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The 2nd Annual Game Developers Choice Awards posted 3/24 at 12:00:04 AM PST by Gaiiden

The 2nd Annual Game Developers Choice Awards (GDCA) were held in the Civic Auditorium, across the street from the convention center, at 7:30 Thursday night.

A whole lotta developers wait outside the Civic
Scott Uhler and Brian Hoffer from iSeeSoft all pumped up

The place wasn't exactly packed, but the turnout was quite impressive nonetheless. Looking back at the crowd from the front you can see a lot of filled seats at the center for both the top and bottom levels. Tables were set up in front of the stage for the nominees. There were five screens placed about - two giant projection screens on either side of the stage and two flat-panel LCD monitors in front of the stage showed game footage of the nominees as they were announced while a third giant projection screen above center stage showed the video feed aimed at the podium. A live band on stage provided the ambient music.

Big screens. Cooool
A finger!?! NOOO!!!
Nominee table shots

The awards ceremony kicked off with a speech from Alex Dunne from Gamasutra.com, who also presented all the awards to the IGF finalist winners. I know we have this covered but here they are again, with pictures! I think I lost a lot of the visual quality because I ran the images through an exposure filter to get better light, sorry. I hate tradeoffs...

Seumas McNally Grand Prize: "Bad Milk" by DreamingMedia

Two very surprised brothers accept the award

Innovation in Game Design: "Insaniquarium" by Flying Bear Entertainment

I didn't catch it, but George was so happy he combat rolled partway to the podium

Innovation in Visual Arts: "Banja Taiyo" by Team cHmAn

Team cHmAn

Innovation in Audio: "Bad Milk" by DreamingMedia

This was their first surprise. They never considered themselves on this list.

Technical Excellence: "Ace of Angels" by Flying Rock Enterprises

The Flying Rock team in attendance accepts their new dev station

Audience Award: "Kung Fu Chess" by Shizmoo

Considering KFC tied with Bejeweled in CGW's Best Online Game, this was kind of a given

After the IGF was out of the way, Greame Devine (id Software/IGDA) and Jennifer Pahlka (Gama Network) came onstage to introduce the GDCA finalists. They focused on the fact that the GDCA were awards that were chosen by developers, not by any committee or such fashion, which makes them a legitimate award based on peer review.

Pahlka and Devine

After their speech the podium was turned over to Mark Cerny (Cerny Games) and Warren Spector (ION Storm Austin) to announce the award for Excellence in Game Design. It was funny that the announcer called him "Warren Spencer" before immediately correcting himself. Poor guy can't catch a break :P

Cerny and Spencer - err, Spector

The winner for Excellence in Game Design was GTA3 team for game play in Grand Theft Auto III. Their response? "Thank you," followed by a prompt exit. Typical of a team that made GTA III don't you think? :)

The GTA III team saying "thank you and goodbye!"

Next came Marcus Maki (Remedy Entertainment) and Gabe Newell (Valve Software) to announce the award for the Rookie Studio. This award recognizes the outstanding achievement of a rookie game development studio that released its first publicly available game title in 2001.

Maki and Newell

The winner for Rookie Studio was Bohemia Interactive Studio for their game Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis. Their response was encouraging, stating that they are a small team from a small country, and look where they have gotten.

Bohemia gives thanks and encouragement

The award for Excellence in Level Design was presented by American McGee (carbon6) and Samantha Ryan (MonoLith).

Need...filters... *gasp* talk about sucky photo situations...

The award went to Fumito Ueda & team for level design in Ico. Fumito himself was very funny, approaching the podium and saying "thank you very much, though, I do not speak English very well." After this he rattled off a short speech in Japanese. A team member stepped forward and translated the speech as Fumito being extremely happy and thankful for the award.

Fumito can't speak very good english - luckily someone on the team can

The Game Innovation Spotlights were presented next by Alex Jarett (IGDA), Jason Rubin (Naughty Dog), and Tobi Saulnier (Vicarious Visions). The Spotlights are five similar awards based not on genre or platform but on games that demonstrate innovation and advance the state of the art of games.

Alex! Your face!

And the winners were…

Black & White (Lionhead Studios)

The Black & White team in attendance

Grand Theft Auto III (DMA Design/Rockstar Games)

At least they stuck around this time...

Ico (Sony Computer Entertainment, Inc.)

Nope, he still can't speak English very well

Majestic (Electronic Arts)

the Oh Crap I Have a Fax at 2am game

Rez (United Game Artists)

rates from Japan must be high this year...

Tetsuya Mizuguchi (United Game Artists) and Matt Uelmen (Blizzard) presented the Excellence in Audio award next.

Mizuguchi and Uelman

The award for Excellence in Audio went to Marty O'Donnell & team for sound effects in Halo: Combat Evolved.

Marty O'Donnell accepts his award

Next came a strange-sounding award - the First Penguin Award, which was presented by Hal Barwood (LucasArts Entertainment) and Neil Young (Electronic Arts). As Hal explained it, penguins have developed an interesting method for testing the water against sharks. The penguins would gather around a hole, until one brave enough would dive in. The rest would wait and if they didn't see a cloud of blood, they too would jump in. The First Penguin Award honors the ones who take risks while everyone else waits to see what happens.

Barwood and Young

This year's First Penguin Award went to Hubert Chardot, from Infogrames for his work on Alone in the Dark, which basically sparked the horror genre. Alone in the Dark was a game no one wanted made, yet Chardot and team made it anyways, and now it has 3 sequels.

Hubert Chardot accepts his Penguin Award

Alright we're halfway there - stick with me now! :) The next award, Excellence in Visual Arts, was presented by Julian Eggebrecht (Factor 5) and Alex Rigopulos (Harmonix Music Systems).

Eggebrecht and Rigopulos

Fumito Ueda & team for art direction in Ico strike again, taking home their third award. By now Fumito just steps up to the podium and rattles off a short thank-you in Japanese, which is promptly translated.

Fumitsu and Team take the honors... again

Moving right along, we come to Original Character of the Year. This award is pretty neat since it recognizes an actual game character rather than a person (directly, anyways). The award was presented by Yoot Saito (Vivarium) and Chris Taylor (Gas Powered Games).

Saito and Taylor

Daxter from Jak & Daxter: The Precursor Legacy nabbed this award.

The co-founders of Bioware Corp., Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk, presented the next award, which was the IGDA Award for Community Contribution.

Zeschuk and Muzyka

Jeff Lander was recognized with this award for all his help in fostering the game development community through the IGDA, such as speaking regularly, helping others, pushing for student outreach, and starting the Los Angeles chapter of the IGDA.

Jeff Lander giving his community spiel - he's also up for election onto the IGDA board of directors

Next came the award for Excellence in Programming, which was handed out by Rob Heubner (Nihilistic Software) and David Perry (Shiny Entertainment).

Heubner and Perry

This year's award went to Richard Evans for the artificial intelligence in Black & White, something basically everyone foresaw and is certainly well deserved.

The introduction on this year's recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award was done by last year's recipient, Will Wright (Maxis).

Will Wright

Yuji Naka (Sonic Team/Sega) was recognized this year for almost 20 years in the game development industry, first joining Sega as a programmer back in 1984. He is best known as the creator of Sonic the Hedgehog, Sega's long-time mascot, as well as the man behind the Phantasy Star games.

Aha! This one came prepared. Of course, he had the advantage of knowing beforehand he was the recipient...

Finally (finally! :) Lucy Bradshaw from Maxis presented the Game of the Year award.

Lucy Bradshaw

This year's Game of the Year? Grand theft Auto III (DMA Design/Rockstar Games)

"Holy shit!" was the exclamation

From my point of view, the GDCA was a great success this year, as it was last year. The presentation of the awards was quick and professional, reminding me a lot of the Academy Awards, although nowhere near the style and flair of course! Can you imagine game developers getting all dressed up in suits and whatnot? I think not! :) While the GDCA should strive to become a professional event, it should still retain the looseness that makes the game development industry what it is. The awards are definitely becoming more serious to developers as well - Jason Della Rocca has stated that he was approached by developers who were disappointed that they hadn't won anything. Of note on that subject would be the absence of a single award for Max Payne, even though it had five nominations.

Congratulations to all the winners!