Who I’d Vote For

It looks like I don’t get an AIAS ballot this year since I don’t work for EA anymore. *shrug*. I’m not going to pony up $95.00 to get a vote, but if I did, here’s who would get my votes. Update: As an IGDA member, I get to vote. Huzzah.

Of course, this sucks for the folks making the games I haven’t got to yet (Uncharted 2, Assassin’s Creed 2), but that is the nature of timely awards, I suppose. I simply deleted the categories I wouldn’t vote in due to lack of familiarity with the titles listed. Designers generally only vote in the design-related categories, so things like Art Direction have been omitted as well.

Overall Game of the Year
o Assassin’s Creed II / Ubisoft / Ubisoft Montreal
o Batman: Arkham Asylum / Eidos/Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment / Rocksteady Studios
o Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 / Activision / Infinity Ward
o Dragon Age: Origins / Electronic Arts / BioWare
o Uncharted 2: Among Thieves / Sony Computer Entertainment America / Naughty Dog

Wow, I haven’t played the majority of these. Am I out of touch?

Outstanding Innovation in Gaming
o Demon’s Souls / Atlus / From Software
o FarmVille / Zynga / Zynga
o Flower / Sony Computer Entertainment America / thatgamecompany
o Scribblenauts / Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment / 5th Cell Media
o Uncharted 2: Among Thieves / Sony Computer Entertainment America / Naughty Dog

Seeing as Farmville is stolen whole cloth from another company seemingly, it would be hard to vote for them, but I understand the thrust of nominating something from the social game scene and Farmville is #1. Still, Scribblenauts is so innovative that I honestly didn’t believe it was possible until I played it, bugs aside.

Outstanding Achievement in Game Direction
o Assassin’s Creed II / Ubisoft / Ubisoft Montreal
o Batman: Arkham Asylum / Eidos/Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment / Rocksteady Studios
o Brutal Legend / Electronic Arts / Double Fine Productions
o Flower / Sony Computer Entertainment America / thatgamecompany
o Uncharted 2: Among Thieves / Sony Computer Entertainment America / Naughty Dog

Bingo. This is the perfect category for Batman. Take a franchise that has had nothing but middling action games and create one of the most compelling licensed games of all-time? The fanboys and the casual even agree. Hot damn. Outstanding direction.

Role-Playing/Massively Multiplayer Game of the Year
o Borderlands / 2K Games / Gearbox Software
o Champions Online / Atari / Cryptic Studios
o Demon’s Souls / Atlus / From Software
o Dragon Age: Origins / Electronic Arts / BioWare
o Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story / Nintendo / Alphadream

While Borderlands was excellent, it wasn’t for its role-playing. Dragon Age: Origins pretty much defines what an RPG needs to be this decade.

Sports Game of the Year
o FIFA Soccer 10 / Electronic Arts / EA Canada
o MLB 09: The Show / Sony Computer Entertainment America / SCE San Diego
o NBA 2K10 / 2K Sports / Visual Concepts
o NHL 10 / Electronic Arts / EA Canada
o Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 (Wii) / Electronic Arts / EA Tiburon

I’ve got to show some love, even though The Show 08 was a great game and 09 was probably better.

Portable Game of the Year
o LittleBigPlanet / Sony Computer Entertainment America / SCE Cambridge Studio
o Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story / Nintendo / Alphadream
o Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box / Nintendo / Level-5
o Scribblenauts / Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment / 5th Cell Media
o The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks / Nintendo / Nintendo

While Scribblenauts was incredibly interesting and innovative, it didn’t hold together as a game nearly as well as Layton.

Strategy/Simulation Game of the Year
o Brutal Legend / Electronic Arts / Double Fine Productions
o Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon / Nintendo / Intelligent Systems
o Halo Wars / Microsoft Game Studios / Ensemble Studios/Robot Entertainment
o The Sims 3 / Electronic Arts / The Sims Studio
o Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War 2 / THQ / Relic Entertainment

Casual Game of the Year
o Drawn: The Painted Tower / Big Fish Games / Big Fish Games
o Flower / Sony Computer Entertainment America / thatgamecompany
o Flight Control / Firemint / Firemint
o Plants vs. Zombies / PopCap Games / PopCap Games
o Scribblenauts / Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment / 5th Cell Media

Social Networking Game of the Year
o Bejeweled Blitz / PopCap Games / PopCap Games
o Farm Town / Codebell / Codebell
o FarmVille / Zynga / Zynga
o Restaurant City / Electronic Arts/Playfish / Playfish

Really? Can I vote for none of the above? I guess you have to give it to Farmville just to recognize their success.

Outstanding Achievement in Portable Game Design
o Henry Hatsworth / Electronic Arts / EA Casual Studios
o LittleBigPlanet / Sony Computer Entertainment America / SCE Cambridge Studio
o LocoRoco 2 / Sony Computer Entertainment America / Sony Computer Entertainment International
o Patapon 2 / Sony Computer Entertainment America / Sony Computer Entertainment International
o Scribblenauts / Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment / 5th Cell Media

Didn’t we do this category already?

Outstanding Character Performance

o Batman: Arkham Asylum – Joker / Eidos/Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment / Rocksteady Studios
o Brutal Legend – Eddie Riggs / Electronic Arts / Double Fine Productions
o Resident Evil 5 – Sheva Alomar / Capcom / Capcom
o Uncharted 2: Among Thieves – Chloe Frazier / Sony Computer Entertainment America / Naughty Dog
o Uncharted 2: Among Thieves – Nathan Drake / Sony Computer Entertainment America / Naughty Dog

Outstanding Achievement in Adapted Story
o Batman: Arkham Asylum / Eidos/Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment / Rocksteady Studios
o Ghostbusters: The Video Game / Atari / Terminal Reality
o Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 / Activision / Vicarious Visions

Outstanding Achievement in Original Story
o Assassin’s Creed II / Ubisoft / Ubisoft Montreal
o Brutal Legend / Electronic Arts / Double Fine Productions
o Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box / Nintendo / Level-5
o Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time / Sony Computer Entertainment America / Insomniac Games
o Uncharted 2: Among Thieves / Sony Computer Entertainment America / Naughty Dog

Miscellany

I’m more than 50% moved into the new apartment, so I have enough time to blog for a moment.

  • I’ve been really lax lately and I think the reason is that I want to wait to post something significant because every time I post it broadcasts to my Twitter peeps and I don’t want to be THAT GUY who spams his Twitter with links to his blog that has nothing worth linking over. So I turned off the notifier widget. Resume posting.
  • I’m two days into the new gig and it is quite different than my old one. That’s about all I’m comfortable saying for now, but I’m guessing I’ll have a game out and be working on the next one by year’s end. After years of spinning my tires at EA (I haven’t actually shipped anything since 2007 since all the new IPs I was working on became stillborn) it is nice to know you will have short cycles. The downside of short cycles is that you have to aim a little lower in terms of scope and so you just have to try your best to get something quality out there. I’m expecting that I’ll feel the process out after a project or two.
  • On my first day I was sitting at a PC with a notebook in front of me, a deck on the screen and a word doc empty with possibilities. And damn if I didn’t just jump in with both feet. I almost forgot what a thrill it was to have that blank page there, ready to absorb your ideas. I work in flurries. I type pages at a time and just get out all my ideas in almost a stream of consciousness. I wonder if other designers work that way? I never asked. But I’ve always worked really fast and followed these fits with periods of non-productivity.

    And I think that because everything comes out in that one labor is why I am so loathe to murder my darlings as it were. Every idea is connected and even though I know that some of them aren’t as good as others and that other eyes will see things differently, I still try to hang on. It’s a bad habit I need to stop.

  • Living in New York City is cool! I have a great view of “The City” from my kitchen. The neighborhood I’m in has vast amenities. I’ve enjoyed some great meals. I’m starting a Tumblr blog as an experimental place to post pictures and thoughts about being a new outsider. It’s called Noob York City. I’ll reference it more in the future, but the plan is just to sort of post observations, reviews, etc. and be more of a journal than anything.

    Glo leaves this weekend for two months and I imagine I’ll like New York a lot less alone.

  • Games! I’ve been playing Might and Magic for the DS which is fantastic, but I haven’t yet found/unpacked my DS charger so that is on the back burner. I’ve been waiting to start anything I got around Christmas until I finish Dragon Age: Origins which is [synonym for fantastic] but it’s just so damn long. On the train ride I’ve been playing Wolfenstein RPG and I’ve downloaded The Quest after seeing raves on Fidgit. I’ve also got back into some Facebook games because I am some sort of masochist. Really, most of them are just damn awful.

Read in 2009

You would think being unemployed would have given me a lot more time to read, but obviously this wasn’t the case. Whereas 2008 gave me two of my three favorite books of all time (Perdido Street Station and The Scar), I had no such luck with gems in 2009. Iron Council didn’t live up to the previous two (and is probably why Mieville took a hiatus from Bas-Lag novels), I spent some energy on business-y books (Kawasaki, LeBouef, etc.) and Fantasy and Science Fiction cut down their magazine to a 150% sized bi-monthly format to cut costs. Regardless, I’m still behind. Liar’s Poker was a great find and recommended. Here Comes Everybody could have been contentless but certainly wasn’t.

Last year: 31 Titles, 7,967 Pages, 21.77 Pages/Day (2008 was a leap year)
This year: 18 Titles, 4,960 Pages, 13.59 Pages/Day

Fiction

  • Achewood – Worst Song Played on Ugliest Guitar by Chris Onstad (Graphic, 136) Hopefully the first in a long line of director’s cut styled Achewood anthologies. The best thing on the Internet, now in dead tree form.
  • Flight – Volume 5 (Graphic, 363) – I didn’t buy volume six. The art is just remarkable, but I don’t find myself coming back to any of the stories anymore. Stopping my auto-buy of Flight anthologies was simply a cost-cutting measure.
  • Iron Council by China Mieville (564) – By any measure, this is a good “New Weird” fantasy novel. But after his previous two, there was such high expectations that simply weren’t met here. A good read if you devoured his first two Bas-Lag novels.
  • Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link (297) – Wow. I read the titular novella in Fantasy and Science Fiction in 2005 (?) and loved it. Having not really read anything else of hers since, I saw this collection and tried my luck. No one-hit wonder, there is barely a flat note in the whole collection. Her other works now line my Amazon wish list.

Non-Fiction

  • Art of the Start – Guy Kawasaki (217) – Bootstrap. There. I saved you 217 pages.
  • Enough – John C. Bogle (255) – I love Bogle and this is a great semi-autobiographic book about avarice in the financial industry. Not too heavy and if you know Jack Bogle at all, it is pretty predictable, but it has a great message.
  • Football Official’s Guidebook (Crews of Four and Five) High School Mechanics 2009 (262) – I wish this book would have been required of me my first year officiating. Fantastic and filled many of the holes left in my training.
  • Here Comes Everyone – Clay Shirky (304) – I commented about this above. A great book on living and working in a crowdsourced world. I need to read it again since it was the first book I read last year and I’m a bit foggy on the details.
  • 2009 High School Football Rules Simplified and Illustrated (181) – This was essentially useless.
  • Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis (249) – Fantastic autobiographical look at 1980s bond trading that is waaaay more entertaining than you would think the subject matter would be. Lewis shows his skills as a writer that would make him famous with The Blind Side and Moneyball. Love it.
  • The New New Thing by Michael Lewis (269) – Picked this up right away after finishing Liar’s Poker. Same style, but the subject matter is the go-go Internet bubble and one of it’s biggest personalities – the founder of Netscape and two other billion dollar companies.
  • The Perfect Business by Michael LeBoeuf (224) – Okay, but not what I was looking for.
  • Ignore Everbody – Hugh McLeod (159) – If you read McLeod’s blog (and I did), then you get most of this book from his “Rules for Creativity” post. I stopped following him on blog and twitter because he became nasty and when that personality veil falls, it is tough to get back. Still, the words in this boo are wise and you can read it standing in a Barnes & Noble pretty quickly, not that I condone that. 😉

F&SF

  • Fantasy & Science Fiction 02/09 (160)
  • Fantasy & Science Fiction 03/09 (160)
  • Fantasy & Science Fiction 04-05/09 (260)
  • Fantasy & Science Fiction 06-07/09 (260)
  • Fantasy & Science Fiction 08-09/09 (320) – There were a lot of great stories in F&SF this year, but since all my copies are in boxes right now, I can’t crack them open and reference. They don’t have enough new authors, but the quality is quite consistent.