The DICE Summit is an annual convention put on by the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences that sees the gaming industry’s best and brightest come together to exchange ideas, celebrate the year that was, and look ahead to the future. There’s also some fun to be had as well as each Summit kicks off with an annual Poker tournament along with a golf and go-kart excursion before things really start to get underway.
Now, I admit I’m still recovering from my week in Vegas as the DICE Summit is unlike any other gaming convention we go to as games journalists and as a DICE rookie, I admit I was a bit taken aback at just seeing the tremendous talent that was often brought together in one room at any given panel or presentation. Nowhere else might you see Epic Games’ CEO Tim Sweeney lecture an audience with Ted Price from Insomniac Games, Todd Howard from Bethesda, and David Jaffe from Eat Sleep Play in attendance on how graphics will never need to go past 72 frames a second. Speaking of Todd Howard though, he gave a wonderful opening keynote for this year’s event as well.
Such topics that were spearheaded this year were how the publishing model may evolve from here and what harm it may be doing to the creative side of the industry, the future of technology in games, console gaming vs. social media gaming, and how some people outside the gaming industry could speak to certain key elements that need not be forgotten when making games. Among these were legendary songwriter/producer Glen Ballard talking about the importance of collaboration and Issac Gilmore of SEAL Team 7 talking about leadership.
And, of course, there were some surprises as well including the endearing speech by Tomonobu Itagaki, co-founder of Valhalla Games, but many of you probably know him better for his work at Tecmo on the Dead or Alive and Ninja Gaiden series. His heart felt presentation on the depression he fell into after he felt Dead or Alive 2 was rushed to market and was initially incomplete shows how much of his heart he put into his games. Speaking of how he would drink days away during this dark moment in his life until hearing Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” and using that as inspiration to pull his life and company back together was a jaw-dropping moment for many.
But, of course, this all culminated in the Interactive Achievement Awards. Think of them as the video game Oscars (the SpikeTV VGAs are more like the Grammys, lots of show with very little substance). This year marked the 15th anniversary of the awards and was hosted for the 7th time by fellow Jersey-boy and comedian extraordinaire Jay Mohr. Although criticized by some, I thought Mohr did a superb job hosting the show once again and had my table and I in stitches during his entire opening monologue segment. In total, there were 26 categories this year as voted on by a panel of industry insiders and movers and shakers.
Here is the final breakdown:
- Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Composition: Portal 2
- Outstanding Achievement in Sound Design: Battlefield 3
- Outstanding Achievement in Story: Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
- Outstanding Character Performance: Wheatley – Portal 2
- Downloadable Game of the Year – Bastion
- Casual Game of the Year – Fruit Ninja Kinect
- Social Networking Game of the Year – The Sims Social
- RPG/MMO of the Year – Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
- Outstanding Innovation in Gaming – Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure
- Sports Game of the Year – FIFA 12
- Racing Game of the Year – Forza Motorsport 4
- Fighting Game of the Year – Mortal Kombat
- Strategy/Sim Game of the Year – Orcs Must Die!
- Family Game of the Year – LittleBigPlanet 2
- Mobile Game of the Year – Infinity Blade II
- Handheld Game of the Year – Super Mario 3D Land
- Adventure Game of the Year – Batman: Arkham City
- Outstanding Achievement in Online Play – Star Wars: The Old Republic
- Outstanding Achievement in Connectivity – Portal 2
- Action Game of the Year – Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
- Outstanding Achievement in Animation – Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
- Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction – Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
- Outstanding Achievement in Visual Engineering – Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
- Outstanding Achievement in Game Play Engineering – Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
- Outstanding Achievement in Game Direction – Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
- Game of the Year – Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
I agree with most of these choices, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t use this chance to mention a few gripes I had. I disagree wholeheartedly with Fruit Ninja Kinect as Casual Game of the Year because it’s just the iOS game expanded to use your whole body. I thought Jetpack Joyride was more deserving. And I just have to shake my head at Skylanders winning Outstanding Innovation because it’s big innovation is simply finding another source of income for gaming publishers. LA Noire’s facial recognition technology was more impressive in my book. In fact, that also could’ve taken Outstanding Achievements in Animation and Visual Engineering as well. I also have a problem with Outstanding Achievement in Connectivity. Portal 2’s co-op mode is superb, but it has no replay value. So it may connect to someone on a deep level, but then it is gone. I think Gears of War 3 or Saints Row: The Third, games not even nominated, would have been a better choice.
My final gripe comes with Skyrim taking Outstanding Achievement in Game Play Engineering considering the bevy of glitches throughout that game, especially for PS3 users who are JUST NOW getting that fixed. A bigger world does not make a better working world. It should have gone to Arkham City for its combat and grappling hook and gliding mechanics or even Portal 2 for fun with portals and its amazing physics.
Now, that I’ve gotten that out of my system, the IAAs also saw Ed Logg, creator of Asteroids, Centipede, and Gauntlet awarded the Gmaing Pioneer Award and Tim Sweeney, Founder and CEO of Epic Games, inducted into the Gaming Hall of Fame. Big thumbs up to those guys.
The Summit concluded with the 3rd Annual Indie Game Challenge. Here, dreams are born in garages or parents’ basements and these individuals or small teams put their dream and engineering skills to the test. The 10 finalists all walked away with something even for being invited to DICE, but the big winner took home a whopping $100,000 and it went to a game called Closure submitted by Eyebrow Interactive. Closure felt a bit like Lost in Shadow, but with much stronger emphasis on the dynamic between light and shadow as you moved your character through a striking black and white world. My personal favorite though was The Bridge submitted by Ty Taylor and Mario Castaneda as you traversed a 2.5 D puzzle laden world that looked like a M.C. Escher drawing come to life.
So all in all, the 2012 DICE Summit did exactly what it was meant to do. It celebrated games on every level and brought up some amazing points of conversation for those of us in the industry for the future and hopefully will help bring some exciting new stuff to you folks, the player, in the future.
If you want to check out some of the panels that I mentioned above or see some other ones not mentioned, feel free to head over to http://www.interactive.org as everything was taped on put online after the weekend concluded.
All pictures courtesy of the AIAS.