Ryan's forum posts

#1 Posted by Ryan (2278 posts) -
@ThePhantomnaut said:
" I have class in Sacramento. "
I call bullshit. It's impossible to have class and be in Sacramento AT THE SAME TIME.
#2 Posted by Ryan (2278 posts) -
@sofacitysweetheart said:
" @matti00 said:
" I skipped the Happy Hour with the call in's, think I'll skip this too. No offence, but I cringe really easily. "
This :/ "
Pussies, the lot of you! Do you avoid eye contact with your monitors, too?
#3 Posted by Ryan (2278 posts) -
@DougQuaid said:
" This strikes me as 'Hey! no one here at Whiskey Media is any good at MVC3. Wanna come play and do this for us?' That being said, I would totally come on down if I lived in the area and was any good at the game, but only if I could touch Will's beard and/or hold hands with Rorie.     "
No need to beat around the bush: you, sir, have nailed it. So! Any takers?
#4 Posted by Ryan (2278 posts) -

...assuming your town is somewhere in the San Francisco Bay Area!  
So, we're playing with the idea for this week's Marvel vs. Capcom 3 of inviting select members of the Giant Bomb community into the studio to play against the home competitors, on camera. I have to stress that this is no guarantee, and sets no precedent for future Throwdowns, but I wanted to gauge interest here.  
You have to be 18+, and willing to be on camera. Oh, and you have to be mad good at Marvel vs. Capcom 3. So step up!

#5 Posted by Ryan (2278 posts) -

When you're talking about what has made the Rock Band franchise great, the full-band experience is certainly clutch, but it's been the relentless post-release support from Harmonix that has really given the franchise its legs. While downloading the songs directly through the in-game store is the preferred method for many, themed disc-based packages serve the need of the less connected rocketeers.

On February 1, Harmonix is releasing Rock Band Country Track Pack 2, which promises, and I'm not making any of this up, a full 21 tracks of full-bore, gut-clenching, beer-swillin', god-fearin', trailer-slappin', red-white-and-blue honky tonk. The kind of twang this beautiful country was founded on. Here's a full track listing, in case you somehow require further convincing.

  • Billy Currington - That's How Country Boys Roll
  • Chely Wright - Single White Female
  • Darius Rucker - Alright
  • Darryl Worley - Awful Beautiful Life
  • Dierks Bentley - Sideways
  • Dwight Yoakam - Intentional Heartache
  • Gary Allan - Man of Me
  • George Strait - Twang
  • Jason Aldean - Crazy Town
  • Johnny Cash - Ring of Fire
  • Justin Moore - Backwoods
  • Keith Urban - Kiss a Girl
  • Lady Antebellum    - Perfect Day
  • Laura Bell Bundy - Giddy On Up
  • Luke Bryan    - Rain is a Good Thing
  • Merle Haggard - Mama Tried
  • Rascal Flatts - Summer Nights
  • Reba McEntire - The Night The Lights Went Out in Georgia
  • Shania Twain - Party for Two (With Billy Currington)
  • Sugarland - Settlin'
  • Trace Adkins - Ride

I mean Dwight Yoakam? George Strait? Merle Haggard?! JOHNNY HOUSE ON FIRE HAND TO GOD LIVE FROM FOLSOM PRISON MAN IN GOD-SNEERIN' BLACK GUITAR FULL OF AMPHETAMINES CASH!?! In light of this momentous occasion, Harmonix has generously furnished us with three, count 'em, three copies of the Rock Band Country Track Pack 2 for Xbox 360 (which, I should note, come with codes that will let you import the songs on the disc directly into Rock Band 3,) to distribute to you kind folks in an appropriately grandiose, hillbilly fashion.

If there's one thing we love as much as this great nation, it's causing undue grief to Harmonix Street Team Member John Drake. With that in mind, and in the downhome country spirit of the Rock Band Country Track Pack 2, we want you to warm up your Photoshop chops and craft an image that really captures the essence of "country" while also prominently featuring the bright-eyed, full-browed visage of John Drake himself. We have graciously provided a small gallery of very choice, candid photos of John Drake to help get you started. If this ain't synergy, I don't know what is!

Post your submissions in the comments below by Monday, January 31, and a heavily partial group of judges from Whiskey Media and Harmonix Music Systems will convene to determine the winning entries. Now giddiyup! 
UPDATE: The contest is closed and the winners have been chosen! Thanks to everyone who participated, and an extra-special thanks to John Drake himself for being such a good sport about our grossly unnecessary shenanigans. Winners, check your PM boxes! You should receive a message from me shortly.  

#6 Posted by Ryan (2278 posts) -

If you listen to this week's podcast backwards, it says "Ryan is a dead man, miss him, miss him, miss him."

#7 Posted by Ryan (2278 posts) -

deathstroke75! Nicely done this week. Actually, big round to everyone here! 
While I've got you fellas here, since you guys are the most closely involved in TNT on a weekly basis, any requests for TNT next week?

#8 Posted by Ryan (2278 posts) -

Brad Shoemaker


John Vignocchi

One of the big hitters in the arcade basketball genre, John G. Vignocchi came onto the scene in 2000 and was one of the driving forces behind Midway's NBA Ballers franchise.

On August 15th, 2008, Vignocchi left Midway Games to help start up a new Chicago-based studio for Vogster Entertainment. There he oversaw the production of an original IP for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. He also assisted the company with new business development. He is now the Development Director for Disney Interactive. 

10. Kinect w/ Kinect Sports

A week before the launch of Kinect I found myself at the Yaletown Brewery in Vancouver, drinking beers with other devs and arguing about Microsoft’s new peripheral. I was surprised to find I was the only person who did not think it was going to be DOA at retail.

All I can say is: Told ya so!

The feeling you get when you wave at Kinect for the first time and begin manipulating something on screen with your hand, in complete free space, is wild. And while I’ll admit that the system has its faults (the legs spazzing during the “Kinect ID” setup hurts the dream early on), Kinect is a really cool and innovative piece of technology. And while our press has not rated “Kinect Sports” as one of the best titles for the system, my buddies and I have had a ton of fun with it. It’s a great title to teach people about the system (start with the Super Saver and Target Kick mini-games), and I’m surprised that Sports wasn’t packaged with Kinect. My hope is that as time progresses Kinect will get better, with firmware updates from Microsoft (something they recently denied they would ever do?!), but for the time being I’ve really enjoyed my experiences with Kinect and Kinect Sports, more so than any other Kinect title.

9. Joe Danger

Excitebike meets LittleBigPlanet.” I’ll never forget when I first heard about this game--all I could say was “when does it come out?!” I’m not going to gush too much on this one, but if you haven’t picked up this little racer on PSN you are doing a disservice to the four talented guys at Hello Games who put it together.

Yeah…just four of them.

With a loveable main character that reminds me of a Pixar cartoon, a fun racing experience and great level building tools, Joe Danger stands out as a genre mashup that is deserving of GotY recognition in 2010.

8. Pac-Man Championship Edition DX

Namco does it again with this re-imagining of a classic title. Addictive, bite-sized chunks of gameplay, great community features (the video replays are awesome!), and a decent sticker price make this title one that will keep your addicted eyes bleeding five minutes at a time.

Publishers take note: This is the way we want HD remixes of classic titles!

7. Split/Second

Remember the feeling you got when you played Need for Speed and made your first getaway from the cops? Remember the first time you flashed your headlights to challenge someone to a race in Midnight Club? Remember when you played Burnout and suddenly crashing was the best part of the experience?  

I got the same feeling from Split/Second with the whole “the city is your weapon” mechanic. The first weekend I had the game I sat in my underwear in a cold sweat, slamming Monster Low-Carb Energy Drinks and refusing to shower or shave until I had a gold medal in every race. (The fiancée was out of town; otherwise I probably would have at least showered…!)

With beautiful visuals and a unique hook, Split/Second made it to the top of my list for driving game of the year. While I’ll admit the rubber banding AI is frustrating (although it’s not any worse than 150cc Super Mario Kart), Split/Second stands out as an amazing title that everyone should try.

6. Sid Meier's Civilization V

In an overcrowded market, I had my eyes set on all of the other big titles of the season until Kraig Kujawa tweeted that he had just played Civ V for seven hours on a plane. So like all good friends, I had to go and check out the title because Kraig and I like a lot of the same stuff.

7:00PM: Picked up the title from GameStop.
8:30PM: Kinda tried to put some food in my mouth with my left hand.
10:30PM: Put the fiancée to sleep, who graciously didn’t complain that I hadn’t paid attention to her all night.
11:30PM: Pondered if I was going to go for world domination or a more diplomatic victory.
12:30AM: Probably should have gone to bed.
1:37AM: “Wow, it’s late. Since it’s already past 1:30, I guess I’ll go to 2:00.”
2:03AM: “Christ, I’m going to be such a wreck tomorrow. Oh, and Caesar is an a$$hole.”
2:38AM: “Oh wow, it’s past 2:30… Y’know what? I should probably just take tomorrow off.”
3:03AM: “Yep, I’m going to take tomorrow off. The Grecians are uprising.”
3:38AM: Subtle sounds of a toilet flushing, water running, then footsteps on the stairs. 

“John?!” my fiancée exclaims, in her shouting-whisper voice, “are you still playing that fu#*@&% game?! Who are you?!”

She comes downstairs and shakes me for a response.

“I’m the Chinese!” I exclaim with bloodshot eyes.

I ended up emailing the boss around 6:00AM, slept until 10:00AM, and then kept playing all day Friday. This behavior lasted well into the weekend.  I became totally addicted and still play to this day!

Civilization V is an imaginative title that I feel everyone (especially industry folk) should check out. Once again the talented designers at Firaxis continue to innovate while brilliantly weaving the events and definitions of civilization and society into an imaginative and cohesive game design.  

5. God of War III

Am I watching a movie? Am I playing a game? Is this real time or an FMV?! God of War II blew my mind by constantly blurring the lines and creating an interactive experience unlike any other. The sheer size and epic scale of the battles left me in constant awe and there were a handful of spots within the game that I kept asking myself “My god--how did they DO that?!” That, my friends, isn’t something you experience every day. Especially as a developer. Although some of the platforming elements were tedious in spots, the entire experience of God of War III was an amazing one. To the team Sony Santa Monica that busted you’re butts to make this title--thank you. God of War III makes me proud to own a PS3.

4. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood

Adam said that the first Assassin’s Creed was a total abomination. Over 5,999,998 of you disagreed. I picked it up, buying into the hype, the 30+ magazine covers, the reviews, the Jade Raymond, and put about eight hours into it. Sorry to say, I didn’t like it either.

After reading the many praises from industry press, I wanted to give ACII the benefit of the doubt. I loved the title--not only was the story cool, but the characters were more interesting, the title looked even better, and my gripes about the first game had been addressed. I even went on to buy and play through the DLC.  I became totally engrossed in Assassin’s Creed.

I was excited when Brotherhood was announced but was also a bit skeptical. I put a lot of time into ACII, and while I was excited to continue my adventures with Ezio and the Assassinos, I wasn’t sure if I was really down to dump a bunch more time into another AC title.

I was wrong.

The single player campaign gave me more of what I loved about ACII, and the new features and visual enhancements did not disappoint. What truly solidifies AC: Brotherhood’s place in my top ten, though, was how they integrated multiplayer into the title!

Let’s be honest: A quick sequel to ACII with a co-op campaign would have made sense and probably been the “easy” thing to do. It is what we expected….

The first time I got to play the title was at an event in Arizona. Ubisoft’s Faith Harrison let me sneak in to their booth early to play it. “The trick is to not stand out,” she said. “Try and act like the computer does.”

After one match, I was totally sold. I was convinced I could buy this game for just the multiplayer alone.

Look, for years we’ve been doing headshot here, take cover there, melee up close, throw the grenade in a room. It was all getting old, despite the inclusion of the RPG-lite leveling/customization systems. I feel that Ubisoft took a risk and tried to push the envelope by creating an innovative and unique multiplayer component for the 3rd person action/adventure genre. This, plus the highly polished single player component, is what solidifies Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood a spot in my top ten of the year.

3. Darksiders

A lot of reviewers knocked this title for being a Zelda clone, but I’m still wondering why this is a bad thing?!

Vigil and THQ introduced us to a detailed world, with unique characters, a great art style, awesome voice acting, larger than life bosses, a cool soundtrack, and a great combat system. Every time I felt like Darksiders was about to get sleepy I was slapped in the face with something new and unique, whether it was a weapon or item, an intriguing puzzle, an interesting plot twist, a new game mechanic, or area to explore with unique enemies. I really enjoyed the overall pacing of the title.

For those of you who made the jump from Wii and are looking for something to scratch that Zelda itch, I encourage you to check out Darksiders.  It was truly one of 2010’s gems, and the developers at Vigil deserve your hard-earned cash.

2. Mass Effect 2

Admittedly, I couldn’t stand the first Mass Effect title. After about 15 hours into the original, I finally put it down… hence my apprehension to check out its sequel until well after it was released. A close friend demanded that I play through by letting me borrow his copy. 60 hours later (yes, including the DLC, nubs :P) I was totally hooked!

Mass Effect 2 is an amazing title--I constantly found myself in awe of the presentation and depth of features within the title. The pacing of the story is tight, the combat feels polished, the RPG elements feel like they raise the bar of the genre, and the cinematics are breathtaking. It was the first game in a long time where I found myself “geeking out” with fellow fans both online and at work. I got totally lost in the experience and loved every minute of it…

I haven’t been this engrossed in an RPG since (dare I say!) FFVII or Chrono Trigger. PS3 gamers are in for a treat with their impending release, and I couldn’t be more excited about future entries in the series. It just goes to show what a world-class developer can do with the UE3 engine.

…And yes, in case you are wondering, I ended up buying a copy of the title even after I beat it. The amazingly talented team at BioWare absolutely deserved the sale!!!

1. Red Dead Redemption

Dear Rockstar:

You guys are amazing... but you know that.

Thank you for giving us the most memorable character of the year.
Thank you for fixing the targeting issues inside the GTA engine.
Thank you for giving us a totally crazy ending, with an even crazier post-game twist.
Thank you for letting us get lost in another one of your detailed worlds.
Thank you for letting us warp around when we got bored.
Thank you for telling another amazing story… and for letting us skip a cut scene every once in a while. 
Thank you for adding just the right amount of depth to your “RPG” elements.
Thank you for a super cool soundtrack. Your composers and music supervisors are second-to-none.
Thank you for including a multiplayer feature even though we wouldn’t have complained if you didn’t ship with it.
Thank you for the continued support with DLC.
Thank you for having unwavering faith that a high quality action/adventure title set in the Old West would be a hit with gamers, despite whatever the market research told you.

Lastly, thank you for continuing to push the envelope and be the older brother of our industry. Your constant commitment to high quality interactive entertainment and marvelous storytelling is what helps push our industry forward.  Like most little brothers, a lot of us secretly look up to you.

Thank you, Rockstar, for making Red Dead Redemption--My 2010 game of the year.  


#9 Posted by Ryan (2278 posts) -

Jeff Gerstmann


Gary Whitta

Gary Whitta is the former Editor-in-Chief of PC Gamerand Next Generationmagazines, and a regular contributor to Tested’sweekly This is Only a Testpodcast. 

10. Medal of Honor

This was doomed from the start to be eclipsed by the Black Ops juggernaut, but having played both to completion I much preferred the gritty and intense realism of this game’s Afghan campaign to the increasingly eyeroll-inducing antics of the CoD franchise.

9. Red Dead Redemption

I loved every minute of this game. Rockstar’s most vibrant and alive world to date, some of their best storytelling and the most refined execution of their well-worn gameplay dynamic by far.

8. World of Warcraft: Cataclysm

It was a genius approach to radically redraw the existing world rather than simply bolt on another previously-undiscovered continent. Blizzard again demonstrating that there’s no limit to how this amazing world they’ve created can continue to evolve and grow.

7. StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty

Yes, it was worth the wait--was there ever any doubt? Blizzard pulled off the perfect balance, retaining everything about the original classic we loved while adding whole new layers of tactical depth and taking the single-player campaign concept to new heights.

6. Limbo

Proof of how much can be achieved with so little, Limbo generates a more immersive atmosphere than most games with ten times the budget. Throw in the most fiendishly-designed platform puzzles since Braid, and you have the best downloadable game of the year.

5. Pac-Man Championship Edition DX

The ulimate in post-modern game design mixology, this brilliant redux distills the arcade classic to its purest essence then infuses it with an illegal underground nightclub cocktail of high-speed, high-adrenaline drugs that are as addictive as they are giddyingly euphoric.

4. Dance Central

The most compelling evidence in favor of Kinect’s viability as a fun delivery system so far. Harmonix’s trademark polish and accessibility makes this the best party game of the year.

3. Heavy Rain

Haters gonna hate, but for me this game comes closest to fulfilling the promise of the interactive movie concept since the advent of the CD-ROM era. High ambition, beautiful production values, a compelling (if ultimately wonky) narrative and tense snatches of gameplay all combined to make this a rare successful example of a nascent hybrid art form. More like this, please.

2. Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit

Probably my most-played game of the year and certainly the most out-and-out fun. Online Hot Pursuit games with eight players are a riot. Can we just give every racing game to Criterion from now on?

1. Mass Effect 2

Nobody does big, sprawling, deep-mythology gameworlds better than BioWare and this fantastic sequel added multiple new layers to an already fascinating sci-fi universe along with countless improvements to the gameplay experience. Near perfect.

Adam Boyes

Adam Boyes is the founder of Beefy Media and the former Director of Production at Capcom US. He is far and away the most Canadian dude we know. 

10. Just Cause 2

Open-world games have always felt a bit linear and contrived, but Just Cause 2 thumbed its nose at that concept. Grappling hooks, ridiculous physics, vehicles out the wahzoo and over-the-top situations all lend to making this a game I got lost in for weeks and weeks. Think about it--this is only Avalanche’s second open-world game--I can’t WAIT to see what these guys are up to next. Great game, can’t wait for the future.

9. Pac-Man Championship Edition DX

My very famous old boss, Inafune-san, lamented often that the Japanese video game industry is dead. This little game came along (with, I might add, a terrible name, but who am I to talk… Super Puzzle Fighter HD Remix? Really Adam?) to show us that Japan still has it in spades. An IP that has long sat dormant, they proved that the dudes at Namco Japan still get what Pac-Man means to the world, and how to captivate Western audiences with their thousand-ghost chomping expertise.

8. Darksiders

Some people criticized this game for being a clone of Zelda. I don’t give two shits about that opinion--every game has either be inspired by another game ( Robotron -> Smash TV) or a direct copy ( FarmVille -> Farm Town) of another game. This game hit a ton of the Zelda beats, but in a way that I wanted it to. THQ has been stepping up to the plate lately, and they nailed it with Darksiders. A world, character, and premise that seemed forgettable on paper came alive in my hands, from the ability-unlock path and new bosses that you came across, to me not even minding the backtracking here and there. All in all, a great gaming experience for me.

7. Halo: Reach

I had the first PC LAN setup of anyone in my home town of Abbotsford, BC. We had 2 PCs that we had convinced my dad to buy "for his business," and were able to connect two games-- Quake 1 and Rise of the Triad (both via serial cable). At that point, I got my first true sense of what community-based multiplayer first-person shooters were like. That experience only got resurrected a few times in my life-- Tribes with my brother and friends, TF1, and a few others. 

That being said, I'm a closet Halo fan. What that means is that I will boo against the game until it comes out, and then I usually finish (and enjoy it) on Legendary. What Halo: Reach did for me was it brought back that feeling of waking up in the morning and frenetically counting down the hours until I could team up with my buddies and play some Reach. Bungie had finally mastered the team-based gameplay and UI experience, and it lent to a fantastic experience. Where Johnny V, Kraig, Dave Lang, and I were smashing on AI in Firefight for achievements or just chilling with strangers on Headhunter or Slayer finishing in the top five. The cherry on top was the addition of the new classes--I always wished that Halo had something fresh, and the jetpacks added just enough Tribes flair to make this game knock squarely in the top 10.

6. Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood

The single-player experience isn’t the main reason that I put this on my list, it really is because of the multiplayer. I mean the single-player is an epic storyline with great moments, powerful assassinations, and the whatnot, but when they announced a multiplayer mode, I signed up for the "This ain’t gonna work" newsletter.

Boy was I way off. The internal team at Ubisoft Montreal (and many other members around the world in the Ubi collective) banded together to translate the AC world into a fantastically executed experience. There’s no sprinting around with a gun and shooting fools in the face--this is calm, walking, stalking, sneaking murderous hilarity that is fresher than any multiplayer experience I’ve had in years. Most massive franchises these days are pretty stagnant, but AC: Brotherhood proved to me that innovation in massive games can still happen.

5. Sid Meier's Civilization V

From the early-ass Sid Meier's Civ I era, I’ve been a huge fan. Bought and played every version, and when Revolution came out I thought we were in trouble. How pleased was I when Civ V dropped, evolving the core Civ experience in so many wonderfully delectable ways. Back to 20-hour single games, epic scale of world interaction, and an AI system that isn’t completely jacked up anymore, it fixed everything I wanted them to, and evolved in all the right areas.

4. StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty

It’s fucking STARCRAFT II.

3. Minecraft

In a world where Zynga has mastered the art of psychological manipulation of making people search that one extra tile or harvest that one extra vegetable, an indie developer outside of Stockholm, Sweden decided to take the popular trends of the day and do a 180-degree suplex on that shit. Notch took a mini-concept from previous games of combining a few ingredients, and built an endless experience based on users smashing, digging, and chopping their way into infinity. This was a game that grabbed mindshare and huge sales numbers not because it followed the typical modern-day gaming nomenclature, but because it looked at trends of "me too" plays and told those guys to f&^k off.
Minecraft is a disruptive play that has captured the imagination of hundreds of thousands of people who have missed playing Legos for far too long, and has built a game where achievements, power-leveling, and competition are trumped by endless creativity and freedom.

2. Limbo

I’m probably a bit biased, because I got to meet Dino Patti, the President of Playdead Games, a little over two years ago and saw a small little black-and-white prototype of Limbo. At that time, he hadn’t met with any publishers, and since I was at this small show, I was literally the first publisher representative he had met with. It was serendipity--at Capcom, we were big believers in the IP and the team, but it just didn’t make business sense.

What I love about this game is that it breaks all major traditions. Almost no music. No cutscenes. Very little storytelling. You play as a small boy (which is a massive faux pas nowadays). Black and white. Less than four hours long. And yet, with all of these rules broken, they became the fastest selling new IP on XBLA ever. That’s an incredible feat. Every moment of that game is fresh, unexpected, and concretely sets this game squarely in my number two spot.

1. Red Dead Redemption

I grew up in a very Canadian household. Not just the usual 'Ehs' and maple syrup, but my dad was a lumberjack. No word of a lie--for six years, he was best friends with his chainsaw in the deep northern British Columbian woods, with nothing but a bunch of dudes and flapjacks for breakfast. Sounds homoerotic, but he told me stories many many times about how many of his good friends died while "logging" (their term for being a lumberjack). I'm sure that is what spawned his interest in the Wild Wild West. That, and according to records, Jesse James is my sixth great uncle on my dad's side. No shit. So I grew up in a household that coveted everything and anything that was Western. Clint Eastwood was my dad's hero--every year I bought him a new VHS Western movie, and every year he watched it pretty much 365 times. It made me grow a vile hatred for everything cowboy and Western. Got a cowboy hat? Eat a bowl of dicks. Cowboy boots? I'll throat chop you. Say "Y'all" and I'll stick a shiv made of wires and battery acid up your fingernails.

You now should understand why I had absolutely no desire to play Red Dead Redemption. I didn't mind the other cowboy games ( Call of Juarez, etc) but at that point in my life I was a full blown self-certified achievement whore. This game was different--from the stirrup to the outback, it was an incredible experience. It was a theme I didn’t care for, but the gameplay, story, and incredible vistas sucked me into the world. Top the game with the Undead expansion, and man-oh-man, you’ve got my game of the year.
#10 Posted by Ryan (2278 posts) -

Vinny Caravella


Greg Kasavin

Greg Kasavin is creative director at Supergiant Games, an independent studio developing an original action role-playing game called Bastion. He wasn't always busy conjuring up gameworlds, characters, stories, and levels. After his parents whisked him away from the land of tolerance and freedom that was the Soviet Union, Greg must have subconsciously decided to take full advantage of the land of opportunity here in the United States by spending a disproportionate amount of time playing games as a kid. He started writing about games professionally in his senior year in high school, and wound up serving on the editorial team of the popular web site GameSpot for more than 10 years, during which time he rose from intern all the way to editor-in-chief. In spite of this long stretch in the gaming press, Greg never lost sight of his childhood dream of making great games.  

Now that I'm a poor independent game developer with two kids, I'm more selective than ever when it comes to spending time and money on games, though I still try to play everything I can. Still, there are a bunch of games I've yet to play this year that I think could have cracked this list, based on what I've seen, read, and played of them. That list of speculative honorable mentions includes, in no particular order: Vanquish, Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, Fallout: New Vegas, Zettai Hero Project: Unlosing Ranger vs. Darkdeath Evilman, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, Valkyria Chronicles II, Kirby's Epic Yarn, and, yes, Super Mario Galaxy 2. For shame. Of the stuff I did play, here's my list:

10. Bayonetta

I make no apologies for Bayonetta's distinctly Japanese over-the-top weirdness, though sometimes I want to. I found the tone of the game equal turns entertaining and embarrassing. And when the game started getting all serious about its own ridiculous story, I could barely believe it. Even so, the moment-to-moment action in Bayonetta is some of the best I've played since Ninja Gaiden. For my money, very few other games have succeeded in marrying the depth, complexity, and responsive fine-tuned feel of a great fighting game with the structure of a story-driven action adventure game.

9. Super Scribblenauts

As much as I loved the concept, I passed on the original Scribblenauts when I heard it forced you to use the touchscreen to control the character. So I got a completely fresh experience from Super Scribblenauts, which brought me back to the days of playing with Legos as a kid. It's a great, imaginative game, and it holds a special place for me because my five-year-old daughter got hooked on it too. No coercion on my part, I swear. I have no doubt it's helping her learn to read and write, albeit things like "fire breathing potion" and "giant zombie hamster".


8. StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty

This was a bittersweet one for me on a variety of levels, but in the end, I had a great time with it and it lived up to all my expectations from a gameplay and presentation standpoint. I've loved the real-time strategy genre since it existed and the original StarCraft is my favorite game in it, so I went into StarCraft II with a bit of anxiety and apprehension. Nevertheless I think Blizzard struck a perfect balance of not-screwing-it-up while adding fresh changes, and the game brought back a lot of fond memories in the way Street Fighter IV did. I really enjoyed the campaign missions, though I wish the story hit a few more notes besides "Jim, I don't trust that guy."


7. Etrian Odyssey III: The Drowned City

For some reason this little game really got its hooks in me. I'd heard for a while about this series but never played a game in it until this one, and found it to be a very satisfying and methodical, the type of game I like to play for 30 minutes or an hour each night before I go to sleep. It brings back many fond memories of hardcore old-school computer role-playing games like The Bard's Tale and Wizardry, where death came swiftly and brutally, grinding for experience felt more rewarding than chorelike, and automaps didn't exist. Whenever I get the feeling that games are getting too dumbed down (which happens every few weeks), thank goodness I have games like this to turn to.


6. Amnesia: The Dark Descent

I like horror games but they almost never scare me. Amnesia, you came awfully close, so I salute you. I never would have guessed this was a game from a small independent developer because of its beautiful atmospheric visuals and great presentation, and from a design perspective it achieves the remarkable feat of being an interesting first-person action adventure that doesn't lean on combat for its moment-to-moment play experience. Parts of this game are genuinely frightening in a way I've never felt from playing other horror games.


5. Super Meat Boy

I cut my teeth on the kinds of brutal action games that Super Meat Boy pays homage to at the beginning of each of its worlds, so this game was right up my alley and I had a great time with it. There aren't many games out there these days where a sense of mastery comes so quickly and often. Practically every one of its bite-sized levels first appears virtually impossible, and then by the time you can reach the end, you're navigating through all kinds of deathtraps with the same lazy abandon as a morning commute. It's a weird and cool feeling, and Super Meat Boy's goofy and funny personality and excellent presentation seal the deal.


4. Red Dead Redemption

Red Dead would be much farther down this list had I stopped short of finishing the game, which I almost did since I'm normally not a huge fan of open-world games and their long travel times between scripted missions. But Red Dead's world is unusually detailed in every respect, and its story payoff I thought was outstanding. For such a huge game that so many people must have poured so much blood, sweat, and tears into, I was surprised at how personal aspects of the game felt. Many AAA blockbuster games are loud and embarrassing but Red Dead felt like it had a heart. Besides, I've wanted a be-all, end-all Western-themed game ever since LucasArts' Outlaws, and this pretty much nailed it.


3. Limbo

One of those games that seems to have burned itself into my memory, thanks to its impeccable and artful presentation. It sucked me into its morbid, indescribable world almost immediately and kept me glued and wondering about what was going on through to its stark ending and beyond. This is one of those games where, even though it's relatively short and spent years in the making, the effort and attention to detail really shines through. Like any good puzzle game it also makes me wonder how on Earth they came up with some of those puzzles, since they can be so devious and challenging, and rewarding to solve.


2. Super Street Fighter IV

Street Fighter IV was my most-played game of 2009, so I knew I'd be there day one for the inevitable update. And what an update! It added almost too many interesting new characters and opened up all kinds of exciting new match-ups without screwing up the surprisingly awesome core gameplay of the previous game. So many Super Street Fighter IV matches end in nail-biting, dramatic moments. Competition in this game is much more exciting to me than I can ever get from playing, say, a multiplayer shooter. Even when I wasn't playing the game, I often found myself watching tournament videos or reading up on how to be a better player. I basically had to force myself to stop playing.


1. Mass Effect 2

I'm surprised to find Mass Effect 2 at the top of my list both because it released almost a year ago (the last time a January game was my Game-of-the-Year was Resident Evil 4) and because I disagreed with aspects of its throw-the-baby-out-with-the-bathwater approach to improving on its predecessor's problems. But in spite of this, I loved Mass Effect 2. BioWare crafts some of the best, most interesting characters in games and Mass Effect 2 puts this strength at the forefront. I loved being able to interrupt certain conversations with quick actions--such a simple, smart addition to the previous game's outstanding conversation system. And as for the combat, I thought it felt better than the previous game by leaps and bounds. I was so into this game that I replayed the endgame sequence five different times just to see all the different permutations of what could happen. I still worry that BioWare is trending farther and farther away from making the kinds of role-playing games I love to play, but Mass Effect 2 reassured me that I was still in very good hands. 


Honorable Mention: One Chance (PC)

This was one of the more emotionally affecting games I've played all year, in spite of being a 15-minute Flash game. It's very similar to an older game called Everyday the Same Dream, which I hadn't played prior to One Chance -- good thing for that, too, since my experience with One Chance was better for having no expectations going into it. I played a lot of great independent games this year, but while many of those games were simply fun, One Chance stuck in my gut, and is yet another reminder of how powerful games can be as a narrative medium. I never did finish Heavy Rain (I know I should) but One Chance to me is like a distilled version of the same basic goal, with none of the uncanny-valley presentation problems, no quick-time events, and a cooler story.


Jeremiah Slaczka

Jeremiah Slaczka, also known by his nickname, Miah, is a video game designer/the creative director and co-founder of 5th Cell, a video game developer in Bellevue, Washington. He is best known for being the concept creator and director of Scribblenauts, the million-seller hit video game Drawn to Life, as well as the critically acclaimed Lock’s Quest. Jeremiah is credited as the Director, Lead Designer, Story Writer, Original Concept Creator, and Art Director for both Drawn to Life and Lock’s Quest.

My top ten list comprises titles that I made sure all my friends had to check out. These were titles I evangelized as a gamer just because I wanted others to experience that awesomeness that I did!

10. Pac-Man Championship Edition DX

The original Pac-Man is a classic, but to be honest it's a little stale after 30 years. After playing the demo for just five minutes I bought the title on the spot and made everyone who came over play it. It's also such a simple idea; anybody can get into it easily.

9. Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale

Once you get past the overly cheesy JRPG tropes it's a really fun game. The idea of being an item shop owner for JRPG heroes is a great twist on a tired genre and the gameplay backs up the concept. It's a ton of fun.

8. Dance Central

My wife was in Japan when I bought this, so I was playing it all the time.  I think I've lost like five pounds by now. It made you feel like a bad-ass even when you looked like a fool. That's great game design.

7. Limbo

A game I can easily finish in a single sitting? With a beautiful art style and actually unique platformer brainteasers? Yes please. Also Dino, the CEO of Playdead, is an awesome guy.

6. Mass Effect 2

Again, I wasn't a huge fan of the first one. I appreciated it, but of my BioWare titles it was behind Jade Empire and the KotoR series. But the polish on the sequel blew me away. Everything in the game upped the ante of what a BioWare title could be.

5. Minecraft

I was a really early adopter of this game back in June when Notch just launched his Alpha and I've been evangelizing it ever since. It's so simple, yet so deep. Its scary how many hours you can lose in that game perfecting your work.

4. Red Dead Redemption

I wasn't a fan of the original at all, but this game was excellent from start to finish with so much to do in all the side quests and mini-games. Who knew the western genre just needed the right game to bring it all back?

3. Call of Duty: Black Ops

Treyarch really pulled out all the stops from World at War, a game I enjoyed. The multiplayer is an excellent refinement of what the direction the series has been going in. I've been playing a ton of it.

2. Super Mario Galaxy 2

This game blew my mind. Every level had a new mechanic in it that could have literally been its own game, but not Miyamoto. This was my GOTY until Game Dev Story came out.

1. Game Dev Story

This was the first iPhone game that made my eyes and hands hurt from holding it and staring at the tiny screen for so long. The difficulty curve had some issues, but I don't care I had a blast for hours on end. The weird part was by year seven I was making multimillion selling games on the handhelds and moving into the big consoles. Is that art imitating life?