One could say that Spike's VGA award show is the equivalent to our Oscars (as sad as that is and totally ignoring the IGDA and IA&S awards...), and they certainly carry a lot of merit, and certainly a lot of hype and, especially enticing to developers, marketing muscle.
And the grand winner of this year's GOTY was none other than epic RPG Skyrim... which also won best RPG and also earned Bethesda Studios "Best Studio of the Year."
That's great. Good for them.... and I'd be 100% behind this if it weren't for a few VERY bothersome factors that, as a game developer myself, made me extremely sad, angry, and upset at the outcome.
1) For many, Skyrim is their GOTY. It plays great, is vast, epic, and awe-inspiring. It's just what they wanted and everything they needed...
... And yet, for others, the game is completely, utterly, unquestionably BROKEN. PS3 users in particular have encountered unavoidable, game-ending stutter and lag, in addition to a myriad of other technical problems that go beyond a few harmless bugs and glitches. A quick trip to the Bethesda forums shows dozens of pages of fans talking about how the game is entirely unplayable, yet the scope of the problems is MUCH worse.
There are plenty of reports that, at least with the PS3 version, save data becomes irreversibly corrupted... not just for Skyrim either, but data from other games. There are over 7 full pages of reports of PS3's being corrupted entirely and needed to be reformatted to factory standard or being unrepairable.
One could say these problems are minor, but more and more and more of these reports are coming in, including reports of the same problems from the folks at Eurogamer, IGN, Digital Foundry, and more...
2) With the PS3 version being broken (and the 360 and PC versions in a precarious state of their own), gamers have started their backlash, and critics have confessed in droves that Bethesda did NOT provide PS3 copies for them to review at launch.
There are strong implications that Bethesda knew the PS3 version, most of all, was in poor shape and delayed it or, in many cases, didn't send one to critics, including PS3-exclusive journalists that were forced to buy a copy of the game to review.
In light of the backlash, many critics have amended their scores, invalidated their awards for the game, and Metacritic itself removed the over 80 reviews giving it perfect 10/10s down to around 12 reviews at present. It's user reviews have dive-bombed and the PS3 version remains a ticking time-bomb of damage.
3) Fine. I'll accept Skyrim as GOTY. because, after all, some users got a different experience on 360 and PC without the game crashing every 5 minutes (and it HAS....)...
... But Bethesda as "Studio of the Year"? That... okay, that outright sickens me. I'm only involved in a small indie game development company, but we all were baffled at this.
For "Developer of the Year"... they were the ONLY company NOT to thank their fans when they got the award. They have repeatedly released patches that made the game WORSE (and it was already problematic.) Their customer support has been utterly atrocious and embarrassing. Their PR has been filled with lies and fabrications. When someone on a different studio who was familiar with their game engine tried to help fans and gave his reasons for why the game had so many problems, they called him a liar... and then lied in the same breath and said the problems he mentioned they "fixed long ago" (yet we still encounter to crippling degrees at this very moment.)
They've been utterly ungrateful to their fans, they put their profits before their customers, they were more focused on a marketable release date than a worthy, fully-functioning product, and they had the gall to get some people to pay upwards of $150 for a collector's edition of a game that, as of this moment, when they won these awards, is still completely unplayable to a very high percentage of players (Digital Foundry's research showed 36%... and rising...)
My problems with this is that I believe this is a horrible sign of the current industry... an industry that awards a studio "Developer of the Year" when they take advantage of fans' good faith, mislead them on forums and through PR, and fail to deliver a working product; giving a game "Game of the Year" when a large demographic is unable to get the game to function... which is, you know, what a game should do at the BARE MINIMUM (hell, "BigMuthaTruckers" and shovelware on the Wii at least WORK, right?)
It's a sign that we're giving games with so many problems a pass, either out of brand loyalty or because we assume they'll just "fix it later". We ignore companies like Nintendo and Blizzard and Valve and Rocksteady and Naughty Dog that do their very best to ship as complete and functioning of a product as humanly possibly.
To paraphrase Mario and Zelda creator Shigeru Miyamoto, "Delay a buggy bad game and it can become a great game; rush and release an unfinished, buggy game and you ask people to buy a poor game."
My problem mainly is that, if Skyrim had fulfilled its potential, had ironed out some game-ending bugs, and an entire platform wasn't so thoroughly screwed, I would fully support Skyrim as GOTY.... but I can't ethically and morally do that, knowing just how unfinished, unpolished, and, for many, unplayable it is.
I'm disappointed that Spike TV game Skyrim GOTY... but I'm outright furious and ashamed that they gave Bethesda Studio of the year.
Bethesda is not an evil company, but I've followed the studio's every word and move, every response on their support forums and websites, and it has been nothing but the most unhelpful, arrogant, and misleading talk I've seen from a company in many years... and we just called them the best of the best of the best, the type of studio other studios should aspire to be, to release games as "functional" as Skyrim.
Even as a lover of Elder Scrolls, even as a lover of SKYRIM.... I can't stand by that.