The 2009 List of Awesome

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The 2009 List of Awesome

Shamus looks back on 2009 and finds that it wasn't all bad news.

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Hate to burst your bubble, but apparently DNF isn't dead. According to Scott Miller, 3D Realms "never said that Duke Nukem Forever has ceased development."

Great article though, as always. Due to my cheapskate nature in buying gaming titles I always find myself a year or two behind the curve, but I'm sure that in a year or two when I'm finally playing the titles of 2009 I'll agree with your list of games there.

Kind of a pity those were the only good things that happened last year, thanks to Gordon Brown mainly...

But yeah thats the good things of last year pegged pretty solidly, now I can get a PS3 without having to take out various loans ;)

VHS tapes are forever... now beta (we won't need those until the days of cowboy bebop)...

I would not say this was the best year. People who don't give a damn about multiplayer (like me) find the experience of Call of Duty: MW2 significantly less satisfying than a 'game of the year' experience should be. There were some solid titles that came out this year. Dragon age has made me cry on more than one occasion. It's been a while since I swore so much at my TV (reminds me of old nintendo days). Fallout 3 DLC took an awesome game and made it better. On the whole, I would say that this year was NOT as good as 2008 for releases. Maybe if some of the developers would have gotten off their asses and released stuff for christmas, it would have been better. Most of us agree that with FFXII, Starcraft 2, WoW: Cataclysm, Mass Effect 2 and a host of other great titles that 2010 will be a GREAT year for gamers.

Oh, and will E3 ever return to the top? I kinda hope that it fails. Gamers should boycott that crap and go to 'alternative' gaming conventions instead.

I agree that the PS3 had a great year. I'm almost tempted to buy one, if only for Valkyria Chronicles (I know, that came out last year, but the price was still not right for me). Some of the other exclusives look nice. Generally I try to buy things for my Xbox 360 if I can, with a few exceptions for my PC. I just may make the plunge this year and get another system. Nope, I still have no real reason to ever invest in a wii (or even accept one if I were to be given it for free).

I'm still hoping that motion control ends up where it belongs.. as a little brother to proper control schemes. If the success of the Wii has shown me anything, it's that motion control can be a great enhancement to a limited array of titles but it has little to no place in most games (particularly in ones I actually want to play).

Anywho, a great year it was. :)

gim73:
Oh, and will E3 ever return to the top? I kinda hope that it fails. Gamers should boycott that crap and go to 'alternative' gaming conventions instead.

E3 isn't a games convention. It's a games trade show. There's a major difference.

I really am fed up of DNF. I find it amazing that DNF is also an acronym for "Did not finish".
Maybe they've been planning it all along.

Jory:
I really am fed up of DNF. I find it amazing that DNF is also an acronym for "Did not finish".
Maybe they've been planning it all along.

Hmm, got me thinking...

Miki91:

Jory:
I really am fed up of DNF. I find it amazing that DNF is also an acronym for "Did not finish".
Maybe they've been planning it all along.

Hmm, got me thinking...

You gotta admit. It would be an incredible inside joke.

DRM...*shudders* Really dont want to see that return

StriderShinryu:
I'm still hoping that motion control ends up where it belongs.. as a little brother to proper control schemes. If the success of the Wii has shown me anything, it's that motion control can be a great enhancement to a limited array of titles but it has little to no place in most games (particularly in ones I actually want to play).

Anywho, a great year it was. :)

...and thanks to Fallout we won't be using any tranquility chamber style simulators now will we.

what about brutal legend, i remember you complaining allot (and rightly so) about activisions decision to cancel it because it wasn't sequel friendly, which i disagree on, it ended with a small cliffhanger, but i guess they won in the end.

this was an awesome gaming year for me, i stopped playing wow and went from having braid on my steam account to have braid and 85 other games, i got an slim and elite, sold my Wii and corrupted my brother into gaming.

heres to another year filled with Shamus, cheers.

Ahh, Shamus. You and your self-effacing shenanigans. Why wouldn't the Escapist want to keep a comic that has brought us both Travis Taylor AND the Reaper?

I also cheer for the decline of DRM. May it go the way of the dodo, the wax cylinder record, and having to wear clothing in public.

*whisper whisper*

...what? Dammit. Fine. Nix that last one... for now.

Happy new year!

JC175:
Hate to burst your bubble, but apparently DNF isn't dead. According to Scott Miller, 3D Realms "never said that Duke Nukem Forever has ceased development."

Of course not. You can't cease a process that is not ongoing! *rimshot*

...2009 was a bad year. It was a bad year all around, with the recession and all those famous people dying, from Michael Jackson to that guy that did the green revolution. (Look out for my new garage band, The Green Revolution.) And I think there wasn't a single game released on it that will live on to be a classic. I haven't played MW2, but I think it'll be a footnote in history, and I haven't played AC2, but once AC3 comes out and a few years go buy it'll be the weird middle sibling.

What basis does #1 have in reality? How many commercial developers dropped DRM in 2009? I can't think of a single one.

Considerably more games now require online activation even for single player, which makes your use of the product dependent on the publisher's good will as well as online connectivity forever. The year has also seen major titles and announced titles (Modern Warfare, Starcraft, ...) drop support for LAN multiplayer without internet connectivity. Single player content that would previously have been released as boxed expansions is now coming out as online-only DLC encumbered with a lot more restrictive DRM than the boxed copies have (cannot be resold, etc.). I'd say the DRM situation has steadily gotten worse.

Shamus Young:
4. The Escapist had a great year

Actually, The Escapist had a really great year. There are over 50% more of us reading the site now than there were a year ago. Add to that the fact that in 2009 we got more cool stuff to watch like Unskippable, ENN, and MovieBob. And yet despite the staff's unwavering dedication to quality, they didn't cancel my webcomic.

So, it's been a good year for all of us.

*Waves*I'm part of that 50%! And all because I read someone's blog that mentioned Zero Punctuation.(Sorry Shamus, your webcomic that didn't get canceled wasn't my pull, but it is part of what keeps me around.)
So until Duke Nukem Forever goes gold, the Cubs win the world series, and Bobby Kotick sells an IP for a nickel, make mine The Escapist!

Like they say...

Duke Nukem Forever will be in development...forever.

DRM should just stay in dead like DNF.

Shamus Young:
Experienced Points: The 2009 List of Awesome

Shamus looks back on 2009 and finds that it wasn't all bad news.

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An interesting round up of what was good in 2009. Its nice to read with all of the doom and gloom thats been around. It was a good year for XBLA too with lots of big games on there.

I spent a fortune with MvC 2, Shadow Complex, Trials HD all eating up my time. I am currently mulling over whether to buy Alien Breed. Will it kill my fond Amiga memories?

You never mentioned it but which was your game of 2009? What ate up the most of your time?

I spent the most time this year on Endwar (which was released in 08) although MW2 and Dragon age have made sure I've not slept since November.

Gaming wise I thought it was a pretty pathetic year. I'm playing Knights of the old Republic (made in 2003) and I'm enjoying it more than Dragon Age and any other AAA title i've played this year.

And there was a gaming drought in the summer holidays.

JC175:
Hate to burst your bubble, but apparently DNF isn't dead. According to Scott Miller, 3D Realms "never said that Duke Nukem Forever has ceased development."

Oh for fuck sake. Just DIE already!

In any case, regarding the article, I mostly agree; although I don't think the motion controls are necessarily a good idea, considering how they worked out for the Wii, but maybe the 360 and PS3 fanboys will shut up about the 'dumb gimmick the Wii has' now.

Well, they probably won't shut up about it. It wouldn't surprise me, humans are hypocritical creatures.

Also, the 'oh wait' at the end gave me a chuckle.

ben---neb:
And there was a gaming drought in the summer holidays.

Doesn't sound that remarkable to me, there's usually a drought around summer, isn't there?

In a small way, I'm glad to see the end of the gaming scene for 2009. How many Guitar Hero or Rock Band games can they shove into one year? According to sales figures, I'm guessing not a lot more. As for the future, I'm on-board with looking forward to Mass Effect 2 starting this year off right. Red Dead Redemption and Crackdown 2 both appear promising, and perhaps Arkham Asylum 2 can continue the legacy. I'm on the fence about Halo Reach since I couldn't bring myself to play ODST (sorry, just got a little too faithful to the original trilogy) and I'm not convinced that a prequel is in order here. Even Star Wars The Force Unleashed 2 might not turn out too bad... so maybe this is the year for entertaining sequels. Holy crap am I looking forward to Saint's Row 3 if they actually can make that a reality in '10.

Nutcase:
What basis does #1 have in reality? How many commercial developers dropped DRM in 2009? I can't think of a single one.

Considerably more games now require online activation even for single player, which makes your use of the product dependent on the publisher's good will as well as online connectivity forever. The year has also seen major titles and announced titles (Modern Warfare, Starcraft, ...) drop support for LAN multiplayer without internet connectivity. Single player content that would previously have been released as boxed expansions is now coming out as online-only DLC encumbered with a lot more restrictive DRM than the boxed copies have (cannot be resold, etc.). I'd say the DRM situation has steadily gotten worse.

Online activation I don't really think is considered DRM. The harsh DRMs that most people think of was the entire Spore debacle with the 3 install limit that EA finally understood was one of the worst anti-piracy decisions they've ever made. I'm not a huge fan of having to register games online, and I really only see the benefit of this idea when the developers and publishers actually intended on releasing DLC content for said game in the future. The eventual death of LAN play is a sad footnote in history as more and more people (either solo or not) look to the magic of the information superhighway to provide them with multiplayer entertainment. Don't people have REAL friends that can LAN up offline to play anything anymore? How long before consoles just support one controller? Heed that warning, folks. I'm willing to bet that M$ has already considered that.

Motion controllers were the world's answer to child obesity. How many copies of Wii Fit are still collecting dust in millions of homes right now? The gimmick was sorta cute at first, but much like reality television, it has had its moment in the sun. Rip-offs of Wii Fit will inevitably hit the 360 and PS3 in short order after their mutual releases of the WiiMote, and suffer just as much. It's like how the DS overused the stylus in early games like Legend of Zelda which forced players to use it for pretty much everything and basically ruined the gaming experience (unless you got REALLY good at handling your stylus!). There are some games that honestly could benefit from motion controllers, but as an across-the-platform idea it suffers from its' limitations. Could you see playing something like StarCraft 2 with a motion controller? It doesn't really make sense... FPS games would benefit from just a gun, maybe something like Fight Night would be a little more exciting, but to have all games comply with use of motion controllers just doesn't sound cost-effective for the development of the invention. In the end, it is just a sign of the big 3 trying to squeeze more money out of the consumer.

The rising cost of games is highly disappointing as well, often when you consider even budget titles will soon follow suit in this parade. One ray of sunshine here is for the indie studios releasing games that will soon explode on XBLA as gamers resist shelling out $65 for games when they can get a similar game for around maybe $5-$20 from an indie developer. I am willing to predict that indie studios will see a continued rise in the future from gamers, so long as they don't get too high and mighty from their successes.

Overall, '09 showed a few quality moments over the year that this current generation of gamers will remember for a while. Now if only M$ would make XBL free instead of forcing people to pay to play...

Jory:
I really am fed up of DNF. I find it amazing that DNF is also an acronym for "Did not finish".
Maybe they've been planning it all along.

I always enjoyed the word forever being in it's title and it forever being in development.

Sadly it did get canceled and I really wanted them to release it. Not because the game play is great in fact these days it's the same as any other shooter. Not because the story and script are good for they are crap. It's all because duke nukem was one of the first games I ever played and it was my first introduction to video game violence.

Give me a joystick and a copy of duke nukem 3d and I might as well be 6 years old at my uncles house.

Someone finally had the intelligence to pick up the loadingreadyrun guys. That alone could double the escapists readers.

Plenty of good things to go around.

Nutcase:
What basis does #1 have in reality? How many commercial developers dropped DRM in 2009? I can't think of a single one.

Considerably more games now require online activation even for single player, which makes your use of the product dependent on the publisher's good will as well as online connectivity forever. The year has also seen major titles and announced titles (Modern Warfare, Starcraft, ...) drop support for LAN multiplayer without internet connectivity. Single player content that would previously have been released as boxed expansions is now coming out as online-only DLC encumbered with a lot more restrictive DRM than the boxed copies have (cannot be resold, etc.). I'd say the DRM situation has steadily gotten worse.

You're right that cutting up single games into multiple releases is an awful trend, but I don't lump that in with DRM.

Mess Effect 2 and BioShock 2 have both had announcements indicating that they will not contain online activation, and a few games have made it a point of pride that they don't / won't / never did have activation. Maybe I'm being overly optimistic, but I think publishers are starting to get it.

Shamus Young:

Nutcase:
What basis does #1 have in reality? How many commercial developers dropped DRM in 2009? I can't think of a single one.

Considerably more games now require online activation even for single player, which makes your use of the product dependent on the publisher's good will as well as online connectivity forever. The year has also seen major titles and announced titles (Modern Warfare, Starcraft, ...) drop support for LAN multiplayer without internet connectivity. Single player content that would previously have been released as boxed expansions is now coming out as online-only DLC encumbered with a lot more restrictive DRM than the boxed copies have (cannot be resold, etc.). I'd say the DRM situation has steadily gotten worse.

You're right that cutting up single games into multiple releases is an awful trend, but I don't lump that in with DRM.

You should when it involves content moving from relaxed DRM to restrictive DRM.

If, in five years, all they sell at the store is a glorified demo disc and 90% of the single player content is only available via online purchases which incorporate some kind of absurdly invasive "protection" mechanism, how does that not change the overall DRM situation on games?

Mess Effect 2 and BioShock 2 have both had announcements indicating that they will not contain online activation, and a few games have made it a point of pride that they don't / won't / never did have activation. Maybe I'm being overly optimistic, but I think publishers are starting to get it.

I can find such an announcement for Mass Effect 2, but not for Bioshock 2. Got a link?

While it would be great if the ME2 decision actually indicated a return to sanity for EA as a whole, it's only been a little over a year from the Spore episode and CEO Riccitiello demonstrating some very blatant lying, deflecting and customer-blaming on DRM issues. As long as EA's overall DRM stance is the most customer-hostile in the business - which it is - I wouldn't be too quick to declare the company has changed. Maybe after they have released the next iterations of their major FPS, driving and sports titles sans activation.

Meanwhile, the other gorilla of the industry, Activision, looks set to actually surpass EA's current prowess in screwing paying customers. Along with the loss of LAN play in CoD and Starcraft I already mentioned, both those games also got saddled with network activation, and CoD lost dedicated servers and modding. A niche game like ME2 shedding its activation is a drop in a bucket in comparison. To say DRM is on the decline industry-wide is plain false. There's probably a bit more awareness, but in concrete terms, things have gotten worse and they may keep getting worse still.

Nutcase:
You should when it involves content moving from relaxed DRM to restrictive DRM. If, in five years, all they sell at the store is a glorified demo disc and 90% of the single player content is only available via online purchases which incorporate some kind of absurdly invasive "protection" mechanism, how does that not change the overall DRM situation on games?

Okay, I think I see where you're going: You're saying that this is a new and more damaging form of DRM. We're kind of talking past each other here.

I think that fewer games are turning to DRM. And some that used DRM, are giving it up in sequels.

Of those that ARE using DRM, they're embracing a newer and more insidious form of it. Thus we have the problem getting both better or worse, depending on how you look at it.

The story about Mass Effect 2 is here:

http://meforums.bioware.com/viewtopic.html?topic=710074&forum=144

And I was remembering incorrectly about BioShock 2. The DRM hasn't been announced. Which suggests that they aren't going to change their policy.

I think the reason I took such a positive view on it was because I was really focused on EA games. I ranted about EA throughout 2008, and they were my main nemesis. They've abandoned activation (Dragon Age didn't have it either, although the "free" DLC is an interesting side-topic.)

So EA is backing off while Activision and 2K Games are doubling down. Ubisoft is going for the middle road with "gentler" DRM (more lenient install limits) which doesn't make any difference to me. It's like offering to put LESS feces in my food. It's still a deal-breaker. However, they're recognizing that DRM is unpopular and are loosening up.

So it's not as rosy as I'd hoped when I wrote my list, but it's not quite as bleak as you've depicted it. Basically, it depends on what games you're into, and who publishes them.

Shamus Young:
In 2009 they dropped they price yet again

Slight typo, but otherwise a enjoyable article.

It's just that talking about things that work right is a tough way to fill a column

I know what you mean, and it's not your fault personally, if it can be called a 'fault'. We're just bound to notice the negatives around us more easily than the positives.

And it's good your comic is still here, it's one of those features in the escapist that are, imho at least, easily understood by gamers all over the world, not just by north americans :)

Now what's wrong with the idea of Duke Nukem coming out an never being released? I think its kinda funny. Haha.

Anyway, good list. I would have added [Prototype] to the list of good titles that game out this year as well. It is true that the number of titles this year were low, but there were plenty of good titles among that small group to satisfy quite a few people.

And happy new year to you to man.

Yea we lost DRM, but got DLC in spades, including day-one releases and webstores... other people may like being nickle and dimed, but not me.

And I wouldn't personally think motion controllers are a good thing, they're a gimmick and already used to maximum potential on the Wii and that forcing companies to include motion control portions in games only ends up making a piss-poor final product that is dragged down by the gimmick.

"people don't want to unwind by waving their arms around in front of the screen"
-Yahtzee

Nurb:
Yea we lost DRM, but got DLC in spades, including day-one releases and webstores... other people may like being nickle and dimed, but not me.

And I wouldn't personally think motion controllers are a good thing, they're a gimmick and already used to maximum potential on the Wii and that forcing companies to include motion control portions in games only ends up making a piss-poor final product that is dragged down by the gimmick.

"people don't want to unwind by waving their arms around in front of the screen"
-Yahtzee

The vast majority of DLC doesn't work the way you think it does. They aren't cutting things from the retail game for the most part, they're simply putting content designers to work after they would (in other cases) either A.) be put to work on a new game or B.) be fired.

And if you're against motion control so much - where do you think games have to evolve to once every game has photorealistic graphics? Can we just get higher definition, better textures and more polygons? Is that the only place we can aspire to?

CantFaketheFunk:

Nurb:
Yea we lost DRM, but got DLC in spades, including day-one releases and webstores... other people may like being nickle and dimed, but not me.

And I wouldn't personally think motion controllers are a good thing, they're a gimmick and already used to maximum potential on the Wii and that forcing companies to include motion control portions in games only ends up making a piss-poor final product that is dragged down by the gimmick.

"people don't want to unwind by waving their arms around in front of the screen"
-Yahtzee

The vast majority of DLC doesn't work the way you think it does. They aren't cutting things from the retail game for the most part, they're simply putting content designers to work after they would (in other cases) either A.) be put to work on a new game or B.) be fired.

And if you're against motion control so much - where do you think games have to evolve to once every game has photorealistic graphics? Can we just get higher definition, better textures and more polygons? Is that the only place we can aspire to?

Well, for example, you had dragon age, who were developing content like the warden's keep, which was developed at the same time as the game, witheld, and released as DLC for a full priced game. Not to mention the armor and item pack, and any in the future that basicly make a lot of loot worthless because they have to make super-items to justify paying real money for small digital content. Or EA, who witheld items and towns from their full priced game to fill their online store with. It's being too greedy.

As for the second part, you ask "how do you expect games to evolve?", well until we find away to get holodecks, or at least some sesnory feedback for motion control, they won't, and it doesn't need to for the same ways movies haven't evolved since sound was first used (before you mention CG, that falls under visual effects which have been in movies since silent film).

Video games can't evolve beyond improving visuals because it's basicly telling a story, and there is nothing new that can be done with story telling, all subjects have been done (man vs man, man vs nature, man vs himself etc.), so all you can do is change the set pieces, change the setting and subject and it can seem fresh when done well.

-good story
-good writing/dialogue
-good characters with personality and motivation
-good balance between fun and challenging

Games have a hard enough time getting just those four things right, and most fail horribly at one or all, so I don't know why folks would want to force games to evolve when publishers and developers ignore the basics.

I also think you might be confusing "evolution" with "gimmickry"; Movies had sensurround, smell-o-vision, and still have 3D, where studios had to make parts of their movie play to the gimmick, which tends to be rather obvious, such as seeing objects or characters swoosh at the screen and make you say "oh, this was made for 3D" while you watch it... polar express is a prime example. They are gimmicks because they don't make the movie any better, they just change the way you look at it, and in the end a lame movie is a lame movie no matter how much it reaches out at you.

For games, it's the same way; they had things like the power glove, VR goggles, and now motion control, which games on the wii MUST have implement into them at some point, but a lot of things require physical feedback and finesse, which of course it can't deliver and you end up in a lot of action heavy parts of a game, swinging the thing around like crazy. So it's a gimmick that's got a better fit for the casual end of things... motion control doesn't make the games better, more often more frustrating, just as the power glove was more or less a joke.

Great games, like great movies don't need all that gimmick stuff, so long as you pay attention to the basics of what makes them good to begin with, and realize waving your hands around like an idiot will go the way of the Power Glove as time goes on.

Shamus Young:
I think the reason I took such a positive view on it was because I was really focused on EA games. I ranted about EA throughout 2008, and they were my main nemesis. They've abandoned activation (Dragon Age didn't have it either, although the "free" DLC is an interesting side-topic.)

Yes and no. Dragon Age is fully playable without online activation, but they're doing their darnedest to entice you into activating it online anyway (putting DLC codes in the box, which require registering multiple serial numbers online and repeated online verification). The online verification is mitigated a little -- if you don't actually have an Internet connection then it'll just let you play with the DLC toys anyway -- but if you are connected to the Internet then it requires you to log in to your EA account and verify you haven't stolen their DLC before it will let you load a savegame that uses them.

And it begs the question of what will happen in about six months time when the codes stop working (basically built-in stock depreciation)... and what will happen when they eventually get bored and decide to turn off the activation servers.

Nurb:
Well, for example, you had dragon age, who were developing content like the warden's keep, which was developed at the same time as the game, witheld, and released as DLC for a full priced game. Not to mention the armor and item pack, and any in the future that basicly make a lot of loot worthless because they have to make super-items to justify paying real money for small digital content. Or EA, who witheld items and towns from their full priced game to fill their online store with. It's being too greedy.

Now, I can basically agree there with Stone Prisoner; Shale was clearly and definitely intended to be part of the full game, and the decision to split that off into DLC that's free in the box or $15 for everyone else is clearly a tactic aimed squarely at the second-hand market. But I don't really have a problem with that, as long as it's made clear to people buying it second-hand (before they buy) that they don't get that part of the game included. (That way, they can decide whether the second-hand price is worth it to them or not.)

Warden's Keep, I'm less sure about. It's certainly a lot more self contained (bar the annoying guy in the party camp); from what I can gather it looks like they really didn't have it finished at the code freeze date, and as Funk said they just kept the designers working a bit longer on that. And the price is in the "impulse buy" bracket; if you don't get it, it doesn't really hinder your game at all -- it's just something extra you can get if you feel like it. (The storage chest being a possible exception; but frankly the chest in WK is pretty useless; any time you want to access it you have to go traipsing over the map and risk random encounters -- and it still seems to have a limited capacity. If all you want is a storage chest then you're much better off getting one of the free third-party mods.)

Forthcoming content such as Return to Ostagar clearly wasn't part of the original game design (even though it will reuse some elements; that's true of all DLC though), so it's again some extra toys to play with if you want, but not essential. It's a diversion, a side-quest, not an essential part of the storyline. And they've been pretty good about handing out free items periodically, just for fun.

Nurb:
Great games, like great movies don't need all that gimmick stuff, so long as you pay attention to the basics of what makes them good to begin with, and realize waving your hands around like an idiot will go the way of the Power Glove as time goes on.

Oh, I don't know -- have a look at Johnny Mnemonic, or Minority Report (and probably several others): there's a decent chance that waving your hands around like an idiot could become the main interface to computer systems... ;)

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