Our Favorite Games: Vigil Games

The team behind Darksiders II kicks off the first entry in our series about the people who make games and their favorite games of all time.

by

Ryan Stefanelli - Principal Designer

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
One of the most meticulously designed, brilliantly innovative games of all time. People assumed it would be impossible to translate the 2D excellence of Zelda to a controversial 3D world, but Miyamoto pulled it off with ease. The simple addition of lock-on targeting changed the way developers approached 3D action. For a level designer, the dungeons in Ocarina of Time were a veritable textbook of good design and communication.

One of the questions I love to ask design candidates in interviews is "Which Zelda game is the best of all time?" Which I follow up with "Remember, there is no correct answer. Except Ocarina of Time, that's the correct answer."

We certainly wear our inspirations on our sleeves here at Vigil, and the Zelda influence is obvious. It's the reason we left the MMO space to pursue console development; we wanted to make our own epic adventure game, with a twist. This game is a big reason Vigil exists.

Half-Life
As a lifelong console gamer, I didn't play many PC games, and Half-Life was the first FPS game to grip me and never let go. Case in point: it wasn't until HL1 that I adopted a mouse-and-keyboard play style. The story and setting were so well presented that I found myself replaying it constantly despite the linearity just to experience it all again, often with cheats so I could use the fantastic weapons to blow up the scientists in the opening sequence in hilarious ways.

Some of my most memorable gaming moments are from Half-Life. The slow-burning train intro through Black Mesa to reach Sector C test labs; Chasing G-Man through the halls of Black Mesa; firing the test rocket onto the terrifying green tentacle monster; first spying Zen; turning G-Man down in the end… One of the best games ever and a landmark of shooter design.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
The MetroidVania genre is filled with classics, and this is the best of the bunch. As soon as I scratched the surface of this game's depth--the huge variety of weapons, armor, items, creatures, and spells--I was addicted. So addicted I spent hours using the gravity boots to launch onto the ceiling of every square inch of the world, trying to bump up my total map revealed percentage (I think I peaked at 207 percent).

The world was overwhelmingly detailed. There were little touches that I still remember, such as sitting in the confessional booth in the church, only to be abruptly stabbed with a spear by the ghostly priest who joined me. Almost every creature died in a different and dramatic way. The number of secrets to be found was nearly overwhelming.

It featured one of the greatest twists in gaming history--the upside-down castle, which you could only find after collecting obscure items and solving riddles. And in an era that largely predated the Internet, this was something most people found on their own, much to their shock and awe. Thinking you are done with a game only to discover it's less than half finished…brilliant. And it was all capped off by one of the greatest soundtracks of all time.

    Honorable Mentions:
  • Tie Fighter
  • Super Mario World
  • Street Fighter III: Third Strike
  • Phantasy Star 2

Marvin Donald - Game Director

World of Warcraft (Beta through 60)
Back in the primordial days of the MMO genre, there was an idea. While playing the MMOs before WOW, I fell in love with that idea. Sadly, MMO games of that time were rigid, unattractive, and unwelcoming for anyone but the most intrepid. Blizzard was the first to truly represent what I thought the MMO experience might feel like. All the amazing spontaneous moments in world PVP, all the groups/guilds/raids, and all the countless hours of research consumed me in a way that I doubt any other game will. WOW was an enormous experience that offered a level of polish that was so far and above its predecessors that it gave me a world-class experience. WOW redefined everything, and I enjoyed the experience as the genre evolved. Now, WOW is so successful that it seems cliche to give it praise. Regardless, I've got to give it up. I had some damn good times.

Demon's Souls,Dark Souls
No other current-gen game better represents "zero compromise." I don't see a product of focus testing or marketing here. I see a purely developer-driven experience that boldly says, "If you don't like it, we don't care." I grew up playing games that were hard. We (developers) may be at a point where accessibility has been overemphasized. Now we have a reminder that meaningful rewards and experiences should be earned. That said, simply making something hard isn't the answer. There has to be the glimmer of hope that you can make it through. I love the feeling I had the first time I killed a boss.

Doom II (LAN)
You may need to be my age to appreciate this. I'll never forget my first LAN party. I was in disbelief before it all started. "Is this really going to work?" "Are we really going to see each other running around?" "Holy crap, I can see you!" Kaboom! "Bwhahahahahahahahahah! I just blew you to pieces with my rocket launcher!" A buddy of mine's father was in the PC business. They were a Dell/Gateway-type operation. At their office they had a PC lab that was networked. One weekend, four of us set up Doom II and proceeded to blow each other's brains out. Nowadays it doesn't seem like much, but back in the mid '90s it was a ridiculously awesome new experience. I have never laughed and cursed so much in my life.

Matt Guzenda – Executive Producer

Half-Life
For me it reinvented the first-person genre. Up until Half-Life, most of the innovations for first-person shooters had been tech related. Half-Life really focused on immersing the player in the story experience. The intro still holds up today and sucks you into Black Mesa. Everyone talks about scripted moments in games now like in Call of Duty, but they all owe their roots to the scripted sequences in Half-Life. There were so many scripted pieces that really made you feel like you were in a Black Mesa as it was under siege. A lot of them were very subtle, as the game pioneered player-controlled cinematic moments (I still want to know why the G-Man set off that bomb).

Elite
The original space flight sim. I'm a huge sci-fi geek, so who doesn't want to own their own spaceship, wheeling and dealing through the galaxy? For me it was the original sandbox game in that there was no set structure and you were free to explore, trade, and make your way through the galaxy. Privateer and Tie Fighter were much more polished sci-fi flight shooters, but they owe their roots to Elite.

Portal
Having worked on a bunch of action adventure games and being told "everyone hates puzzles," I get a kick out of a game that is purely puzzle based. I still think the innovative storytelling was a pure fluke, but it has one of the most memorable catchphrases of all time (and I like cake). The sequel didn't have the innocence of the first game, although I can forgive it, as the humor was awesome (I'm signed on to fight the invasion of Mantis men).

Ben Cureton - Lead Combat Designer

While it's incredibly hard to list only three games, it's an additional challenge to separate my favorite games from games I both love and think are hugely influential to the industry. With that being said…

Dark Souls
Dark Souls is absolutely on my list. Of course, I loved Demon's Souls, but the spiritual successor simply took it to the next level. Dark Souls is an uncompromising take on combat, exploration, and discovery--the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. Not only did it refine the way we thought about cooperative and competitive play (started in Demon's Souls), but it set the bar for truly filling the player with a sense of accomplishment. Getting there was rough, but when you did it, you felt like you had lifted the world on your shoulders.

A (spiritual) sequel, yes, but it's what many would consider the Terminator 2 or Aliens of the series. I've played many games multiple times, but Dark Souls is the first game I played to completion, back-to-back, four or five times. After all that, I'm still ready to play it again when the Prepare to Die edition is out!

Shadow of the Colossus
To me, SOTC is an amazing look at what a "game" could actually be. Sure, there were gameplay mechanics, objectives, and even rewards, but it always felt more than the sum of its parts. Most importantly, it let me interpret the story my own way. Who was I saving? Was killing the Colossi actually bad? Was I being selfish? I even became attached to a virtual horse! There are many games out there with better traversal mechanics, or better riding mechanics, or shooting mechanics…but there are not many (if any) games that left a bigger impression on me than Shadow of the Colossus.

Devil May Cry 3
Devil May Cry 3 is a game, through and through. It's crazy, it's intense, it's funny, it's challenging, it's deep, and it's also ridiculous. As a fan of combat, I always loved hack-and-slash games, so when the original DMC came out, I was instantly hooked. Though there were a few missteps along the way (DMC2), DMC3 completely knocked it out of the park. It had free-form combat, amazing enemy and boss design, secrets, combos, exploration, and replayability, and perhaps most importantly, it had the best iteration of Dante--one of the most memorable heroes (or antiheroes) ever! DMC3 had the perfect blend of both style and substance, and although the genre has improved yet again (with Bayonetta), DMC3 still holds a special place in my heart.

    Honorable Mentions:
  • Street Fighter (Series)
  • Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
  • Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
  • Super Mario World

Discussion

0 comments
shantd
shantd

DMC 3, that's a great call. This game seems to fly under the radar, it rarely gets mentioned along with other all-time action greats. It was also very challenging...not quite at the Dark Souls level, but pretty damn close. The special edition even allowed you to replay the game as Vergil, complete with new weapons, combat moves, story, and cut scenes. Hands down the best DMC game in the series imo.

GameFan1983
GameFan1983

"No other current-gen game better represents "zero compromise." I don't see a product of focus testing or marketing here. I see a purely developer-driven experience"

 

well said, Dark/demon's souls are the only games this gen that able to keep your experience fresh from begin to end, along with handful surprising elements in your second or third playthrough, to call either game perfection is no understatement.

 

plus  the extremely well thought out levels design and the innovate combat system will change the action rpg genre forever.

sorin_ro
sorin_ro

they cant choose their own game but their first Darksiders game was awesome. im playing Darksiders 2 right now, im not impressed.

xdrmonkeyfishx
xdrmonkeyfishx

I'm impressed. This is a list of great games, which i have mostly played and enjoyed. That being said, I am surprised that Quake I and II were left out. Those games are amazing

GuilhermeHQ
GuilhermeHQ

"I even became attached to a virtual horse!"True, Agro is great :D

Atolm1
Atolm1

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is without a doubt one of the greatest game experiences I've ever had, unforgettable.

The_Great_Purge
The_Great_Purge

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is one of its best ever platformer game and great soundtrack produced named Castlevania some 15 years ago. I could never forget that feeling you accomplished something only to find out you're just halfway through in the game. And you could never proceed on the other half unless you find your way to get there. Awesome!

pcty
pcty

A lot of japanese games references.

Hawkeye049
Hawkeye049

You know I just realized these guys almost like the perfect games for their positions in production. If they were to apply their likes, they could make one awesome game. It would need adventuring like zelda, and a combat system similar to dark souls( or Ninja Gaiden 2), and a story like Half life (WItcher 2 also good example). Then it wold be the single greatest game ever made. That isn't Darksiders tho... sorry...

slimskelter
slimskelter

Difficult games? Grew up in the 80s. Try completing Contra without using the Konami code, kids.

Joeguy00
Joeguy00

GameSpot so put Zelda at the top on purpose. That's pretty funny.

I did hear them repeatedly say they like Dark Souls in interviews though.

Derugs
Derugs

Dark Souls and Demon Souls RULE!!

King9999
King9999

It's great to see Dark Souls getting some love from other developers.

Outer_Raven
Outer_Raven

"Dark Souls is an uncompromising take on combat, exploration, and discovery--the more you put into it, the more you get out of it."

 

Best way to describe Dark Souls. People who gave up on their first 10-20 deaths will never understand the piece of art that is "Dark Souls". I stopped playing after getting to New Game+++++++ and after creating 4 different characters each with different playstyles and reading this makes me want to go play it again.

GhostRecall
GhostRecall

To much fuss about this game we'll play it when it comes out no need for all this comotion

 

franzito
franzito

I agree with at least 75% of the game's list.

Paoksis
Paoksis

i now know why i love so much darksiders...All their team's favourite games are mine too,not a single exception

Dugular
Dugular

I think it's healthy that the team seems nicely balanced on their PC and console love, which makes things better for everyone

eddyoshi
eddyoshi

I love shadow of the colossus, and am also suprised how no metal gear solid game is here

SmallMafia
SmallMafia

 @BCFOX Yeah, I was thinking the exact same thing. System Shock?

GreySeven
GreySeven

Metal Gear Solid didn't make it on any lists?

redder1111
redder1111

COMPLETELY agree with the last one. the best h&s imo EVER!

jpm1276
jpm1276

I always like to see what games people that make games play and draw their inspiration from. A lot of my personal favorites were on the list and that is good to see.

Hawkeye049
Hawkeye049

More games need to be like Dark Souls and give you the sense of achievement it does, that keeps you sucked in FOREVER. New game + is always a good idea, especially when there is no limit. Highly recommend Dark souls and Half Life. Crysis 1 was amazing in 2007, but was played by 1% of gamers cause most couldn't. It will never be fully appreciated, especially since 2 wasn't nearly as good. Gears is also amazing series.

Lotus-Edge
Lotus-Edge

Dark Souls was just... hellish perfection....

jonasas2
jonasas2

riiiiiiiiiiiight, none of them played god of war.

Tsuchikage
Tsuchikage

I like this new column.  It's always interesting to hear what developers of great games took their inspiration from and the games they think are the best of the best.  Dark Souls, Portal, and Shadow of the Colossus are awesome games, too.

Giancarlo
Giancarlo moderator

 @Malaphisis Just because your favorite game does not appear on their respective lists does not mean they didn't like it. 

The_Great_Purge
The_Great_Purge

 @pcty Give credit to the japanese. They are not afraid to create unconventional games, whether it will sell or not. Most of the weird game mechanics originated from them. Sometimes the mechanics or the games are silly, but most bright ideas come from them.

jollybest1
jollybest1

 @Hawkeye049  Well some years ago, before COD era , games were harder than they are now. Elder Scrolls for example was way harder than the easy Skirim, Baldurs Gate( Dragon Age is a walk in the park) even the first GTA games were harder than GTA4. The RPG games now do not compare with the older ones in which you needed to know a lot of things about how stats work  how much damage you make , how can you make your damage better, how to use your equipment in your favor. Everybody cried that TW2 was hard when released now it is too easy. I can't wait for Dark Souls on PC maybe it will change something.

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duberdurm
duberdurm

 @jonasas2 If you've played GoW, then it should be on any fav list by default.  Especially if you bother to mention DMC3 or WoW, which are lesser games.  They just don't want to admit to liking anything about GoW because of the accusations they've been getting.  Kind of cowardly (give credit where it's due), but whatever.

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

 @jonasas2 Yes. They only played in their whole lives just the games they listed as their favorites, and no others. :/

Bumblebee1138
Bumblebee1138

I'm sure they played. But it is not thier favorite so it's not mentioned. :P

Halloll
Halloll

 @jonasas2 They make Darksiders so they sure played GOW. just because none of them choose it doesn't mean they didn't play it. but they certainly didn't play Metal Gear Solid.

Hawkeye049
Hawkeye049

 @jollybest1

 I agree most game now are to easy, but TW2 wasn't that easy it dependes on how you used your skills. Like the basic roll was pathetic, also sword ruins, using spells. It was easy if you didn't let yourself get ganged up on and knew what you were doing. I enjoyed every bit of that game I only wish it was longer. I don't want to have to go through the story again and make the decisions I wouldn't normally choose otherwise. In other words Iorveth can suck it.

giocher
giocher

 @jollybest1

 TW2 is harder on pc but if it's too easy you can play the Dark Mode, is still nowhere as hard as Dark Souls but it wasn't even intend to be like that I believe. I think while game like Dark Souls represent the top of the line of hardcore difficulty TW2 represent how "standard" games should be, it's challenging enough to be extremely satisfying and share the severe but fair gameplay mechanics. Other than that I loved how TW series has an emphasis on preparation before combat, it gives the main character a much more human feel than most other nearly superhuman charaters in modern games besides being a gameplay feature strictly related to the narrative (witchers are powerful and skilled monster slayer but their main strenght comes from knowledge of enemies and preparation before fights).Anyway I'm sure Dark Souls will change something, after all there's a reason why they called that edition "Prepare to Die" xD!!!

Giancarlo
Giancarlo moderator

 @duberdurm @jonasas2 People who make games are normal people like you and me. They have a short list of favorite games. Because X game was left off the list doesn't mean that they didn't draw inspiration from it or didn't like it....just means it's not the first thing that springs to mind. Have you ever tried restricting your list of favorite games to just 3 or so? Not so easy.

jonasas2
jonasas2

 @Kevin-V oh please, have you played darksiders and god of war. darksiders is just like GoW, but with free camera and comic style. developers probably didnt mention it, because players would see too many similarities between them and say that its a copy of GoW (of course darksiders is also somewhat similar to dmc)

Hawkeye049
Hawkeye049

 @Halloll

 im sure they played those games, but people have different opinions on games. I like Metro 2033, Half Life, CS, Dark Souls, Witcher, Gears, Crysis. PC games mostly. Console gamers like COD and other "Awesome" games. Not everyone see the "light" lol

jonasas2
jonasas2

 @Giancarlo yeah it isnt easy. i have to agree with you. but if their game is so similar they couldve at least mentioned it