The Inaugural meckronos Game Awards Of A Certain Significance

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2016 is ending and talks of Game Of The Year and awards are cropping up. Rather than do another rant post of the problems with this year’s Game Awards (again, plenty of good highs and terrible lows) I am inspired to start my very own list of awards.

Basing the idea of TotalBiscuit’s Arbitary Game Awards, where the focus is giving proper reason why the award exist and why that particular game deserves it, and also taking a hint from the Steam Awards where the categories can be a bit silly, the meckronos Game Awards of A Certain Significance (mGACS) is entirely subjective by own opinion, with certain awards aim to celebrate, criticise and maybe a bit of both.

Some categories may have special mentions, some may not because I came up with that awards just for that game. Because why not.

With that out of the way, here are the list of awards:

  • The “Development Hell Survivor” Award
  • The “Needs To Be In Early Access” Award
  • The “Game With The Wrong Name” Award
  • The “Flash In The Pan” Of The Year Award
  • The “Marketing Disaster Of The Year” Award
  • The “Episodic Game Of The Year” Award
  • The “Criminally Underrated Game Of The Year” Award
  • The “meckronos Game Of The Year” Award

And the winners are..

The “Development Hell Survivor” Award

2016 saw various different games that had underwent too long of a development time ended up being released. It was a magical year for those that kept on waiting for years and years for some of these titles only to hear more bad news about troubled development and long delays.

However, a few of these games, despite all odds, emerged out better than expected despite the troubled development. And the game that deserve this award is…

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Final Fantasy XV

10 years. 7 years of problematic development. 3 years of struggle with a new game director and a renewed vision, while working with whatever material that has been made to create an ambitious, but at least decent open-world RPG. The Final Fantasy series was in its downfall with the meh reception of XIII and the disastrous MMO that they had to entirely kill off and rebooted. Square Enix had a rough time, and hopefully FFXV is the beginning of a more efficient development.

Special Mention: Doom 2016 was a surprise. Also having been through (development) hell and back to play like the first two Dooms with a modern twist that adds to the flow of fast FPS of yesteryears.

It misses out because to me, FFXV is an even bigger undertaking. They struggle with the engine, failed to properly readjust the story to fit the gameplay vision (they are going to patch it) yet comes out as a solid experience is a sign of the many scars and battles coming out of development hell. It’s like they barely made it with 1 HP but still looks as badass as the Doom Space Marine.

(Go check out Noclip’s excellent documentary detailing the struggles of getting Doom to be what it is now)

Also, The Last Guardian too. I unfortunately don’t follow the Team Ico games, but hey, that’s out too.

The “Needs To Be In Early Access” Award

Sometimes you just need more time in the oven. First impressions are important, it’s why the Early Access label on Steam is for clearly-maked unfinished games. It doesn’t mean you cannot enjoy it- Mojang started this revolution of selling incomplete games with Minecraft and it worked.

But then, some games that are charged as full-priced games should provide enough content at the start, rather than add in slowly piece by piece. Especially if the launched game is already pretty skinny in content from the start.

As such, the award goes to..

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Street Fighter V

What a mess. Street Fighter has a huge legacy. The second iteration basically lays down the basic fundamentals of all fighting games and established as a genre. Even with many other fighting game series still going around, people still highly regard Street Fighter as the fighting game. Street Fighter III took a different direction by introducing too much of new things that it took two other releases to solidify it as one of the greatest in the series. Street Fighter IV’s release was a huge celebration as it rejuvenates public interest of a dying genre.

Street Fighter V? It’s ambitious, its pre-release info positioned them to be another big release that addresses a lot of established issues. Like the need to buy new iterations of the game for not only new characters and stages, but balance patches as well.

They are also offering a generous take on DLC where spending time with it will net you enough to unlock them. And a game that respects the competitive scene by not throwing balance patches all willy-nilly mid-season, forcing players to scramble and adapt too quickly.

What happened was, in order to fulfill all of these, we had a botched release.

The game’s launch was miserable (so was the beta). The game focused so much of the online multiplayer that it forgotten to include basic modes that have come to be expected from a fighting game. Sure it doesn’t make sense to include Arcade Mode since the game never launched in the arcades- but for casual fans, that was their go-to place to play. The character story mode was mediocre. The full story mode that was launched as free DLC also did not pan well. Character selection is limited- only 16- and all the new additions to characters are DLC. And that generous DLC approach? Did not work, as it takes too much time to grind for free stuff. And there’s plenty of stuff that’s only available as paid DLC.

If it was given more time to develop enough features, characters, and even systems (the online store was only available months after release), it could be a decent game. The game itself is fun. Pros enjoy playing it- though there are balance issues. If only Street Fighter V was delayed to early 2017- or maybe just Q3 2016. Their main reason to launch in February was to get it ready for the Capcom Pro Tour- their e-sports circuit. Capcom’s bet on e-sports haven’t paid off just yet, but at least pros loved it.

I am still interested to see what the direction it will take over the years. Maybe it’s a (really) slow start?

Special Mention: No Man’s Sky because.. you know. Overblown hype, delivered less. There’s a reason survival games on PC are all mostly started as Early Access games. This should be as well. But it deserves another award in this list, don’t you worry.

The “Game With The Wrong Name” Award

When you have an established a series, you have established expectations. This award solely recognises that this particular game should have been called as something else since it alienates the established fanbase despite the game’s objective qualities.

And the award goes to..

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Dead Rising 4

Let me just link this video as my argument why Dead Rising 4 is way too different from its predecessors that it became a generic open-world adventure.

Yet despite this controversy, as an open-world adventure game, it actually works! It’s fun to wreck havoc against the zombie hordes and combine silly weapons and silly costumes. There’s some charm to the story. But if you approach it as a Dead Rising fan who adores its weird quirks- like the time system- it makes you sad and maybe a bit furious.

Plus, the stinger here is that Dead Rising is so quirky that no other games attempted to emulate the quirks. If you’re a fan of timers, time to move on. Or maybe get it as an egregiously made DLC.

The “Flash In The Pan” Of The Year Award

The music industry calls it one-hit wonders. Something so great that it could never be topped by the creator and only be that great in a short time span. Why does the hype fizzled out? Where does everyone move on to? What happened? It just whizzed by like a flash in a pan.

And the award goes to..

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Pokemon Go

I was going to make a joke by not explaining why it wins- but that is against the spirit of why I am doing mGACS. So here’s the gist of what happened to Pokemon Go.

It’s a free mobile app. There’s plenty of Pokemon fans out there, and also people who are just familiar with the brand either from the games, the TV series or any form of media. Pokemon is everywhere. But never has a Pokemon game be available for free.

And while the game is basically the same in terms of design and technology behind Ingress, the addition of the Pokemon theme explodes the mind of many people. Who would go around the town and local landmarks to open or secure a fictional gate or whatever is Ingress’s story is about when you can go around town and local landmarks catching pokemons? Not dissing on Ingess here, but that’s the power of the Pokemon brand.

The problem is, there’s just not enough content. Once people get their fill with catching the 50th Rattata, win (and lose, then win again, then lost again) gym spots and hatch pokemon eggs they basically moved on. The fun social stuff happening outside the game was interesting- so much that fatwas have to be issued due to the expected issues to arrive, but like Ingress, nothing world-changing happened. And the world moves on.

Niantic, you have a lot of work to gain back those players.

Special Mention: The Division. It got a lot of hype, proabably the biggest game in March, but it died off pretty hard due to its messy mechanics. It’s getting better, but it is sad that Ubisoft could not capitalise the immense hype with a good game. Now it’s hurting them more for its failed promises.

The “Marketing Disaster Of The Year” Award

Why would you do this upon yourselves? Why? Why!? Marketing may not be the most exciting to discuss about- but their job is to make us discuss about something. But if we are discussing things NOT in the game and thinking that it is, boy, prepare for those backlashes.

The dishonor of taking this award goes to..

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No Man’s Sky

It is a crime to not talk about the arguably biggest disappointment of the year, but it’s not entirely on the devs’s fault. (okay, maybe Sean Murray could have kept mum or outright deny certain features) We put too much expectations on a game that can generate a quintillion planets through procedural generation. Unfortunately, procedural generation is just random generation with a some more thought-out improvements to the systems, but it will still spout out samey-looking environments given time.

Plus, there’s not much to do in the game. The idea of trading and scanning for new flora and fauna seems interesting until it becomes a chore. There’s plenty of possibilities in an open galaxy exploration game, but the gameplay mechanics are certainly lacking.

This should be an Early Access game rather than an indie game with full AAA publishing support. Expectations went too wild and nobody decided to rail it down a bit by providing proper information.

Sony has a lot of winner with games publishing this year, but No Man’s Sky was not.

The “Episodic Game Of The Year” Award

Episodic games have carved its own niche. Telltale has been on this for years with only mediocre results until they hit gold with 2012’s The Walking Dead. By making the supposedly point-and-click adventure games they started out as less about the mechanics and more about the story and decision making, it brings a bigger impact. Years later, the formula remains the same. You don’t fix what is broken, but if they keep doing that, I’m not interested with their games anymore.

But still, there is one game that defied all odds and made the episodic nature work in a different way. That honour goes to..

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Hitman (2016)

When the game is announced, it was announced with a bizzare release schedule where certain content that is considered part of the game and not DLC to be released later. It baffled the media- but I saw it as brilliant. It only works if Hitman is played in a specific way where most Hitman players do.

Then, a change to an episodic structure was announced. It was easier to comprehend- we get a new map each month, and sometimes we get limited time events (Elusive Targets) and other goodies. The game is available piece by piece as well if you prefer to try out just a bit without investing too much money upfront.

But the beauty of this structure is that it fits in how Hitman should work. Hitman shines in its levels where you go in the location, plan how to approach the target and improvise your way if needed. Then get to the exit smoothly like the silent assassin Agent 47 is. Or not. It depends, plenty of ways to pull off the perfect hit or escape a gruesome murder spree.

So by releasing new levels far apart, Hitman is all about learning all the tricks and approaches each level provides. Playing it repeatedly is encouraged with unlocks for more opportunities like weapon drops and outfits.

But why play again and again? That’s where the Elusive Target comes in. It’s a limited time event. And if you failed the mission, it’s over (though there are some leeways until you can’t reload the saves). Taking out an Elusive Target means you have mastered enough of the game’s mechanics to take on a target that have different patterns and behaviours in a level you should be familiar with.

And like episodic games, Hitman works when you play in short bursts. Just play that one level first, then maybe play a few more sporadically throughout the month until the new level comes. It’s the perfect game for people who can’t commit for long game sessions.

And the game is a success by approaching it this way. So it certainly earns the award just for its bold approaches that have worked.

The “Criminally Underrated Game Of The Year” Award

There’s plenty of good games this year, but some of them either did not get the proper attention or they were completely forrgotten after its release, especially games that were released early in the year. So to celebrate this overlooked gems, here are one paragraphs for each of the special mentions, and one longer for the most deserved of the award:

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XCOM 2 released early this year. It’s the step up for the fantastic reboot of the series, XCOM Enemy Unknown. It’s nastier and harder than ever, but provide even more points of customisation, more map variety and interesting top-level strategic options. It’s basically XCOM EU but better. Unfortunately the hype wasn’t there because A) there was no console release at the time, only to have it suddenly appear in August to little fanfare and B) the PC launch was botched with performance issues. While not widespread, it certainly derailed the hype train that stopped people from talking a lot about this fantastic sequel.

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Dirt Rally is developers Codemasters making its redemption. Grid Autosport marks them listening more to their fans and core audience rather than following datas and market research. Dirt Rally was an Early Access game designed to be finished (and it did) while taking fan feedback on its more realistic physics and features that fans wanted. It came out on PC late last year, then on consoles this year. But no one seems to bother awarding this success story of a developer listening to their fans rather than chasing the wider audience.

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Furi. An indie release that definitely caught my attention. Its interest died down super quick after its release- which was also free to PS Plus subscribers. But it’s a simple game that did everything it wants to achieve well. A boss rush character action/bullet hell shmup that’s all about the duel between you and the boss. Great art direction and fantastic selection of synth-heavy songs makes it a short, painful but beautiful experience.

But the pick of the year goes to…

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Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

It’s similar to the XCOM situation. It just lost hype. The main culprit here is probably from the horrendous pre-order marketing campaign. Good thing that was cancelled, but then a delay happened afterwards.

But the thing is, Mankind Divided is a strong title in itself compared to Human Revolution- the first entry done by Eidos Montreal. More augmentations is always cool, but the more realised world- the hub world of Prague is really well realised- branching sidequests that gave you the freedom to approach it in multiple ways (and even skip and avoiding them). The dialogue battle is still pretty well written. It’s just the overarching story doesn’t do a lot of things.

I really wanted this sort of open-ended approach to design be a mainstray again. The open world design has tons of flaws while I don’t personally enjoy a fully linear experience. The open-ended approach gives some leeway to the approaches while still work as mostly a set of linear sequences. With Arkane Studios having gone this direction as well with Dishonored 1 & 2, and its upcoming title Prey, I look forward to more of this sort of game design.

Dishonored 2 got a lot of love this year despite its November release. But Deus Ex didn’t and it did a lot of similar things like Dishonored. Thus, why it deserves this award. It’s a good game!

The “meckronos Game Of The Year” Award

The GOTY. The one award people care. The monicker some publishers splat on their re-releases to accrue some credence- despite some of those games haven’t won any.

So what’s my game of the year? The answer was a surprise to me.

Never have I thought a Blizzard game would be something I would invest in time on. Yup, you guessed it.

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Overwatch

In hindsight, Overwatch could be nominated for the Development Hell survivor award- though there are not widely available info on how rough the development of Project Titan was. The MMO that would have succeed of being the main MMO for Blizzard was scrapped, with pieces of the lore and assets being reutilised to make Overwatch the hero-based team shooter it is now.

But despite its unoriginality in its high-concept, like most Blizzard titles the execution of these are just on point. It convinced me enough, as a non-Blizzard fan, to become one. Not because I got the game for free as a review copy, but I got hooked from the open beta. I know almost nothing of the hype but mere touching the game in a few minutes sold me.

There’s plenty really small things that make the package of Overwatch stands out as a GOTY. The shooting feels good (though sometimes not fair- Roadhog hooks and Hanzo arrows were and probably still are bonkers) and the MOBA-esque abilities make each character feel unique and interesting to play. Not to mention the lovely world-building, a feel-good reinforcement system (no KDR, just medals of what you great things you do), the feel good moment from the Play Of The Game replays, and amazing sound design.

It all just feels good. I ended up spending 130+ hours with it and followed its e-sports scene. It is an amazing game that made me interested in e-sports.

While the game is extremely good in the early launch days, there is an air of concern. The many changes of the game that was directly made for the pro scene to nurture may not land as well in the casual crowd. And I expect more changes to come as Blizzard will continue to drop money and support it for the many years to come. Then there’s the Overwatch League, an attempt to make a regulated e-sports scene that’s being controlled by Blizzard themselves. We will see if any of these future moves impact Overwatch, and if it’s for the better or worse.

But as it is now, it’s Game Of The Year. It gave me a different sort of experience (I don’t play competitive shooters often, and I barely touch MOBAs) that I appreciate a lot of.

Uncharted 4 might be a lot of other people’s GOTY but I’m already tired of Naughty Dog’s style of cinematic action games. I dismissed Doom early on due to the red flags of bad multiplayer beta and a review holdup, but it actually turned out to be good. I might give these two a chance.

That’s it folks. See you next year!

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