Monthly Archives: February 2010

Naughty Dog wins everything (except for that Tim Schafer game) at DICE 2010

We knew Naughty Dog’s time was coming, but did the Santa Monica developer have to win 99% of the awards at the 13th Annual Interactive Achievement Awards held at DICE 2010 in Las Vegas?

The answer is “yes.” Darn tooting. Naughty Dog is now officially in chapter 3 of its stunning career, the post Crash Bandicoot, post Jak and Daxter chapter, and it’s doing quite well, thank you. 

In addition to the AIAA award for best game of the year, the studio once known for its Crash Bandicoot games and now, clearly known for its Uncharted series, won nine others: Outstanding Achievement in Game Direction, Adventure Game of the Year, Outstanding Achievement in Animation, Outstanding Achievement in Visual Engineering, Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction, Outstanding Achievement in Story – Original, Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Composition, Outstanding Achievement in Game Play Engineering, and Outstanding Achievement in Sound Design.

Luckily, there were some other awards left, like sports, RPGs, and simulation. And hey, my other favorite games of the year, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, and Brutal Legend, took home awards, too.

One should put these awards in context of the bigger picture. You’ll notice there are almost no Japanese games included here. That’s because in order to become a contestant in a category, publishers have to pay a membership fee. I remember hearing my friend Matt Casamassina (from IGN) complain how Resident Evil 4, originally exclusive for GameCube, didn’t win in 2005 because Capcom wasn’t an AAIA member. Looks like Capcom remedied that issue since, as it won this year’s AIAA fighting game of the year award. So, yeah, the Annual Interactive Achievement Awards aren’t a good or complete global representation of all the games across the planet.

The full list of awards reads like this:

Game of the Year: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
* Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
* Developer: Naughty Dog
* Producer: Sam Thompson
* Creative Director: Amy Hennig
* Game Director: Bruce Straley

Outstanding Achievement in Game Direction: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
* Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
* Developer: Naughty Dog
* Producer: Sam Thompson
* Creative Director: Amy Hennig
* Game Director: Bruce Straley

Casual Game of the Year: Flower
* Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
* Developer: thatgamecompany
* Producer: Kellee Santiago
* Creative Director: Jenova Chen

Fighting Game of the Year: Street Fighter IV
* Publisher: Capcom
* Developer: Capcom
* Producer: Yoshinori Ono

Role-Playing/Massively Multiplayer Game of the Year: Dragon Age: Origins
* Publisher: Electronic Arts
* Developer: Bioware
* Producer: Mark Darrah
* Creative Director: Mike Laidlaw
* Game Director: Mark Darrah

Sports Game of the Year: FIFA Soccer 10
* Publisher: Electronic Arts
* Developer: EA Canada
* Producer: David Rutter
* Creative Director: Gary Paterson
* Game Director: Kaz Makita

Racing Game of the Year: Forza Motorsport 3
* Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
* Developer: Turn 10 Studios
* Producer: Korey Krauskopf
* Creative Director: John Wendl
* Game Director: Dan Greenawalt

Outstanding Achievement in Game Design: Batman: Arkham Asylum
* Publisher: Eidos/Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment
* Developer: Rocksteady Studios
* Lead Level Designer: Ian Ball

Adventure Game of the Year: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
* Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
* Developer: Naughty Dog
* Producer: Sam Thompson
* Creative Director: Amy Hennig
* Game Director: Bruce Straley

Social Networking Game of the Year: Farmville
* Publisher: Zynga
* Developer: Zynga
* Producer: David Gray
* Creative Director: Mark Skaggs
* Game Director: Bill Mooney

Strategy/Simulation Game of the Year: Brutal Legend
* Publisher: Electronic Arts
* Developer: Double Fine Productions
* Producer: Caroline Esmurdoc
* Creative Director: Tim Schafer
* Game Director: Tim Schafer

Action Game of the Year: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
* Publisher: Activision
* Developer: Infinity Ward
* Producer: Mark Rubin
* Game Director: Jason West

Family Game of the Year: The Beatles: Rock Band
* Publisher: MTV Games
* Developer: Harmonix Music Systems
* Producers: Paul DeGooyer, Jeff Jones, Alex Rigopulos
* Creative Director: Chris Foster
* Game Director: Josh Randall

Outstanding Innovation in Gaming: Scribblenauts
* Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
* Developer: 5th Cell Media
* Producer: Joseph M. Tringali
* Creative Director: Jeremiah Slaczka
* Game Director: Jeremiah Slaczka

Outstanding Achievement in Animation: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
* Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
* Developer: Naughty Dog
* Lead Animators: Josh Scherr, Jeremy Lai-Yates, Mike Yosh

Outstanding Achievement in Visual Engineering: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
* Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
* Developer: Naughty Dog
* Technology Director: Pal-Kristian Engstad

Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
* Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
* Developer: Naughty Dog
* Art Directors: Erick Pangilinan, Robh Ruppel

Outstanding Achievement in Story -Adapted: Batman: Arkham Asylum
* Publisher: Eidos/Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment
* Developer: Rocksteady Studios
* Writers: Paul Dini, Paul Crocker

Outstanding Character Performance: Batman: Arkham Asylum – Joker
* Publisher: Eidos/Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment
* Developer: Rocksteady Studios
* Writers: Paul Dini, Paul Crocker
* Voice Actor: Mark Hamill

Outstanding Achievement in Online Game Play: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
* Publisher: Activision
* Developer: Infinity Ward
* Lead Online Designer: Todd Alderman

Outstanding Achievement in Story – Original: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
* Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
* Developer: Naughty Dog
* Writers: Amy Hennig, Neil Druckmann, Josh Scherr

Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Composition: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
* Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
* Developer: Naughty Dog
* Composer: Greg Edmonson

Outstanding Achievement in Soundtrack: Brutal Legend
* Publisher: Electronic Arts
* Developer: Double Fine Productions
* Music Supervisor: Emily Ridgway

Outstanding Achievement in Game Play Engineering: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
* Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
* Developer: Naughty Dog
* Lead Game Play Programmer: Travis McIntosh

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Design: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
* Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
* Developer: Naughty Dog
* Sound Designer/Audio Lead: Bruce Swanson

Outstanding Achievement in Portable Game Design: Scribblenauts
* Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
* Developer: 5th Cell Media
* Lead Level Designer: Matt Cox

Portable Game of the Year: Scribblenauts
* Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
* Developer: 5th Cell Media
* Producer: Joseph M. Tringali
* Creative Director: Jeremiah Slaczka
* Game Director: Jeremiah Slaczka

Thanks to Gamasutra.com for the full list of winners.

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Alan Wake Hands-on Impressions

For the last five years, the small Finnish game studio Remedy has weathered a stormy economy, kept its studio small against the trendy tide of high production costs, and has somehow kept Microsoft at bay from canning its project after a half decade of tinkering. Come May 18, Alan Wake will finally have its day in the sun. Unlike so many games that lose their steam and tech edge after a five-year development cycle (witness Peter Molyneux’s first Fable and Dave Perry’s Wild 9), Remedy’s Alan Wake just seems to keep getting better.

For the full preview, see the piece I wrote on GamesRadar.com.

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Fable 3: Why Peter Molyneux Gives Great Demos

During the last demo of Fable 3 at Microsoft’s XO10 conference in San Francisco, Lionhead chief Peter Molyneux asked us if he could sit, as he explained, he had been working 10-12 hour days. Eventually has asked if he could get onto his knees to illuminate actions on the HDTV. Since my associate and I were the only guys in the last session of the day, we agreed. Molyneux, whose repertoire of games reaches back to the 8-bit and 16-bit days and includes hits such as Syndicate, Black and White, and Dungeon Keeper, is known for both charming audiences during his infamous demo sessions and overpromising on games that often only deliver a portion of those promises.

In our demo, Molyneux demonstrated exactly why he is so captivating as a speaker and as a game designer. He speaks personally to as many journalists as possible, to such a degree that his “handlers” have to end the sessions for him. He expresses a child-like joy for the games he makes, which you can hear in his voice and see on his face. And few of his games are proper, predictable sequels. They’re always packed with new ideas and attempts at doing something different. As the chief of Lionhead, he said, he loves his job, asking in what other position could he employ such off-the-wall ideas, or make such drastic changes, or have so much fun at his job?

Of course, the opposite can be said, and with conviction. Molyneux’s games often only contain a portion of the ideas he hypes, leaving lots of gamers frustrated and angry at him, and leaving a game that clearly looks like it has been cleaved (like Fable 1, for instance). 

Fable 3 stands to build upon the previous Fables in the series, with more character customization and innovative options in three ways, says Molyneux: 1) by rewriting the rules of traditional story-telling in games, 2) by enabling an Ico-like hand-holding mechanic called “touch,” 3) and by enabling players to customize their weapon (as an outgrowth of customizing their characters).

THE HERO MYTH REWRITTEN

“Video games are always told by means of the hero’s journey,” said Molyneux, referring to the common concept of heroes from writer Joseph Campbell’s book, Hero of a Thousand Faces. “A big baddy does something really bad, you’re the hero, and you work all game long to beat him. Then, the worst thing happens. The credits roll. When you beat him, the story ends. In our game, after you beat the leader of the town of Logan halfway through the game,  you become the king.”

Molyneux’s premise is that gamers always play the same story model, and by putting gamers in the shoes of the king, they’ll gain an enormous amount of power and then have to make decisions that will make some followers happy, but will eventually let other people down, giving players choices over how they’ll reign.

LET’S “TOUCH”

“Let’s face it, when it comes to expressions in Fable 1 and 2, it really came down to one funny ‘expression.’ Farting.” In Fable 3, Lionhead is borrowing the hand-holding mechanic first introduced in ICO to connect gamers with characters in the story.

Molyneux demonstrated the idea with a family of three, a father, mother, and a young, lost daughter.  In order to find the daughter, the character relies on his pet dog to track her scent. Once located the father lifts the girl into his arms and they hug. Players can then punish or reward the daughter for running away.Your character then tries to lead her into the pub, where she responds by saying, “Daddy, that’s the pub. Mother said she never wanted you to go there again.”

They then walk back home hand-in-hand. “When we have couples who play game in co-op walk in hand in hand, everyone single one of them is moved,” said Molyneux. “It’s amazing how simple and effective it is.”

Molyneux also showed how “touch” negatively affects characters.  By putting his character’s hand on the shoulder of a beggar and misguiding him into believing he’ll be fed, the father leads the beggar to a labor shop. Once the beggar realizes he’s going to the labor plant, he pulls and tugs and tries to break free from your grip. But no such luck. By physically connecting players with characters in the game, they’ll feel more attached and emotionally connected to the game, added Molyneux.

WEAPONRY: SAM’S AXE OF DEATH

Finally, Molyneux explained how the weapons have been changed and improved over Fable 2. “We were in a design meeting talking about weapons,” explained Molyneux. We had created about 300 weapons already (Molyneux signs with boredom at the thought of so many weapons) when we suddenly realized that we should allow you to create your own weapon.”

In the demo Molyneux shows a striped face warrior holding an unusually shaped axe. “It’s tall because of the 1,000 kills you’ve tallied. It’s spiked because of your Xbox 360 gamer skills. And it’s named ‘Sam’s axe of death,'” said Molyneux. The best part? You can trade or sell your weapon online, or buy another player’s weapon.

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Splinter Cell Conviction Preview

Amidst several consulting jobs, I was happily able to visit Microsoft’s XO10 conference, where I got a hands-on session with two of the Splinter Cell Conviction’s first levels.  For impressions, check my preview at GamesRadar.com.

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New Red Dead Redemption Video: The Law

Well, this isn’t exactly mind blowing, but Rockstar released a new Red Dead Redemption video called “The Law.” Since I’m still betting on the notion that this will be a GTA in the Wild West (the idea that Rockstar has floated to the press), I’m still amped about its April 27 arrival.

But it could be a less than profitable bet. This this was far less impressive video than I was expecting. The video played really slowly on my computer, and I’m hoping that was my computer and not the actual game or framerate of the game. Otherwise, dear lord are we in trouble.

Also, a couple of non-deliberate instances made me laugh. Marshall Leigh Johnson says, “The man who kills the boss of that bunch gets $50!”

The boss of that bunch? What, is he like a Japanese video game character? And…$50???!!! That’s like one lunch in San Francisco. Not so compelling. I’d rather join the bad guys.

Agent Edgar Ross seems like a creep bad guy, but when you hear the line, “We’re the bad guys…” you kinda have to wonder, have they hired a new, young script-writer who secretly loved Young Guns? The language in this trailer just wasn’t all that impressive for a Rockstar game, and now I’m feeling a little less of the super hype and more of a grounded feeling.

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Charmed by 9

Just rented the movie “9.” Those little sackboy characters were super cool, and despite being a little simplistic, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Custom Mario Tunes on Rock Band Network

Found this Super Mario 64 Bowser battle Theme on YouTube–and love it.  Wouldn’t it be great if these got approved? I’d pay money for all of the Mario 64 tunes.

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