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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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E3 2009: Microsoft Conference with Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and More

The rumors leading up to Microsoft’s E3 Media Briefing just didn’t do the maker of the Xbox 360 any justice. The nearly two-hour presentation was packed with surprises, guest appearances, and premiere presentations of games from obvious announcements like Alan Wake, Forza 3, and Tony Hawk’s Ride to surprises like Crackdown 2, Metal Gear Solid Rising, and Shadow Complex to guest appearances from The Beatles’ Ringo Starr and Sir Paul McCartney.

Check out my photo gallery of shots to show what it looked like from the upper balcony of the USC Galen Center in downdown Los Angeles, Ca.

Project Natal enables motion-detecting, voice-recognition software that eliminates the need for a controller.

Project Natal enables motion-detection and voice-recognition software that eliminates the need for a controller.

Imitating Nintendo's family demos, this family is playing Live 1 Versus 100, a trivia game enabling 100 people to play simultaneously.

Imitating Nintendo's family demos, this happy "Microsoft family" is playing Live 1 Versus 100, a trivia game enabling 100 people to play simultaneously.

Microsoft wants you to be the contoller. Looks like a revolutionary concept, but can MS execute on its ambitious project?

Microsoft wants you to be the controller. Looks like a revolutionary concept, but can MS execute on its ambitious project?

The Xbox 360 finally gets its very own, original Kojima game, Metal Gear Solid Rising; "Raiden is back," according to Kojima.

The Xbox 360 finally gets its very own, original Hideo Kojima game, Metal Gear Solid Rising; "Raiden is back," according to Kojima.

The familiar alert sound effect appeared as Hideo Kojima "snuck" on-stage and "surprised" MGS Don Matttrick.

The familiar alert sound effect appeared as Hideo Kojima "snuck" on-stage and "surprised" MGS VP Don Mattrick.

Mattrick tells Kojima that his game completes Microsoft. Creepy!

Mattrick tells Kojima that his game "completes" Microsoft. Creepy!

Bungie writer and Halo novelist Joseph Staten intoduces Halo ODST (due this September) and the surprise announcement, Halo Reach (due fall 2010).

Bungie writer and Halo novelist Joseph Staten introduces Halo ODST (due this September) and makes the surprise announcement that Bungie is working on Halo Reach (due fall 2010).

The last remaining Beatles band members, Sir Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr announce they like the game. Paul said, "he never thought he would become a Game Android." Ringo said, "The game sounds great, the graphics are great, and we're in it!"

The last remaining Beatles' band members, Sir Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, announce they like the game. Paul said, he "never thought we would become a Game Androids." Ringo said, "The game sounds great, the graphics are great, and we're in it!"

Starr and McCartney basically went on stage and said stuff like, "Yeah, cool, this game is good. We like it. Gotta run." As celebrity endoresments go, these two guys are epic in stature and their presence was impressive, but they said nothing of substance.

Starr and McCartney basically went on stage and said stuff like, "Yeah, cool, this game is good. We like it. Gotta run." As celebrity endoresments go, these two guys are epic in stature and their presence was impressive, but they said nothing of substance.

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E3 2009: Microsoft Delivers Project Natal, The Beatles, Halo Reach, and Forza 3 at Media Briefing

Microsoft held its E3 2009 news briefing at 10:30 am Monday at the USC Galen Center on a three-screen stage lit with its trademark green circle design and delivered its much rumored hands-free controller, along with a top-notch lineup of 15-plus games, 10 of which are exclusive to the system. (See shots of the conference, including Beatles people here.)

Microsoft kicked off its 2-hour conference with Harmonix’s Rock Band The Beatles (due 9.09.09 on Xbox 360 and PS3). The developed showed the first-ever footage from Rock Band The Beatles from flash graphic-style cutscenes to a full band set up including three singers, guitarist, drummer, and basist, demoed by the Harmonix’s house band, and followed up with guest appearances by the last remaining Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr.

Carefully crafting the order and games for its conference to mix both casual and mainstream efforts with hardcore titles, Microsoft sent Pro skater Tony Hawk to the stage to demo Tony Hawk’s Ride replete with developer Robo Moto’s wireless skateboard controller (due fall 2009 on Xbox 360 and PS3).

Tony Hawk’s Ride was followed by in-game footage of Modern Warfare 2, which will enable gamers to ride and shoot enemies from snowmobiles (due 11.01.09 on PC, PS3, and Xbox 360), Final Fantasy XIII (with in-game footage including a summons spell calling “Odin” to fight alongside you; due spring 2010), and in-game footage from Donald Mustard’s new Shadow Complex, a sidescrolling action adventure game inspired by GI Joe and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (due summer 09).

Microsoft then demoed the free avatar racing game Joy Ride (winter 2009), a GC presentation of Crackdown 2 (which looks to feature big, nasty bosses who are much stronger than you), a CG video of Left4Dead2 (see L4D.com), an in-game video presentation of the exclusive Xbox 360 and PC game, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Conviction (due fall 2009), and the not-so-surprising Turn 10 game, Forza 3–which Producer Dan Greenawalt said four times is “The definitive racing game of this era.”

Bungie Studios’ writer Joe Staten then introduced the first in-game footage of Halo ODST, which falls between Halo 1 and Halo 2 and puts gamers in the shoes of a non-Spartan military special ops team called Orbital Drop Shock Troopers (ODST), who, when collecting various articles on his journey, initiates flashback story chapters to tell the story. Halo ODST introduces a few gadgets such as the returning Halo 1 pistol, a scanning visor, two sound suppressed weapons, and a rocket launcher. Halo ODST includes the co-op mode Firefight, and is due September 22 worldwide on Xbox 360. Staten also revealed Halo Reach, which was only shown in video and is due on fall 2010. Staten explained that when you pre-order Halo ODST, you’ll automatically be invited to participate in the Halo Reach beta.

Remedy finally showed Alan Wake, which still isn’t coming out this year (due spring 2010), but its very pretty, polished-looking adventure-horror game featuring tons of lighting effects issued from flashlights and flares.

Microsoft then announced a slew of partnerships to bolster its multimedia prowess. It announced it has partnered with Last.fm, an online music service that has a subscription of 30 million users worldwide, which will be free for all Gold Members. Following that it’s improved its Netflix service, eliminating the need to use the PC to browse for movies and now enables players to instantly connect to movies without wait times. Microsoft also announced a partnership with SkyTV, which will benefit folks in the UK and Ireland to be able to watch live TV shows from their Xbox 360s such as Premiere League Football.

For all those who thought the Zune as gone and dead, it’s not. Zune Video enables Xbox 360 users to see 1080p videos “without discs, delays or downloading, using what MS called its “Instant On 1080 HD streaming service.

Microsoft didn’t stop there. It then announced it’s partnered with Facebook and Twitter, both of which can be used directly on Xbox 360. FaceBook on Xbox 360 enables players to post pictures directly to their 360s; both services are due in fall 2009.

Finally, and perhaps biggest of all was the announcement of Project Natal, a demo driven by designer Kudo Tsunoda and endorsed on-stage by Stephen Spielberg and Lionhead Studios’ Peter Molyneux. Tsunoda showed how Microsoft is taking the Wii controller idea and attempting to take it to the next level of controller-less games by eliminating the controller all together. Project Natal enables consumers to use voice recognition, facial recognition, and motion sensing technology to grant gamers the ability to scroll iPhone-style through the dashboard and pick movies, launch games, or turn off or on their 360s with a gesture. Gamers can play 3D breakout-style games (MS called this game Ricochet) by using their hands to hit and their feet to kick in coming balls, as well as create painted objects on virtual canvases (Paint Party).

Paint Party brought the biggest laughs, however, as the crude painting looked more like Jackson Pollack style abstract expressionism, and the shadow game elephant that was demoed on screen, while fun, also brought on uncontrolled laughter from the audience (as it showed male and female demo-ers bent over to imitate an elephant eating). Tsunoda also showed how the Mii-like avatar that Microsoft introduced last year is now fully useable as a movement controlled avatar onscreen, who looks like and mimics your movements.

Microsoft concluded its conference by showing a Lionhead game temporarily called Milo, which uses the Project Natal technology and showed how users could interact with a crude artificial intelligence “boy” who recognizes the user, speaks to the user, “understands” the users voice textures, and hands users things on the screen. Conceptually, Project Natal is a brilliant idea that was easily the most impressive aspect of the entire Microsoft briefing. The hard part, however, will be executing the concept in a way that works seamlessly and believably. Mattrick added that the technology will work with all games that have been released in the past on Xbox 360 and all games in the future. Tsunoda said the techo demos are shipping now out to developers and publishers.

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