Yesterday we were in Düsseldorf to attend the 10th German Developer Award. We were nominated in the category 'Best Learning Game' with TRI. This little nomination made us happy as much as it amused us. For this award you choose the categories by yourself when submitting a game, so we decided to take this category for the lack of a better fitting one. Best Learning Game! Yay.
The award ceremony was held in a super hot location called the Kesselhaus (= boiler) which is an exciting looking old industrial building, but also quite hot, literally. You watch the ceremony sitting on round tables together with members of other studios and enjoy the ceremony while dealing with the melted lebkuchen on your plate.
Four years earlier (flashback!) when we were students we attended our first Developer Award. Still wet behind the ears and full of hope and passion we were lucky to be part of the show as winners of free tickets. Back then Crytek - the most famous and probably most important German developer, won in nearly every category. In that year the organizers started a new category called 'Best Studio' - which also went to Crytek. Who also did the main sponsoring. Well, this is how awards work, I guess.
A new studio appeared there for the first time, the adventure game developer Daedalic ("Edna breaks out"), who made the trailer animation to announce the 'Best Graphics' with their weird hand-drawn 2D Flash style. Ironically Crytek won the award, but I had the feeling Daedalic was the winner of hearts with that rabbit trailer. Foresight?
And the winners are...
In 2013 Daedalic seems to be the Crytek of 2009. They were nominated in nearly every category with three games: Goodbye Deponia, Das Schwarze Auge - Memoria and The Night of the Rabbit. Of course Crytek has an abo on the Developer award, so at least they didn't go home bare-handed.
Between the no-surprises-at-all winners also some Indies were nominated and even won awards. The fresh Studio Fizbin won with their congenial adventure "The Inner World" ('Best Familiy Game'). The nice guys of Threaks won in two categories - Best Serious Game and Best Game Design - for their musical platformer Beatbuddy. Also one of the few developers that answered with an spontaneous and enormous funny reaction of pouring sparkling wine over each other. The price for the best publisher went to Headup Games again, which also seems to be like a good sign of the games industry having a new generation of fresh and interesting players. And, more important, one with a good taste for smaller games and superb boxed editions. One award went to our neighbors from FAKT Software for their Crazy Machines – Golden Gears ('Best Mobile Casual Game').
Our friends from Uniworlds shared their Newcomer award third place for Tristoy with another student team. The first place went to Schein by an Austrian student team, who seem to get a lot of awards and nominations for their upcoming project. An interesting fact about the student works: all of them were 2D platformers. I miss some experiments here, guys!
That the Computer Games Museum was honored with a 'Special Prize' was a nice moment, as well, because this place is worth visiting whenever you are in Berlin!
The award process was extremely weird, by the way. After some categories we realized that only the games were shown in the trailer that didn't win the prize. Which made the winner, with all nominees in mind, no surprise at all. Together with puns and insiders (most likely not everybody got them), the whole award show was a rush through 90s gaming history personalities. Futhermore, the organizers from Aruba decided to change the categories for this year. Instead of having the same developer appearing on stage three times in a row, they batched together two to three categories like 'Best Serious Game' and 'Best Game Design'. Or 'Best Simulation' and 'Best Strategy Game'. Or, in our case: 'Best Family Game', 'Best Children Game', 'Best Teen Game' and 'Best Learning Game' was put together. Who cares! Whatever not-winners trailer will be shown next, one of them will be ours!
We knew we wouldn't win the award, but were thrilled to see TRI at least one second on a big screen. Cameras pulled out I was ready to film the historic second of us being on screen for the very first time at the German Developer Award. Now. Any minute...
Eventually Aruba also decided that family and children games are boring without no explosions and blood sparks, so those were the only categories where no nomination trailers where shown. They quickly announced the winners in every category and our little non-existent moment of glory was over. Meh.
Next time completely leave out all the categories you think are unworthy for the proud German Game Dev Scene right upfront! Instead of asking for submissions, nominations and leaving out trailers we were asked to provide for nothing. Whatever.
This award also showed how useless categories are. 'Best Core Mobile Game' and 'Best Casual Mobile Game' ( they were all pretty casual?!). Best children game, best children mobile game (the winner Fiete is an app for 1-2 yr old children), best teen game, best family game, best learning game (again Fiete, seems to be like the good old Memory game, but with nice graphics). I wish they would handle it like the IGF: developers send in their games and the jury chooses categories that are most fitting.
TL;DR: I guess awards are mostly about rewarding a community and in some places great games as well. Moreover, The German Developer Award is no place for innovation. It's hard to remember this, especially as indie developer, because this is the only way to succeed, in my opinion. But if they really want to reward certain developers, they should do it without categories! Or at least decide them AFTER developers sent in their games.
After all, this was a nice journey into the lap of the big old German industry giants. The event seems to give us a nice overview about the core game industry, which is still not the place where we totally feel home. So I believe the talks with our fellow indie developers (who we mostly only meet in real life at occasions like this) after the show were the most rewarding event here. Nice to see you guys, again and good to meet also some new people in Düsseldorf!
If you want to vote for us in a different place - why not help us to get into the Top10 games of 2013? :D