Welcome to the Saladcast Game of the Year.
Yep that's right, another Game of the Year podcast. Who are we? Well, pretty much just three English guys who once made a website called happysalad dedicated to our Games Factory games and... randomness. Some years later down the line happysalad was resurrected, now to be host to our waffling and ranting in audio form about games.
Don't expect anything like journalistic integrity or professionalism. Or even 'Radio voice'. These are completely opinions, possibly insanity and any number of vocal ticks.
I am Zachary 'Zeg' Burgess, the one with the most time on his hands and therefore the one making an attempt to turn this three and a half hour podcast into a reasonably condensed text format. Doesn't stop me taking a week or two to do it. I may not have succeeded anyway. I'm not usually one for textual communication nowadays. The other two members of the salad crew are Robert 'Glacial' Kemp and Daniel Train.
http://www.happysalad.net/archives/170 is the link to go to for our Game of the Year podcast, but www.happysalad.net is the homepage to access the others. Also searchable clips by game. Whiskey powered, what a coincidence.
Lets begin. After initial rambling about Christmassy food and booze, and... debts, we eventually get down to business with our first totally serious award.
The Zachary Burgess longest hours spent in a game of 2011 award
Nominated: Terraria, SpaceChem, Pokemon: Black, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Wurm Online, Minecraft
I am so very unemployed. Though you might imagine that would allow me to play more games (barring the money side of things), thanks to my weird affinity for grinding, obsessive traits and lack of any console it really means I play games longer.
After initial suspicions that Terraria might be the longest, Dan and Rob run down several of my 50+ hour games, including SpaceChem, Pokemon: Black and Skyrim... before deciding that the only contenders are Terraria and Wurm. And then realising that since Wurm wasn't released this year it doesn't count. Terraria wins by default.
Best Technical Graphics
Nominated: Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, Battlefield 3, L.A. Noire, Gears of War 3, Dirt 3, Crysis 2, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Rage
Winner: Dirt 3
L.A. Noire gets discounted quickly since face tech alone can't hold it up to the rest of the category. After declaring that Uncharted 3 looks nice 'for a Playstation 3 game' now that the console generation is starting to get old, we have to remove Gears of War 3 too and look only at the PC games.
Battlefield 3 starts as a frontrunner, but discussions are temporarily distracted by talk of Skyrim and how it doesn't look all that great, no thanks to the glitches too. Dan then champions Dirt 3, being the only one of us to have played it though apparently just as happy to watch the replays since it looks so good.
Battlefield 3 gets eliminated after deciding that the whole package, not just the graphics is what really makes it stand out in our minds. So left with Crysis 2 and Dirt 3, we really have no choice to give it to Dirt 3, since only Rob has seen Crysis 2 and no-one has played it.
Best Aesthetic Graphics
Nominated: Child of Eden, Rayman: Origins, Trine 2, El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron, Bastion, Outland, Sonic Generations, L.A. Noire, Portal 2, Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Winner: Rayman: Origins
We quickly eliminate the last, on the spot inclusions of L.A. Noire and Sonic Generations for being insufficient, and the things we only saw on video; Trine 2 and El Shaddai.
Portal 2 comes up, to be compared to Bioshock 2 and L.A. Noire but defeat them. Rob thinks its all irrelevant compared to Rayman though, but the late inclusion of Deus Ex stirs up more discussion again since the black and gold turned out okay after all. Child of Eden gets its mention, for flashing trippy tree growing, but Rayman still wins out in the end since the aesthetic is actually critical to why the game is good.
Best Pixel Art Game
Nominated: Jamestown, Terraria, Cavestory+
We take a moment to invent and decide a category in a minute or two. Cavestory didn't really come out this year. Jamestown is really awesome, but although Terraria might be somewhat derivative, it wins out just for its amount of content.
Game we're glad we didn't buy Most Disappointing
Nominated: Dragon Age 2, Brink, The 3DS, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Duke Nukem Forever, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, You Don't Know Jack, Kinect Games, EVE: Online Incarna
Winner: EVE: Online Incarna
After listing the possible nominations and trying to some extent to work out what this category really means, Dragon Age 2 seems to come out as a strong contender but was it only because I didn't get it? We soon realise that the difficulty of this category is determining how bad something we don't actually own is.
Rob wants to give the award to the 3DS or Brink, but we decide that the category is dumb enough to just change and merge it into Most Disappointing, adding a bunch more options to pick through.
Despite Robs general dislike of Skyrim's apparent bugginess, it isn't disappointing enough to pass first mention. You Don't Know Jack gets a mention too, since we loved the old games but it didn't get a UK release. Rob wants to like Kinect, but it just hasn't been supported by the games again this year. However, can anything actually defeat the 3DS for disappointment?
As it turns out, yes. I come up with a late critical hit to the category, bringing up EVE's monocle débâcle known as Incarna. Most defiantly a disappointment after being hyped up for so long and turning out to be basically pointless with ridiculous 'macro'transactions. Done.
Nominated: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Sonic Generations, Battlefield 3, Portal 2, Minecraft
Winner: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Rob comes up with another confusing category, which is apparently to highlight cases where a game is severely different or broken on one of its release platforms without being obviously different to average consumers.
Skyrim's console problems and awkward PC interface get discussed, as does Robs obsession with Sonic's frame rate and the fact that the 3DS version needed a '3DS' slapped on the end. We almost missed Battlefield 3 and its seemingly crippled 24 player count and maps and take a moment to talk about if Portal 2 was worse due to its concessions to consoles.
I bring up Minecraft's weird mobile versions, which again we maybe don't know much about, while Rob sorts out his cat. But in the end, we come back to Skyrim and its seeming lack of optimisation for any platform its on.
Best Downloadable Only Title
Nominated: Outland, Magicka, Bastion, Terraria, SpaceChem, Minecraft
Dan has no time for downloadables, so can only say that Terraria is the one he is most interested in trying, and Bastion he might need a second run at the demo to determine if he likes it. We get momentarily distracted by isometricism before declaring Magicka to probably have insufficient content to compare to the rest.
Rob seems to like Outland and at least what he's seen of Terraria, but remains staunchly opposed to Minecraft. I'm still the only proponent of SpaceChem, which I could easily give the award, but decide that between all of us we really have to give it to Terraria.
Nominated: HD Remakes, 'Too many games', Games with 3 at the end
The shortest category. So short we didn't actually decide anything. But mention of Games with a 3 at the end leads into the next.
Nominated: L.A. Noire, Bastion, Magicka, SpaceChem, Bulletstorm
Winner: L.A. Noire
L.A. Noire makes us wonder if it has already covered Noire well enough to leave room for a sequel, or if a modern take would work. Rob liked Bulletstorm a lot, but doesn't believe there will be a sequel.
So we ponder the meaning of the category again, deciding that a best début may not necessarily mean potential for sequels... but might still mean triple A. Basically we really don't know. So we give up and give L.A. Noire the award.
Rob is disappointed on our return by out of date chocolate... or at least that chocolate expires faster than he imagines. We get on with it again eventually.
The 2011 2010 Game of 2011
Nominated: Blur, Red Dead Redemption, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, Assassins Creed: Brotherhood, Sonic Colours, Just Cause 2, Super Meat Boy
Winner: Red Dead Redemption
The award for games that we played this year that came out last year, which doesn't include as many entries as initially suspected since some of our backlog goes back at least two years. Red Dead Redemption looks like an easy winner, since again we haven't thought the categories through all that well.
Just Cause 2 fits the category more literally, since I hadn't played it at all before 2011, but we decide that continuing appeal is a more logical distinction. Super Meat Boy gets mention since I played it the week before but no-one else did, but in the two to one 'vote' has to take it for Red Dead.
Nominated: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, The Baconing, Super Street Fighter 4 Arcade Edition, Ultimate Marvel versus Capcom 3, Forza 4, Pokemon: Black, Assassin's Creed: Revelations
Winner: Assassin's Creed: Revelations
Compared to 2010s struggle to come up with three nominations, 2011 has been a year rife with sequels. But have they all been lazy? Modern Warfare immediately draws comment by having so much apparent effort put in to making the same game again.
We consider if the fighting games might be re-releases rather than sequels and if Forza 4 is just a case of diminishing returns. Pokemon gets mentioned for just being Pokemon again and similarly sports games, though we haven't played any beyond Dan's brief F1 session.
Assassin's Creed turns up late and though Dan hasn't played it, he has heard things that suggest that the game may have become worse than the previous ones, or at least not added enough to feel non-lazy. Despite final discussion of Modern Warfare's 'checking the box' continuation of the same moments, Assassin's Creed still takes the award.
Best Game Nobody Played
Nominated: Dirt 3, Rayman: Origins, El Shadi, Outland, Sonic Generations, To The Moon, SpaceChem
Winner: Rayman: Origins
'Nobody' is a rather strong word, so we decide that this category is really about what games didn't sell as well as might be expected. Rob has the impression that Sonic didn't sell too well, but can't say for sure. SpaceChem is discounted soon after since I think it might have sold to the expected number of people in its niche appeal.
We get distracted imagining what might win 'Most Nobody Played Game', 'Most Game Nobody Played' and 'Worst Game Everyone Played', before deciding we have no idea what we should choose and then picking Rayman.
Biggest Game we should have played
Nominated: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Witcher 2, Killzone 3, Resistance 3, Infamous 2, Skyward Sword, Super Mario 3D Land, Saints Row: The Third, Forza 4, Dead Space 2
Winner: Skyward Sword
We list off a whole load of games, some we are more enthusiastic about than others. Apparently finding time to play all these games is hard, in some cases for more legitimate reasons than others.
We begin cutting down the list by thinking of which of these games we want to play and which will have to be sacrificed to just not having the time, but in the end decide that Skyward Sword is really the only one we all have at least some interest in.
Most Swear Inducing Game of 2011
Nominated: Battlefield 3, Marvel versus Capcom 3, L.A. Noire, Mortal Kombat
Winner: Battlefield 3
Myself and Rob are sweary together in Battlefield and Marvel verses Capcom 3, where Dan swears alone with L.A. Noire. Can anything ever beat Team Fortress 2? Rob thinks Assassin's Creed might, but he is yet to play the Assassin's Creed's of 2011. Regardless, Rob swearing at multiplayer shooters is a known trend, so Battlefield takes the award, despite last minute mention of Mortal Kombat's bosses.
Nominated: Portal 2, Marvel versus Capcom 3, L.A. Noire, Child of Eden, Bulletstorm
Winner: Portal 2
Portal's shooting the moon is initially all we can think of, until we also consider Marvel versus Capcom's constant ridiculous 'moments' and L.A. Noire's character switching. We reminisce about Halo 2's best moments, trying to think up any more nominations and coming up with various parts of Child of Eden and Bulletstorm.
SpaceChem's end isn't enough of a moment to include as a nomination, though I do still describe it, before we loop back round to Portal's defective turrets. And two moments in one game is clearly enough to win, though the moon shot is named as the stronger of them.
Nominated: Jamestown, Sonic Generations, Mortal Kombat, Terraria
Winner: Sonic Generations
Jamestown snuck up on Rob, but is it really surprising that he wouldn't know about every 'indy' game? Sonic Generations being good might only be a surprise to jaded Sonic fans, despite early indications over the year looking good.
Mortal Kombat surprised Rob, but me less so, though neither of us can be counted as Mortal Kombat fans or of having been paying much attention to it anyway. Terraria comes up again in our awards, for seemingly managing to be a better Minecraft than Minecraft, and I make yet another non-nomination mention of SpaceChem.
Once again, Duke Nukem Forever's release and the 3DS's failure appear before we reiterate that the category is 'Best Surprise' not 'Most Surprise' and get further distracted by theorising about 'Worst Conference Thing'.
Eventually we move back to the category at hand and despite initial strong showing by Terraria, Sonic has to take it since even Dan was impressed enough to play it.
Most Memorable Advert/Trailer
Nominated: Alienware Laptops, Grand Theft Auto 5, Sonic Generation, Skyward Sword, Portal 2, Dead Island
Winner: Portal 2
We immediately replace 'Best' with 'Most Memorable' so that adverts that did their job of getting annoyingly stuck in our minds can be included, such as Rob's first nominations of Alienware Laptops.
Dan's interest in the Grand Theft Auto series draws him to analyse the GTA 5 trailer, though Rob finds it rather less interesting. Alternatively, Rob is obsessed with the Sonic Generations trailer and also enjoyed the Skyward Sword trailer, both for their music.
However, the most obvious nomination has to win; all the trailers for Portal 2. Cave Johnson and an ARG is all you need, despite Rob's last minute turn toward Dead Island.
Nominated: Sonic Generations, L.A. Noire, Child of Eden, Skyward Sword, Terraria, Rayman: Origins
Winner: Sonic Generations
L.A. Noire's music is not as good as Red Dead Redemption's, and Child of Eden is not as good as Rez, but we have to talk of games that came out in 2011. Rob mentions Skyward Sword again, still thinking about the trailer, soon to be followed by another nomination for Terraria.
Various other games get dismissed for music that is mearly 'just there' and not so stand out, with Bastion missing out due to us not having played it. A third (or fourth) party also declares no music in video games is good, but I counter with another nomination for Rayman.
Eventually we decide there are no choices besides Skyward Sword and Sonic, but again the game we've actually played wins.
Worst Audio Thing
Nominated: Minecraft, Virtua Tennis 4, Topspin 4, L.A. Noire
Minecraft pops back up from its brief mention wrongly in the previous category, for the sudden loud noises and seemingly random music. Rob's experiments with Tennis games also produces a pair of additional nominations and Dan mentions the L.A. Noire fail noise.
We get distracted again, by Youtube and memes, before settling on Minecraft just so Rob can continue to show his displeasure toward it.
Game of The Year
Nominated: Bulletstorm, Gears of War 3, Portal 2, Battlefield 3, Sonic Generations, Dirt 3, SpaceChem, Terraria, Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Winner: Portal 2
So begins the final challenge. We list off the nominations, taking a moment to discuss if games need a story to qualify and another moment for me to make my final SpaceChem comment since I'm obsessed and won't give it up. We all have our reasons for not adding Skyrim too.
We start picking into things with a discussion of Battlefield and if its bugs and lack lustre single player eliminate it, then Portal 2 with its apparent lack of length and Valve related problems.
We delve further into length and wonder if the relative quality of a sequel to its previous games should factor in, with Dan's non-nomination of Batman: Arkham City coming up, moving on to discuss the relative merits of Gear of War 3's single and multiplayer components.
We move quickly on to Sonic Generations, to decide if its a truly good game or just good for a Sonic game. Length becomes content, as we also discuss the quality of Portal's shorter form and Dirt 3's content being 'just racing'. Rob takes the hit for the Sonic fans, by laying out what's wrong with Sonic Generations, probably eliminating it.
The three hours of podcasting and some alcohol are starting to take their toll, but Dan moves it on to L.A. Noire and if its scope can hold against its flawed execution. Deus Ex also may not hold up too well either, despite striking a balance, not helped by its push button ending and boss fights.
It seems only Battlefield and Portal are left, so we discuss if the console versions also should be included into consideration, since both were clearly better on PC. In the end, the story element seems to be the only thing we can clearly differentiate, and so Portal 2 has to win our Game of the Year.
And that's it...
If you read this far, or even managed to listen to the podcast version, we can only thank you for your time and hope that you somehow extracted some enjoyment from it all. We'll keep on making this stuff regardless.