2014 Aggie Award Nominees

AG generic
AG generic

It’s time, ladies and gentlemen, for the moment you’ve been waiting for all year… the nominee finalists of the 1995 Aggie Awards!

...

Wait, what?

Oh, sorry. We were confused momentarily by the list of games up for awards this year: a 2D Broken Sword adventure, the return of Tex Murphy, a new game from Jane Jensen (not to mention a Gabriel Knight remake, though remakes aren’t eligible for Aggies). We’d list the new Tim Schafer adventure too, but we all know what happened to that game "broken" into halves. Oh how you tease us, Double Fine – next year, next year. The long-awaited first Dreamfall chapter was released as well, though as with Telltale’s current episodic stories, the latest Longest Journey opus from Ragnar Tørnquist and company will need to duke it out after completion in 2015.

While the year marked the comeback of several venerable design legends, there was no shortage of other contenders. Oddly, not a single original Daedalic production saw the light of day, but plenty of others filled in the slack. And once again, the fabulous diversity of looks and styles and goals offered a little something for everyone (and apparently a little something for everyone to complain about).

This isn’t a day for complaints, however, but for celebration. And a little teasing of our own, as we are pleased to unveil the top five nominee finalists for each award. Except the final one, of course. That would be a major spoiler.

As happens every year, it was painful just to reduce each list to five, forcing us to “snub” other favourites fully worthy of consideration. But just as in the end there can be only one, in the middle there can be only five. Even so, a whopping 28 games made the cut in one category or another. Well done, developers!

You’ll notice that we’ve eliminated the “Best Independent Adventure” award this year, not because we’re lazy (okay, maybe partly that), but because it ultimately proved redundant. Its original intent was to give the little guy (and gal) a shot at victory that might otherwise be dominated by deep-pocketed production companies. But a funny thing happened on the way to the podium – the little gal (and guy) didn’t need the help! Mind you, 90% of the genre’s developers ARE little independents, but even those who aren’t have their work cut out for them to topple the best and brightest adventure designers working for themselves.

Before you get up in arms over our choices, rest assured that you'll have an opportunity to put your ballot where your mouth is in our upcoming reader poll. The final Aggie Awards presentation will run from Wednesday to Friday, February 18-20th, so stay tuned!
 



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.

 

Best Writing – Comedy


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

 

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.

 

Best Character


Gabriel Knight... April Ryan... Guybrush Threepwood. These names roll off the tongue of any adventure gamer as a testament to the importance of compelling protagonists in an adventure. But just as important are the villains, sidekicks, and significant supporting characters, which are often the juiciest parts. This category recognizes those who have made the most memorable contribution, regardless of role.

Bigby Wolf, The Wolf Among Us

 

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, all suitably integrated into the storyline. The best games seek the right balance of these elements for the most rewarding gameplay experience.

 

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. 

 

Best Setting


Adventures can transport us to memorable places we’ve never been before, including those we never even imagined. Or perhaps to locales we’ve visited before, but never quite like this, making them feel fresh and new and awe-inspiring all over again. In these games, the setting is like an integral character of its own, inseparable from the story taking place within its borders.

 

Best Graphic Design


If a picture is worth a thousand words, this category speaks volumes. Regardless of style, this award recognizes 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…!” This award includes both game world and character design, but not cinematics.

 

Best Animation


From “bustling” city streets that look deserted to clouds that never move, animation in adventure games 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.

 

Best Music


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

 

Best Voice Acting


Often under-valued by publishers but never by gamers, quality voice acting can enhance a player’s investment in characters as surely as poor acting can ruin it. With so much international localization, voice-overs 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.

 

Best Sound Effects


As with music, sound effects are frequently given short shrift in adventures, but effective use of audio adds a vital layer of moody 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 subconsciously.

 

Best Console/Handheld Adventure (Exclusive)


The home console and handheld platforms haven’t quite championed a genre resurgence like we once hoped they might, but there were still several quality titles released in the past year. To avoid duplication, the following includes only those games exclusive to non-PC platforms. Ports of past games are not deemed to be original releases, and are therefore ineligible.

 

Best Non-Traditional Adventure


For a genre that’s remained largely unchanged for decades, it’s actually got a rich history of experimental titles that push the creative envelope in unique, memorable ways. They don’t “evolve” or “redefine” adventures, but rather expand our understanding of what an adventure can we with their bold vision. Purists may resist, but this award honours those games that stretch beyond traditional genre conventions to offer something completely new, or at least present the familiar in imaginative new ways.

 

Best Traditional Adventure


Why mess with a good thing? While innovative adventures provide a welcome breath of fresh air, the lifeblood of the genre continues to be the many games that closely adhere to the comfortable, tried-and-true design formulas. Full of inventory and logic puzzles, memorable character dialogue, epic storylines and immersive exploration, they may not have changed much since Monkey Island and Myst – or even the original Zork for some – but they’re no less enjoyable when done well.

 

Best Adventure of 2014


Ohhhh, no you don’t! What do you think this is, a walkthrough? Puzzle it out for yourselves for the next couple weeks, and meet us back here for the grand unveiling.

Continued on the next page...


Comments

Advie Advie
Feb 6, 2015

Come on, come on.. Randals Monday for best Music ..or nothing!

Edit/Add: well its good we still have TJD Chapter2 Smile

Mikekelly Mikekelly
Feb 6, 2015

THANK U for including Danganronpa 1 and 2!

jimrh69 jimrh69
Feb 6, 2015

I’m VERY SAD That Bobby James Epic score for Tesla Effect isn’t on the list!  Everyone should do themselves a favor and go download it from your favorite music store, listen to it and check it out Smile

Frogacuda Frogacuda
Feb 6, 2015

Agreed that Tesla Effect’s score is worthy. I’d also give it a nod for acting, even though it’s uneven in that regard, just because it had some really stand-out performances.

This was a great year for adventure games, both traditional and non-traditional. 2015 should be interesting as well. For once I feel like the genre is on the rise again, even if it’s never going to be the mainstream it once was.

I agree that the soundtracks for Tesla Effect were great!

Iznogood Iznogood
Feb 7, 2015

Go Blackwell!

Jabod
Feb 7, 2015

I’m in agreement re Tesla’s soundtrack. How that isn’t included is astounding.

Good to see Blackwell Epiphany well represented though.

jimrh69 jimrh69
Feb 7, 2015

And considering the score for Tesla Effect was really a one man effort (Bobby James) is even MORE amazing!

Jackal Jackal
Feb 7, 2015

Tesla Effect’s music was very good. So were these five. And others that didn’t make the cut. Choosing to be “appalled” that one’s favourite didn’t make it rather than be impressed that there are so many brilliant soundtracks this year pretty much misses the entire point of the Aggies.

jimrh69 jimrh69
Feb 7, 2015

Your right Jackal ( Appalled) was harsh on my part. I was just so surprised it wasn’t included. I’ve gone back and made a few changes to my pryer post.

Jackal Jackal
Feb 7, 2015

Wording aside, I just really really REALLY want people to treat this whole thing for exactly what it is: a fun way to celebrate great accomplishments, even when it means others get left out.

Like the article intro says, it WAS painful to get each list down to five. We had lots of great candidates and had to make many extremely tough calls. We’d love to recognize them all, but we have to draw the line somewhere.

jimrh69 jimrh69
Feb 7, 2015

Your absolutely right Jackal….. My apologies to everyone here for my narrow minded behavior….. I am sorry.

Jackal Jackal
Feb 7, 2015

No no, don’t feel bad. Just have some fun! And by all means, disagree all you want. That’s part of the fun. Smile  And it’s a great way to give a shout-out to other games that didn’t make the list. I would just hope no one takes any omission personally.

(You wouldn’t be trying to influence the upcoming reader vote, though, would you? Wink )

jimrh69 jimrh69
Feb 7, 2015

No…. No I wouldn’t Wink

Jackal Jackal
Feb 7, 2015

(I was only teasing about the reader vote, in case that wasn’t clear.)

Ahenobarbus Ahenobarbus
Feb 7, 2015

I was little surprised too that Tesla Effect wasn`t included to best music list. In my books it was definitely the best music score 2014. There were many games with strong soundtracks last year, but personally I would have dropped Moebius off.
Robert Holmes is still one of my favourites but GK and Gray Matter tracks are so much better than tracks in Moebius. It was missing something but I`m sure there are fans who liked Moebius music too. I think Moebius` strong point was writing so it could have been nominated there at best writing (drama) category (instead?), because Jane simply knows how to write.

All in all 2014 was very strong year and it`s nice to see so many games listed here! Good times Smile

Oscar Oscar
Feb 8, 2015

I would have thought the Best Gameplay category would be an opportunity to include one of the more innovative titles of 2015, Ether One. While I like the games that were included, if Blackwell Epiphany, Valiant Hearts or Broken Sword 5 win then we might as well be in 1995. Optional puzzles which are also highly rewarding is something the Adventure Gaming community has been calling out for, for a long time.

Jackal Jackal
Feb 8, 2015

Valiant Hearts is anything but an old-school adventure. As for the other two, great gameplay is great gameplay, whether 1995 or 2015. Innovation is only one consideration, and really not the biggest one. At least, not to us.

Optional puzzles is more a “concept” issue, as they don’t necessarily make for better gameplay. (Incidentally, I’d say that optional solutions is the much, much bigger demand from gamers. But that’s neither here nor there.)

Oscar Oscar
Feb 8, 2015

The question is, does the gameplay of Valiant Hearts contain anything you wouldn’t find in a old-school game, adventure or otherwise? Combining timed sequences combined with ‘fetch the item’ quests isn’t particularly innovative or exciting in my view, even taking into account the multiple character switching.

The tired old concept of puzzles as obstacles to get past to receive more linear narrative is too often a pitfall for adventure developers. Optional solutions can help, but I found the gameplay of Ether One innovative on a whole other level. The idea of gradually filling in a totally open world of memories to complete the story really motivated you to solve puzzles, explore and make deductions. I think this was mentioned in the review.

I loved many aspects of Valiant Hearts but it seemed odd to single out the gameplay.

Conditional Love Conditional Love
Feb 8, 2015

Where is Ether ONE & MIND Frown I suppose I do have Ethan Carter to vote for in 2 minor awards. AG is prejudiced against Myst-likes Frown

Jackal Jackal
Feb 9, 2015

Conditional Love, you can vote for whatever you like. The reader vote isn’t limited to our final nominees.

But don’t be silly about being prejudiced. We just didn’t think either game was better than the other 70-odd eligible games in any category.

zane
Feb 9, 2015

safe to say phoenix vs layton is going to win the console category.. and thats kind of a shame IMO. Its a game that doesnt really do full justice to puzzle quality of either series its made of. And the plot twist at the end was one of the worst iv ever seen. (granted, layton series does some bad plot twists… still wish they left that aspect out though..). Meanwhile, id say DR1 was as good as the best in the phoenix series.. very fun all around experience.

SoccerDude SoccerDude
Feb 9, 2015

Just curious why Kentuky Route Zero is eligible for rewards, when it is only act 3, whereas other games like Broken Age for example are not?

Jackal Jackal
Feb 10, 2015

Ideally we’d hold all episodic adventures until the end, but we’ve made concessions for those series that are literally going to take YEARS to finish, if at all (as most episodic indies do not).

In any case, we don’t really consider Broken Age to be episodic. It’s just a single game broken into halves as a bit of a cheat.

zane
Feb 11, 2015

yeah i think that if a game calls itself episodic and theres gaps of nearly years between it releasing…. its not really episodic anymore.

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