by NorseGamer, HSM Editor-in-Chief
Virtually every Home fansite brings something of value to the table. Yet if you were to ask what the most important Home fansite out there is, I’d have to go with AlphaZone4. And considering that it’s almost certainly the most heavily-visited Home fansite on the planet (and by a fairly significant margin), I’d say that’s a fairly safe assertion.
So what happens when AlphaZone4 throws an awards competition? People pay attention.
Awards ceremonies are interesting critters. People can say that they don’t matter, or that it’s an honor just to be nominated, or that you can only win if a guy named Weinstein is behind your production. But the truth is that they do matter. It matters when Shakespeare In Love beats Saving Private Ryan. It matters when Pulp Fiction loses to Forrest Gump, and The Shawshank Redemption is left in the cold. These things matter to us.
They matter for two reasons.
One: PlayStation Home is a very, very competitive marketplace. Most social games follow what’s known in social economics as a power-law distribution: namely, that most of the real money is coming from a very small percentage of users. Chances are a decent number of those users, because of their customer engagement, might seek out further information about Home online. They’ll stumble into the deepening cesspool known as the Sony forum (which desperately needs to purge the trolls), and/or discover satellite projects. So the chances are good that voter-determined rewards, if structured correctly, provide some decent feedback as to who’s doing what correctly.
Two: We, all of us, live for those moments where we shine like a boss. Those moments where we just do something or achieve something awesome. Could be anything. Winning a street fight or winning a spelling bee. Doesn’t matter. And whereas any Home fangroup can put together an awards show, AlphaZone4 matters because of its size and importance. So yes, it’s a big deal.
Let’s first dive into the results, and then discuss.
BEST COSTUME: Lockwood Mechjet
BEST COMPANION: Sackboy
BEST ACTIVE ITEM: Lockwood Gift Machine
BEST REWARD: Underwater Apartment
LEAST REWARDING REWARD: UFC Cutout
BEST APARTMENT: The Lockwood Dream Yacht
BEST FURNITURE: Animated Cherry Blossom Tree
BEST MULTIPLAYER GAME: Sodium2
BEST PUBLIC SPACE: Aurora
BEST MINI-GAME: Sodium TankTop
BEST GAME SPACE: Aurora
BEST EVENT SPACE: Uncharted 3 — Fortune Hunter
BEST HOME DEVELOPER: Lockwood
Let’s cover the obvious first. Lockwood owned this competition. While the Active Item category was more or less a guaranteed victory, and I doubt anyone seriously expected another developer to take the top honors for last year or win the Best Multiplayer Game category, it’s somewhat surprising that TankTop won for best mini-game, considering it’s built into a personal estate and yet it still earned enough votes to beat much more accessible public mini-games such as Cogs. I’m also frankly a little surprised that the Dream Yacht won for Best Apartment; don’t get me wrong, it’s a great space, but I would have expected the price to have been a voting deterrent. Can we expect to see more premium-priced estates in 2012?
I’m rather glad to see Lockwood win for Best Costume with the Mechjets. Yes, it’s a ten-dollar outfit, and yes, they never bothered to divulge that it has no bipedal locomotion built into it, but it’s as close to Robotech as Home has gotten so far, and Lockwood is to be commended for experimenting with customized avatar emotes with their Iron Fusion line. Besides, as HearItWow has observed in the past, the Mechjets are quite valuable to anyone who shoots machinima in Home.
As an aside: were it up to me, Best Apartment would have gone to the LOOT Space Apartment. There’s just so much functionality packed into that estate that I can’t think of anything even close to it in terms of value. But it may have been released too late in the year to earn enough votes, which is a shame.
Beyond that, it’s good to see Aurora win for Best Public Space and Best Game Space. Most public game spaces don’t offer anything more than just the game, but Aurora is that wonderful combination of social gathering spot and gaming space. It also saw periodic updates over the course of 2011, which helps to make it feel like a dynamic environment rather than a static one. Though I absolutely hate having a gaming level involuntarily strapped to my avatar’s back (a horrid practice picked up by Lockwood as well with Sodium2) — it just riles up my inner Patrick McGoohan, and it makes me want to shout to the heavens that I am not a number, I am a free man — I have to admit that OrbRunner is quite a catchy game. And Aurora itself is one of those spaces that teasingly hints at a story (or at least a loose narrative), which is one of those delightfully intangible elements that makes a space feel more alive.
I do want to briefly acknowledge Hellfire Games for a moment, and not just because they were in attendance at the ceremony. If you read our recent interview with Hellfire Games, then you know that they are responsible for bringing poker to Home. Yet because Home Hold ‘Em isn’t known as HELLFIRE GAMES HOME HOLD ‘EM A HELLFIRE SHINDIG DIRECTED BY HELLFIRE GAMES, they may have been overlooked a little bit, despite reintroducing one of Home’s most beloved games. Also, if you haven’t picked up the Novus Prime music player, we strongly recommend it. It was playing during the awards ceremony, and let me tell you: all formal events in Home should take place with that music in the background. PR videos should have that music in the background. And real life events are made so much more interesting with that music in the background. A mundane trip across the living room to feed the cat turns into an epic Carmina Burana lightsaber battle for Middle Earth when that music is playing.
What can we expect for 2012? Will Lockwood continue its dominance? Or will the crown be wrested from them by LOOT or nDreams, both of whom have exciting projects in the works? Or, perhaps, will some other developer come in out of nowhere and lay it down on the Home community?
One thing is for certain: 2012 will be a year to remember for Home. Congratulations to the winners of the AlphaZone4 contest for 2011!