Experienced Points: 2010 List of Awesome

By Shamus
on Dec 31, 2010
Filed under:
Column

My end-of-year wrapup.

Happy new year, everyone.

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From the Archives:

  1. silver says:

    So that’s nice for the Escapist, but as we’re in your blog, perhaps you can do a more personal wrap-up (including things like your projects started/stopped/rejected, how they affected your year and such)?

  2. Mari says:

    Darn you and your Minecraft, Shamus. I had managed to avoid being sucked in until you joined the chorus of voices singing its praises. Now I’m addicted to the point that the kids and I play on the LAN together. The 13 year old informed me today that she stayed up until 2 AM this morning playing Minecraft. I’ve done it myself and only skipped doing so last night because my caffeine supplies were running low.

  3. X2-Eliah says:

    So, no mention of Mass Effect 2?

    • krellen says:

      You’ve read (and possibly listened) what Shamus has had to say about ME2. You really think it’s going to be one of his highlights of the year?

      • bit says:

        It does have Mordin Solus.

        • Jarenth says:

          I agree that ‘the character ‘Mordin Solus’ in Mass Effect 2′ should have gotten an honorable entry, at least.

          • Aldowyn says:

            I still think it’s a crime that he didn’t get even a nomination for best character at the VGA’s. And Kratos did.

            KRATOS. The incredibly one-dimensional (he actually lost dimensions, from what I hear) diecidal maniac that’s not even remotely new.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              Its vga,what did you expect?

            • Robyrt says:

              Kratos deserved a nomination for best character in 2005, when he had more than one dimension and “killing everyone” wasn’t item number one on his agenda. In 2010, he is the villain of the story.

              • Sumanai - a grouchy ball of cynical pessimism says:

                That’s the way (most) awards work. You take something that was cool or sensible at least one iteration back and nominate it, if it’s still either popular or known enough. Then you take several stuff from this year that are “artsy”, by the “art is suffering” and “art is pretentious” -logic, and add on some that are purely there for political reasons. Which means any big budget (“AAA”) games from the biggest “supporters”, and big names in general (ones they feel most viewers would demand be included), for the awards.
                And then judges’ personal favourites, which often have nothing to do with the best that year had to offer and are often nominated for the wrong category anyway.

                There are some exceptions, as always, so that shouldn’t be taken as an absolute rule for all awards. But it does cover the basics.

                God of War 3 would count for at least two of those, so it was to be expected. Mordin Solus would count for one, and possibly fails in one.

                Awards are a mix of popularity contests and ego trips for the judges, not actual listings of the best of a given time period.

                • Galad says:

                  so Mordin is a likely winner after two or three VGA editions?

                • Sumanai - a grouchy ball of cynical pessimism says:

                  Assuming he’s still “recognizable” in whatever way they determine it. Of course if Mass Effect: Mordin Solus Adventures comes out in, say, 2014, and gains popularity there’s a good chance he’ll be nominated. If he is re-imagined as a more dramatic person with lost family members, barely any humour if at all, angsty and it contains (minimum) one over the top melodramatic scene all that would be needed is a more “artsy” name and he’d likely win.

                  An Oscar would be guaranteed if it was a live-action movie and he’d also end up re-imagined as a human, trying to make ends meet in an anti-human enviroment with a non-human wife (which would also be looked down upon).

                  Edit: Of note however is that I haven’t followed game related awards, so there might not be as big of a need for melodramatic past/present with a “socially unaccepted love” in order to win.

              • Will says:

                I’m pretty sure Kratos becoming less and less human and more and more villainous and slaughterhappy as the story progresses is kind of the point.

      • X2-Eliah says:

        I was thinking of either a mention for ‘most aspects of great and horrible in one game’, a nod to good character design (and perhaps bad as well)..

        Yeah, Shamus did point out numerous issues with the game, but you can’t deny he has written about the game quite a lot, all things considered.

    • Irridium says:

      On the subject of ME2 and Bioware in general, I think I found they’re design document:

      http://gza.gameriot.com/content/images/orig_320200_1_1257581825.png

      • Irridium says:

        Whoops, meant to say “their”.

        Hopefully I don’t get castrated for that error.

        • Sumanai - a grouchy ball of awards says:

          Only because I can’t castrate over the internet, and because I’m fairly certain it would count as an assault.

          Or “unapproved surgical treatment done by an untrained individual”, but that would be kind fo cool to have on your CV.

  4. bit says:

    A good, if predictable list. My favorite item on there has to be New Vegas; cool setting, good story, and relatively fun gameplay, even though my guns/stealth build is a bit of a bitch to play. I don’t run into many glitches, either, so all is good. Speaking of guns and glitches, just because I need some reassurance, did anyone else pistol-whip this guy; http://fallout.wikia.com/wiki/Carlyle_St._Clair_III, kill him, and immediately fail “Beyond the Beef?” That pissed me off so ridiculously much. Good game otherwise, though.

  5. Jarenth says:

    Y’know, it’s funny. I always feel lists like this pay too much attention to recently released games, and tend to forget the games released earlier in the year. So, out of curiosity, I looked for a list of all the video games released in 2010.

    As it turns out? Shamus´ list is quite on the money. Minecraft and Cataclysm were really some of the biggest hits of this year. In all honesty, 2010 was kind of bland year games-wise. Not bad, but the year’s major accomplishments can be listed on one page.

    Happy new year, one and all. Here’s to hoping 2011 will have some more truely interesting games.

    • Rosseloh says:

      That’s a bad thing, though. Not too many games this year, sure, but my plate is already full for next year.

      Witcher 2, SW:ToR (if it gets released), L.A. Noire, Zelda, Portal 2, and various updates to games I already play should keep me busy. And I’ll already be crippled under the weight of my last semester of college and work every week.

      • Jarenth says:

        PROTIP: With enough sugar or caffeine, sleep becomes optional.

        • Sumanai - a grouchy ball of awards says:

          Tip: Not if you’re diabetic or caffeine behaves unpredictably for you.

          Effects I’ve had from drinking caffeine: inability to sleep, drowsiness, nothing, slightly blurry vision, tired but not tired, jitters, cold sweating, numbness, feeling sick, obsessiveness in whatever I’m not supposed to be doing (so, none), itchiness, general feeling of unease and one case of feeling more alert and awake.

          Most never at the same time as others, and I have yet to find a way to predict which will happen. Also,

          PROTIP: Staying up even with chemical help will cause hallucinations and visions, ultimately death, if drawn too long.

          • Jarenth says:

            I can’t help but notice that you list ‘inability to sleep’ as a negative side effect, since that was the goal we were going for in the first place.

            Also yes I was joking. Please don’t overdose on chemical stimulants, dear reader, it would make me very sad.

        • Rosseloh says:

          My reaction to caffeine: nada. Kinda sucks, really. I never got to experience the late night cramming sessions that everyone says is called “college”. Maybe I just haven’t tried enough in one go.

          Then again, perhaps its a good thing, as it has kept me from attempting the ever-so-elusive “cram”.

  6. BeamSplashX says:

    Happy New Year, Shamus!

    I should post here more often. New Year’s Resolution #1, right here.

  7. Chris says:

    You listed Civ5. What do you think of Sulla’s take that Civ5 is a big, mismanaged mess? What Went Wrong with Civ5?

    • Aldowyn says:

      That post was a mess, just saying. He did get his points across quite well, though.

    • Shamus says:

      I’m actually a very shallow Civ player. I keep the difficulty on the lower levels and I almost never play with humans. A barely touched Civ IV. And I didn’t play after the patch in question.

      So, I don’t really dispute any of the claims in that article, but the issues discussed ended up not bothering me. (Much. Okay, the extreme utility of Maritime city-states is bad. Bad for gameplay, bad for simulation. It’s unbalanced and it doesn’t make sense that this one city can feed my whole empire.)

      You could argue that the team abandoned their hard-core fans to go after more casual Civ players like me.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Civiv already did that with its simplified gameplay and interface.

        Personally,the worst offenders in civv for me is the way you can again prevent city building by just placing your unit on that sweet spot,and how terrible the city and diplomacy interfaces are.

      • krellen says:

        I think the fact that you didn’t really play Civ IV might be largely responsible for why you liked Civ V so much. Compared to 3, V is probably great, but IV was a masterpiece.

        Can’t say for sure, having not actually played it (most readers should be aware by now of my policy regarding Steam games), but I really think one-unit-per-tile was a bad choice. I haven’t actually seen anything to convince me to try Civ V, even if it wasn’t a Steam game.

        • Sumanai - a grouchy ball of awards says:

          I think it’s the reason Shamus mentioned , since I’ve played all Civ games (of the main line), I liked Civ5 and I’m a casual Civ player.

          On the other hand, I’ve got a weak point for hex-grids and I only played the demo. Also I’m less “casual” and more “bad”.

          I guess we’d need to do social studies or something to find out the reason. I think it’s about different tastes and not so much “better, worse” since Civ5 seemed to me wildly different from previous titles.

    • Shamus says:

      Back from reading the article. Long, detailed, and fairly damning.

      It’s interesting to be on the other side of the “dumbing down” equation for once. Everything the author is saying about the changes in the series is what I’ve been saying about RPG’s. Less choice, less depth, less diversity, etc.

      • Robyrt says:

        Ironically, the console/iPhone version, Civ Revolution, did a way better job of dumbing down the game. While there are fewer options, all of them are fun and balanced, which has the side effect of improving the AI to “middling.”

        • Matt K says:

          To Chime in, Civ Revolution is an amazingly fun game to play (mine is on the DS). Whoever worked on that title understood “dumbing down” while understanding the nature of the consoles/portables and still keeping the gameplay clo9se to the original. I spent hours on the DS playing that game and had to put away my cart for the same reaspn I had to uninstall Civ 4.

    • Bodyless says:

      There is one point in the text where i have to strongly disagree:

      Calling Master of Orion 3 a medicore game is an insult for all medicore games out there!

      • Sumanai - a grouchy ball of awards says:

        Have you considered thinking about MoO3 as a “bureaucracy simulator set in space”?

        Because that’s the impression I got when I played it years ago.

  8. Dude says:

    I have just bought Civilization 5 and have never played a Civ game before (in love with SMAC, though). I’m guessing I’ll be spending 2011 as a bearded hermit with my computer growing a similar beard?

    • Dude says:

      Oh, and I forgot to say, and refreshed the page and couldn’t just edit it in: Shamus and Rock Paper Shotgun are solely (dually?) responsible for this.

    • Sumanai - a grouchy ball of cynical pessimism says:

      After reading the link in the above post (“What went wrong with Civ5”), the part about the update anyway, I’m going to predict that you’ll play it until a patch comes out that seems to suck out all the fun out of the game. The way the patch is trying to balance and fix things implies that the designers consist of a group of people desperately trying to fix something they don’t understand while being unable to fully comprehend the problem.

      So my pessimism gland says that it’ll get really bad before it starts getting better. I suggest playing it now when you enjoy it, since when the patches start pouring out in earnest, Civ5 will be (for a time at least) unplayable or unenjoyable.

      Also, computers can’t grow beards. Dust, but no beard. I suggest buying a fake beard, but avoid blocking any holes so nothing will overheat and don’t push any metal parts inside anything since they might shortcircuit something.

  9. Aldowyn says:

    Interesting how you can definitely see your interests in the list, Shamus – Civ V wouldn’t make most of these, that’s for sure!

  10. neothoron says:

    I find it interesting that the first two highlights for you are indie games. It’s consistent with my belief that indie games represent the future of PC gaming – or at least a future that is not exclusively populated with photo-realistic but shallow games.

    Happy New Year.

    • X2-Eliah says:

      It may be just me, but it might have something to do with two facts – a) Indie games use unheard-of colours such as Blue, red, green, orange, and other tones of non-browngrey; and 2) Indie games will run on your computer at a good speed, even if your computer is not the most modern rig.

    • Sumanai - a grouchy ball of awards says:

      Funny thing, I once ran into a “PC gaming is dying” thread that first had someone say “no, it’s just going to go indie-focused” and someone else claimed that was a bad thing.

      Ah, the power of brand recognition. You know, once upon a time companies had to work on getting people to support them and buyers were sceptical of their claims. And they would never repeat marketing folk without sarcasm.
      Now all you need is a big budget game project and everyone goes around saying “AAA-game” with the undertone of “high quality”.

      Damn whippersnappers. Well, they’ll grow old and bored. Then they’ll get it. And argue with younger generations.

  11. acronix says:

    The only thing I disagree with this list is in the Fallout: New Vegas entry. It´s superior to Fallout 3 in everyway except one: ambience and interior design. The first is fairly obvious if you compare the Mojave to the Capitol Wasteland, it´s just bland in comparison. Not terribly bland, but the sights are better in Bethesda´s take*.

    Interior design in F:NV is horrible too: every single building that has more than three rooms is a complete maze. I´m sure even Perseus would have trouble finding his way out!

    *Too bad they insist on doing everything else, in which they fail, though.

    • krellen says:

      What “sights” in Fallout 3 were superior? The lights of New Vegas off in the distance at night are amazing; the only comparable sights FO3 has are the national monuments, which don’t really stand out in any way other than being recognisable as the national monuments.

      I won’t comment on the mazes; I’m at the top of the world in spacial relations, so I cope with mazes better than almost anyone and thus wouldn’t really have noticed.

      • acronix says:

        Yes, New Vegas lights look good in the distance, but I find the rest of the world rather uninteresting and bland (except that supermutie town in the north, I liked that one place quite a lot).
        I think part of the problem is that the Mojave is more realistic (but I don´t leave my house enough to know how reality looks…!), while the Capitol Wasteland had more ruins* dotted around, and less cliffs to hinder your movement.

        *Though I´d argue that ruins were the only thing on it…

        To give an example, the mountain ranges in F:NV are dotted with rock clusters at random intervals. I don´t know if Bethesda did the same thing on Fallout 3 but, even if they did, the mere fact that I did notice them in F:NV shows there´s something sloppy about ambient-design. And those mountain ranges are everywhere you look. Turn around from New Vegas light and there are high chances you´ll see a mountain with rocks sprouting off it like strange forunculi.

        Addendum: I forgot to mention the fact that towns in NV are another thing they did better: they feel more like actual towns in comparison with Fallout 3`s transitorial camps for nuts and idiots, both visually annd logically.

        • krellen says:

          I always thought the Capital Wasteland felt overly cluttered and never found it all that interesting.

          • Axle says:

            I agree, but I think that FO3 had more “post apocalyptic” feel to it. But maybe that’s because everything was a big mess of ruins without any connections between people and towns…

            The world in New Vegas feels much more organized, wich some people may find it less appeling.

            • Keeshhound says:

              That is intentional though; Fallout 1, 2 and NV all take place on the west coast, which exhibit significant and observable improvement with each iteration of the series. It also illustrates one of the primary design differences between Interplay’s, Bethesda’s, and Obsidion’s respective visions for the series; Interplay made a post-apocalyptic setting that was just beginning to be resettled, Bethesda’s was more depressing and cynical, and Obsidian made a post-apocalyptic wild west.

              Fallout 3 does get a pass given that we can probably assume that Washington got more nukes than any other comparable part of the States.

              • acronix says:

                Actually, assuming it got nuked more intensely than any other place, then it should be a barren wasteland with no ruins left at all. It doesn´t make sense that many buildings survived not only nukes but also two hundred years of erosion and lack of maintenance. It was just done because of the Rule of Cool.

          • Dude says:

            With Fallout 3 I always felt like being on the movie set of someone with a moderate budget, and three art designers: one with a tremendous imagination, one with no imagination, and one who was always high on petrol fumes.

            F:NV feels like a movie set of a made for TV movie starring David Hasselhoff.

          • Vipermagi says:

            FO3 had little unmarked places that were interesting to me, like a small shelter in which someone apparently tried to scale the walls using plungers. That’s one of my favorite places in FO3, despite it being a tiny, tiny room that is really nothing more than a chest containing minor loot.
            I haven’t seen anything similar in FO:NV yet; Stuff only happens/has happened in towns.

    • Swimon says:

      I agree with this. FO3 had a terribly railroaded story that can never be forgiven but it had a somewhat open world. NV does the opposite having a story that was somewhat open (although I will never understand why I cant use the security bots to help “the bear”) but the world is rather railroaded. There are very few places to go that aren’t along the road and everywhere else is impassable cliffs. Other than that it was a lot better than FO3 tho.

    • Khizan says:

      The only gripe I have about FO:NV’s interior design is the same old “Why does this lodge in a town of intelligent and well spoken supermutants look like a flophouse crack joint?” type of complaint I had about FO3.

      And, to me, the problem isn’t really that the building is a maze; it’s that the quest radar doesn’t ever indicate which floor you need to go to. Trying to find the King in his room can be a pain because the quest arrow doesn’t have little “^” or “v” indicators for elevation.

  12. jph330 says:

    You didn’t mention Alpha Protocol? That game was innovative, and much better than New Vegas in my opinion.

    • MikeSSJ says:

      Definitely agree with this. Just finished another playthrough of Alpha Protocol, and I stand by my first impression that it’s an amazing game that doesn’t deserve all the hate it’s getting.

      • jph330 says:

        I wouldn’t call it amazing, mostly because the boss battles were severely unbalanced, but it definitely didn’t deserve all the crap it got. The interactivity in the storytelling was phenomenal, and they captured that spy movie feel really well.

      • X2-Eliah says:

        Heh, recently bought Alpha Protocol after hearing all the “It doesn’t deserve the hate it’s getting” comments..

        No, sorry, it is a great game indeed, but the boss battles literally ruin the game for me, and restrict progression near the mid-way point.. I do not know what Obsidian designers were smoking when they thought of those things, but it certainly doesn’t compliment their skills, at all..

        • jph330 says:

          There’s usually some cheap way to beat the bosses easily, but I agree. Severely unbalanced and unfair depending on what build you have. Especially the crackhead guy. If you specialize in stealth and fistfighting, literally everything you’ve learned is useless against him.

          But I still think it deserved more praise than it got. Most of the reviews I saw basically said “Yeah, the RPG elements are pretty nifty, but everything else sucks.”

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            If you specialize in stealth and pistols,however,every boss battle is a breeze.Its very unbalanced that way.

            Which is too bad,because otherwise it is a good game.

            • Aldowyn says:

              That’s what I heard the biggest issue with – it SEEMS to give you options about how you want to fight, Deux Ex style, but in reality there’s a couple skill trees that are just so much better than the rest…

              Also I heard it was very hard for the main char NOT to be a jerk.

              • Dude says:

                Soooo, just like Dues Ex then.

                Rose tinted glasses aside, DE was severel unbalanced this way too. Every RPG ever has been.

                And the choice is always: do you choose the path of least resistance, or do you try all the other things this game will let you?

                • Daemian Lucifer says:

                  Well,not really.In deus ex all the things at least had some use.Here,there are skills that are completely useless,and those that make the game a piece of cake.

                  Still,it more than made up for that with meaningful chatter with npc.But,like Rosseloh said,it couldve used even more of the talking and even less of the shooting.

                • Vipermagi says:

                  @Daemian: Swimming?

                • jph330 says:

                  I just got Deus Ex around six months ago, so no rose tinted goggles on my end. Deus Ex’s skill system was a lot more balanced. Not perfect, but better than Alpha Protocol.

                  @Vipermagi: Swimming was helpful at some points. I always added one point to swimming.

                • Sumanai - a grouchy ball of cynical pessimism says:

                  Vipermagi: Not if you’re like me and waste time while underwater. And at least it had lowered point costs compared to others.

    • Rosseloh says:

      I liked AP, but the problem is it wasn’t what they advertised. I recall seeing “The Espionage RPG”. What I got was another “stealth-shooter D-LUX”. Which was fun, yes. But it would have been much better if it was more about gathering intel through conversation and manipulation and less about “oh, you can’t hide here. Yes, I know it looks like you can, but you can’t. Here, shoot this guy and thus fail at being ‘stealthy'”.

      edited-in example:
      You can change your appearance in AP. But, there’s not very much variation, and it has no impact on the gameplay. I would have liked if, say, you changed your hairstyle, and your “aggro radius” (apologies for the MMO terminology) was lower. Or if you wore the same beard as a lot of the enemies in a mission, they had a risk of mistaking you as one of them (and giving you info/keys you wouldn’t obtain otherwise, or simply making it so you wouldn’t have to sneak through a section).
      I think the fact that you spend more time in armor than civilian clothes gets my point across nicely.

  13. Felblood says:

    The DRM debate isn’t over, it’s just that fail0verflow’s PS3 hack has drawn a lot of the attention away from PC DRM, and the wikileaks controversy is sucking up all the liberal outrage.

    When Linux’s granola crowd get’s back from the PS3, you can expect a lot more cries of “Information wants to be free!” and, “Do we own this hardware or not!?”

    Those of us who don’t truly care about Linux or the PS3 (I know, we’ll all hang separately, but I’m just not interested) are going to have to amuse ourselves get’s back from the party.

    I’ll leave my opinion of Wiki-leaks, anonymous, and the CIA, out of this.


    Ooh, I’m awaiting moderation. Is this a new feature, or did I trip a keyword filter.

    Actually, maybe I shouldn’t have brought some of that stuff up.

    Please keep this thread civil. 0_0 Please?

  14. ccesarano says:

    And I know that since this column goes live on New Year’s Eve, I’m likely to be the last person to do their end-of-year list

    Honestly, this is closer to how it should be. Every year each magazine or website starts pushing out Game of the Year as early in December as possible, yet as they were doing this last year The Saboteur and Silent Hill: SHattered Memores were releasing. I know neither of these games are really contenders, but I found The Saboteur to be one of the best open world style games of its type (in that I actually enjoyed it, whereas games like GTA and Mafia piss me off for poor design and mechanics). Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, however, was just one of the best games I played from 2009.

    The way I see it, these Game of Year XXXX lists shouldn’t be until January of the following year in order to make sure EVERYTHING is played, no matter how crappy. So the way I see it, your post is timely.

    • Felblood says:

      Hey, now.

      GTA isn’t going to change your life, but let’s be fair.

      Mafia II is way worse than anything that ever came out of the GTA franchise. Mafia II has a bunch of mechanics from or for an open world game, but there’s no actual use of any of them. The world is not open, there is no point in collecting things since you lose all your stuff all the time, and the map is way too small.

      San Andreas was the Mona Lisa compared to Mafia 2.

      • ccesarano says:

        Nonetheless, and most of my hatred is targeted towards GTA 4, if I can’t even have fun driving around your city, a necessary part of the game (and allegedly the whole point since the game is about stealing cars! Or that’s what the name suggests), then the game is already on the road to being a failure. I put two hours into GTA 4, and while I was intrigued by what the story could be I held no urge to go back and play.

        Mafia II demo was pretty much the same thing, as was Red Faction: Guerilla. I’ve pretty much accepted that open world games aren’t for me, but then I played The Saboteur and found myself actually having fun. Normally I hate games where I have “side quests” distracting me on every corner, but just blowing up one Nazi station after the next without getting caught is awesome.

        Maybe The Saboteur is just has more in common with Assassin’s Creed, a game that is allegedly open world but just feels too fun for me to call it such.

      • Irridium says:

        Mafia 2 was never an open world game, the developers never intended or hyped it up as one. It was a game set against the backdrop of an open world, thats it.

        Granted its story was still lackluster, it was at least a lot less disjointed then GTA.

    • Rosseloh says:

      If I ever get the urge to design a super-hit game, I’m going to break everyone’s formula and release it the day after Christmas.

  15. Deoxy says:

    Sadly, I don’t have time to read all the comments today, but I did to mention this one thing:

    This game (Minecraft) was a breakthrough in many ways. It was a triumph of procedural content. It was a triumph of emergent gameplay possibilities.

    The first two you mention aren’t “breakthoughs” at all – they are “ripoffs.” Certainly, your third point (about making money) is true, but the “procedural content” and “emergent gameplay” elements were the most direct ripoff portions of the game.

    (Yes, it is semi-nonsensical to say that “emergent gameplay” is a ripoff, but a great many of the “emergent” things done in Minecraft were done first in DF – that is, since the game play had some much in common, they were very predictable.)

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