Microsoft’s hit Half-Life 2 from Valve Software took top honors at the fifth annual Game Developers Choice Awards, a highlight of the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco, Calif. Also triumphant was crowd fave Katamari Damacy from Namco and Keita Takahashi.
In addition to winning Game of the Year, Half-Life 2 was honored for achievements in technology, character design and writing. Marc Laidlaw, who accepted the writing award, commented that when the Half-Life franchise was first introduced, the common question was “How many weapons do you have.” Now, he says, “Pepole come up and ask, ‘Does Alex live? What’s G-Man up to? What the hell does it all mean?” He said the sustained interest in the characters demonstrates the importance of good storytelling in games.
The innovative Katamari Damacy received awards for Game Design and Innovation. The title takes place a a time when the sky has litterally fallen and the player is chared with putting the universe back together by collecting a wide assortment of common objects and rolling them around in a hug ball that grows with each acquisition.
French developer CryTek, creator of the hit first-person shooter FarCry, was named Best New Studio, and the Maverick Award was given to the Blast Theory team of Matt Adams, Ju Row Farr and Nick Tandavanitj for the game Uncle Roy All Around You. The experimental interactive experience has online gamers helping other players track down the title character on actual city streets using hand-held technology. Adams said that games today are where cinema was in the early 20th century, adding, “The future D.W. Griffiths and F.W. Murnaus are out there somewhere but they havent emerged yet to take games to the next level."
On hand to receive the First Penguin Award was Dr. Richard Bartle, who co-wrote the first virtual world game design system, known as a Multi-User Dungeon (MUD). He noted that the award has been so delayed because, “When you’re a pioneer, no one’s around to give you an award.” He added, “I thought that if they ever gave me one, it would be for not dying.” The distinction of ”First Penguin” implies that Bartle was one of the pioneers who wasn’t afraid to take that first plunge into uncertain waters.
This Year’s Lifetime Achievement Award went to Eugene P. Jarvis, creator of such benchmark Atari titles as Defender(1980), Robotron: 2084 (1982) and Narc (1988). Jarvis recalled falling in love with video games when he first played the ground-breaking Space War on a mainframe computer. He also told the audience about a programmer buddy who once turned down a job with a little startup called Microsoft, telling a young Bill Gates that he was crazy for developing operating systems instead of video games. Jarvis drew uproarious applause by noting, "Now, with X-box and X-box 2, Bill Gates finally gets it, Video Games is where it’s at.”
Donkey Konga (Namco/Nintendo) Hiroshi Igarashi, Hiroyuki Onoda
I Love Bees (4orty2wo Entertainment/Microsoft Game Studios) Elan Lee
Halo 2 (Bungie Software/Microsoft Game Studios) C. Paul Johnson, Marty O’Donnell, Jay Weinland.
World of Warcraft (Blizzard Entertainment) Sam Didier, William Petras, Justin Thavirat
Sheri Graner Ray, revered advocate of women’s interests in game development.