LAS VEGAS--Thursday has by far been the most eventful day for the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences' 2011 DICE Summit, and it has already seen panels from the likes of Jade Raymond, Richard Garriott, and the BioWare doctors Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk, as well as a number of other high-profile industry notables. However, the crowning jewel of the day is still to come, with the 14th Annual Interactive Achievement Awards slated to begin at 7:30 p.m. PT tonight.
The leading contender this year is Rockstar Games' Red Dead Redemption, which has already taken home a number of industry awards, including GameSpot's Game of the Year. However, Rockstar's Western has stiff competition in all of the nine categories it is competing in, from the likes of Namco Bandai's Enslaved and Sony's God of War III, each of which has earned six nominations.
Both Red Dead Redemption and God of War III, but not Enslaved, are up for the AIAS's coveted Game of the Year award. Other nominees for the top honor include Treyarch's best-selling Call of Duty: Black Ops, BioWare's sci-fi role-playing game Mass Effect 2, and the breakout iPad gaming hit Angry Birds HD.
A number of industry luminaries are also slated to receive accolades tonight. Muzyka and Zeschuk will both be inducted into the AIAS's Hall of Fame, while former EA star and current venture capitalist Bing Gordon will be bestowed with a Lifetime Achievement award. Bill Budge will walk away from the evening with the organization's second annual Pioneer Award.
Industry-staple funnyman Jay Mohr is on hand to host tonight's event, which will be going down at the Red Rock Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. Stay tuned for GameSpot's liveblog to receive updates on awards as they happen. And who knows, perhaps the evening will end with a game reveal, as it (sort of) did last year.
[7:42] The 14th Annual Interactive Achievement Awards is about to begin, as the assembled industry collective dab their mouths after a meal furnished by the AIAS.
[7:42] Designers have turned out in the nines, largely, as business casual meets jeans, stylish shirts, and gym shoes.
[7:43] Of note: OPEN BAR! Here's hoping a certain loose-lipped analyst has properly libated.
[7:44] Despite being advised by the PA system for attendees to take their seats, it does not appear as if anyone is doing so.
[7:44] The work of the networker never ceases, it appears.
[7:45] OK, here we go. The lights go down, and the noise joins it.
[7:45] Onscreen, a video scrolls, offering slogans that are reminiscent of The World's Most Interesting Man.
[7:45] But, of course, it's not. It's Duke Nukem.
[7:45] Borderlands' Claptrap appears to be directing the "commercial."
[7:46] And he proceeds to berate Duke over his long absence.
[7:47] The video has Claptrap telling Duke that he needs to be more like Game of the Year nominee Red Dead Redemption.
[7:48] Duke then pretends to be in various other GOTY nominees, ranging from God of War III to Halo: Reach.
[7:49] The video ends with Duke blowing Claptrap to pieces with a rocket launcher…and we're on to the actual show!
[7:49] Jay Mohr takes the stage. This is his sixth year hosting.
[7:50] Mohr bemoans his failed career, saying he should be more like Charlie Sheen.
[7:51] He's apparently screentested for the Angry Birds TV show, saying he is trying to get the role of the "white one that constantly takes a dump on things."
[7:52] "I will never be as good at any of the jobs I've had as you all are at yours," he says.
[7:52] The crowd gives itself a hand.
[7:52] Richard Garriott apparently just got engaged?
[7:52] That appears to be an actual thing…
[7:53] The sideburns and neck beards appear to be particularly well groomed tonight, he says.
[7:53] BlizzCon makes this event look like the Kennedy Center Honors, he says.
[7:53] Yes, Blizzard's top brass is in attendance.
[7:57] Mohr is back to lauding the audience and the award ceremony. This ceremony, he says, is devoted to nothing but games.
[7:57] That's apparently a good thing, because when the awards come from luminaries within the industry, that just makes sense and feels good.
[7:58] Some great titles came out this year, he says, name-checking Super Meat Boy and DeathSpank.
[7:59] He says he didn't play either, but those are some "real ballsy titles."
[7:59] If you see The King's Speech and Super Meat Boy on a retail shelf, the choice is clear.
[8:01] Mohr apparently has an issue with Obsidian's decision to cast Matthew Perry in Fallout New Vegas.
[8:02] He then proposes a number of better alternatives, including Harvey Keitel and Tracy Morgan.
[8:02] These are, of course, accompanied by fairly spot-on impersonations.
[8:04] Mohr is about to make fun of Ubisoft now, talking up Michael Jackson: The Experience.
[8:06] Call of Duty: Black Ops sales are next up for ridicule.
[8:06] Activision, you're like James Cameron. You make one record-breaking hit after another, and absolutely no one wants to work with you.
[8:11] EA Sports is next up for ridicule…Tiger Woods, to be exact.
[8:12] He says EA gave them an ultimatum: Get better or lose your game.
[8:12] But come on, he says, who would you replace him with? A drunken John Daley?
[8:14] Online gaming is his next topic: DC Universe he says is his current fascination, and it gives a whole new generation of kids to pass on being Aquaman.
[8:14] Poor Aquaman. He didn't ask to be drawn.
[8:16] Every console made some major technological advances last year, he says.
[8:17] PS3 offered 3D, Xbox 360 has the Kinect, and the geniuses over at Nintendo made…a red Wii.
[8:17] All we ask for is effort, Nintendo, he says.
[8:17] All right! It looks like Mohr's comedy routine is over, and it's time to start handing out awards.
[8:18] Ted Price and Morgan Webb will be handing out the first award, which will go to Outstanding Achievement in Visual Art.
[8:19] The nominees are: COD: Black Ops, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, God of War III, Red Dead Redemption, Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Conviction.
[8:19] And the winner is…God of War III
[8:19] Bruno Velazquez served as art director on that one.
[8:24] For the Art Direction award, we have Alan Wake, Enslaved, God of War III, Kirby's Epic Yarn, Red Dead Redemption.
[8:24] And the winner is…Red Dead, directed by Daren Bader.
[8:24] Visual Engineering award nominees: Call of Duty Black Ops, God of War III, Heavy Rain, Medal of Honor, Metro 2033.
[8:24] The winner is…Heavy Rain, directed by Damien Castllitort.
[8:25] Gameplay Engineering nominees: Dance Central, Kirby's Epic Yarn, Red Dead Redemption, Super Mario Galaxy 2, Super Scribblenauts.
[8:25] And the winner is…Red Dead Redemption, Christian Cantamessa directed that one.
[8:25] Character Performance nominees are next.
[8:26] Nominees are Monkey from Enslaved, Kratos from God of War, Male Shephard in Mass Effect 2, John Marston in Red Dead Redemption, Tychus Findlay in Starcraft II.
[8:26] The winner is…John Marston in Red Dead Redemption.
[8:26] After the battery of awards, Mohr is back for more jokes.
[8:27] People are apparently happy about the show, according to folks on Twitter. "Usually, these tell me what an a****** I am," Mohr says.
[8:27] To present the award for Family Game of the Year, they picked--aptly?--Randy Pitchford, CEO of Duke Nukem Forever publisher Gearbox.
[8:28] Those who know me best know I'm a huge family man, Pitchford says. The only thing he enjoys more are all his attempts to create them.
[8:28] Guess Mohr isn't the only comedian here tonight.
[8:28] Family Game of the Year nominees are: Dance Central, Kirby's Epic Yarn, Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4, Rock Band 3, and Singstar Dance.
[8:28] And the award goes to…Dance Central, from Harmonix.
[8:29] Alex Rigopulos takes the stage, saying that the team was dying to make this game, because people are seldom happier than when they're dancing.
[8:29] Mohr retakes the stage and introduces the man who will present the Racing Game of the Year, Don Mattrick.
[8:29] Racing Game of the Year nominees: Gran Turismo 5, ModNation Racers, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, and Split/Second.
[8:29] And the winner is…Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, developed by Burnout studio Criterion.
[8:30] It's now time to present Bill Budge with his Pioneer Award, the second that the AIAS has handed out. Don Daglow presents.
[8:31] It's been 30 years since Bill Budge burst on the screen, he says. It was the time of Atari and consoles, but it was also the world of Apple II computers.
[8:32] Into that era came Bill Budge, where programmers hand-placed pixels. When Bill came with Raster Blaster, he changed everything. He made it easier for developers first, and then with Pinball Construction Set, he gave that power to the players.
[8:32] After the crash of the console market, people still had Budge's games on PCs, which were being bought by parents for their kids' homework.
[8:32] He inspired a generation of designers to not give up.
[8:33] This quiet, humble guy built the foundation that we all get to enjoy today, he says.
[8:36] A highlight reel of Budge's career unspools, with industry luminaries that include Will Wright extolling the man's contributions.
[8:36] Budge takes the stage to a standing ovation from the room.
[8:37] "I love working at Google, but it's funny, because all they talk about is the games they want to program."
[8:38] He says it's amazing to look at his old games and how primitive they look compared to what people are making now.
[8:39] Budge exits, Mohr enters.
[8:39] The president of the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences, Martin Rae, takes the stage.
[8:40] He is here to detail the voting process that went into these awards.
[8:40] The voting process defines us, he says. The process is driven by game creators, and winners are honored by their peers, he says.
[8:40] The panel votes to come up with a list of finalists, and then that list is sent to some 20,000 members to hone down.
[8:40] And Mohr is back.
[8:41] The man behind the Ratchet & Clank series is presenting now, Brian Algier.
[8:42] Algier is here to present the award for Outstanding Achievement in Story.
[8:42] The nominees: Alan Wake, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, Heavy Rain, Mass Effect 2, and Metro 2033.
[8:42] And the winner is…Mass Effect 2, written by Mac Walters and Drew Karpyshyn.
[8:43] BioWare founders Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk accept the award. They'll be back later to receive tonight's Hall of Fame induction.
[8:46] Morgan Webb and Blair Herter are here to present the next award.
[8:47] Role-playing and MMOG of the Year nominees are next.
[8:47] Dragon Quest IX, Fable III, Fallout: New Vegas, Mass Effect 2, and World of Warcraft: Cataclysm are the nominees
[8:48] Mass Effect 2 is the winner.
[8:48] Ray and Greg are back to accept the award.
[8:49] Mohr again retakes the stage to introduce the next presenter.
[8:49] Gran Turismo 5's Kazunori Yamauchi takes the stage to present the next award.
[8:50] He is joined by Mark Cerny.
[8:50] Innovation is the award that's up, by the way.
[8:51] These nominees are: Angry Birds HD, Dance Central, Heavy Rain, Limbo, and Red Dead Redemption.
[8:51] And the winner is…Heavy Rain.
[8:53] Mohr retakes the stage to introduce the next group of presenters, Mike Morhaime and Mike Capps, heads of Blizzard Entertainment and Epic Games, respectively.
[8:54] Yesterday was the 20-year anniversary of Blizzard, Mohr says.
[8:54] The Mikes take the stage to induct the doctors, Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk, into the AIAS Hall of Fame.
[8:55] Their industry careers are inseparable, Capps says.
[8:55] He goes on to say that he greatly admirers the way the two have nurtured BioWare as a studio, and he feels that at this rate, everyone will be working for them one day.
[8:56] Morhaime then introduces a sizzle reel of the doctors' work.
[8:57] The titles include Mass Effect, Knights of the Old Republic, Baldur's Gate, and more.
[8:58] Their first game was Shattered Steel, and their second game was Baldur's Gate.
[9:00] The video ends, and EA CEO John Riccitiello takes the stage to actually present the award.
[9:00] Riccitiello says Ray and Greg have a better grasp on quality than anyone he has ever met.
[9:01] He welcomes them to the stage, and they receive a standing ovation, accompanied by blinding strobe lights.
[9:03] The two begin their thanks, giving shout-outs to Riccitiello, Mike Morhaime, and "the Academy," and Muzyka says that they feel compelled to continue to live up to the award.
[9:04] He thanks Interplay, which gave them their start, and then any number of other studios that BioWare has worked with, ranging from Sega to EA.
[9:05] Zeschuk then gives a shout-out to everyone at BioWare.
[9:05] Zeschuk continues to thank people and then echoes comments made by Muzyka, saying that they don't feel like they're done yet.
[9:06] Thank you for the award. We're going to try our best to earn this. And the two depart.
[9:07] Mohr is back to present the award for Outstanding Achievement in Music and Sound.
[9:07] PopCap senior producer Matthew Lee Johnston takes the stage.
[9:09] The nominees for outstanding achievement in original music: Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, Fable III, Heavy Rain, Starcraft II, and World of Warcraft: Cataclysm.
[9:09] And the winner is…Heavy Rain.
[9:10] The nominees for Outstanding Achievement in Soundtrack are: Dance Central, DJ Hero 2, Gran Turismo 5, Rock Band 3.
[9:10] And the winner is…Rock Band 3, from Harmonix and MTV Games.
[9:11] Nominees for Outstanding Achievement in Sound Design are: Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Limbo, Medal of Honor, and Red Dead Redemption.
[9:11] And the winner is: Limbo
[9:12] Mohr is now introducing Mark Lamia and Dave Anthony, from Treyarch.
[9:12] They are here to present Adventure Game of the Year.
[9:13] Adventure Game of the Year nominees are: Alan Wake, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, and Heavy Rain, Limbo.
[9:14] And the winner is…Limbo.
[9:15] Nexon president Min Kim then takes the stage alongside Dr. David Gallo.
[9:15] They are the presenters for Outstanding Achievement in Online Gameplay, with nominees including:
[9:20] Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Call of Duty: Black Ops, Halo: Reach, and Starcraft II.
[9:20] And the winner is… Starcraft II.
[9:20] Frank Pearce takes the stage to accept the award, thanking everyone at the studio and everyone on the Battle.net team.
[9:20] Mohr is then back to introduce Jade Raymond and Adam Sessler, who will present the award for the year's best action game
[9:20] And the nominees are: Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Call of Duty: Black Ops, God of War III, Halo: Reach, and Red Dead Redemption.
[9:20] And the winner is…Red Dead Redemption.
[9:20] And…it appears that no one here from Rockstar is present to accept the award.
[9:21] Zynga's chief game designer Brian Reynolds is joined onstage by Kristin Adams of G4.
[9:22] They are here to present the award for Sports Game of the Year.
[9:22] Nominees are: FIFA Soccer 11, MLB 10: The Show, NBA 2K11, and NHL 11.
[9:22] And the winner is…FIFA Soccer 11.
[9:23] Next up is Fighting Game of the Year.
[9:23] Nominees are BlazBlue, EA Sports MMA, Super Street Fighter IV, and UFC 2010 Undisputed.
[9:23] And the winner is…Super Street Fighter IV.
[9:23] Strategy/Simulation Game of the Year is next.
[9:24] Dawn of War: Chaos Rising, Civilization V, Starcraft II, Supreme Commander 2, and Toy Soldiers.
[9:24] Starcraft II takes the award.
[9:25] Rich Kleiman, of Madden fame, next takes the stage.
[9:25] He is here to present the Portable Game of the Year award.
[9:26] The nominees are: Dragon Quest IX, God of War: Ghost of Sparta, Infinity Blade, Professor Layton and the Unwound Future, and Valkyria Chronicles II.
[9:26] And the winner is…God of War: Ghost of Sparta.
[9:27] Richard Garriott takes the stage next to present two awards: Casual Game of the Year and Social Networking Game of the Year.
[9:28] Casual Game of the Year nominees are: Angry Birds HD, Bejeweled 3, Kinect Sports, Pac-Man Championship Edition DX, Plants vs. Zombies.
[9:28] And the winner is…Angry Birds HD.
[9:30] And now Lord British is talking up Social Networking Game of the Year.
[9:31] The nominees are: CityVille, Family Feud, Frontierville, Nightclub City, and Ravenwood Fair.
[9:31] And the winner is…CityVille.
[9:32] Now it's time for the Lifetime Achievement Award, and Microsoft's Don Mattrick retakes the stage.
[9:32] Simply said, this award goes to Bing Gordon, Mattrick says. "But I'm off script right now."
[9:32] Gordon brought smart and original thinking to a new industry 30 years ago, he says.
[9:33] Gordon captured the hearts and minds of gamers, and he is credited on more than 100 games as chief creative officer.
[9:40] A compilation video for Gordon is run, and it has the likes of Riche Hilleman, John Schappert, Frank Gibeau, John Doerr, and Paul Lee.
[9:40] The video also includes a spot from Robin Williams.
[9:42] The video ends, and Gordon takes the stage.
[9:42] Like tonight's other honorees, Gordon receives a standing ovation.
[9:42] Gordon appears to have on a luxurious velvet shirt.
[9:43] Gordon recites a poem that praises the industry.
[9:44] He appears to have committed it all to memory, though he has pages in front of him that he can check himself against.
[9:47] Gordon finally exits the stage after his long-winded acceptance poem.
[9:48] And we're on to the penultimate award of the evening, which is being presented by Blizzard's Rob Pardo.
[9:49] The nominees for Outstanding Achievement in Game Direction!
[9:49] Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, Limbo, Mass Effect 2, and Red Dead Redemption.
[9:50] And the winner is…Red Dead Redemption, which was directed by Christian Cantamessa.
[9:51] And Mohr is back for the LAST TROPHY! Who's excited?
[9:52] The Game of the Year award will be presented by Evan Wells and Christophe Balestra of Naughty Dog.
[9:54] Angry Birds HD, Call of Duty: Black Ops, God of War III, Mass Effect 2, and Red Dead Redemption.
[9:54] And the IAA Game of the Year award goes to…Mass Effect 2!
[9:55] The crowd sounds shocked as Mass Effect 2's name is read.
[9:55] Muzyka and Zeschuk retake the stage, with Ray saying simply, "Holy crap!"
[9:55] What an amazing award to receive, Muzyka says, calling it a celebration of excellence.
[9:55] It's a tremendous honor, he says.