Now in its tenth year, Japan's CEDEC developers conference has seen fit to recognise the achievements of local developers in a new peer-voted awards ceremony, the CEDEC Awards. Develop was on hand to discover how it attempted to tackle over 30 years of home-grown development talent...
Nintendo walked away as the clear winner at last night's CEDEC Awards, taking home three out of the five gongs - including a special achievement prize for legendary designer Shigeru Miyamoto.
Taking place during the CEDEC development conference, the inaugural peer-voted CEDEC Awards was a new effort by CESA, the country's developer and publisher association, to recognise the achievements of Japanese development teams both now and through the last thirty years of games development.
Despite being the inaugural ceremony, and taking place after a day packed full of sessions, free entry to CEDEC attendees led to the filling of the Showa Women's University's large Green Hall, where the hour-long event took place.
Capcom was the first winner of the night, beating Polyphony Digital, Nintendo, Sega and Namco to take home the prize in the programming category for its work on the cross-platform MT Framework that has powered its next-gen games from Lost Planet to the forthcoming Resident Evil 5. The award recognises the company's foresight in switching to a 'game framework', organisers said, and its positive introduction of these techniques to other developers at previous CEDEC conferences.
Accepting the award, one of the MT Framework developers remarked: "At the time of creating the engine, there was a big conversion within Capcom. From looking at the quite unhealthy Japanese game development scene, we've taken the initiative in talking about our techniques, and we established a dedicated team so we can incorporate the latest technology. It's an engine that continues to grow, and we're honoured to accept the first CEDEC Award."
The Visual Arts award went to Team ICO for their eponymous work which organisers said had 'characteristic visuals drawn with never-before seen feelings of space, light and shadow, which made developers across the world feel that there were new possibilities in visual arts.'
Team ICO's Fumito Ueda took to the stage to receive the award, saying: "It's been about ten years since we started developing ICO, and I think we managed to make something good, especially as we started not knowing things like the specialised language of games, and were able to commence development without those kind of fixed ideas." He also asked everyone to look forward to his next project, even though it was 'a little bit away'.
The first gong to go to Nintendo was in the Game Design category, presented to the company in recognition of the Super Mario Brothers series and how it laid the groundwork for side-scrolling platformers through meticulous timing adjustment and level design, and the spacious environment design of Mario 64. It beat Square Eni‚˜,@nominated for creating the 'command-style RPG' genre - Sega's Virtual Fighter, Capcom's Monster Hunter and its own Pokemon series.
Nintendo's Takashi Tezuka, who acted as assistant director on the first Mario game and has supervised many of Nintendo's titles since, seemed embarrassed by the praise, saying: "This 'meticulous timing adjustment and level design' is an amazing compliment, but my involvement with Super Mario Brothers was over twenty years ago.
"At that time, there weren't words like level design, or even 'game design' - just 'people who make games'. In those days, we used special paper to draw our levels on, and we'd think things like 'let's slide this block a little to the right' and 'let's bring this enemy forward a little bit' - it was that kind of straightforward work. These days, we've simplified that sort of manual labour, and we use various tools, and I think the environment is gradually changing.
"But, what makes a good game is the same now as it was then - steadily making things, all the while thinking things like 'let's make the player a little scared here, and then let's make them feel good immediately afterwards'. I accept this award on behalf of all of the people involved in game design and level design on the Mario series, from new recruits to those who've been doing it for over 20 years."
The company also took home the Sound Design prize, recognising the achievements of its Zelda team in integrating music and gameplay together, such as its dynamic field music and sound interactivity within combat scenes. Accepting the award, legendary game sound designer Koji Kondo said: "I'm extremely honoured to accept this first award for sound design. Seeing as the award is voted for by other game designers, that puts a huge value on the prize, which I'm really happy about."
"Saying just a little about the world-view of Zelda is pretty difficult, but if I was to venture I'd say that we've created the sound of the games by trying to bring to life the various new worlds of the series, placing an big emphasis on interactive ideas such as incorporating orchestral hits into The Wind Waker's battle scenes."
At this point, CEDEC advisory board members returned to the stage to announce a fifth, previously undisclosed award - the CEDEC Special Award, which was presented to Nintendo's legendary designer Shigeru Miyamoto for his twenty years of game design and his visionary ability to open games to new audiences through games such as Nintendogs, Wii Sports, and Wii Fit.
Taking to the stage amongst frenzied clapping - and, uncharacteristically for Japan, much whooping - Miyamoto humbly accepted the award from Koei COO and CEDEC advisory board member (and opening keynote speaker) Kenji Matsubara.
"I'm giving an hour-long keynote tomorrow morning, so I didn't think I'd have to give a speech now too," he laughed. "Although I seem to have unfortunately become the oldest person here, I'm still going to be trying my best from here on out. I hope I get a chance to work with everyone again.
"Gradually, we've come to be recognised throughout the world, but in order to keep this flourishing, and to increase the number of children who want to enter the games industry, let's all keep trying our best. Thank you very much."