Metroid is Game Developers’ Prime Choice

Retro Studios’ Metroid Prime nabbed Game of the Year as the international community of game developers honored their own last night in San Jose, Calif. Part of the Game Developers Conference, The Game Developers Choice Awards recognizes teams and individuals for achievements as voted by their peers.

The evening kicked off with the 5th Annual Independent Games Festival Awards, which honors the independent spirit in gaming. Super X Studios’ Wild Earth received the highest number of accolades, taking Innovation in Game Design, Innovation in Visual Arts and the coveted Seamus McNally Grand Prize.

Other winners from the pool of 73 entrants from around the world were Klear Games LLC’s Reiner Knizia’s Samurai for Technical Excellence and Pin Interactive’s Terraformers for Innovation in Audio. Chronic Logic’s Pontifex II walked away with Audience Choice Award.

The first set of Game Developers Choice Awards went to a group of games that “demonstrate true innovation, advance the state of the art and push the boundaries of games as an expression of the medium.” The recipients of this year’s Game Innovation Spotlight Awards are Nintendo’s Animal Crossing, Digital Illusions’ Battlefield 1942, 2015 Inc.’s Medal of Honor: Allied Assault and Computer Artworks’ The Thing.

Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell garnered an Excellence in Writing award for the team of Clint Hocking and JT Petty. Hocking was on hand to accept the trophy, noting that Petty had moved on to write and direct Hollywood movies. Hocking said that he himself has no such aspirations and is proud to be creating engaging stories and dialogue for the game industry.

Excellence in Level Design was awarded to Metroid Prime, which lost to Battlefield 1942 in the overall game design category. Also up for Excellence in Game Design were Rock Star North’s Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Nintendo’s Super Mario Sunshine and Ubi Soft’s Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell.

The 2015 team of Jack Grillo, Rebecca Hanck, Eric Kraber and Yuan Liu picked up the Excellence in Audio Award for sound effects in Medal of Honor: Allied Assault.

On the Visual Arts side, top honors were presented to art director Tetsuya Nomura for Squaresoft’s Kingdom Hearts. Through a prepared statement read by a representative Nomura commented on the special significance of the honor, saying, “This award means that not only do our fans appreciate our work, but our peers as well.”

Sly Cooper from Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus (Animation Magazine’s Rad Pack winner for Best Platform Game) was also singled out as the developers’ choice for Original Game Character of the year.

Upon accepting the award for Excellence in Programming, a member of the Neverwinter Nights team quipped, “When we first heard that were nominated, we thought ‘They’re not actually going to be looking at our source code, are they?’

The most entertaining award of the night was the First Penguin Award. Presenter Chris Trottier from Maxis explained that the award is named after that penguin who first jumps in to test the water. If he comes up with food, the rest dive in. If he gets eaten, the rest know that it’s not safe to go back in. This was illustrated by a video clip of a penguin waddling down to the bank and being pushed in by another.

The award was presented to Activision founders Larry Kaplan, Jim Levy, Alan Miller and Bob Whitehead. Responding to a retrospective reel of early Activision titles, Kaplan got a big laugh and a roar of applause by saying, “Not bad for two kilobytes.” He went on to encourage the audience with, “We had a blast. I hope you all have a blast achieving your accomplishments.”

The IGDA Award for Community Contribution went to programmer Doug Church, who has served on the GDC advisory board for the last 3 years and is also c0-chair of the IGDA’s Education Committee.

A posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award recognized the career of Nintendo pioneer Gunpei Yokoi, whose R&D team first began experimenting with new electronics technology in the 1970s. Yokoi’s family traveled to Kyoto to accept the honor. Taking the podium before a standing ovation, his son remarked, “I wish my father were here at this ceremony. The pride I feel as a son is beyond words.”