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Top 7 most exciting developers today

We've mourned the passing of so many good studios a couple of weeks ago in our inaugural Top 7 Industry Changers, so we thought it only fair to swing the other way and look at those development houses exciting us right now.

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These seven are pushing the boundaries of the medium in different ways, but all share the ability to capture the world's attention whatever they're deciding to show (or in some cases, their continued silence).

Thatgamecompany

With a trail of critical acclaim for the L.A based outfit's latest endeavour longer than the main character's scarf, the company behind Journey finds itself breaking out of the single format deal with Sony and braving the multi-format crossroads. The growing confidence seen as it transitioned from Flow, Flower and into the biggest-selling PSN title to date shows this is a developer that can match indie class with business smarts. Whatever's next, it'll be intriguing.

Double Fine

There'll come a day when Kickstarter will just be one of the publishing norms, an alternative industry standard for projects seen as too daring, too risky for the suits. But Double Fine will always earn its right to lay claim to the trendsetter label that begat the medium's rush to grassroots funding.

Arguably it could have only been Double Fine who could have ran with the idea and made it so successful. Yet its inarguable that the real intrigue is the behind-the-scenes documentary that'll chart the team's work - comedic though their shorts can be, its unlikely they'll shy from presenting the highs and lows, warts and all. Whether classic adventure games still have a place in today's market will be answered, but we'll also have a chance to see behind the veil in the game development process.

Valve

Check out the video above. It's from Half-Life: Episode 2, way back in 2007. A chance to see how far game trailers have come in production and marketing since then: but while most games transition from cutting edge to ugly duckling stupidly quick, five years on a ripping bridge and a slow pan of environments continues to send a shiver down the spine and force an involuntary "wow" out of the mouth.

Such is the power of Valve, a company who's future output has been reported on with the fervour of the Second Coming, and with more crackpot theories than a year's worth of National Enquirer features. Despite there being zero actual fact.

While others on this list may redefine the direction of the industry, or have done in the past, there's only one that could stop the entire industry in its tracks with an announcement. Whatever Half Life 3 proves to be - it'll be the biggest gaming story bar none.

Team Ico

People that peg Namco Bandai's Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch as the transition point between Japanese animation studios and video games have got it wrong.

It may have only produced three games thus far in its fifteen-year life, but Team Ico has managed to create unearthly fantasy tales that feel utterly a product of their country of origin and the closet we have to a Studio Ghibli. While it's third entry, The Last Guardian may ultimately prove the studio's ambition has exceeded its ability - numerous reports have arisen over problematic development - the only titles it'll ultimately ever be comparable to is the team's own work.

Irrational Games

Months ago Ken Levine put out an open letter to the industry detailing why BioShock Infinite wouldn't be at trade shows this year, and why it was being put back. Such is the power of the studio and its IP that's only come with one game (we'll sidestep the Bioshock sequel). But that game brought with it a lot of mechanics that have been adopted wholesale this generation - always the sign of a trendsetter - and lessons learnt have been carried forward to Infinite, a game that's not sacrificing player control nor gaming foundations for story or glory.

Quantic Dream

They amy be derided for making no more than QTE games, but that'd completely fail to see the importance of the French developer who have mined so much out of the PS2 and PS3 architecture. That with Beyond they're working towards more control shows that its not just going to be pictures, and what results will be staggering.

id Software

The old war horse might have only gotten one game out recently in the form of Rage, but for PC development they're still the cutting edge thanks to a talented studio and a fella named John Carmack - after a meeting with him to test out his AR Visor technology he's beyond cutting edge. Epic may be making more headlines with its Unreal tech, but expect the future to be defined by what id does.



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