The 2003 Ely Awards Pt. 2
Last week saw the inaugural Ely awards handed out to some people who have, thus far, not shown up to collect their awards. You know, I went through a lot of trouble in having these made, and frankly theyÃ‚'re starting to stink. We expect the winners to collect their prizes soon, or weÃ‚'ll be forced to begin billing for storage charges.
People responded with great enthusiasm to the Elys, with some websites even creating their own awards in the same style, though not so cleverly named. IÃ‚'m sure those sites would contend that theyÃ‚'d been planning to give out their own accolades for weeks if not months, and that they are a much larger site that could kill us with their giant throbbing brains, but you have to understand that I have an ego to protect. To that end I must assume that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I did also have two requests for this weekÃ‚'s installment; one by Mex who wanted me to mention the Dreamcast, which IÃ‚'ve just done, and another by Gorack who demanded I insult the Xbox somewhere to put the universe back in a state of balance. The Xbox controllers are large and unwieldy! I know, that was harsh, but it had to be said.On to the awards!
The Elysium Word of the Year
Winner - Scatological Ã‚– Man, doesnÃ‚'t that word just scream class and intelligence. It sounds like the kind of word a very logical, thoughtful, and well considered individual would use to describe something very important. I can just imagine it being used in a business meeting: Well, the latest scatological indicators show a six-point-five percent increase in output! And of course the ironic beauty is that the word as defined refers to a preoccupation with excrement.
I danced a very small, very awkward dance when I forced it into an article.
Delivered properly one can project an air of cultured refinement while speaking entirely on the topic of feces, and let me tell you thatÃ‚'s not an easy combination to usually pull off. This was an obvious choice for word of the year.
Runner-up - Tangential Ã‚– I chose tangential for runner-up not because itÃ‚'s a particularly fascinating or obscure word, but because for about a month it ended up in pretty much every article I penned. It became so prominent that several people pointed out my preoccupation. So, not by elegance, but by sheer volume Ã‚"˜tangentialÃ‚' takes the number 2 spot.
Best Game Ruined By Using Gamespy Matchmaking Software
Winner - Rise of Nations Ã‚– Rise of Nations, or RoN to its friends, had no shortage of bugs, which was troublesome enough on its own. When this game first hit the stores, Certis would throw no less than three or four fits a day, frustrated simultaneously at his deep love for RoNÃ‚'s stylish and complex gameplay Ã‚– which, frankly, just outclassed him at every turn Ã‚– but hampered by the fact that the game mysteriously crashed every few minutes. Had it not been for RoNÃ‚'s oft delayed patch, which ultimately fixed almost nothing, itÃ‚'s quite likely weÃ‚'d still be playing. Except, of course, for the miserably implemented Gamespy matchmaking interface.
I donÃ‚'t know why Gamespy hates people who play games online, but their disdain is not subtle. What was particularly troubling is how one could compare the wealth of gameplay setup features that RoN implemented in its direct connect options, which we assume is the template upon which Gamespy defecated, to the dearth of options and dysfunctional remainders as illustrated by its public lobby.
The icing on the cake, however, was the release of the patch distributed exclusively through the Gamespy interface. I kid you not when I say this was probably the worst patching experience anyone has ever had. Available only through an online venue that could not seem to deliver the actual data, the patch system itself needed patching before the patch could be put to the game. Compound that with the indignity of players discovering that the patch Ã‚– the real patch, not the patch to make the patch work - left them with pretty much the same problems theyÃ‚'d had before, and maybe some pesky new ones to add to the collection, and itÃ‚'s easy to see why RoNÃ‚'s marriage to Gamespy wins the Ely.
Runner-up - C&C: Generals Ã‚– Generals wasnÃ‚'t much better. Unless you enjoy random frustration, GeneralsÃ‚' multiplayer matchmaking system was as easy to navigate as a sinking boat on the crest of a tsunami. Having no way to track down and invite particular players into your game unless fate put you in the same public lobby, along with the general slew of complex counter-intuitive interfaces, Generals proved only a mild improvement over RoN.
Winner - Electronic Arts (for refusing to use MSÃ‚'s Live service with EA Sports Games) Ã‚– I guess maybe I should be thanking EA and EA Sports for their predictable bullheadedness. Now, I wouldnÃ‚'t dare dispute the incontrovertible success of EA online concepts in the past. I know I still enjoy rousing games of Motor City online, The Sims Online and, of course, Majestic, so any besmirching their obvious success in building online franchises would be untenable. Still, if EA Sports hadnÃ‚'t taken its ball and gone home, I wouldnÃ‚'t have been as likely to play the ESPN 2k4 series of games this year over Xbox Live, and that would have been a real shame.
Runner-Up - American Greetings Card Co. (for threatening legal action against Penny-Arcade) - You know I understand the basic concept of protecting your intellectual property. Maybe American Greetings Card Co was even in the right by tossing about its big greeting card company weight around. Maybe PA shouldn't have abused Strawberry Shortcake by casting her as a disturbingly tempting dominatrix, but you know what? That little hussy had it coming!
Worst Concept For A Major Game
Winner - Counter Strike: Condition Zero Ã‚– The heart of Counter-Strike beats as a team based online game Ã‚– one of the first massively successful of such games Ã‚– born from the legacy of Team Fortress or Tribes where two squads are thrust against one another in violent opposition, with conflicting goals and an array of strategies with which to execute their plan. Condition Zero looks to be a paint-by-numbers facsimile of that game, barely a reminder of the greatness of the original as similar to its heritage as FalcoÃ‚'s Rock Me Amadeus is to the actual works of Mozart.
And, I bet secretly, a great many people who worked on CZ before Valve snatched the job from under them would agree.
What makes our winner such a natural choice is the ease with which one can imagine how CZ might seem like a good idea to someone who was remarkably drunk. It has a certain indelible logic to its core, however flawed that logic ultimately proves on even a cursory examination. ItÃ‚'s like hanging out with your buddies drinking tequila shooters and playing poker, or euchre, or drunken Parcheesi and suddenly Mike Ã‚– because the drunk guy with the big plan is always named Mike Ã‚– leaps up and shouts, "LetÃ‚'s drive to Perkins for pancakes!" Then you hop in the car and promptly drive into a tree instead. That is, I think, a nice analogy for the development of Condition Zero, except Mike jumped up and said "LetÃ‚'s pawn off Counter-Strike as a single player game" and instead of driving into one tree they drove into several.
Runner-up - The Matrix Online - Time may prove me wrong on this, but I doubt it. Again, I can easily imagine how the idea of making a Matrix MMOG seemed like a good idea at the time. I mean the setting is a universally accepted virtual space where millions of hapless morons donÃ‚'t realize there are metal holes drilled into their real world bones. I just get a little fuzzy on how anyone stuck with the concept after the first meeting where designers tried to figure out what people would actually do. The problem, of course, is that most of the flabby battery packs inhabiting the Matrix have little more excitement in their lives than an agoraphobic housewife. The world of the Matrix is rife with all the boring mundanity of our world, only its mudanity is characterized by a washed out green tint Ã‚– so you know youÃ‚'re in the Matrix - and it would seem thereÃ‚'s really only one enemy to come in conflict with. And, of course, that enemy always kills you, unless youÃ‚'re The One. Now, my problem is that The One is a tricky gameplay concept to implement when you want a few thousand players showing up (see: Jedis in SWG).
Best Sweeping Wasteland of Unyielding Emptiness:
Winner - AsheronÃ‚'s Call 2 Ã‚– I look back fondly on my time playing AC2. There was this field I liked to run through. Long tender strands of grass licked happily at my leggings as I bounded through acre after acre of greenery unburdened by such trivialities as interesting things to look at, cities, NPCs, or other players. AsheronÃ‚'s Call 2 may not have been meant to simulate what it would be like to be the last person on the planet Ã‚"… actually now that I look back over the story and concept of the game, I think that may be exactly what it was meant to do, so congratulations Turbine on a job well done. Never did I feel pressured to have conversations, interact, or really do anything but mindlessly press buttons that gradually made my character slightly different statistically speaking than he was before.
Runner-up - EVE online Ã‚– Maybe EVE online got really fantastically amazing while I wasnÃ‚'t looking. I admit, there was a helluva a lot of me not looking. If thatÃ‚'s the case, and youÃ‚'re an avid EVE online fan, assuming there is such a person, then you should definitely shout profanities at your computer screen and maybe write a scathing comment about me in your diary. In other words, let it all out; just keep it to yourself. When I was there, there was a fascinating game about pointing at rocks and trying to get stuff that you couldnÃ‚'t really do much with. IÃ‚'m not writing a review of the game here, so I donÃ‚'t mind telling you that not only didnÃ‚'t I Ã‚"˜getÃ‚' what EVE was all about, but after my hour or two of playing I came fast to the conclusion that I didnÃ‚'t really Ã‚"˜careÃ‚'. I will admit that it had a nice widescreen presentation. I think that may be why itÃ‚'s only the runner- up.
Best Ultra Hyped Mega Game YouÃ‚'ve Already Forgotten About
Winner - Freelancer Ã‚– Freelancer reminds me a bit of a bottle rocket. With a peppy fwoosh it lurched skyward to dizzying heights where it exploded in a most unimpressive pop leaving its tattered remains to drift lazily back to the earth. I liked Freelancer. A lot of people liked Freelancer, devouring it with something like ferocity Ã‚– maybe more like a passing interest Ã‚– and then paying it great attention right up until the moment that something else shiny came along. After years of frenzied hype and soap-opera melodrama, Digital Anvil was left like the guy who stays too long at the party asking if there are any more pigs-in-a-poke while the hosts look pointedly at their watch.
Runner-up - Unreal II Ã‚– Have you ever been watching a movie where a beautiful actress that some dark corner of you has lusted after in a very deviant way for years finally bears it all, and suddenly you realize sheÃ‚'s too damn skinny with bony hips and boobs that look as natural as coagulated lumps of Velveeta? Wait, where was I going with this?
Oh, right. This game is possibly the best example that a derivative game even in the most snazzy of outfits is still just a derivative game.
Game of the Year (Xbox)
Winner Ã‚– Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic Ã‚– I know itÃ‚'s such an obvious choice that I almost hate giving it out. Still, KOTOR was pretty much a flawless RPG in its grand execution of style and gameplay. Well, sure, I didnÃ‚'t much care for the last few levels, particularly as great boring repetitive swarms ambushed me in a deluge of conflict not matched since Smash TV. And, of course, the actual gameplay areas were a little tight as artificial boundaries popped up around every corner to funnel me in a very heavy handed way toward my proper goals. And, yeah, I pretty much saw the plot points coming from a mile away. And, sure, the actual pseudo-turn-based combat was a bit stilted. And Ã‚"… hey wait a minute. I mean, yeah, KOTOR was a fine game, and I wish there were more of its ilk about, but maybe itÃ‚'s not the second coming after all. It was pretty buggy for a console game, a trend they carried faithfully over to the PC I understand, and basically weÃ‚'ve gotten our Underoos all up in a tizzy just because someone managed to take a lock franchise like the Star Wars Universe and not botch it.
Congratulations KOTOR for being a game that lived up to our expectations, but IÃ‚'ve changed my mind. Game of the Year you are not. Welcome to Runner-Upsville!
The Real Winner Ã‚– Project Gotham Racing 2 Ã‚– This one gets bonus points for coming out of left field and with relatively little hype just stepping up to the plate and hitting one out of the park. With just oodles of replay value, a fantastic multiplayer element, insanely tight gameplay, and a thick coat of polish on top of an even better layer of polish and some nice chocolate icing, this game is a much better example of a game running on all cylinders.
Game of the Year (PC)
Winner Ã‚– Railroad Tycoon 3 Ã‚– You can all just go to hell if you donÃ‚'t like it. Some people probably think these kinds of awards should be handed out to represent the consensus of the gaming public. Maybe those people should go start their own website and call it Ã‚"˜Spineless Gamers Who Bend Like a Fishing Rod Reeling In A Marlin.orgÃ‚'. Or maybe they could have a big poll where they have forum users pick a better name, masking their lack of creativity in the guise of a contest, and then roll over like a timid Golden Retriever exposing its meaty undersides on command. Well I wonÃ‚'t stand for that kind of complacency here in Maximum Verbosity (formerly Daily Elysium until that proved unpopular). IÃ‚'m taking a stand and telling you that RT3 was the best damn game out on PC this year, and if your scatological brain canÃ‚'t wrap its effluent tendrils around that concept then you can just piss off.
So, IÃ‚'m a little defensive about my choice.
Still, in a year where a promised resurgence of PC gaming turned into a steady flow of perfectly average titles and unsurprising delays, this gem really managed to please me. And thatÃ‚'s what the Elys are all about.
Runner-Up Ã‚– Rise of Nations Ã‚– What really bugs me about the poor multiplayer implementation and bugs I mentioned earlier is that it gets in the way of what was otherwise one of the best games IÃ‚'d played in quite some time. A clever blend of varying gameplay styles, RoN managed to take the best of several genres, mix some creative genius, and produce a game that was at times absolutely consuming. It would have been a lock for Game of the Year had those other issues not arose.
You think itÃ‚'s over. You wish it were over, but itÃ‚'s not over yet. There are still a few more awards to be tossed around, not the least of which are PS2 Game of the Year, the Ely for overall Game of the Year, and the PeopleÃ‚'s Choice Award which will be handled in the forums!