Rift, Minecraft, EverQuest Honored at GDC Awards

The second annual Game Developers Choice Online Awards ceremony was held last night at GDC Online, and both Rift and Minecraft took home the top honors with two awards each. Rift earned awards for Best New Online Game and Best Online Technology, while Minecraft received the Best Live Game and Best Community Relations awards. Wizard101 pick up the Audience Award, which is voted on by gamers worldwide.

It's also important to note that EverQuest was inducted into the Choice Online Awards Hall of Fame. The classic MMO is in its 12th year of operation and has a new expansion scheduled to launch next month. Last year's inductee was Ultima Online.

You can view the full list of winners after the jump.

ZAM Offers Free GDC Online Expo Passes

Do you want to attend GDC Online at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas from October 11-12? Then you'll want to register for the conference using the above "PREXZAM" code to get a free Expo Pass! The pass generally costs $149, so this code offers quite a value to anyone interested in learning more about the online gaming industry. The "PREXZAM" code is good for 25 uses and is available on a first-come, first-served basis. If you want a free pass, use the code as soon as possible before it's gone!

This Two-Day Expo Pass Includes:

  • Access to the GDC Online Expo Floor on Tuesday, Oct. 11 and Wednesday, Oct. 12.
  • Entrance to GDC Online hosted events.
  • Access to the Game Developers Choice Online Awards Ceremony on Wednesday, Oct. 12.
  • Complimentary access to three conference sessions that are pre-determined by show management and are on a first-come, first served basis.
  • Due to safety concerns, no one under the age of 18 (including infants in strollers), will be permitted at GDC Online.

Senior Staff Writer Chris "Pwyff" Tom recently had the opportunity to speak with Tom Abernathy about the Game Narrative Summit and Gordon Walton about the Virtual Items Summit. They provide an interesting look into video game writing and how the market has changed for online gaming. If they make you want to attend GDC Online, then use "PREXZAM" to get your free pass!

Gordon Walton: GDC Online's Virtual Items Summit

In the world of online gaming, no issue has divided the populace more cleanly than the concept of virtual goods and their relationship to real world values. To some, virtual goods are little bits of code, tucked away on some distant server, ready to be changed, rebalanced or even made obsolete at the whim of a bored content designer. To others, however, virtual goods can be just as tangible as any other real-world purchase, as the utility and entertainment a virtual purchase might bring in game can be equated to any real world hobby that requires some sort of monetary upkeep.

Regardless of where you or I stand on this issue, it's clear that the online gaming industry is on the move, as evidenced by the big free-to-play microtransaction shift that has swept the North American MMORPG industry, or Blizzard's recent announcement that Diablo III will feature a real money auction house for players to sell items, gold and even character accounts.

With all of these new monetization models being explored in online gaming, discussion on the topic has become more important than ever before, and this is why GDC Online (Oct. 10-13) is hosting a Virtual Items Summit to explore the ways virtual goods can help studios around the world. Recently, I sat down with GDC Advisory Board Member Gordon Walton, who is also a VP and Executive Producer at Playdom (previously the VP and co-general manager at BioWare), to talk about the monetization of social games, virtual goods, and MMORPGs.

Tom Abernathy: GDC Online's Game Narrative Summit

As someone who went to school to study the more traditional narrative mediums (screenplays, novels, print journalism), the industry of video game writing has always been a fascinating topic for me. Novelists, journalists and even screenwriters (well, the writer-directors) can craft their narratives with great authority, knowing that the product and reality that they want to present will usually be the one they write down.

With video game writers, however, the experience is never purely their own, as game writers often need to make their voices heard over dozens of other contributors, some of whom believe that a large axe is a valid substitution for character motivation (and they may be right!). Of course, should you be a part of a team where sensible plots are appreciated, trying to present a meaningful story alongside an enjoyable game is still a huge challenge that even the best development teams in the world struggle with.

But this industry is not all gloomy for aspiring game writers, as long as we have fantastic events like this year's Game Narrative Summit, taking place at GDC Online in Austin, Texas, from October 10-13. It's been recently announced that award-winning writer Neal Stephenson will keynote this year's Game Narrative Summit, with the summit itself featuring sessions and lectures from some huge industry names like Valve writers Eric Wolpaw, Marc Laidlaw, Chet Faliszek and Jay Pinkerton, as well as BioWare's Wynn McLaughlin, Blake Rebouche and Hall Hood, in addition to Telltale Games' Dave Grossman. To find out more about this growing narrative industry, I sat down with Game Narrative Summit Advisory Board member Tom Abernathy, who is also a narrative designer at Microsoft Studios (and formerly Pandemic Studios).