SAN FRANCISCO--The 2009 Game Developers Conference is now in full swing. Besides the opening of the show floor, the first full day of the event kicked off with a keynote address by Nintendo president Satoru Iwata. In it, the executive announced that the Wii had shipped 50 million units, and he outlined the thought process of its creator, Shigeru Miyamoto. Also unveiled was a revamped SD-card storage system for the console, as well as a new Legend of Zelda game for the DS.
Finally, after a day of illuminating sessions by various game-development glitterati, thousands of GDC attendees began gathering for the 9th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards. Held in the Moscone Center's cavernous Esplanade Hall, the awards will see some of the year's top developers vie for recognition from their peers.
Media Molecule's Little Big Planet received 10 nominations in all, with Bethesda Softworks' Fallout 3 and Valve's Left 4 Dead each getting four. Rockstar's money-minting Grand Theft Auto IV received three, including Game of the Year, with Lionhead Studios' Xbox 360-exclusive Fable II also in the running for the top honor.
In addition to the GDCAs, the evening will see the winners of the Independent Games Festival crowned by host Tim Schafer. Harmonix's Alex Rigopulos and Eran Egozy will receive pioneer awards, and Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima will be given a Lifetime Achievement Award.
[6:32] To the sounds of the blaring Justice song from GTAIV, the IGF kicks off.
[6:33] It was preceded by something like a small prison chow riot as journalists and attendees slipped into the VIP area in the front and threw elbows for plates of cold cuts and free drinks.
[6:34] Brief introduction features the mandatory corporate sponsor shout-outs. Mountain Dew is bankrolling indie gaming? It's garage gaming...to the extreme.
[6:35] Enter Andy Schatz of Pocket Watch Games, rocking a tuxedo.
[6:37] He's parodying Barack Obama now, saying "I have hope in the face of 90 percent piracy for World of Goo! I see hope in the face of GameStop selling used games without so much as a thank you!" A smattering of laughter greets the effort.
[6:38] First winner of the night is student showcase winner Tag: The Power of Paint.
[6:39] No genre mentioned, but the crowd goes bananas. The students thanked their game testers--that might be a first.
[6:40] Schatz is back, lamenting the fact that Rumble Massage didn't qualify. Next award up is for technical excellence.
[6:44] Winner, winner, chicken dinner! Cortex Command. No footage of the game, so those unfamiliar with it will have to take the IGF's word for it.
[6:45] Another fusillade of banging techno. Schatz is back, lamenting all the weirdos at the summit.
[6:46] Cue the first Mega64 clip of the night, this one being a music-video parody.
[6:48] Excellence in visual art next. That prize goes to Machinarium, a platformer with a Brothers Quay-esque visual style.
[6:49] Oh, they're Czech. So it's more like Jan Svankmajer.
[6:52] Musaic Box locks down the Excellence in Game Design award. Developer claims to be first Russian IGF winner. "In Soviet Russia, game designs you!"
[6:54] Mobile game awards next. Zen Bound takes top iPhone game, Field Runners best overall mobile game.
[6:57] Back to IGF now, with the audio prize going to BrainPipe. Man, PixelJunk Eden is shut out, going 0-for-3 on its nominations.
[6:57] One of the designers resembles a reanimated Jerry Garcia.
[6:58] Innovation award is next. "These are to games what punk is to pop," says Schatz.
[7:00] These games certainly do push the edge. Some of them make Noby Noby Boy look like Petz.
[7:01] Minimalist game Between wins the award.
[7:07] Audience award for 2009 goes to Cortex Command.
[7:09] Designer takes off his shirt after losing a bet--guy is ripped.
[7:10] Seamus McNally award is next--the main event of the IGF.
[7:13] Winner is Blueberry Garden, the designer of which looks like the skinnier, nerdier brother of the lead singer of Wolfmother. He screams for effect, temporarily overloading the microphone. Not quite "The Joker and the Thief," but A for effort.
[7:15] That's it for the IGF! The lights go down, and up comes the Double Fine logo. And the crowd goes wild.
[7:16] Tim Schafer's host minigame is played on the screen. His primitive avatar searches a room vainly for jokes.
[7:17] "Leave room with 1 joke?" OK. "You found 1 joke out of 22."
[7:21] Now the GDCAs begin in earnest, with GDC event director Megan Scavio and Game Developer editor Simon Carless introducing...what's this? A sneak peak at Infinity Ward's next game at the end of the show?
[7:21] Enter the Schafer!
[7:21] Schafer jokes about how he got the gig--he was drugged by Jason Rubin, who also took a kidney for a souvenir.
[7:22] No muss, no fuss--the awards start coming ASAP. First up is the best debut game.
[7:22] The minute "Braid" is spoken, the crowd goes ballistic.
[7:22] ...until Little Big Planet comes up, anyway.
[7:23] World of Goo and Sins of a Solar Empire also nominated, both get solid applause.
[7:24] Soul Bubbles also nominated--the crowd seemed a bit confused on that one.
[7:24] LBP FTW! Mark Healey takes the stage and immediately curses out the jury. "Best debut game?! I've been doing this s*** for 20 years!"
[7:25] First nominee for GOTY: Fable II from Lionhead, published by Microsoft. Sadly, no pub games are shown.
[7:27] Schafer rematerializes. "The other day I was swimming, and a man waved at me and yelled but I couldn't hear him. And then a shark came and bit off my arm. That's when I learned the importance of audio."
[7:28] Noms are: Dead Space, LBP, MGS4, Left 4 Dead, and Gears of War 2. All get solid applause, but Dead Space appears to be the audience favorite.
[7:28] And it is! Dead Space takes the audio prize.
[7:30] "This was truly an audio designer's dream game," says the game's audio designer. Another thanks the designers in the audience for all of the great games in 2008.
[7:31] Schafer: "Today we call them game designers. In days of yore, we would have called them wizards, who would've been promptly stoned to death by the local programmers."
[7:32] Nominees: Far Cry 2, Braid, Fallout 3, Left 4 Dead, and Little Big Planet.
[7:33] To the victor go the spoils. And at this point, I would already call Little Big Planet a little spoiled. Healey retakes the stage to get his second prize of the night.
[7:34] Schafer returns: "Downloadable games come into your house through the walls, just like ghosts. They entertain you but you can't touch them, much like strippers. And when they're smaller games, they must be more creative, like short strippers."
[7:36] Best downloadable game time: Castle Crashers, Braid, World of Goo, N+, PixelJunk Eden are all up for the prize.
[7:36] World of Goo takes it, after being the surprise winner at last month's D.I.C.E. Summit.
[7:37] 2D Boy crew takes the stage. "We got to live the indie dream this year, thank you!" "Take your shirt off!" yells a male voice from the crowd.
[7:41] Schafer takes the stage again and introduces another Mega64 clip. One of the male members vaults park benches and cafe tables, mortifying passers-by.
[7:41] Best Handheld Games is the next category. And what a category: Patapon, Advance Wars 2, God of War: Chains of Olympus, Echochrome, and The World Ends With You.
[7:42] Kratos just got a little less angry--Chains of Olympus takes it. Next stop: Spartan anger management.
[7:43] Developers thank Sony effusively--could they be making up for dissing the PSP last year?
[7:44] Next GOTY contender is Little Big Planet. An usher makes an attendee put away a video camera. What, like nobody's seen Sackboy before?
[7:44] Acclaim's chief creative officer David Perry--who recently bragged of knowledge of the PSP 2--takes the stage to hand out the Ambassador Award to Tommy Tallarico.
[7:46] He recalls his skepticism when Tallarico suggested that people might want to pay to see video game music performed by orchestras. Now, Video Games Live concerts draw tens of thousands.
[7:48] Tallarico--who's about two full feet taller shorter than Perry--takes the stage. Says he created Video Games Live to show the world how important games have become to our culture.
[7:52] Schafer is back. The phrase, "Imagination is so important to those of us who can't or won't read," cues the Best Writing Nominees: Far Cry 2, Fallout 3, Braid, Grand Theft Auto "Fourteen" [sic], and Metal Gear Solid 4.
[7:53] Fallout 3 takes its first prize of the night, and Emil Pagliarulo gets on stage. He dedicates the award to "All the nerds in South Boston. ... Don't play hockey, play D&D."
[7:54] Best technology next. Nominees are Spore, GTAIV and the "Grand Theft Auto IV Team" (not "teen"), Left 4 Dead, Gears of War, and something about a Planet of conflicted size.
[7:54] Is there an echo in here? Little Big Planet triumphs again.
[7:55] Alex Evans bounds onto stage, thanks the "lunatics who made the PS3...and let us make this crazy game."
[7:57] Another Mega64 clip, parodying Shadow of the Colossus. Problem is this colossus is normal size, so he doesn't so much scare as perplex the families in the park where the clip was shot. Big finish--terrorizing some small children.
[7:57] "Art is like fine wine...actually, it's not, since wine really hurts when you pour it in your eyes," says Schafer.
[7:58] Visual Art trophy is the next to get doled out. One of these five will win: Prince of Persia, Fallout 3, MGS4, Gears of War 2, and Small Large Planetoid.
[7:59] Genuine surprise here--Prince of Persia takes it.
[8:00] Ubisoft's Ben Mattes takes the stage to accept his award for the art director, who couldn't make it.
[8:04] Masaya Matsuura gets on stage to hand out two well-deserved pioneer awards to Harmonix's Alex Rigopulos and Eran Egozy.
[8:05] To the strings of "We Will Rock You," the pair takes the stage. Rigopulos thanks the crowd and recalls when he first came to GDC to show off an early version of Frequency. Many people at the event went back to their hotel room to give them feedback. "The 300 people who bought Frequency are all probably here tonight," he jokes.
[8:08] Rigopulos, in turn, thanks Matsuura for creating Parappa the Rapper, which he said inspired his efforts at Harmonix. He said that he hopes Rock Band will do the same for new music-game developers.
[8:08] Egozy also emphasizes that the "pioneering is not over" and says that Harmonix has some "crazy" tech in the pipe.
[8:09] Next GOTY nominee: Fallout 3.
[8:09] Schafer jokes about "thinking outside his car trunk" when introducing this year's Innovation Award.
[8:10] Nominees are: Spore, World of Goo, Boom Blox, Braid, and Miniscule Monstrous Mass.
[8:10] Aka Little Big Planet, aka the winner...again.
[8:11] Evans humbly thanks all of his fellow nominees once more.
[8:12] Last Mega64 clip rolls--It's a parody of MGS4.
[8:14] Mega64 guy dressed as Solid Snake runs amok--and runs into Hideo Kojima. Kojima glares at the comedian, picks up his phone and says "cancel all my appointments." The two start running around together.
[8:14] Last GOTY nominee: Left 4 Dead.
[8:15] Speaking of Kojima, it's time for the Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by Mike Cerny.
[8:15] Fun fact: After joining Konami in 1986, he was almost fired because he was taking too long with his first project.
[8:17] Kojima takes the stage, and says he wanted to give his speech in English without notes, "but it would be up on YouTube for a century."
[8:18] He rules out any chance of him retiring. "I'll be making games until the day I die," he says before ending a short speech.
[8:19] (He also mentioned his desire to direct a movie. Judging by the length of MGS4's cutscenes, some would say he already has.)
[8:19] Last prize of the night, kids. A GTAIV clip precludes a quick montage of all five nominees.
[8:20] And the GOTY GDCA goes to...FALLOUT 3!
[8:20] Genuine shock and genuine applause follow. Most people thought LBP was going to take this.
[8:20] Todd Howard takes the stage--he seems a bit shocked himself.
[8:21] "I think video games is the greatest form of entertainment in the world," he says, before thanking virtually everyone at Bethesda and its corporate overlord, ZeniMax.
[8:23] He particularly thanks every game designer's family, recalling what his wife said as she left on another vacation without him: "This game better be good."
[8:24] Schafer wraps up, thanking everyone and cuing....the award-show credits.
[8:24] Up comes the Infinity Ward logo to hoots and hollers from the crowd.
[8:27] Green sine wave fills the screen. Stylish visuals appear to show terrorist team loading guns in elevator. Green montage of combat follows.
[8:27] Very stylish teaser trailer ends with "Modern Warfare 2: 11 10 09"
[8:28] Lights go up, crowd takes off. Bloggers power down.
[8:30] Be sure to check back with GameSpot throughout the week for more from the 2009 Game Developers Conference.