MCV/DEVELOP’s best of 2020: articles, events, games and more… as we sign off for the holidays

It’s hard to believe, but 2020 is almost behind us. It’s certainly been a uniquely challenging year, one that has seen the MCV/DEVELOP team out of our lovely central London office since March now, and having to work without the big-ticket events that used to dominate our calendars.

However, while we may have lost the experience of physically attending E3, GDC and Gamescom this year, areas of our industry have still done very well indeed. It has become a tired talking point now to discuss how gaming has helped keep people entertained and in touch with one another during this difficult time, but it’s only tired because it’s true.

2020 has seen enormous success in the triple-A sphere, but we’ve also witnessed smaller titles bursting into the mainstream. No studio comes to mind more than UK’s very own Mediatonic as one of the stand-out success stories of this year, with the ludicrous success of Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout.

Through it all, MCV/DEVELOP has kept putting the magazine together, and delivering it to your door each month. Not only have we celebrated the industry’s exceptional young talent in this year’s 30 Under 30 list, but we’ve even resurrected the Develop 100  – with thanks to Virtuos – a list of the 100 most successful game studios in the world, which will be headed your way at the very start of January.

So with all that said, as we get ready to close up shop for the holidays, we take a look back on the best of MCV/DEVELOP, our events, and our top games of 2020.

MCV/DEVELOP 2020 ISSUES

Our collated output over the last year. If you missed any then just click the image and you’ll be taken to our stack of issues for your perusal. Thanks so much to everyone who supported and contributed to the magazine in 2020, we really appreciate your input.

OUR 2020 EVENTS

The loss of physical events has been an interesting challenge for us here at MCV/DEVELOP, as it was for so many in the industry, while we were lucky enough not to have to cancel anything ongoing, a couple of potential new events did get put on the shelf for next year.

MCV/DEVELOP AWARDS 2020
We were lucky enough to be able to come together at the MCV/DEVELOP Awards back in March – likely the last event many of you attended too. Whether that was a wise decision remains something that bothers me still. At the time we were delighted that the event occurred of course.

We’d put in months of work in completely redesigning the categories and voting process – in order to represent our whole audience in a single event. We’re especially proud that the awards are now voted for by our readership, rather than just a small panel of judges or the public, making them democratic but still well informed.

Huge thanks to our events team, our host Imran Yusuf, and to our sponsors Bidstack, Amiqus, PTW, Frontier Developments, OPMJobs.com, Fourth Floor, Honest PR and Little Big PR.

Women in games 2020MCV/DEVELOP WOMEN IN GAMES AWARDS 2020
With the ship having truly sailed on physical events, we had to adapt and delay this event. But we were delighted with the response from our live-streamed Women in Games Awards 2020. We successfully brought together all our nominees on the day in a Discord chat and from there we could feature all of them in the stream live.

Huge thanks to the amazing work of the people at ADVNCR, and our hosts Elle Osili-Wood and Charleyy Hodson, who made it all possible. Plus our sponsors of course, without which the event could not happen: Rare, Facebook Gaming, Unity, EA, Amiqus, Creative Assembly, Hangar 13, OPMJobs.com, and Splash Damage.

OUR FAVOURITE ARTICLES FROM MCV/DEVELOP

SETH BARTON, EDITOR:

Xbox’s Matt Booty ends the next-gen exclusive: This was the moment when we realised just how completely Microsoft had re-thought the traditional approach to the games console market. Matt Booty told MCV/DEVELOP that the new Xbox (singular, as it was then) would have no first-party next-gen exclusives for the foreseeable future. Mind blown.

Roll7 proves presciently ahead of the curve on remote working: This one was written by my colleague Chris, but credit has to also go to Roll7’s Simon Bennett on pitching the perfect feature a couple of months before we all ended up working from home, and to the Roll7 team for allowing a photographer into their homes to capture them in their office habitats. 

Can games help us understand what it means to be British?: I wish I found more time to write more articles like this one. With Brexit bringing with it a nationalist rhetoric, it seemed a good time to reach out to UK game makers who had directly tackled representations of Britain and its people – from 80s slum landlords to twee village life and beyond. 

Plus a couple of honourable mentions, CCP CEO Hilmar Veigar Petursson, talked passionately to me about how he could now prove that Eve Online was a positive force in its players lives. While, of course, getting my hands on both the next-gen consoles, the Xbox Series X and PS5, was a huge thrill, and showed the differences in this new generation are far more than just silicon-deep.

CHRIS WALLACE, STAFF WRITER:

When We Made… Hypnospace Outlaw: As a bit of inside baseball, When We Made is always my favourite feature we do each month – and honestly, I probably could have picked any of them for this slot. Getting to speak to developers, and see their passion about their work, is absolutely the best part of this job. Talking to Xalavier Nelson Jr. about Hypnospace Outlaw really sticks out in my memory, though. Partially because the surreal alternative Y2K-era universe the game creates allowed me to fill the article with references to the songs of my childhood, which was more fun than I’d like to admit. But also, we spoke back in August, when the stress of the first lockdown was at its highest for me – so being able to burst out laughing as Xalavier told me about the existence of Hypnospace Outlaw porn is one of the better memories from that month. 

Imre Jele and the Animal Farm game: When I reached out to Imre Jele to talk about his then-upcoming adaptation of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, it was more out of a personal curiosity than anything else. Like most school kids, I was made to read Animal Farm at an age when I thought it was just a fun story about some pigs. So I thought it would be fun to revisit that, and look at the logistics of adapting Orwell’s work into a video game. Instead what I got was a fascinating conversation about Jele’s history growing up in communist Hungary, and Orwell’s depressing relevance to the politics of today. Also I got him to contemplate the notion of a sequel, Animal Farm: In Space, because of course I have to ruin everything.

Sam Barlow and Telling Lies: A pre-pandemic one for a change! This article feels so long ago now that it’s hard to believe I wrote it this year. One of my earliest articles at MCV/DEVELOP, it will probably always stick out in my memory as this job’s ability to put me into contact with ludicrously talented people. Anyone who has played Barlow’s more recent titles, Her Story and Telling Lies, can understand how interesting it was to be able to get an insight into such a different approach to games and game development. The process is essentially a strange mashup of game development and film production, and yet totally unlike either of those at the same time. It all sounds ludicrously difficult to my tired journalist brain, so it’s all the more impressive that Half a Mermaid Productions have pulled it off so well not once, but twice now.

MCV/DEVELOP’S GAMES OF THE YEAR

Thankfully, given the sheer quantity, we’re not in the business of judging the industry’s output, at least not on a case-by-case basis. But 2020 was an incredible year for games and these are our personal favourites.

SETH BARTON, EDITOR:

Call of Duty: Warzone: I came late to the battle royale genre, not because of any lack of enthusiasm for cutting a bloody swath across a huge battlefield (I have a lot of experience on that front) but largely because previous examples either didn’t have console crossplay or didn’t appeal. Warzone hit the spot, both with me and my socially-distanced friends. It was warmongering, but social warmongering. I loved every bloody hour of it, and it got me through 2020. Thanks Infinity Ward and Raven. 

Minecraft: We didn’t set any rules about whether the game came out in 2020, so I’m having it. While I played Warzone, my youngest shifted from LEGO to Minecraft. This culminated in my dad buying himself Switch and Minecraft, and setting up a Realm so they could play together. Well played Dad. 

Cyberpunk 2077: Yes, it’s a hot mess in many ways, but I’ve been waiting for this game since I was a child, with the rules for the original pen-and-paper RPG in one hand, a well-thumbed copy of Neuromancer in the other, and Blade Runner on VHS ready to roll. What’s really breathtaking is that it’s taken this long for a true triple-A cyberpunk game to emerge.

CHRIS WALLACE, STAFF WRITER:

Hades: I’m not sure what it says about me that my favourite game of 2020 saw me endlessly fighting my way through an inescapable Hell, but it certainly feels appropriate. A lot has been made of the excellent characters in Supergiant’s Hades (and how irrepressibly horny they all are), but for me the appeal is that, much like the year it was released in, Hades never seems to end. Even once the credits have finally rolled, there’s still so much more to do and explore, without the game ever feeling bloated. And okay sure, the characters are pretty horny I guess.

Paradise Killer: Paradise Killer is a game so cool I’m scared it’s going to steal my lunch money. Despite tapping into some of the nerdiest (and as such, my favourite) game franchises in history, pulling inspiration from Danganronpa and Phoenix Wright, this is possibly the most high-fashion murder mystery I’ve ever seen. Well, it’s maybe a draw with Murder She Wrote – Jessica Fletcher had some LOOKS. Also I did a very good interview with developer Kaizen Game Works this year, which you should absolutely read aloud to your family this Christmas.

Animal Crossing New Horizons: Until this year, I never saw the appeal of Animal Crossing. With so much of it wrapped up in daily chores and talking to your neighbours, my two least favourite activities, I assumed these games were just for uniquely broken people. Then March happened, and suddenly Animal Crossing: New Horizons became an island getaway in a time when I couldn’t leave my house. I don’t think there’s a clearer example of the impact gaming has had (as well as its financial success) during this pandemic than Animal Crossing: New Horizons: reuniting isolated friends in a shared hatred of that vile villain, Tom Nook.

And that’s all from us

And that was the year that was 2020. A total disaster all-round, though as with all disasters it did throw into relief the brilliance of so many as well. We hope you have a great Christmas and New Year, and we’ll see you all in 2021 for yet more lessons in what’s really important in life.

About Chris Wallace

Chris is MCV/DEVELOP's staff writer, joining the team after graduating from Cardiff University with a Master's degree in Magazine Journalism. He can regrettably be found on Twitter at @wallacec42, where he mostly explores his obsession with the Life is Strange series, for which he refuses to apologise.

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