AGS Awards - Improvement of Categories

Started by cat, 13 Mar 2022, 10:46

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cat

I was contacted by a member who had concerns regarding eligablity of voting categories. They mentioned, that while some people explicitly requested their game to be ignored in some categories, others asked for votes in categories where the source was from public domain material or based on other people's intellectual property. Further more, last year, best music was won by a game where all music was taken from public sources.

I understand those concerns, but currently, there is no rule specifying any restrictions here. We plan to change the rules next year to take this into account. I will create a separate thread where we can discuss those changes.

For this year, I just ask authors as well as voters to think about what they consider appropriate to justify a nomination.

Last year I didn't submit Urban Witch Story for best music/sound, precisely of what you mention. I was the first one surprised that Urban Witch won that undeserved award. I guess the people who voted were unaware that the music was in the public domain.

But yes, there should be a rule that everything that can be voted on should be from an original source.

Pogwizd

#2
Quote from: Postmodern Adventures on 13 Mar 2022, 11:03
Last year I didn't submit Urban Witch Story for best music/sound, precisely of what you mention. I was the first one surprised that Urban Witch won that undeserved award. I guess the people who voted were unaware that the music was in the public domain.

If I recall correctly, when receiving the award last year, you did say that the music wasn't composed by yourself, to which one of the hosts (can't remember who) said that the selection/choice of music for your game still counts. I added music/sound category to my game in the FYC thread because of this. Is this not the case? If not, I will remove it : )

heltenjon

Hmmm...I see now that Cat answered me on a similar question in last year's thread, that the music ought to have been made specifically for that game. And we are several who have suggested music picked from Eric Matyas' site for the best music award. I guess that's a no no, then? I'm somewhat divided, as he creates so much and posts about it on this site. But it's usually just used with attribution, not made after request. Should we treat the music source differently when it has been made available through posting in the AGS forum than when it's found on other sites?

I guess the same could be said about characters - Viktor's MASH game uses characters from the tv series, for instance. I'd say one could argue that it's the use of these characters in this specific game that's up for evaluation here. Otherwise, the award should probably be called Best original character...which would rule out fair use of folklore characters like Robin Hood, Cinderella, The tree little pigs etc.

Laura Hunt

I think a good alternative would be to create two separate awards, one for Original Music and one for Audio Design, which would encompass both sound effects and non-original music. Even if a game does not have original music, a lot of skill and work can also go into finding the appropriate tracks that fit with the mood/gameplay and using them to enhance the experience. For example, half the music in our game was written and performed by myself while the other half was made up of public domain classical music performances and songs from the 1920s, and the task of curating/choosing those specific tracks and not others, as well as making them work in key moments of the game, took months. But like I said above, this might perhaps be better classified as "audio design" and it would be fair for it to be acknowledged in a separate award.

cat

#5
Quote from: heltenjon on 13 Mar 2022, 11:47
Hmmm...I see now that Cat answered me on a similar question in last year's thread, that the music ought to have been made specifically for that game. And we are several who have suggested music picked from Eric Matyas' site for the best music award. I guess that's a no no, then? I'm somewhat divided, as he creates so much and posts about it on this site. But it's usually just used with attribution, not made after request. Should we treat the music source differently when it has been made available through posting in the AGS forum than when it's found on other sites?
I used a lot of music from Kevin McLeod for my games, but he doesn't post in the AGS forums. Would his music be considered differently just because he doesn't post? I'm sure Eric Matyas doesn't create his music purely for the AGS community as well. It would, of course, make a huge difference, if you asked (or contracted) Eric to compose music just for your game.

Quote
I guess the same could be said about characters - Viktor's MASH game uses characters from the tv series, for instance. I'd say one could argue that it's the use of these characters in this specific game that's up for evaluation here. Otherwise, the award should probably be called Best original character...which would rule out fair use of folklore characters like Robin Hood, Cinderella, The tree little pigs etc.
Yes, this case was also mentioned in the concerns that I received via PM. It's a difficult topic.

Quote from: Laura Hunt on 13 Mar 2022, 12:12
I think a good alternative would be to create two separate awards, one for Original Music and one for Audio Design, which would encompass both sound effects and non-original music. Even if a game does not have original music, a lot of skill and work can also go into finding the appropriate tracks that fit with the mood/gameplay and using them to enhance the experience. For example, half the music in our game was written and performed by myself while the other half was made up of public domain classical music performances and songs from the 1920s, and the task of curating/choosing those specific tracks and not others, as well as making them work in key moments of the game, took months. But like I said above, this might perhaps be better classified as "audio design" and it would be fair for it to be acknowledged in a separate award.
Long time ago there was a category just for audio, but it didn't get much interest by voting and nominating people, thus it was combined with best music. Not sure if times have changed and there would be more interest now. If I think of last year's awards were it was difficult in some of the "easier" categories to get enough votes, it might be really difficult for such a category. I know the Oscars have a split here, with original score vs. the sound category, but I just don't know if we can pull it off here.



What we came up with in discussion, is to rename a few categories:

-Best Original Writing
-Best Original Background Art
-Best Original Character Art
-Best Original Animation
-Best Original Music and Sound Design

For the other categories, we think it is harder to specify. What makes a puzzle original? Best original character would, as mentioned by heltenjon, exclude folklore characters,...
There is room for discussion!

FormosaFalanster

Folklore characters can become original characters if they have been reappropriated by the author. You can use Shrek as an example: it includes fairytale characters but some have been re-written to fit the movie, such as the Puss in Boots that has become specific to the Shrek movies and has become so different from the one in the fairytale that you can consider it an original character. It's not like the fairytale was very detailed in its characterization either, beyond being a cat with magic shoes. In Shrek he becomes an entirely new person.

So if you take an old character that was more of an archetype and re-write it in an entirely new way, you can claim it as new. If you take characters that were already well-written and developped, and put them in your story, they're not yours to claim.

DrSlash

#7
I don't post on these forums very often, but seeing the relevance of my FYC post to this discussion, I might as well share my two cents for what they're worth.

Quote from: cat on 13 Mar 2022, 13:36It's a difficult topic.
It is indeed. To be honest, these things can only be decided on a case-by-case basis, in my opinion.

It's absolutely possible for a game developer to use someone else's music or graphics in a creative and transformative way that would put the original assets into a new context. For example, the short film 21-87 is almost entirely made of discarded footage from other movies, and The Avalanches compose their songs using samples from third-party sources. If either of these was an AGS game, they'd still be perfectly eligible for an award in my eyes.

The reason I explicitly asked people to refrain from nominating my game for certain categories is because, unlike the examples above, it's an almost direct port of an existing game that copies assets from a single source without changing their meaning or context.

The way I see it, completely barring the former from being nominated would be about as bad as giving an award to the latter.

FormosaFalanster

#8
(just delete that)

heltenjon

#9
The MASH FYC post has now been edited in order to remove the suggestion for Best character. The other suggestions stand, as the game has an original story, not based on a story from the TV series.

There are many good points in the thread already. It's important not to be too strict in the definitions. Most would agree that Robin Hood could win for best character if done right, whereas, say, Batman or Guybrush shouldn't. (But Fatman or G. Thriftweed could.) Even more important is to not exclude games for not having a full original soundtrack. Like Laura Hunt said, in their game, there are both her compositions and classical music.

Rik_Vargard

Perhaps it should be decided what kind of competition this wants to be.
And about what.

Is it about the experience, the ambient, the fun one has with a game and/or is it all that plus "Original creation" VS "Free For Commercial Use creation"?

In a movie award show, for example, for the best soundtrack for a movie the award goes to the composer, not the director, not the producer or the editor etc.
So perhaps proper credits should be assigned to the artists who created that music, that story or those backgrounds, and not to the game developer.
He/She could go for Best Game Developer.

I have a list of all the people who put their assets as "Free For Commercial Use" on the web, that I use in my game.
I would be damned if I took the credits for their work.

Snarky

#11
Quote from: heltenjon on 13 Mar 2022, 17:09Most would agree that Robin Hood could win for best character if done right, whereas, say, Batman or Guybrush shouldn't. (But Fatman or G. Thriftweed could.)

I for one would not agree with that.

Without the restriction, would sticking Tex Murphy and Guybrush and Phoenix Wright together in a fan game guarantee the game wins for Best Character? No, because it all comes down to how well they are written, and capturing iconic characters like these exactly right requires a very deft touch indeed. (The same probably applies to the characters from M*A*S*H.)

Moreover, a fan game can flesh out a minor character, or reinvent a major one. Where do you draw the line?

If you exclude Batman, do you exclude Alfred? Nancy Drew? Sherlock Holmes? Inspector Lestrade? Robin Hood? Will Scarlett? Rosencrantz & Guildenstern? What about a middle-aged Simon the Sorcerer in a game set 40 years after the original, or Larry Laffer after an accidental sex change? And what about historical figures? Would a parody game where you meet "Bill Clinton" mean he's excluded, while he'd be eligible if it's "Clint Billon"? (This reminds me of the plans Miez recently talked about for FOY where they were going to let you rename and choose the outfit for the main character, so that you could make him Indiana Jones if you wanted to.) And what about communal characters like Oceanspirit Dennis or the cast of Reality-on-the-Norm? What if it's a character you co-created?

It seems to me like a hopeless line to draw, and I believe in principle that if someone makes a game with a great version of Guybrush Threepwood, he should be eligible for Best Character.

Examples of "non-original" characters nominated for this or similar AGS awards include Jimi Hendrix (2015), Ratatosk (2014), Roger Wilco (2012), characters from Space Quest: Vohaul Strikes Back (2011), Oceanspirit Dennis (2010), characters from Little Girl in Underland (styled as an American McGee's Alice demake) (2008), Satan (2002), and Mika from Reality-on-the Norm (2001)—the very first winner of Best NPC (in Dave Gilbert's The Postman Only Dies Once, having originally been created by Anthony Hahn for I Spy). I trust the voters knew what they were doing e.g. in naming Roger Wilco as best playable character in 2012.

heltenjon

My point was more in the vein that Best character should win because of what she/he/it does in the game nominated. Perhaps best characterization? I think it would be unfair if Guybrush was nominated for one of Daniele Spadoni's fan games, but win the votes because of what we remember him being like in the originals. It would have to be based on that game alone.

An Alfred game could actually be a great idea... I have Batman in one of my small games (well, Lego Batman), but I didn't want to make the Best character...because he's Batman! joke in the FYC thread, just in case enough people should find it funny to receive a nomination for laughs.

I agree that Best Original Character seems to rule out sequels, and that would be unfortunate. And I realize I'm cutting myself in the elbow here, because of course you have the long games released in chapters, which kind of contradicts my point above.  8-0 ???

FormosaFalanster

Quote from: Snarky on 13 Mar 2022, 18:12


Examples of "non-original" characters nominated for this or similar AGS awards include Jimi Hendrix (2015), Ratatosk (2014), Roger Wilco (2012), characters from Space Quest: Vohaul Strikes Back (2011), Oceanspirit Dennis (2010), characters from Little Girl in Underland (styled as an American McGee's Alice demake) (2008), Satan (2002), and Mika from Reality-on-the Norm (2001)—the very first winner of Best NPC (in Dave Gilbert's The Postman Only Dies Once, having originally been created by Anthony Hahn for I Spy). I trust the voters knew what they were doing e.g. in naming Roger Wilco as best playable character in 2012.

You are actually proving the point that it should not happen again.

Roger Wilco being nominated in 2012 was an absurdity that should not be replicated. This is the very reason why we are having this conversation in the first place.


LimpingFish

Woah, there's a lot to dissect in this thread! 8-0

Personally, and I think I've said this before (and others may have too), while having more granular categories may, in theory, allow more people to win awards, we're working with a relatively limited voting pool, so I don't feel that having more categories will result in more votes. And some of those who do take the time to vote may not be inclined to weigh the merits of nominees in "lesser" categories in a fair and complete way. Simply put, whatever they've decided as their favorite game will automatically be nominated in multiple categories, regardless. We're also working on the assumption that everybody who votes in the awards is equipped to judge "excellence" in writing, or music, or design, when all we can likely be sure of is which games they enjoyed playing the most, or perhaps what music the thought was pleasant to listen to.

There's always been (friendly) conflict about what the awards actually are; a "serious" attempt to highlight the creative "best" of the years games and developers, or a fun popularity contest. Some of you may ask why it can't be both? Frankly, I'd say it's never truly achieved either, instead falling into an awkward middle-ground that still results in yearly discussions on how to "improve" the system.

If we did rewrite the rules to differentiate between, for instance, original characters and preexisting characters (or public-domain characters), we would probably need to provide the extra manpower required in deciding whether certain games meet certain requirements to be eligible in certain categories. I don't want to speak for the people currently invested in producing and maintaining the awards, nor do I want to rule out anything, but I don't think we have the numbers to support expanding the awards to cover such changes.

The truth is, we have relatively few people willing to put in the time to produce something off their own backs for the good of the community (and many thanks to those that do), so caveats are probably going to be unavoidable.

I know this all sounds rather dark, so for the sake of adding something productive, here is what I might do in regards to non-original content (in this case music) being used in games:

A game is eligible for a category if the material in question was created specifically for the game, or, if not created specifically, has not appeared before in any form, and is the credited authors own work.

So, a game with music by Kevin McLeod, using tracks freely available on his website, is not eligible for "Best Music". A game containing unreleased tracks previously composed by Kevin McLeod, but given or licensed exclusively for use in said game, or tracks specifically composed by Kevin McLeod for use in said game, is eligible. If said game wins the award, the award will be credited to Kevin McLeod, and not the developer of the game.

...

I mean, it seems logical to me, but we're never going to satisfy everybody. We could try to cover all angles, doubling or tripling categories to cover original/preexisting/remixed works, but...that seems kind of redundant? We'd be splitting the numbers of games per category even further than we are now, with single nominees in certain categories.

Personally, and probably realistically, it would make sense to exclude games that use freely available content from most of the technical categories, though they would still be eligible for others (Gameplay, Writing, etc) if these aspects are original.

For the sake of arguments, I'd remove "Best Character" altogether.
Steam: LimpingFish
PSN: LFishRoller
Spotify: LimpingFish

Snarky

Quote from: FormosaFalanster on 13 Mar 2022, 21:23
You are actually proving the point that it should not happen again.

Roger Wilco being nominated in 2012 was an absurdity that should not be replicated. This is the very reason why we are having this conversation in the first place.

I oppose your proposal. Your cure is worse than the problem it is meant to solve.

FormosaFalanster

Quote from: Snarky on 13 Mar 2022, 21:49
Quote from: FormosaFalanster on 13 Mar 2022, 21:23
You are actually proving the point that it should not happen again.

Roger Wilco being nominated in 2012 was an absurdity that should not be replicated. This is the very reason why we are having this conversation in the first place.

I oppose your proposal. Your cure is worse than the problem it is meant to solve.

What are you talking about, I am not making any proposal or any cure, I am taking part in a conversation. And we see answers on difficult cases, like said above, that should be considered individually. But when you come with "A copyrighted character created decades ago won the prize before so we can do it again", you are literaly giving the strongest argument in favour of limiting the awards to original characters. Just ask yourself: how did the people who made the effort of creating original characters felt in 2012 when Roger Wilco won it instead? LimpingFish just pointed out that one issue is the small size of the community, do you want it to shrink to a little circle of nostalgia-obsessed people, or do you want to nurture creators and attract them?

heltenjon

Ben Jordan won in 2012. Roger Wilco was nominated, but didn't win. But the game was praised for good characterization.

eri0o

I think when you are voting for a best character and all options are playable characters it's about as how fun/interesting it's to be the nominated character as you play that game. Games are not books.

cat

Quote from: eri0o on 14 Mar 2022, 00:55
I think when you are voting for a best character and all options are playable characters it's about as how fun/interesting it's to be the nominated character as you play that game. Games are not books.
Not necessarily, there are also outstanding non-player characters.

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