epona_blue_ribbon_281×211.jpgA horse is a horse, of course, of course...

But not these horses.

Two weeks ago, we announced our year-long quest to find the Greatest Animal In Video Game History. First, we proposed a list of the best virtual horses and asked you, the readers, to tell us if we missed any. Then comes phase two today: the official vote.

Now this is serious business, folks. For our Blue Ribbon Panel, we went to straight to the top:

  • A pretty good game creator -- Ken Levine, President and Creative Director of 2K Boston and chief creative force behind the 2007 GOTGOTY
  • A pretty good artist -- Mike "Gabe" Krahulik, illustrator of the "Penny Arcade" webcomic
  • A pretty good writer -- Leigh Alexander, editor of Worlds in Motion, writer at Gamasutra and her blog Sexy Videogameland
  • A pretty knowledgeable person about animals --Tofuburger, co-founder of cultural phenomenon/funny animal picture blog I Can Has Cheezburger

After weighting each judge's top three choices -- many of which, were, uh, shocking -- the winner turned out to be...

Epona from the "Legend of Zelda" series. Pokemon's Rapidash came in at a close second. The horses from "World of Warcraft" tied with Hannah the Horse from "Zoo Race" for third place.

And the Readers' Choice winner: Agro from "Shadow of the Colossus." (Epona was a distant second.)

Are the judges out of touch? Or do they know something the rest of us don't? They are pros, after all. You've got to see what they picked and their justifications (provided in words and pictures). So read on.

Take it away, Ken Levine...

GOGOTY Mash-Up -- Apologies To Acitivision, Nintendo and 2K(UPDATE: More Outlets Added)

Are you also tired about reading other people's 2007 Game Of The Year lists?

Do you yearn to learn something of greater significance?

Well then I'd like to tell you what the Game Of The Game Of The Year is for 2007. See, in gaming, all accolades are measured as averages. So it is with Metacritic. So it is with the GOTGOTY. It matters not what any single outlet chose as the 2007 Game Of They Year winner was. It matters what, on average, they picked as GOTY.

You will find that out below. And then you will commend us on the wisdom of this new system.

So never mind that everyone isn't done naming their GOTYs. I am sorry, Game Developers Choice awards, but I can't wait until late February. I apologize, Interactive Achievement Awards. Early February is too soon as well. My best wishes to the Game Critics Game Of The Year Awards, for which even I participated. EGM, I'm sure you'll announce your winners someday.

But time's up and the law of averages is kicking in.

So, which 2007 video game was awarded GOTY status the most times? It was a close call...


BioShockSince Newsweek's N'Gai Croal is altogether incapable of defeating me in our Vs. Mode exchanges, he is now bringing along some friends: Chris Suellentrop of Slate and Seth Schiesel of the New York Times.

Well, kind of.

He and I are taking a month off from Vs. Mode in order to accept the flattering offer to participate in Slate.com's first-ever end-of-year Gaming Club. Over at Slate you can read the beginnings of a weeklong debate/discussion about the year's best video games (and "God Hand"). In year's past they've done this for movies, inviting the biggest names of movie reviewing to talk about the year in film. Now they're doing the same for games.

Suellentrop kicks off, declaring that "BioShock is not just the best game I played in 2007. I think it's the best game I've ever played." He cites developer Clint Hocking, stating that the game might not be the medium's Citizen Kane, but at least a good step toward it.

Then there's me, once again touting the virtues of "Desktop Tower Defense":

My critics would be right to point out that there isn't much of a story in "Desktop Tower Defense." There is no grandeur. And there is no apparent philosophical critique. "Desktop Tower Defense" does nothing to propel the medium toward a video game Citizen Kane. It simply presents sport. Let's find room to praise games like that. Has the medium produced a Citizen Kane or a Schindler's List or even a Jaws? Maybe not. Maybe never. But it sure has created its own basketballs, footballs, and baseballs.

Plenty more where that came from, today and throughout the week, over at Slate.

Enjoy! Count the number of references to Jonathan Blow. And cheer for me to win. That's the point of a critical exchange, right?

mt_bioshock_ecoshock281×211.jpgTwo weeks in and things are not going as well as I had expected.

I completely understand that 10,000 achievement points in twelve weeks is a bit of a lofty goal, but I figured I’d be able to squeak out about 1,000 points a week for the first 10 weeks, and then be done with a fortnight to spare. It’s not looking like that’s going to happen. But, really, what difference does that make? You’re playing "Halo 3."

I’ve spent the last two weeks working my way through "BioShock." While it is easily one of the best games that I’ve played this year, it took me about a week longer than I expected to finish, and I didn’t even get the full 1,000 points, finishing with a respectable 950. I also chalked up a small handful of extra points from the Genesis classic, "Sonic the Hedgehog 2," and I ended the week with a meagerly fruitful hour or so of "Halo 3."

My total for the week clocks in at 690, and over the past two weeks I have a total of 1,250 points, which is clearly under my 2,000 point expectation, and which is resulting in me being forced reexamine my gameplay plan for the next 10 weeks.

These are the strategies I used:


Metroid Prime 3In yesterday's third round of Vs Mode, Newsweek's N'Gai Croal trashed the idea of 3D, first-person "Metroid." Such games shouldn't exist, he told me.

It was a strong opinion, one I already knew he held. My first temptation was to issue a strong reply.

I reject the idea that any game shouldn't exist and that any idea shouldn't at least be tried. But while I offered my own stern words about why I think "Metroid" has been successful in 3D, I thought it was also a good time to talk about the whole break between 2D and 3D gaming, how that affected those of us gamers who didn't leave the hobby but learned (or consented) to shift our tastes.

N'Gai and I talk about a lot of things in our Final Round today, but if there's anything I hope gets people speaking, it's these words that I wrote:

What's it like to watch a great 2D game series go to 3D, have the masses praise it, and yet see it abandon key aspects in the process? I'm trying to put myself in your shoes which don't feel altogether unfamiliar. Do we praise this situation or shake our heads? Did no one notice what happened to the "Mario" platforming series? Should anyone mind? None of the three 3D "Mario" games I've played ("64," Sunshine," or preview versions of "Galaxy") feels as combative as the old 2D games. This has bugged me. In the "Mario" side-scrollers I was always wading in enemies. I could jump from the top of one enemy to the next, knock down rows of them with Koopa shells, and blitz through a whole bunch while invincible with star power. "Mario" 3D games are desolate by comparison. There are barely any Goombas and Koopas to fight. How many do you get on the screen at once? How many do you see in the average game minute? Very few.
There's a very real argument to be made that something was lost in the transition from 2D to 3D, which is what the Wii's backers have been happy to talk about. While it's worth exploring why the transition ruined things for some gamers, I think little has been discussed about why other gamers didn't lose touch and what kind of tastes may have developed in those of us who stayed hardcore on both sides of the break. What do such gamers have to add to a discussion that so often deals only with the lapsed 2D gamers and the children of the 3D era, to say nothing of the outsider casuals?

The rest of our exchange is posted below, as it is on N'Gai's "Level Up" blog. He and I will be back at it next month, in our first Vs. Mode dedicated to a handheld game. Read More...

BioShockIf you've been following the exchanges this week between me and N'Gai Croal about "BioShock" and "Metroid Prime 3: Corruption" you may have noticed that he and I had some difficulties.

We had issues with the morality system in "BioShock" and in today's exchanges explore some other ways the acclaimed game's developers could have tackled them. For instance, I ask why not make it really hard to be "good"?

But if you're anything like me you'll find one sentence below that kind of wipes away all the other ideas. It highlights the "Metroid" problem we've had in this exchange. Here's the comment, from N'Gai's letter below.

He states:

...the reason that I haven't gotten further in "Metroid Prime 3" is that because while the game does many, many terrific and admirable things, "Metroid" is a franchise that should never have made the jump from 2-D third-person to 3-D first-person.

Yes, he said that. Click through for more.

(As always, these exchanges are also on N'Gai's "Level Up" blog)


Metroid Prime 3Newsweek's N'Gai Croal and I continue our debate about "BioShock" and "Metroid Prime 3: Corruption" in today's second round of Vs. Mode. (Round 1 was yesterday)

And get this: today we actually talk about "Metroid" a bit. In fact, I said...:

...despite my gut instinct that "BioShock" is the better game (it's more original, more thought-provoking, more heavily populated with awesome Big Daddies), I've been more thrilled playing "Metroid Prime 3." Why? Because "Metroid" games deliver on the empowerment fantasy.

Ah, nothing like quoting yourself out of context. Read on to see what I'm talking about and why N'Gai has some big problems with the "bad" path in "BioShock."'

This post is mirrored on N'Gai's "Level Up" blog. Vs. Mode continues later this week. Also, check today's bonus Vs. Mode IM exchange, in which I get angry.



SamusLesson learned last week, via David Jaffe's blog: posting un-edited IM exchanges can cause trouble. The lesson is ignored this week.

Croal.... Totilo... do we ever stop rambling for Vs. Mode? Nope. It spills into IMs as well. While working on the latest "Metroid Prime 3"-"BioShock" series we wound up having side debates. That's a polite way of saying I was badgering him to get with it and play more "Metroid." He complained about the map. See here, in an exchange from two weeks ago. I started things off by warning him that his least favorite quality of the "Prime" series was back...

Totilo: Full disclosure: backtracking is back!!!!!!!!

Croal: But will I ever track my way to the backtracking?

Totilo: I doubt it. I'm skeptical that you're going to get very far. When you get a chance, let me know where you're stuck

Croal: I'm stuck on the morph ball path on that same planet. Time keeps expiring before I can get to the end.

Croal: http://www.destructoid.com/big-daddy-day-care-provides-nothing-but-tlc-for-your-little-girls-40745.phtml

Croal: I've been playing lots of "Jeanne d'Arc"!

Totilo: At least you have your priorities in order

Croal: 2-D design > 3-D design

Totilo: Survey says: wrong!


BioShock"Halo 3" comes out next week, and maybe more than a million (or two) gamers will consider it the biggest first-person game of the year.

That may be.

But what if you wanted a first-person game set underwater and inspired by 20th-century philosophy?

What if you wanted your first-person game to be controlled with the wave of your hand and to force you to occasionally roll into a ball?

Those are the games we're talking about this week.

Having tackled "God of War II," the "Halo 3" beta, "Manhunt 2," and short session games, Newsweek's N'Gai Croal and I are setting our newest Vs Mode on "BioShock" for the Xbox 360 and "Metroid Prime 3" for the Wii. Spoilers abound, and while they are clearly noted in today's first round, by tomorrow's second installment, you will want to have finished "BioShock" before reading.

So what did we think of the year's best-reviewed game? Why did I go into "BioShock" convinced I wasn't going to like it? And what did N'Gai do this time to infuriate me? It's all revealed this week.

As always, these exchanges are co-published at N'Gai's "Level Up" blog.


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