2008 Aggie Award nominees

AG old generic logo
AG old generic logo

The most anticipated awards ceremony of the year is almost upon us… No no, not that ceremony, filled with pomp and glitter and a bunch of contestants no one’s ever heard of. There are no designer clothes, no red carpet, no yawn-inducing acceptance speeches in this production.

I’m speaking, of course, of the first annual “Aggie” Awards from Adventure Gamers!

That’s right, for the first time in the site’s history, this year we’ll be recognizing the top games across a variety of categories. We’ve resisted in the past, not out of disinterest, but simply for practical considerations, as it’s difficult to fairly measure games against each other without playing everything released. And to be sure, none of us individually has played every single game from the past year. Nevertheless, with enough staff participation ensured, we’ve finally been able to settle on a process not involving coins, blindfolds, or dartboards, and feel confident that our selections do indeed represent the best the genre had to offer in 2008.

The award winners have yet to be determined, so stay tuned for the envelope opening over the course of three days, from February 18-20th. In the meantime, we are pleased to announce the finalists still in contention. And if you’re already prepared to tell us how wrong we are, you’ll soon get your chance! A “Reader’s Choice” poll will be posted shortly, giving you the opportunity to vote for your favourites. Those will also be tallied up and announced along with the official Aggie winners.

For a list of all games eligible this year, along with a few basic rules and regulations used in determining the winners, scroll down past the nominations. But without any further ado, ladies and gentlemen… we give you the nominations for the 2008 Aggies.


Best Story

One of the core components of any adventure, the game’s narrative must engage the player’s interest and imagination. Entertaining in its own right, a good story also immerses the player in a believable game world and serves as motivation to overcome the challenges presented. While often accompanied by quality writing, the plot is a distinct feature that may or may not be ably supported by the actual dialogue.

Dracula 3: The Path of the Dragon

Overclocked: A History of Violence

Time Hollow

Best Writing – Comedy

Arguably the hardest genre to write well, comedy done right has the ability both to humour and uplift, finding amusement in the ordinary and laughter in the unexpected. Often dismissed for not being “serious writing” (oh, the irony!), comedy has long been a beloved genre staple and deserves appropriate recognition.

Sam & Max: Season Two

So Blonde

Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People

Best Writing – Drama

If comedy lifts the soul, then drama explores and challenges it. Though sometimes misrepresented as dry and boring or overly theatrical, a gripping drama simply engages players on a deeper emotional level. Quality writing is essential in maintaining the player’s connection to the characters, game world, and the story unfolding.

Dracula 3: The Path of the Dragon

The Immortals of Terra: A Perry Rhodan Adventure

Overclocked: A History of Violence

Best Gameplay

Puzzles are an integral aspect of adventure gameplay, but not the only one. Good pacing, rich exploration, and variety of activities are all factors in player enjoyment as well, each suitably integrated into the storyline. The best games seek the right balance of these elements for the most rewarding gameplay experience.

Penumbra: Black Plague

Professor Layton and the Curious Village

Sam & Max: Season Two

Best Concept

A somewhat ambiguous category meant to highlight any unusual, distinctive element. A creative concept can run the gamut from story premise to game mechanics, from stylistic choice to technical innovation. It doesn’t even need to have been successfully implemented, as it’s the idea itself that deserves the acknowledgement in a genre renowned for its conservative approach.

Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney (special ability to perceive lies through body language)

Overclocked: A History of Violence (reverse chronology of events through hypnosis)

The Experiment (indirect player control via computer console)

Best Setting

With so many “been there, done that” games in the genre, some adventures dare taking us to memorable places we’ve never been before, including those we never even imagined. This category can refer to an overall game world or even a single environment in a given game so long as it’s a relevant location.

Nikopol: Secrets of the Immortals

Sam & Max: Season Two

The Lost Crown: A Ghost-hunting Adventure

Best Graphic Design

If a picture is worth a thousand words, this category speaks volumes. Regardless of style, this category denotes games that are not only visually attractive but stylistically distinctive. One look at a screenshot should elicit a “Wow!” followed by “Hey, that’s from…” Includes both game world and character design, but not cinematics. (Note: four finalists the result of a nominations tie.)

A Vampyre Story

Nikopol: Secrets of the Immortals

Professor Layton and the Curious Village

The Lost Crown: A Ghost-hunting Adventure

Best Animation

From “bustling” city streets that look deserted to clouds that never move, animation is rarely a genre strong suit, often the victim of budget constraints. But richly animated adventures add so much to player immersion that any game that goes the extra mile in this area is deserving of appreciation. This category includes in-game character and ambient animations, plus cinematic cutscenes.

A Vampyre Story

Insecticide (PC)

The Immortals of Terra: A Perry Rhodan Adventure

Best Music

As a supporting element playing in the background, often a game’s soundtrack is noticeable only when it becomes intrusive, but a strong score and attention to pacing can add so much to the game’s ambience. A catchy theme song can likewise make game music memorable, and an in-game musical number even moreso. Whatever its particular strengths, the rare game that excels musically deserves its accolades.

Outcry

Mystery Case Files: Return to Ravenhearst

Sam & Max: Season Two

Best Voice Acting

Often under-valued by publishers but never by gamers, quality voice acting can enhance the player’s investment in characters as surely as poor acting can ruin it. With so much international localization, voiceovers can be difficult to skillfully oversee, but any game benefits greatly from proper direction and believable acting. This category refers to the overall quality of vocal roles in a game, not to individual characters.

Sam & Max: Season Two

So Blonde

Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People

Best Sound Design

As with music, sound effects are frequently given short shrift in adventures, but effective use of audio adds a vital layer of ambience. You may not be able to put your finger on the reason, but some games make you feel like you’re really there, and often the atmospheric sounds have drawn you in subliminally.

Lost: Via Domus

Sam & Max: Season Two

Chronicles of Mystery: The Scorpio Ritual

Continued on the next page...


Comments

Molgera
Feb 7, 2009

Professor Layton over Apollo Justice?  Say it ain’t so.  I’d argue for Apollo in other categories too (like Best Music) but I haven’t played most of the other games.

Fantasysci5 Fantasysci5
Feb 7, 2009

Aww, “The Lost Crown” should have been nominated for ‘best story’. But the setting is the best, too. Wink We get to vote our own poll? That’ll be awesome…where?! lol

AndreaDraco83
Feb 7, 2009

The polls for Reader’s Choice will be published in the next few days, Fantasy Grin There, you’ll get a chance to vote The Lost Crown for Best Story and for every other categories. So definitely stay tuned! Smile

Ascovel Ascovel
Feb 7, 2009

Are the terms underground and freeware somehow interconnected in general, or was it done only for the purpose of this classification?

Great list, by the way. It’s good to see so many interesting categories instead of just a Best of 2008 contest.

Jackal Jackal
Feb 7, 2009

Underground games are always freeware, but not all freeware games are considered Undergound. Like Beneath a Steel Sky, created commercially but later made free. Really Underground is our name for “amateur” games. We just avoid that term because it tends to sounds disrepectful of their quality.

Ursulla
Feb 7, 2009

What about the best puzzle of Year 2008 ....I know that I would be very curious to play that game….

Jackal Jackal
Feb 7, 2009

Best puzzles overall, or best single puzzle? We felt the former was best incorporated into Best Gameplay, and we actually tried to find some kind of consensus for deciding the best individual puzzle, but it’s too specific with too many possibilities, so we scrapped it. Same for Best Character and Best Voice Acting, single role.

Ursulla
Feb 7, 2009

I think the best (single)puzzle require a unique insight….and someone who is capable of doing that deserve the full credit…
If I am going to choose a game to play I will start playing all the games in that category…
With the absence of it I would settle with best gameplay…
What I remember years after platying games is the struggle to beat unique puzzles…All the rest evaporate…

Trickless Trickless
Feb 7, 2009

I’m still not entirely convinced that Professor Layton is ‘adventure’. The game is just a massive collection of math/riddle/brainteaser questions. I know there are many puzzles in a lot of adventure games, but at least [most of them] were designed with the scenario or story in mind.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great game with some lovely animated cutscenes. It’s also one of my favourites. I just feel it should be treated as a ‘puzzle’ game rather than ‘adventure’

Fien Fien
Feb 7, 2009

After the blog “Casual Invasion: Killing a Genre Softly” you staff people nominated Return to Ravenhearst…?!?!

What’s this, if you can’t beat them, join them? How very disappointing.
This new award has already disqualified itself. 

Jackal Jackal
Feb 7, 2009

I think what is and isn’t an adventure will always be everyone’s favourite debate. Grin Professor Layton is certainly puzzle-oriented. But it still has a clear story framework with elements of exploration, so it qualifies. Fienepien, I don’t follow your complaint. We’ve been consistent all along that Return to Ravenhearst is the only casual-oriented game that deserves to be considered an adventure to date. The reasons for that were made pretty clear in the review of the game. Just to tweak a few more sensibilities, Portal would also have been eligible for awards by our definition. Except it was first released in ‘07, so the faint of heart were spared. Grin

Matt Wilson
Feb 7, 2009

By making separate categories for “amateur” and “indie” games, you’re being disrespectful. You’re sending those games to the kids table because they’re not commercial releases, yet by your own admission, some of them are better than the ones you’ve actually nominated in the other categories.

It might not have been your intention, but that’s how it comes across.

Fien Fien
Feb 7, 2009

@Jackal. You called Return to Ravenhearst a hybrid, not an adventure: “The question, as always when competing interests collide, is whether such a new hybrid represents the best of both worlds or a compromise that does full justice to neither, and in this game at least, the answer appears to fall somewhere in the middle.”  But if by your defintion RtR is indeed a full-blown adventure worthy to be nominated, then I don’t understand your complaint in the blog about casual games killing the genre softly.

AndreaDraco83
Feb 7, 2009

@ Fienepien: I see Mystery Case File nominated for Best Music, not Best Story. Why don’t you complain about Lost: Via Domus being considered for Best Sound Design? MCF may have a lot of casual elements, like Casebook, but it’s more an adventure, and we highlighted one of its strong points.

@ Matt Wilson: The difference was the commercial release, at least as I see it. There are tons of games totally free (and that’s the reason why we don’t have a complete list of Underground Games) that are wonderful just like, if not more, their commercial counterparts. Difference is that we can distinctly count the commercially released titles, why we can’t do it for freely released games. That’s the only distinction I see and I don’t see disrespectful at all.

Jackal Jackal
Feb 7, 2009

EDIT: Whoops, I see Andrea beat me to this, but for what it’s worth: Matt, you can call it disrespectful if you want, but the fact is, none of this year’s Underground or Indie games would have seriously competed for any of the other awards, so it was a way to acknowledge them otherwise. I suppose it’s possible those developers would prefer nothing over conditional recognition, but I rather doubt it. Fienepien, the blog issue is about a trend, not the impact or relevance of a single game. What one game does acceptably isn’t necessarily a welcome thing for the genre as a whole. Either way, that particular discussion can continue there if you want to pursue it further.

Abnaxus Abnaxus
Feb 8, 2009

Adventure Game of the Year Award - wow sounds so good !

sierramindy
Feb 8, 2009

I ‘ve only played 8 games in the above list of eligible games and 4 of them were big winners in my book even if not in the Aggies nominations, except for one and that was only in the sound category. How ironic for me since I never pay attention to sound or music in a game. I would post my list but I’m not sure that is allowed.

AndreaDraco83
Feb 8, 2009

@sierramindy: in a couple of days or so you’ll get the chance to express your opinion for every category. Plus, if you want you can further discuss our nominations and yours on the forum Grin

Jackal Jackal
Feb 8, 2009

Actually, I’d love to hear people’s own nominations here as well. Not the entire list, but any key categories of particular importance to people. But yeah, the reader poll is coming soon. Smile

Matan
Feb 9, 2009

It’s weird for me to see Apollo Justice nominated in “Best Concept” for the lies-detecting mechanic. I actually thought that was the weakest aspect of that game.

dekaneas297 dekaneas297
Feb 9, 2009

I think there should be more nominees in each category (maybe 5). By limiting the number of nominees you may elude the risk of having a ‘draw’ (or very close call) for the overall best game, but you also face the the accusation of ‘guiding’ the users what to vote.
I don’t think there can’t be found two more nominess in each category

Jackal Jackal
Feb 9, 2009

Matan, keep in mind that the Best Concept award is for the idea itself, not necessarily how well it was implemented. (Although I think it’s safe to say that others liked Apollo’s more than you. Wink Dekaneas, these games are simply the finalists. All games were eligible originally, and more than these were nominated. Just not by enough people to make the finals. The Readers’ Choice poll isn’t limited to these options, by the way. All eligible games will be available for voting. I’m confident that people will gladly ignore us if their opinions differ. Grin

Matan
Feb 10, 2009

Jackal, I actually really liked the game and the Ace Attorney series is one of my favorites. Specifically, I thought the lie-detecting skill was very weak because it was basically an extreme form of pixel hunting where you are allowed to look only at a small portion of the picture at any given time, and also you’re pixel hunting in 3 dimensions, where the 3rd dimension is time (because you’re searching in a movie of the testimony, and also because you’re searching in different phrases of that testimony). It was a real pain, because every time I couldn’t find a contradicting evidence and pressing didn’t help, I just had to go through all the iffy parts in the testimony and pixel-hunt. There was no logic or fun to it.

But I guess other people did like it if it came to be one of the final nominations, though I still wonder why…

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