Thursday, 13 March 2014

BAFTA Games Awards

I like any excuse to get into a suit, and today (as I begin writing this) for the first time ever I was able to associate my normal wedding attire with an event based around video games (of which I normally associate wearing lounge pants and XXL hoodies). Yes I went to the BAFTA Games Awards, and as this was the first year that members of the public could enter I feel quite privileged to have gone! During the day, the Tobacco Docks venue also hosted a small exhibition of select games for people to try.

The Inside Games Showcase 2014 was the first event of it's kind for BAFTA, and so I expected it to be a very small 'convention-esqe' environment... and I wasn't wrong. But that was ok! I was able to move and breathe as it wasn't too busy. On arrival my first point of call (and also my highlight of the day) was the Elite: Dangerous Stand where I tried the game, and also Oculus Rift for the first time. There was a bit of a wait, partly due to Dara O Briain getting a cheeky VIP pass to cut the queue! But hey, I forgive him; he wasn't a hog. I only had a brief encounter with an enemy ship using the Oculus before giving up my seat - but it was definitely worth the wait! I loved the immersion, and I definitely felt that for a game such as this, Oculus was the only way it should be played!

-Image taken from the Elite: Dangerous website, see the link below-

The Square Enix stand boasted a demo of their game Murdered: Soul Suspect, a ghost detective game of which I haven't been following. I was curious though, and so I attempted to immerse myself in the opening sequence and beginning of the mystery... I'll be honest, it wasn't a great environment to 'settle down and relax' in, and so sitting though the actual opening cinematic became very tedious and uncomfortable. I would have preferred a brief blurb or brief cinematic, describing the scenario in which you begin, so as to start the gameplay as quickly as possible. Other people were playing for more than 15 minutes due to the slow pace of the game. The gameplay itself struck me as a cross between LA Noire and Beyond: Two Souls, but seemed to lack substance in comparison to the former (I haven't played enough of the latter to be able to say). LA Noire definitely made me think about the cases, and despite the story being linear, you could still get things wrong in the end. With Soul Suspect, I felt that my 'detectivities' (yes I just made that up, and I like it) were little more than spoon-fed button interactions made until the 'clues found' counter reached maximum. I can appreciate the concept - a murdered detective is stuck in limbo, doomed to walk the earth forever as a spirit, until he can resolve his affairs and solve the mystery - it's definitely interesting. However, I felt that some gameplay mechanics had been tagged onto what was already a weak detective mechanic. Possessing people and reading their, sometimes very game-clich├ęd thoughts, felt like a cheat and I found myself jumping from body to body reading minds just to bank a load of clues into my notes for me to look at later. The antagonist element is in the form of demons that want to consume your soul, and here is where the other weak mechanic comes to play. After running from a demon, you can hide in the (and please don't quote me on this phrasing) 'residue of ghosts'. This basically appears in the form of white, cloudy hiding points between which you can instantaneously jump after pressing a trigger until the demon simply loses interest. Then creep up behind the demon and execute it... Oh and you can walk through walls but not all walls... The demo itself had dialogue audio out of sync and sometime missing altogether, as well as subtitles out of sync. I hope the finished product is a well polished and engrossing murder mystery that will entertain many of you, but I can't see myself enjoying this unfortunately. Anyway this was way too much of a critique based on 10 minutes of gameplay!

I have some negative points to make about the day time event unfortunately. For a start the food on site ran out within an hour and a half of opening, and the nearest restaurant was a petrol station hole-in-the-wall McDonalds... not the highlight of the day. The other problem I had was the interviews being made by multiple networks during the day physically got in the way of us average Joes as we attempted to move around the small venue spaces. I think this could've been thought out better. It was advertised that the day event would finish at 6:30pm, but many stalls closed and started packing up between 5 and 5:30pm. I hadn't taken this into account and unfortunately couldn't play any Metal Gear Solid. Oh well!

I don't want to be entirely negative as I really did enjoy the majority of the day and the points I've made above were ultimately not enough to ruin that. So the other highlights included finally trying Plants Vs  Zombies: Garden Warfare, Octodad and Tearaway all of which are awesome fun in their own rights.

Onto the actual award ceremony! After a brief drinks reception we entered the venue, which has an industrial, yet warm and comfortable air about it. There was unfortunately a problem with one of the 4 projectors and as the signal became more and more unreliable I couldn't help feeling embarrassed about it (due to my other line of work as an event technician). I learnt to ignore this as the event began. Dara was on top form as host, however some of the award presenters were fairly lack-lustre in entertainment value - but this is the way of most award ceremonies! Some of them were trying their hardest to not come across as patronising to the game developer community, but by doing so they almost inadvertently did the opposite. Stephen Moffat for example described games as being a brand new art form and kind of writing, and how they are going to own the future. Games have been art for longer than he realises methinks. Other ramblings involved jokes about putting brains in holograms etc, nothing note-worthy really. Presenting the award for best game was the one and only Carol Vorderman.... the tip top A-class of the broadcasting mathematicians (a dying breed). The most prolific presentation, the Fellowship award, was done by the legend Hideo Kojima, who had to enjoy (or perhaps endure) Dara pointing out the flaws of using a cardboard box as a hiding place from highly trained soldiers. Not sure if he totally understood the context but I'm sure he got the reference!

I really enjoyed the event and am thoroughly grateful to have gone. I hope the new format is continued and improved upon as the years go by, especially the day time showcase. I also hope that the members of the public who didn't understand the dress code of an award ceremony this year get their act together next time! I also want to say how happy I am that Lucas Pope received an award for Papers, Please as this is an incredibly innovative title worthy of all the nominations it received. It says a lot about the quality of the individual, and the passion and drive that goes into creativity and design, that a game of this caliber won an award. Just think of what he could do amongst a team of like minded people. It's a reminder that every 'cog in the machine' is an artist in their own right. Papers, Please is an inspiration to me, and I hope the indie scene in general. Finally (as this post has been lengthy) here are the winners of the 2014 BAFTA Games Awards (in announcement order) in case you haven't caught up yet. Thanks for reading. - oP

Action and Adventure The Last of Us

British Game GTA V

Original Music BioShock Infinite

Story The Last of Us

Strategy and Simulation Papers, Please

Artistic Achievement Tearaway

Audio Achievement The Last of Us

Sport FIFA 14

Family Tearaway

Game Innovation Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

Mobile & Handheld Tearaway

Ones To Watch Award Size DOES Matter

Game Design GTA V

Multiplayer GTA V

Debut Game Gone Home

Best Game The Last of Us

Performer Ashley Johnson (Ellie) The Last of Us

Fellowship Rockstar Games

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