With nearly five years of some of the best times of my life under my belt, I can't seem remember a time when I wasn't on this crazy Destructoid train. So this is going to be weird to type: as this month comes to a close, I will be putting my time with Destructoid behind me. I'll be passing my Editor-in-Chief hat to Dale North, who is not only a good friend of mine, but more than capable of steering this rowdy ship into the amazing new territory ahead.
So what's next for me? In just two weeks, I will be uprooting my family and life from Baltimore to Boston. On October 3, I'll step into the offices of Harmonix in Cambridge, MA where I've accepted a publicist position.
While this is new and exciting territory for me, it wasn't an easy decision to make. My time with Destructoid has offered me experiences and opportunities I at one time could have only dreamed of. I've worked with some of the brightest, most passionate, and talented writers, all of which have become family. I couldn't have done any of this without them; they're the wind beneath my wings and all that.
Destructoid's enthusiastic, tight-knit community has no peer -- you've all been incredible throughout the years, and I can't thank you enough for your support. Keep doing your thing; you're amazing.
Niero, I've told you as much already, but thank you for everything. Your faith and support over the years will never be forgotten. You give your all to Destructoid and the other sites in the Modern Method network, and it's been an inspiration. You're too good of a person, and I'm still not convinced you're human. I owe you more than you know.
In other news: hey, look! Swaddled baby bats, everyone!
P.S. You haven't seen the last of me; be sure to say "hi" if you see me at PAX, while I'm at a grocery store buying milk, and other places you might spot me. You can keep up with me on Twitter (@nickchester) because I occassionally say and do interesting things. But no promises.
I'm in Utah this week, learning that being high up in the mountains means that I feel like I've run a marathon if I walk across the street. Pretty neat!
I'm here for Bethesda's BFG 2011 event, where we're being shown Prey 2, Skyrim, Rage, Hunted, and played Brink.
I can't answer any questions about gameplay or game details right now, but I'm wondering if you have questions about the following games FOR THE DEVELOPERS:
They don't have to be related to gameplay -- they can be broad industry questions as they relate to the titles or development, too. I know that since you don't know much about Prey 2 yet, it may be hard to come up with something. Keep in mind that I've seen the game, and a lot of the questions you do have were probably already answered in the demo.
Just wanted to make sure that if you had a question, your voice was/could be heard. These interviews are happening later this afternoon, so get me your questions (as comments here) as soon as you can (if you have any). I'll have previews and details that I can share next Monday on all of the games I'm seeing here. (Yes, I'm about to see Skyrim; yes, I can't wait.)
Thanks to everyone who listened to and gave feedback on the last episode. We recorded another test this week, the unofficial episode #2 of the "beta." I'm making it a bit easier to access now, so just go here:
About a month ago, the guy who signs my checks (that's Niero) said to me: "Hey, we need to get another podcast off the ground with the site's everyday, core writers. Get it done." He doesn't often demand I do things, so I figured he was serious.
I don't listen very well, I guess, since it took me well over a month to organize the folks in question -- Dale North, Jim Sterling -- for a sit down for what, I suppose, will be the "next generation" of the Podtoid podcast.
A few things: I don't think that anyone will really be able to replace the old cast and its chemistry. It was a combination of personalities and friends that gave the podcast its unique flavor. And as the apparent host of this new show, I don't have any delusions of grandeur -- I'm no Anthony Burch. I mean, who is? Dude is apparently going to save the world or something.
But we're giving it a go. In fact, we've already GIVEN it a go, in the form of recording a "test run" episode this past week. It was, in every way, a rough and dry run. I've never hosted a podcast before, and hell, I don't even listen to the things very often. (I was happy to let the old Podtoid team do their thing, because they were good at it; they didn't need anything from me.) No one was really meant to hear it outside of the participants and Niero. The idea was to bounce feedback off of each other internally, to get it up to speed and ready for prime time. When Niero heard it he said "You should upload this and put it on the front page."
Well, I'm not listening to him this time. But I do want to give select community members a listen, at least those who bothered to read this far. All you need to do is private message me your email address, and I'll share a private Dropbox folder with you that will let you download the file. If you need to sign up for Dropbox, you can do it here: https://www.dropbox.com/referrals/NTEzNDMzMzA5?src=global0 (Full disclosure: I get referral storage space or something if you join via that link. Hey, I'm greedy.)
[UPDATE: Private message function broken? Just email me: my first name at destructoid dot com]
All I ask in return is that you give honest (and helpful, I hope) feedback to help make the show better. Suggestions and all of that are welcome. A few notes:
- I know my audio is lower than the rest of the cast, and it's because I had my mic on the wrong setting. Because I'm a moron. I did the best I could to bump up the levels, but yeah... it's a known issue. I hope to work it out, and it should be an easy fix.
- The intro and outro music is placeholder; our own Dale North is working on a theme for us and I'm sure it's going to be totally baller.
That's it, really. Have at it, and looking forward to hearing your feedback.
[Note: This is a first draft ramble about the process; I had originally intended to just dump my choices here and move on. So please forgive any errors or oddities.]
Little known fact: to choose the nominees for the VGAs, Spike TV doesn't just throw tiny pieces of paper into a hat, each of them featuring the scribbled names of this year's top selling games. The truth is, Spike chooses a handful of the industry's "top critics" and games writers to submit their choices based on their in-depth knowledge of most (if not all) of the game's released in the past year.
You wouldn't know this, considering the fact that Spike doesn't really advertise it anywhere. If there's a list of this year's judges on Spike TV's official website, I couldn't find it. I can tell you that the panel consists of folks from Kotaku, Joystiq, Game Informer, IGN, Entertainment Weekly, Wired, Giant Bomb, USA Today, and more. Oh, and me, on behalf of Destructoid.
So there are some things you should know about the nomination process, and this might help clear a few things up. First, the games that are eligible for nomination must have been released between November 25, 2009 and November 23, 2010. What this means is that Polyphony Digital's long-delayed racer Gran Turismo 5 just missed the cut-off date for any nods, as the stars have aligned for it to hit shelves on November 24.
Nomination ballots were due to Spike by October 18, which means many of the games that made the cut (or were submitted for consideration) weren't yet released at the time. Judges are chosen for a few reasons, one of which is access to early code and hands-on time with games at preview events over the past year. This would explain why a game like Donkey Kong Country Returns -- which isn't even on store shelves yet at the time the nominations were made public! -- was able to make the final cut.
Prior to the cut-off date for submissions, many publishers were able to supply early or near-final code of games not yet releases, as well. Examples of this include Electronic Arts getting out code of Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit and Ubisoft providing me with a disc of Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood for consideration. Many publishers also provided judges with copies of games released earlier in the year; EA and 2K are of particular note, as I received two massive boxes of titles to check out just about a week before nominations were do. Spike also has a pretty firm "no solicitation" policy, which means that while publishers can provide you with a list of games for "consideration," they can't aggressively campaign for the inclusion of any titles. This means that EA didn't send actress Yvonne Strahovski to my house holding a bag of money while wearing a bikini, and Activision didn't offer to my pay my son's college tuition for me to make note of Call of Duty: Black Ops as one of the year's most polished shooters.
Today, Spike revealed its nominees for this year's VGAs, and it's a list that's completely predictable in many ways, but utterly baffling in others. I shouldn't have to point out to any gamer that Emmanuelle Chriqui's role in Call of Duty: Black Ops was negligible at best, yet her name appears among those selected for "Best Performance By A Human Female." (Seriously, I don't even remember a single female's voice in Treyarch's shooter!)
For all judges, choosing the "best of the year" is hard, whether it's for their respective publications or in helping Spike. It's not simply a matter of choosing your favorite games, but it's a matter of looking at a wide range of titles, and being able to look at them both objectively and critically. For example (and this is about to generate some heat, I'm sure), I'm not a huge fan of Red Dead Redemption. I've put a number of hours into the game, and it never really grabbed me; I still haven't completed it to this day. But with that said, I can see the merits of the title, and I understand that Rockstar Games has created a compelling and unique experience that does stand as one of this year's bests... just not necessarily for me right now. Still, and you'll see this below, I was able to confidently submit it as a "Game of the Year" nomination. Again, this isn't a matter of me picking my person favorite games this year, but being able to evenhandedly select well-crafted titles. If it were personal, imagine the shock and awe of seeing Zuma Blitz up there alongside Mass Effect 2!
I want to make it clear that I'm incredibly honored to have been asked by Geoff Keighely and Spike TV to provide my input for the Spike VGAs. This is my third or fourth year in a row, and as "just some dude who kind of likes videogames," I'm still wondering at what point my opinion and industry knowledge started holding any kind of weight. (Honestly, I'm baffled daily.) While I don't particularly agree with how the show is marketed and presented, I do understand who Spike's target is and its desire to make the show attractive to a broad range of viewers and advertisers. And I have to hand it to Geoff and company for doing a pretty spectacular job of trying to make the show compelling to even the most jaded gamers; the number of first-looks at major franchises and upcoming titles alone should make it worth checking out.
What I'm trying to say is that I'd do it again, even if parts of the final list of nominees (of which I have to help choose winners!) makes my brain ache. I hope that Geoff and Spike continue to let me be a part of the process in the hopes that it helps, in some way, give the awards a legitimacy that some gamers seem to think it lacks.
With that said, below are the list of nominees I submitted to Spike on October 18. Looking back, I stand by most of what's here. Many of these choices were tough, and many categories left me scratching my head when I felt there weren't any particular standouts. But these are my choices, and I look forward to you flaming me because your favorite game wasn't included on the list.
Game of the Year
1.) Mass Effect 2
2.) Super Mario Galaxy 2
3.) Red Dead Redemption
4.) Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty
5.) Halo: Reach
Studio of the Year
4.) Ninja Theory
Best XBOX 360 Game
1.) Halo: Reach
2.) Fable III
3.) Alan Wake
4.) Red Dead Redemption
Best Wii Game
1.) Kirby’s Epic Yarn
2.) Super Mario Galaxy 2
3.) Sin and Punishment 2
4.) Metroid: Other M
Best PS3 Game
1.) God of War 3
2.) Heavy Rain
3.) Gran Turismo 5
4.) ModNation Racers
5.) Red Dead Redemption
Best PC Game
1.) Civilization 5
2.) Strarcraft II: Wings of Liberty
3.) Mass Effect 2
4.) Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Best Handheld Game
1.) God of War: Ghost of Sparta (PSP)
2.) Angry Birds (iOS/Android)
3.) Dragon Quest IX (DS)
4.) Shantae: Risky’s Revenge (DSiWare)
5.) Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep (PSP)
1.) Halo: Reach (Xbox 360)
2.) Call of Duty: Black Ops (PS3, Xbox 360, PC)
3.) Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (PS3, Xbox 360, PC)
4.) BioShock 2 (PS3, Xbox 360, PC)
Best Action Adventure Game
1.) Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (PS3, Xbox 360)
2.) God of War III (PS3)
3.) Bayonetta (PS3, Xbox 360)
4.) Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood (PS3, Xbox 360, PC)
5.) Red Dead Redemption (PS3, Xbox 360)
1.) Mass Effect 2
2.) Fallout: New Vegas
3.) Final Fantasy XIII
4.) Valkyria Chronicles 2
5.) Dragon Quest IX
Best Multi-Player Game
1.) Halo: Reach
2.) Call of Duty: Black Ops
3.) Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit
4.) StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty
5.) Monday Night Combat
Best Individual Sports Game
1.) EA Sports MMA
2.) NBA Jam
3.) Skate 3
4.) Shaun White Skateboarding
5.) UFC 2010 Undisputed
Best Team Sports Game
1.) NBA 2K11
2.) Madden NFL 2011
3.) FIFA Soccer 11
4.) MLB 10: The Show
Best Driving Game
1.) Gran Turismo 5 (PS3… pending release)
2.) Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit (PS3, Xbox 360)
3.) Split/Second (PS3, Xbox 360)
4.) Blur (PS3, Xbox 360, PC)
5.) F1 2010 (PS3, Xbox 360, PC)
Best Music Game
1.) Rock Band 3 (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii)
2.) Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii)
3.) DJ Hero 2 (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii)
4.) Green Day: Rock Band (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii)
5.) Def Jam Rapstar (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii)
1.) DJ Hero 2
2.) Rock Band 3
3.) Def Jam Rapstar
4.) Mafia II
Best Song in a Game
1.) “Brad’s Theme” (Comic Jumper)
2.) “I’ll Take It All” (James Bond Blood Stone)
3.) “Far Away” (Red Dead Redemption)
Best Original Score
1.) Red Dead Redemption
3.) Comic Jumper
4.) Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
5.) Final Fantasy XII
1.) Heavy Rain
2.) Final Fantasy 13
4.) God of War III
Best Adapted Video Game (Movie, TV Show, Comic Book, GFX Novel, Toy, etc)
1.) Batman: The Brave and the Bold (Wii)
2.) Dante’s Inferno (PS3, 360)
3.) Toy Story 3 (PS3, 360)
4.) GoldenEye 007 (Wii)
5.) Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (PS3, 360)
Best Performance By a Human Male (Voice Acting)
1.) Andy Serkis (“Monkey,” Enslaved)
2.) Danny Trejo (“Raul the Ghoul,” Fallout New Vegas)
3.) Rob Wiethoff (“John Marston,” Red Dead Redemption)
4.) T.C. Carson (“Kratos,” God of War III)
5.) Robert Clotworthy (“James Raynor,” StarCraft II)