorite moment was one where I died. I don’t know if that happens all the time with awesome players, but it’s only happened to me once. Either way, I was honoured to play my part in such a glorious moment.”

Brian Hayes, Creative Director, EA Sports UFC 2, EA Canada

“The time travel section of Titanfall 2 is the most fun I’ve had with a game all year. Looking down through a glass floor at a room full of bad dudes and realising that I needed to hop time once to fall in, then again to avoid falling into a pit of fire only to be stuck in the room with the enemies, was very, very cool. Honestly that entire game is nothing short of brilliant from start to finish- a masterpiece of level design.”

Dave Crooks, Game Designer, Enter the Gungeon, Dodge Roll

“I really enjoyed the Titanfall 2 campaign mode, the gunplay is very satisfying, the environments look amazing on the PS4, and the setting brings back memories of one of my all-time-favorites, Silent Bomber (PS1, 1999).”

Mathijs de Jonge, Game Director, Horizon Zero Dawn,Guerrilla Games

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

As chosen by…

“Offroading with my jeep in Uncharted 4. It was fun to take a moment and relax in an otherwise intense game, and enjoy the incredible craft of what the Naughty Dog team put together.”

Jake Solomon, Creative Director, XCOM 2, Firaxis Games

“It’s just such a great game. I loved every moment.”

Masachika Kawata, Producer, Resident Evil 7, Capcom

“Definitely Uncharted 4, particularly the Madagascar chase scene- such a well put together and dynamic set piece!”

Chris Davis, Founder, The Escapists, Mouldy Toof Studios

“The intro sequence with the toy gun really made me laugh.”

Sébastien Arnoult, Producer , Steep, Ubisoft Annecy

“It’s been a great year for gaming, but for me, the standout moment has to come from Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. Towards the end of the tower collapse level on Liberteria, there’s an action scene featuring Drake, Sam and Nadine where you get to experience what is for me, is one of the best looking, most fun and expertly choreographed sequences in recent video game history. I must have played this section a dozen times and it still leaves me coming back for more.”

Tim Wileman, Producer, Lego Star Wars The Force Awakens, TT Games

“Apart from launching Batman: Arkham VR, the biggest moment of 2016 for me has to be the Madagascar section in Uncharted 4. Naughty Dog’s accomplishments here are spectacular: gorgeous views, great character interaction, and a wonderful sense of freedom. It all adds up to a hugely memorable section in an already incredible game.”

Gaz Deaves, Social Marketing Manager, Batman: Arkham VR, Rocksteady

“I had a great time playing Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End this year. The environments are amazing and the gameplay is a blast from start to finish.”

Sarah Hebbler, Executive Producer, Rocket League, Psyonix

“My best gaming moment for 2016 is Uncharted 4. Having had the opportunity to work on the franchise with Uncharted: Golden Abyss for the Vita, Nathan Drake has a special place in my heart. The series has redefined storytelling with video games, and Uncharted 4 was an incredible send off for the characters and the journey that they took us on.”

Eric Jensen, Sr Game Designer, Days Gone, Bend Studio

“It was one of those things were I had to take a couple of days off work just to play it. The scene that I remember the most, and honestly it’s perhaps everyone’s favourite scene, it was going from that puzzle/church thing where things were falling on you and then there was that chase scene all the way through the downtown of the city. You get on a truck, then you’re knocking people off it, then you’re on the dirt bike, then there’s a tank chasing you… That entire sequence was really memorable to me, because my wife – she’s not so much of a gamer – walked in just as I got to that part and just sat there awestruck as I was going through a 15 minute series of amazing events. And it was like ‘oh my god, is this a movie?’ ‘No, I’m playing right now!'”

Scott Campbell, Creative Director, Starblood Arena, WhiteMoon Dreams

“I beat Uncharted 4 and loved that. I play a lot of games of all types of genres, but the sheer production values of something like Uncharted again raised the benchmark.”

Hermen Hulst, Managing Director and Co-Founder, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Guerrilla Games

“I played and loved a lot of games this year. One of them: Uncharted 4 was everything I hoped for and expected in an Uncharted game, and when I was playing it I couldn’t believe the production values. I mean, look at the leaves, alone! Goddamn those leaves – as a developer the standard for leaves was just raised to a crazy point [laughs]. I really enjoyed the game. ”

Tim Schafer, Co-Founder and Designer, Grim Fandango, Double Fine

Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection

As chosen by…

“I’m torn between the [Uncharted: Nathan Drake Collection] and 4. I’ve only just started Thief’s End, and I’d forgotten how good [the originals] were. I don’t have a lot of time to play games, and certainly games of 10, 15 hours. So to get back into it was quite an effort, just in terms of carving out a bit of time, making sure I was in the zone to play games. It was nice on a personal level to connect back with them and get ready for Uncharted 4.”

Mark O’Connor, Producer, Wipeout Omega Collection, Sony XDev

The Playroom VR

As chosen by…

“My favourite gaming moment of 2016 was playing The Playroom VR with my family for the first time in a home environment. After spending so much time working in VR as part of my studio life it was an incredible moment to share in their shock, wonder and amazement of what this new technology can deliver. We must have played Monster Escape about 20 times in a row, swapping the VR headset and screaming with excitement as the monster gets launched into the sky at the end of the level. Amazing.”

Andrew Wilans, Lead Designer, EVE: Valkyrie, CCP Games

10 Comments
0 Author replies
Carnivius_Prime 22 December, 2016 @ 14:27
1

I agree with all the Uncharted stuff. Easily my game of this year and decade. Singple player story mode was extremely satisfying and a beautiful send off to the characters I’ve followed since 2007. And the game’s multiplayer modes have quickly become my most played thing on my PS4. The recent Survival mode is a lot of fun and will keep me busy over my lonely christmas time. Other 2016 games I’ve enjoyed this year include Ratchet & Clank, Street Fighter V and many indie games (Exile’s End, Stores the Path of Destines and things like that). :)

I can’t agree less. In my book, U4 is easily the worst episode in the series. Bland solo campaign and underwhelming MP (not even mentioning that it took them 8 MONTHS to implement classic co-op survival). To top it all, the servers are now largely deserted.

Carnivius_Prime 22 December, 2016 @ 17:42
1.2

You’re entitled to your opinion no matter how insane it may be. U4 is the best of a great series. Nothing bland about it. Superb blend of gameplay and storytelling with the most gorgeous graphics of any game.
And if you think U4’s recent Survival mode is just ‘classic co op’ then you can’t have played it. There’s a lot more work put into it then simply bringing the old mode back. It’s a much richer and satisfying in depth upgrade. Deserted eh? I play multiplayer almost every day and never had any issues with getting full teams of plays within no time at all.

Great article, it’s super interesting to read developers opinions about games made by someone else. And nice reminder of all the games of 2016, especially as some of them tend to be forgotten due to early release (The Witness, Firewatch).

2016, generally, sucked, but in the world of video games it was a great year.

I’m actually amazed to see Final Fantasy XIV mentioned. Great to see so many different games for a change.

4

I’m with the Media Molecule guy myself, NMS is a beautiful game and exactly the one I was hoping for the whole time it was in development and it’s only going to get better with each major update, which was always the idea. Think Minecraft in that respect.

One of the worst years in video gaming history gets a round of auto-congratulation.

It’s like Sony and gamers are now living in two completely different worlds.

5.1

Yeah because you and you alone represent every gamer’s opinion. If this was a bad year then the industry is in good shape.

6

I love reading the opinions of developers on other games, it’s a cool insight. Good variety of games too!

Agreed

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