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AND THE ENVELOPE PLEASE… [Author: Lum the Mad]

OW! I MUST OW! QUIT OW! SHOOTING MYSELF OW! IN THE OW! FOOT AWARD: To Verant Interactive, for trying to save themselves from their own bad publicity. From the strange and terrible visionquest of Abashi, to the Terrific Trio of profane Tweety, sadistic Mystere, and pathological Sheyla, in a year where Origin decided to go about working on quietly screwing up behind closed doors, the guys at Verant bravely stepped up to the plate and kept us in stories all year. Then, in a publicity coup at year’s end, they invite the editor of this somewhat notorious website into their lair and manage not to kill him in an impromptu “GM Event”. Thanks, dudes!

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER, WE THINK AWARD: Ultima Online’s faction system. One of the big features of UO:Renaissance, which hit store shelves in April, finally delivered in December – just in time for the next expansion. Complete with weird bugs like guards that suck up faction resources even when dead and “features” like blue vultures that no one really wants to talk about. Woo woo! On the other hand, we all can now say “Designer Adrick” and not snicker uncontrollably. Growth is good.

WE’RE SMART, WE’RE PRETTY, AND GOSH DARN IT, PEOPLE LIKE US AWARD: Asheron’s Call, which spent 2000 as the Avis of MMOGs. Sure, bugs that cripple PvP are explained away as “features” or ignored entirely, it took them almost a year to implement basic secure trading, and the developers seem easily distracted by pretty young things bearing Twinkies, but, you know, they mean well. And really, isn’t that all that’s important in life?

THE SWORD OF DAMOCLES AWARD: The UO ex-Volunteer lawsuit, three months later and still winding its way slowly through the courts, kind of like the faction system. Only when the courts res-kill you, it hurts.

WE’RE NOT DEAD YET! WE’RE FEELING MUCH BETTER! I FEEL HAPP-PY! AWARD: To the Vault Network, which has so far outlived the October obituary we printed, whistling merrily in the dark.

THERE’S NO GAME HERE. THESE AREN’T THE DESIGNERS YOU’RE LOOKING FOR. YOU CAN GO ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS. MOVE ALONG AWARD: To the Star Wars Galaxies team, which really, honestly, truly would like to tell you something, anything, anything at all about their game, but so far haven’t, yet. You can just see Raph Koster jumping up and down in his chair, sort of like our old mascot the butt-hopping Jesus, dying to talk nuts and bolts about quest psychology or monster ecology balancing or …well ANYTHING. And you can just see the stormtroopers standing by either side of his chair. With blaster rifles.

THIS IS MY GAME. THERE ARE OTHER GAMES BUT THIS ONE IS MINE. I MUST DEFEND MY GAME FROM OTHER GAMES WHICH ARE TRYING TO KILL IT AWARD: A tie between Shadowbane, Horizons, Anarchy Online, Dawn, Dark Age of Camelot, Atriarch, World War Two Online… did I miss any? I’m sure my email in five minutes will let me know. The truly frightening thing is that no game that you can actually, you know, play engenders this level of psychotic fanaticism. Perhaps virgins do make the best lovers.

SPECIAL ACHIEVMENT IN TECHNICAL BRILLIANCE AWARD: Dawn, for capturing the attention of the massively multiplayer community for much more than their alloted fifteen minutes, despite not actually having the faintest prospect of ever producing, you know, a game. Proof that hype does matter.

MICHAEL JACKSON LIVES ON IN ALL OF US AWARD: The Whatever the Hell It’s Called Now Game, which managed to, despite by all appearances mating a state-of-the-art 3D graphics engine with a truly persistent world and complex player interactions beyond mere levelling, manage to get everyone to talk over and over about various iterations of BIKINILADY. Some of us, apparently, really do just want to Play to Dance.

BEST IMITATION OF A MILK CARTON IN THE MMOG GENRE AWARD: Have you seen this man?

GODDAM, I AM SO FUCKING GLAD LUM DOESN’T PRINT SMURF SCANDALS ANY MORE AWARD: SLC Tigger.

THE FINEST MOMENT IN ONLINE JOURNALISM: When EQ Vault’s database puked and barfed up stories from a year ago, they immediately appeared on Everlore as current news, and hundreds of EQ players wondered why John Smedley was threatening to change the EULA to scan their hard drives again. We’re told that, um, they don’t do that any more. Really. They now get their news straight from Whineplay like everyone else, goddamit!

THE FINEST MOMENT IN ONLINE JOURNALISM, PART DEUX: For some reason, Stratics now thinks that every Stratics site now needs an End User License Agreement just as insanely prohibitive and legalistic as the ones you ignore every time you install a software program. So if your computer crashes, it’s not Stratics’ fault, OK? Rumors that Stratics management had their sense of humor surgically removed unconfirmed at press time, but it just sort of makes sense, so we’ll believe it anyway.

THE FINEST MOMENT IN ONLINE JOURNALISM, PART TROIS: “Shut up and give me my ten bucks per month, little man. My Porsche needs some performance upgrades.”

ZUT ALORS! YOU THEENK YOU WILL PLAY OUR LEETLE GAME? VEE VILL SHOW YOO! AWARD: Mankind, which in possibly the most insanely screwed up attempt at “play balancing” ever seen in MMOGs actually took away from new players any starting funds to, you know, play the game with. This added an entirely new level of complexity to the game, which forced newbies to beg for money from French people. In a surprising coincidence, the developers of Mankind are French! The metaphors are just… spellbinding.

KEEP FEELING FASC-I-NATION AWARD: To us, for being ever so fascinated by something almost every woman has two of. And to the gaming industry, for feeding our most maternal of addictions.

BUT WE THOUGHT NO ONE WOULD NOTICE! AWARD: To KoC, thrown out of duping in UO, currently roxx0ring Darktide on AC, and in between duped the Neverwinter Nights website.

THE FUNNIEST BUG OF THE YEAR AWARD: The day Origin just cut out the damned middleman and duped gold for you.

THE DAY THE ULTIMA DIED AWARD: So bye, bye, Mr. Garriot, bye, took his Chevy to the levy, but the levy was dry, all the good ol’ boys back at Origin Systems were drinkin’ whisky and wine and saying “this’ll be the day we’re laid off“…

CATCH PHRASE OF THE YEAR AWARD: Verant Interactive, who after discovering that shipping CDs was HARD early in the year discovered that, yes, many other things were hard too.

WHAT REALLY WAS HARD AWARD: All three of the current MMORPGs tried to have a plot. Some did well. Others, well, didn’t.

UM, IT WAS A NICE GESTURE, BUT I HOPE WE DIDN’T WIN FOR THE SAME REASONS AWARD: Brad McQuaid, who shared an accolade as one of the “New Gods of Gaming” with Stevie Case. One of them designed the largest selling MMORPG ever, the other has really large breasts. Can you pick which is which?

FOR ME, THIS WAS THE HIGHLIGHT OF 2000, BUT YOU PROBABLY DON’T AGREE AWARD: Ogres are funny.

And finally, a big sincere thank you to the online gaming community, without which this website would be really, really boring. Thanks, and let’s hope we all continue to lurch amusingly to and fro next year.