League of Legends tops Game Developers Choice Online Awards

Riot Games wins five categories including Best New Online Game and Audience Award; Ultima Online receives first spot in the Hall of Fame; MUD creator Dr. Richard Bartle honored.

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AUSTIN, TEXAS--As the Game Developers Conference Online reached its apex Thursday night, the event's organizers held the inaugural Game Developers Choice Online Awards. Like the Choice Awards held during the flagship Game Developers Conference in February, this counterpart show was devised to let the creators of online entertainment laud each other.

League of Legends cast a spell on the GDC Online Awards.
League of Legends cast a spell on the GDC Online Awards.

While dozens of games were honored, online game creators were apparently quite taken with Riot Games' League of Legends. The free-to-play hybrid of real-time strategy and role-playing games took home five awards for the night, including the Best New Online Game category. It even won the Audience Award, narrowly edging out Wizard101 from Austin-based Kingsisle Entertainment. The only category in which League of Legends was nominated but failed to win was Best Live Game, an honor claimed by EVE Online at the expense of other high-profile competitors like World of Warcraft and Farmville.

While League of Legends dominated the awards, it had to share the spotlight with a pair of online pioneers. The first was Ultima Online, which was named as the first inductee into the GDC Online Awards Hall of Fame. Original Ultima Online developers Rich Bogel, Starr Long, and Raph Koster were on hand to mark the occasion, with each offering a few words of thanks and appreciation for all the players and developers who have touched the game over the last 14 years.

"I remember bringing my baby daughter into the office in a baby carrier to work on the game," Koster said. "She's a teenager now and doesn't want to talk to me."

Long offered specific thanks to former Electronic Arts CEO Larry Probst for signing a $100,000 grant approval on the back of a napkin to get the project started and to the player who assassinated the Lord British character during the game's beta phase, making it clear who was really in charge.

The other pioneer honored was Dr. Richard A. Bartle, who received the Online Game Legend Award. One of the original designers of the massively multiplayer online game predecessor MUD (multi-user dungeon), Bartle said he was honored, thrilled, humbled, and surprised to receive the award.

"I guess the reason I won it is because most of the other people who could've won it are on the nominating committee, and of the remaining ones, I'm closest to death," Bartle joked.

Most award categories were for games launched in beta or full versions between May 2009 and May 2010. Nominees for Best Live Game--which honors currently operating titles--had to have launched in North America at least 12 months prior to May 2009 and distinguished themselves with exceptional new content since then. Nominees in the Best Community Relations and Audience Award categories only needed to be currently operating.

Categories and Nominees (Winner in italics)

Hall of Fame inductee
Ultima Online--Electronic Arts

Online Game Legend honoree
Dr. Richard A. Bartle

Best Online Technology
Aion--NCsoft
Champions Online--Cryptic Studios
Global Agenda--Hi-Rez Studios
League of Legends--Riot Games
Love-Quel Solaar

Best Social Network Game
FIFA Superstars--Playfish
NanoStar Siege--Digital Chocolate
Nightclub City--Booyah Inc.
Social City--Playdom
Treasure Isle--Zynga

Best Online Visual Arts
GodFinger--Wonderland Software/ngmoco
Papermint--Avaloop
League of Legends--Riot Games
Star Trek Online--Cryptic Studios
Love--Quel Solaar

Best Audio for an Online Game
Aion--NCsoft
Champions Online--Cryptic Studios
Music Pets--Conduit Labs
Nightclub City--Booyah Inc.
We Rule--Newtoy/ngmoco

Best Community Relations
EVE Online--CCP
Free Realms--Sony Online Entertainment
Guild Wars--ArenaNet
Wizard101--Kingsisle Entertainment
World of Warcraft--Blizzard Entertainment

Best Online Game Design
Champions Online--Cryptic Studios
Dungeon Fighter Online--Neople/Nexon
League of Legends--Riot Games
We Rule--Newtoy/ngmoco
Zoo Kingdom--Blue Fang Games

Best Live Game
EVE Online--CCP
Dungeon Fighter Online--Neople/Nexon
Farmville--Zynga
League of Legends--Riot Games
World of Warcraft--Blizzard Entertainment

Best New Online Game
Dungeon Fighter Online--Neople/Nexon
FIFA Superstars--Playdom
League of Legends--Riot Games
Nightclub City--Booyah Inc.
We Rule--Newtoy/ngmoco

Audience Award
League of Legends--Riot Games
First runner-up: Wizard101--Kingsisle Entertainment

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