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2008 Biggie Awards, Surprisingly Good Products

I am proud to present the first annual Biggie Awards (BA for short), a list of products, in categories that I made up, that I think were the best of 2008. The methodology behind the awards was very scientific, if I got excited about a product, it was nominated. Now, the envelope please…
2009 Biggies Award Banner
Best Indie Game: Tie- World of Goo, Castle Crashers
Congratulations to 2D Boy and The Behemoth for sticking to their guns and making the games they wanted to make and being financially rewarded for it. In case you haven’t been paying attention to my blog, this is the future of game development. Small, focused, creative teams making fun, inventive games. The key word is fun, not pandering to Marketing, not selling out, not shaders, Direct X 11, or HDR.

Best Product to Hide Massive Complexity: Wii Fit
There is more engineering in the Wii fit than in most consoles, yet it comes off polished, fun, and useful. I love the way it “talks” to you when you step on it or when you gain a little weight. Nintendo keeps hitting home runs. They know what is fun and they are not afraid to break out of the box to find it.

Best Editor: Spore
Contrary to many people I enjoyed the game, but what impressed me most was the editors and technology behind the game. I think the future of game development for big titles was shown in Spore. Editors and procedurally generated content are the only way we will be able to make large content games due to cost constraints. This kind of procedural content creation is what will allow the small “rock band sized” teams I advocate to make big games.

Best Single Button Game: Tower Blocks
Digital Chocolate made this fun tower stacking game that can be played anywhere, i.e. on a cell phone, in Facebook, etc. Integration with your true friends is an extremely important feature and is what drives you to keep playing.

Best Distillation of an old Game Mechanic: Eleven Blood
This Facebook game has many old game developers crying fowl. Why would people want to play a game that has so little interaction? Well, I think games like EB, Mafia Wars, etc. are really bringing a fun new approachability to role playing games.

Best Graphics: Little Big Planet
This is my idea of of how to use powerful shaders and high end graphics. No uncanny valley, no crap lip synching. Just cool little characters running around in a world that looks real, yet you know it can’t be. Honorable mention for the awesome UI on the level editor. There are so many interface breakthroughs on that editor that a book could be written about it.

Best Flash Game Site: Kongregate
These guys have risen from start up to the best Flash game site in less than two years. Clean, developer friendly site that has really brought Flash games to a new level of respectability. I could do without the chat window next to all of the games, so the game window itself had the option of being bigger, but other than that, these guys are on fire. Impressive!

Best Future Way to Play Games: Instant Action
Even though I was involved in the early days of IA, I have to mention this service. The more I get used to web based “cloud computing”, the more I refuse to download and install a game to play it. Too much hassle, and most of the time, it requires updates to drivers and other things I don’t have the patience to do. Instant Action is not getting the attention it deserves.

Quickies

    Best Developer to Change the World: Harmonix
    Best New Business Idea: Flash Game License
    Best Business I Wish I Had Started: Mochi Ads
    Favorite Game Review Site: Jay Is Games
    Best Facebook Publisher: Playfish
    Top Big Games I Don’t Care About Left4Dead, Fallout 3, Farcry 2, GoW 2 – shows how out of touch I am with the core gamer market.
    Best New gaming Platform iPhone
    Best Video Site That I Thought Was Going to be Crappy HULU
    Best Old Internet Service That I Never Used Until Now Pandora
    Best Web App FriendFeed

-Jeff Tunnell, Game Maker
Make It Big In Games

  • http://www.makeitbigingames.com Jeff Tunnell

    I actually think I meant 2008 :) That is what happens when you are a game developer… Always living in the future.

  • http://www.thestillofthenightcausesastorminthemind.com Jeremy Alessi

    I like it! I certainly agree about the iPhone … it's fantastic to develop for.

  • http://har0ld.com Harold

    Totally with you with Indie though I would add Braid immediately. Castle Crashers is old school hardcore and super fun but Braid just opens minds like nobody. In fact in the 2008 timeline the three are must-have.

    I agree on Wii Fit and I'd add Wii Music. The more I see about it, the more I'm stunned by the technology behind.

    Too bad for Left4Dead, the co-op gameplay and AI are top-notch :)

    Also I would add Mekensleep's Soul Bubbles on DS as a surprisingly good product and quite overlooked:
    http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php

    I disagree with the iPhone. It's not the iPhone that is a new gaming Platform. The “multitouch fluid thing” is (from a business point of view the heavy gatekeeper that is iTunes doesn't appeal to me).

    Can't wait to see real competition (Android, Windows7 etc).

    • http://www.makeitbigingames.com Jeff Tunnell

      I had Braid in there, but it already got so much press that I decided to leave it out. Agree that it was awesome.

      The iPhone is pointing the way to new hand held gaming experiences for sure, and what you pointed out is right on, i.e. powerful, touch interface, always connected are part of the reason. But, the App Store is far from having a gatekeeper, and is one of the reasons the iPhone is great. Before the App Store an indie had virtually no chance of getting on a cell phone or MID. I have a developer version of the G1, and the Android platform will be important, coming on strong this year as more producers make handsets.

    • http://www.thestillofthenightcausesastorminthemind.com Jeremy Alessi

      Fear not, the App Store is amazing. There are a few horror stories but there are more success stories. It's absolutely the best platform to be created in my opinion. Great interface, great technology, great distribution system, and great games. The competition will take time to catch up. Only if Apple & Co rest on their laurels will the competitors even come close.

      Heck, even some of the horror stories turn out to be success stories. The Pull My Finger app which got tons of press for being blocked ended up getting released and shot straight to #1.

    • DaveMyers

      I'm already onboard with creating content for iPhone as I believe that Apple's gatekeeping does not hamper the indie dev's too much. I hope to create some apps of my own this year.

      I also love the idea of creating games/apps in Flash and running everywhere with little to no modification for the destination platform. Develop once for iPhone, Android, etc. and ship for all.

    • DaveMyers

      I'm already onboard with creating content for iPhone as I believe that Apple's gatekeeping does not hamper the indie dev's too much. I hope to create some apps of my own this year.

      I also love the idea of creating games/apps in Flash and running everywhere with little to no modification for the destination platform. Develop once for iPhone, Android, etc. and ship for all.

  • http://coderhump.com Ben Garney

    Jeff! L4D is the high water mark for the zombie genre. And skipping Braid… c'mon! Sometimes the popular things really are good!

    Calling out LBP for its graphics is insightful, though. The gameplay is neat but not that incredible. The level editor is good (but many people won't use it). But the look they achieved is awesome.

    I'd love to do a game that was stop-motion, or had that great old Jason-and-the-Argonauts look.

    • http://www.subreal.net timaste

      I think how L4D procedurally generates the zombies “live” based on how the players are doing is very impressive, and definitely ties into why Jeff chose Spore (although I find L4D's procedural content more functional).

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