The VG247 Very Serious Game Awards 2015
Welcome back to another round of the VG247 Very Serious Awards. This year, we’ve gone all out bringing you the 52 best games of 2015 and the staff game of the year picks, so nobody can complain that we’re not taking our responsibilities as cultural influencers seriously.
But now we’ve had enough of that. It’s the arse end of the year, we’re all very tired, it’s extremely cold or possibly hot or just unpleasantly tepid, and it’s several days past when any doctor would have suggested we call it quits for the year. Let’s get this out of our systems so we can start 2016 in a zen state of mind.
The Made Our Peers Look Like Prats Award winner: Ubisoft Quebec
Remember when an Ubisoft Montreal guy said that animating women is too hard? What he actually meant, when the bullshit filters come off, is that someone or someones on the Assassin’s Creed: Unity project team didn’t think playable women were a good use of Ubisoft’s resources when it could be making more rubbish broken connected apps and microtransaction content instead.
Fast forward to this year and the Quebec Studio turns out the excellent Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, sporting a fully animated playable woman. Woof! That’s a bit awkward, isn’t it? To be fair, the original comment already made him look like a prat, both because it aired a frankly embarrassing studio culture and because Assassin’s Creed: Unity itself was also bursting with fully animated women. But Syndicate really hammered it home, didn’t it. Poor old Ubi.
The Made Our Peers Look Like Prats Award runner-up: Yakuza Studio
If the Yakuza series sold as well as it deserves to, Yakuza Studio would have won this award outright as it made not one but three sets of its close peers look like twerps. First of all, the team’s continued capacity to knock it out of the park with games like Yakuza 5 (available now!) and Yakuza 0 (also!) in defiance of westernisation trends is frankly embarrassing for all the Japanese publishers shitting out western-friendly titles that fall on their arses by pleasing nobody on either side of the pond. Meanwhile, Sega itself is sitting around red-faced because it keeps trying to pull a Konami and go off to make money from everything but core console games, and yet thanks to agreements with Sony it keeps absentmindedly making traditional core games.
Finally, the continued existence and success of Yakuza is an embarrassment to Yu Suzuki and the Shenmue team. Toshihiro Nagoshi took that legacy and ran with it, and if more people noticed that we wouldn’t be in this whole uncomfortable crowdfunding mess. We’d just be playing more Yakuza.
The High-profile Departure of the Year Award winner: Hideo Kojima
I mean, obviously. Hideo Kojima leaving Konami after umpteen years is a hell of a headline on its own, but where the whole thing might have been handled with grace, dignity and the preservation of consumer trust regarding the future of Metal Gear, it was in fact a months-long shit show that left Konami so firmly in the doghouse D-Dog has moved into a condo citing a need for his own space.
We still don’t know the details, and probably won’t for many years; the gag orders tend to have long tails, and publishers love to unleash their legal eagles. But we’re all pretty comfortable assuming it wasn’t entirely amicable; Konami was determined to begin separating Metal Gear from its creator as early as possible in order to secure the brand’s future without him, which backfired terribly. It all came to a peak with Geoff Keighley calling the publisher out at The Game Awards 2015 for banning Kojima from accepting The Phantom Pain’s honours. What a time to be alive! No matter the real story, the accepted history is writ in stone: #FucKonami.
The High-profile Departure of the Year Award runner-up: John Smedley
Listen, we don’t know a heck of a lot about Daybreak Games, the new name for the MMO team formerly known as Sony Online Entertainment, and we don’t know what really happened here. We only know that after donkey’s years in the big chair, John Smedley suddenly decided to step down. “John Smedley will be taking some time off from the company for the near-term and transitioning to a different role to be determined,” a Daybreak representative said. “What will that role be? We haven’t invented it yet, but probably something like Chief Never Speaks in Public Again Officer or something.”
The latter half of that quote is freely paraphrased from our imaginations thanks to the chronological proximity of Smedley’s decision to step down to his making overt threats on the Internet regarding a hacker who’d not been slapped as hard by the long arm of the law as Smedley personally would have liked. A bit of a sad end, to be honest; we like our devs outspoken and forthright, even when they’re bit erratic.
Hubris of the Year Award winner: 2K Games (Evolve)
Multiplayer is big business; just look at Call of Duty. The problem is publishers look at it too much, and imagine they can grab a slice of the pie. Evolve is just the latest in a series of failures to carve out a player base, and we can’t help but wonder how much that has to do with the triple-A pricing – always a worry on a multiplayer-only game, unless you’ve got a super hot IP to back it up – followed by breathtakingly expensive DLC.
You can imagine how it happened. “This is a quality experience worth a premium price tag!” Yes, well, I mean, quality journalism is worth paying for, but we have the Internet now so the only reason to buy a newspaper is to line the cat’s tray. Nobody’s gonna pay $theearth when they can get an equivalent experience for significantly less – especially if what you’re charging for is new and scary. Free post-launch content and a lower buy-in might have got us somewhere; this is, after all, the team that brought us Left 4 Dead.
Hubris of the Year Award runner-up: Backers of Psychonauts 2
Okay this one’s maybe a bit unfair, because it’s probably a case of “not all backers of Psychonauts 2”, but we met this bloke down the pub who was so fucking smug about the money he was throwing at Double Fine’s latest that we got a bit angry about it.
Putting aside all the questions on still-to-be-enacted legislation regarding non-accredited investors and the non-accredited investment cap: the number of sales required to generate a return on the investment, plus the probable time span of those sales milestones, make throwing your meagre life savings at this one a pretty risky method of income generation with potentially low returns. We could be wrong! It could sell 10 million copies right out the gate and make 2018 you very happy! Or it could run disastrously over-budget and schedule, like the original Psychonauts and more recently Broken Age, or it could fail to generate predicted sales like Spacebase DF9. Just sayin’: talk to your accountant first.
The Fuck Up of the Year Award winner: Batman Arkham Knight PC
You know, we thought after Halo: The Master Chief Collection and DriveClub last year we might not see another disastrous triple-A launch until the next generation – but wow, were we wrong. Following on from the embarrassing Mortal Kombat X PC port, Warner Bros. really upped (??) its game with the absolutely shocking state of the Steam build of Batman: Arkham Knight.
Now, some people have argued that this all got blown way out of proportion; after all, some users were able to play the game. That’s true, Internet; that’s true. You know what else is true? So many other people couldn’t that Warner Bros. withdrew the game from sale, which is something neither Halo: The Master Chief Collection or Driveclub, both widely recognised pieces of utter toilet, had to resort to. Moreover, it implemented a no questions asked refund scheme above and beyond Steam’s policies, and when the game finally crawled its way back into playability thanks to the combined efforts of multiple companies including component manufacturers, it wasn’t that much improved – and the publisher admitted it will never be especially good, actually. Bloody hellllllllllll.
The Fuck Up of the Year Award runner-up: also Batman Arkham Knight
The game so bad we shamed it twice. Pity, really; on consoles, Bats found plenty of eager fans. Warner Bros. said it would be reviewing its policies regarding QA and ports as a result of the Batman Arkham Knight disaster, and we can only hope this double win convinces it to pursue that approach with enthusiasm and vigour.
Well done everyone else for not being utter rubbish this year! Is this our benchmark now? What an industry.
Egregiously Disrespectful Time-sink of the Year winner: Destiny The Taken King
Remember the good old days when Destiny was still growing into its role as the first console MMO – sorry, shared-worlds shooter – and had no idea how to keep our attention for any length of time beyond the perfidies of RNGesus? It spent most of Year One in hibernation, occasionally waking to spasm with one of two (two!) content drops or a smattering of events, and otherwise it just sat there refusing to give us Gjallarhorns. This made it easy to quit for long periods.
But now? Now it wants us all the damned time! Every time you turn around there’s another set of limited-time exclusive bloody gear to collect. It’s turned into a full-time job. What makes the whole thing so painful is that those of us who consider this level of time commitment the tribute our lovely Destiny deserves, and genuinely want to hold on to our treasured mementoes, have nowhere to put the damn thing because vault space is still painfully limited. And we still can’t get to 320 Light. Amazing.
Egregiously Disrespectful Time-sink of the Year runner-up: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
This one was real toss-up, with Fallout 4 very nearly getting the nod. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt just edged Bethesda’s latest out, though, because the latter packs in so much dense environmental design that exploring is a real pleasure, while repeat plays open new build opportunities with genuinely different combat experiences. The Witcher 3, meanwhile, has an unnecessarily huge map stuffed with things you’ll never need or want to do.
Actually, that’s probably a good thing. CD Projekt RED’s cut and paste approach to distracting side-content means the main quest and major side-plots have been lovingly polished, resulting in a wonderful traditional single-player RPG experience. But all that galloping through beautiful but empty landscapes to bomb another low-level monster nest can fuck right off.