This is one of my favorite times of year. This is the month in which the annual awards are given by the major gaming publications. This is the month that makes it easy to catch up on the happenings of the gaming world. Need something to blow that Christmas cash on? Check the lists. Cannot remember the name of that really great strategy game that was released in May? Check the lists. Need something to read while waiting in line for a parking place at the mall? Print the lists. Add the sudden increase in size of the bargain bins and clearance sections that typically appears around this time of year, and the month of December is a gamers paradise.


    Unfortunately, the lists do not tell the whole story. Some events of the past year are left out, and some awards are just not given. Never fear! With a fearlessly inflated ego, Salem shall step into the breach and bring you the one, the only… The Only Year End Awards Article You Really Need To Read! So, without further ado, let the OYEAAYRNTR begin!

    First up, the award for Worst Game Title goes to….. Final Fantasy X-2. No, despite the name, this is not an experimental aircraft. Nor is it a bad way of writing Final Fantasy 12. Nope, this is bad game naming on steroids. Final Fantasy XI is a separate game from X-2. X-2 is apparently somewhat a spin off of the main Final Fantasy line, or at least of the main Final Fantasy naming scheme. No doubt some will disagree, but whenever the name of a game in a well established franchise leaves you scratching your head, something is amiss. Or there are experimental aircraft involved. One of the two.

    Next, the award for Best Move by a Gaming Company goes to….. Infrogrames Interactive for changing their name to the much more recognizable and easily pronounceable Atari. On a side note, it is comforting to see best selling games bear the Atari name once again. However, there is a realm of possibilities not yet explored that this move has opened up. Imagine if games under the old Atari label could be morphed onto some of the games in the new Atari label. How about a new unit in Civilization 3 that grows longer every time it destroys something? No? Ah, well… at least I no longer will spend hours wondering if the ?a? in Infrogrames is long or short. This change of name is definitely the best corporate move of the year for that reason alone.

    And in the Worst Corporate Move category….. Vivendi gets the nod for exiling one of the most visible and popular faces in gaming today. Bill Roper?s exodus from Blizzard made headlines in most gaming publications, and in many publications that have nothing to do with the industry as well. This would be comparable to ID showing its founders the door, or Apple dumping Steve Jobs (again). Leaving Blizzard has done nothing to hurt Roper?s popularity. In fact, it almost seems as if he is giving more interviews now than ever before. All Vivendi accomplished by this move was the creation of a new rival staffed with talented developers and enjoying the skills of one of the best public relations people in the business. That boneheaded blunder easily qualifies for Worst Move of the year.

    Now, in the category of Biggest Thud, given to the game that enjoyed a unique combination of incredible hype and disappointing reviews, the winner is….. Republic: The Revolution. The reason all the drool laden previews suddenly stopped is because the game finally came out. Big mistake, that. This thing was a game of the year candidate just because of its innovation and promised depth. After its arrival, though, Republic fell off the map so fast Columbus would have reconsidered his views on a round world. Look for this game in a bargain bin near you early next year. And if it is there, it may be worth grabbing. I suspect that Republic :The Revolution is the first of a long series of game to attempt this style of game play. Remember, it is rare for the first iteration of a new idea to succeed. Best wishes to the heir of this earth shaking disappointment.

    The award for Most Pride Swallowed goes to Firaxis. Last year around Christmas Civilization 3:Play the World arrived. And it did not work. The highly anticipated multiplayer component was broken out of the box, and efforts at patching the game took some time to yield results. So Mr. Sid and gang went back to the drawing board and cooked up a new expansion pack for Civilization 3, called Civilization 3:Conquests. They quietly fixed the multiplayer while adding new tribes and features, and finally published an expansion pack worthy of the Civilization 3 title about a year after the disappointing Play the World. The easy thing for Firaxis would have been to write off the series and distract the public with hype over whatever the next Civilization-style game will be. Instead, Firaxis admitted the game still needed work, and provided the fix. Play the World is included in Conquests. Conquests might have arrived even if Play the World had worked. We may never know. But that does not matter. Firaxis deserves credit for cleaning up their own mess, and Salem?s Fire is happy to provide it. If only they had provided a discount to those of us who bought Play the World…

    And that wraps up this exciting edition of the OYEAAYRNTR. Happy Holidays and toasted marshmallows from Salem?s Fire. May your bargain bin hunts be ever fruitful!

    Disclaimer: Salem?s Fire was written by Luke Blaize during 2002-2004, and hosted by Diabloii.net. The opinions expressed in these columns are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Diii.net.

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