2021 taught the world about the weirdly awful truth about working at Activision Blizzard, which allowed the company to beat Rockstar, Naughty Dog, Riot Games, and Ubisoft to the top of the companies-that-treat-their-workers-like crap list. Luckily, even though they're fewer and usually have a smaller reach, a few game development companies have created some sort of resistance. Not just by going beyond the bare minimum of refraining from causing employees years of trauma, but by actually being surprisingly awesome all-around ...

Some Developers Want People To Play Their Games Above All Else

Piracy's been a thing ever since they invented ships, so the only place it's likely going to go anytime soon is to the sea to steal more goods. Video game piracy is the same, with a resilience bonus granted by the fact that most people you know might very well be practicing it safely and in secret, instead of having to risk their lives on the open ocean. Also, the harsh truth is that there are games most people will only ever care for/be able to play if they're made available for free.

Some game developers are aware of this reality and make their games available for anyone without the possibility of paying for them. And, while relying on the goodwill of human beings might be a risky move, it's one that sometimes ends up paying off. 

That's what Nurijoy, devs of the music game SUPERBEAT: XONiC, found out when they left a thank you note for people who'd played their game, even if they were doing it illegally. The move resulted in various players actually deciding to buy the game.

SUPERBEAT: XONiC

Nurijoy

There's a parallel universe in which they replaced all songs from the pirated version with classic Limp Bizkit tunes.

A more fun approach came from tinyBuild, the people behind No Time To Explain, who, instead of sabotaging their game for pirates, just uploaded to torrent sites a version of the game where every character is dressed up like a pirate. The devs claim that the literal pirate version created a lot of buzz, which likely also resulted in more sales.

No Time To Explain

tinyBuild

 

So, the free version is way cooler, got it. 

The boldest approach of the bunch is that of Acid Wizard, the developers of the indie hit Darkwood, who got hit in the feels so hard by a kid who'd refunded the game in an attempt not to hurt his parents' finances that they just made the entire thing available for free to anyone who couldn't afford it.

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Eternal Damnation In Hades Actually Seems Like A Pretty Cool Deal

Supergiant Games made Hades—the game, and hopefully also the mythological afterlife, as they've made playing/living there one of the most fun things in gaming. Hades boasts a bunch of game of the year awards, as well as smashing review scores from basically every single review outlet in existence.

Hades ad

Supergiant Games

They didn't even have the money needed to buy good review scores. They didn't have any at the time, anyway. 

This is the result of a labor of love from everyone involved. Sadly, many companies "forget" a lot of their workers, as did the people behind Deathloop, an excellent game ... that didn't include a lot of its crew in its credits. That's terrible, as the inclusion of one's name in the credits is the closest a lot of these people get to an actual resumé, and their snubbing will leave a very problematic, sometimes years-long gap. Also, writing a name on a list costs nothing. 

Supergiant games, however, wouldn't take any of that. Instead of merely crediting workers, the company actively promotes the workers' individual projects. Back in October, they uploaded a video collection of songs from Ashley Barrett, one of Supergiant's biggest musical collaborators.

 ... as well as a showcase of Logan Cunningham, the amazing talent behind the voice of the character Hades ...

... and the work of Josh Barnett, the resident UI artist.

How many times have you seen a game company giving praise to the "menu guy"? Let's hope this sets a precedent; otherwise, we deserve to go to an afterlife run by EA.

Respawn Entertainment Refused Crunch Even When It Could Have Led To World Domination

Back at the time of its release, Apex Legends immediately surpassed Fortnite. Yes, there was a time when the pandemic we all faced was the game every kid in the world was playing, and there was a brief time window when it seemed defeated. Sadly, in what we hope isn't a real-life parallel, Apex Legends didn't really release enough content after the hit launch to keep up. 

Fans complained, but Respawn Entertainment, the people behind Apex Legends, didn't budge. They refused to overstress the lives of coworkers just so they could introduce some cool hats. Either way, if rampant plagiarism is any indicationApex Legends never really stopped being the best online shooter out there—regardless of updates. 

Players just want shiny new toys because the gross monetization strategies of the gaming industry have accustomed them to getting stuff. No one wants to get less crap, even if that crap is, well, crap.

Fortnite hotdog

Epic

If only Apex Legends had a Hot Dog Skin … 

Respawn Entertainment knowingly threw away the chance of having the biggest game on the planet, and the gaming world should salute them for that. Still, for full transparency's sake, It's essential to note that one supposed worker claimed things got tougher during the pandemic, but it seems as if the company really did their best to make things work via flexible deadlines, unlimited time off, better pay, and by having employees work on something that's not Fortnite.

Dead Cells Can Have No Boss

Most large studios are at the very least enabling grueling working conditions on their devs, but there's hope.

Dead Cells is a hugely successful indie game by Motion Twin, a company with a very interesting business model: no bosses. While we don't know if that came about after some sort of bloody revolution, we know something that'll make you forget all the little details: everyone in the company gets paid the same.

Dead Cells

Motion Twin

"Good news, you're being promoted!"
"Oh, so I get a raise."
"Uh, yeah, about that ... "

Motion Twin describes itself as an anarcho-syndical workers cooperative, which you could shrug off as something that will not survive for long the harsh realities of capitalism. Except they've been doing this for nearly two decades, and Dead Cells is their biggest hit yet.

The Strangest Games Were Made Under The Most Strange(ly Wholesome) Working Conditions

Young Horses, the people behind Bugsnax, just started working on a four-day workweek to allow workers to have a healthier life. It would be crazy if this turned out not just to give workers a better life but to make them more productive and creative. Just kidding, we already know it does that, as the company's been doing it since July and reporting awesome results. And, while the idea of a four-day workweek might still sound crazy, we not only have countries already tinkering with it to equally good results, we also have the Eidos Montreal attempting the same thing. 

While we have no confirmation, we'd like to believe that Bugsnax inspired a video game giant to follow their bugsteps.

Young Horses

Young Horses

Young Horses' actual offices, probably.

Fewer workdays not your jam? Then how about working from a place that's not an office? Yeah, we know that's kind of the norm for many now, but DONTNOD, the people behind the hit series Life Is Strange, have decided to apply a work-from-home model prior to the pandemic and even supplied home workers with the required equipment and furniture. Sometimes life is strangely cool.

Tiagosvn would love to learn about any wacky or straight-up awful game development tales you might have been through.

Top Image: Supergiant Games

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