Polled over the three weeks following the release of Team UnrealSP's Deja Vu - Gryphon Revisited v2.01, the Critics' Choice Awards represent the forumers' opinions on the pack as a whole, and what the best things were about it. The polls weren't quite as highly subscribed as I'd hoped, but they certainly give an impression of which areas of the pack were most successful.
The seven nominated categories follow, with screenshots of the two most successful entries, my own analysis, and finally the actual results of each poll.
Award #1 - Best Set Piece
The most undersubscribed of the Critic's Choice Awards, the "Best Set Piece" poll, posed the question "What moment or event of the pack did you most enjoy?"
I suppose this was a difficult one to decide, and for that reason the result was a tie and we even had one write-in vote: Frieza voted "Other", saying that fighting Caruthers in USP-15, "Kra'filnish Valley" (see: Best Subplot) was a cool moment of the pack, even if it wasn't much of a boss fight.
Among the nominations, the fight behind the door in USP-05, "Valley of Shia'dorle" (remeniscent of the similar battle in Unreal's "Vortex Rikers") failed to accrue any votes, as did the tricks, traps and puzzles in USP-07, "Shia'dorle Refuge" and the slightly rushed ending sequence. The cavernous church interior in USP-02, "E'Nara Town", the Skaarj and Krall battle in USP-03-Naveed-LH and the waking Titan in USP-08, "Nd'defel's Defeat" were all more successful, getting one vote each.
However, with two votes each, the joint award of "Best Set Piece" goes to Lightning Hunter for the Cave Slith attack in USP-03, "Cellars of E'Nara" (with the flies, the broken bars and the creepy sound effects), and to Willis (with tweaks by Lightning Hunter) for the Skaarj and Mercenary battles in USP-13, "Nuk'Ratha Pass". Well done, guys!
Award #2 - Best Subplot
The "Best Subplot" poll posed the question "Which Translator subplot in Deja Vu did you find the most interesting?"
This poll was more strongly subscribed than the "Best Set Piece" poll, allowing for a more definite result, and this time we have clear first, second and third place winners.
The Mercenary attacks, introduced in USP-12, "Triskaden Station" and played out in USP-13, "Nuk'Ratha Pass", was not the most popular subplot, and accrued zero votes. However, the Nali of the Palace in USP-09, "Palace of Chizra", was a popular enough story to gain one vote, and there was also a vote for "Other" from a forumer who couldn't decide between the Nali of the Palace and the Disgruntled Krall of E'Nara.
MMAN UGITU's story of Carpathus, messenger of Novana, that was introduced in USP-10, "Temple of Novana", played out in USP-11, "Entry to Triskaden" and also referenced in USP-12, "Triskaden Station", was popular enough to gain three votes - however, these three votes were not enough to get the story into second place, which fell instead to Caruthers on the Run, the biggest subplot of the pack that was intriduced in USP-09, "Palace of Chizra" and remained in the background until the encounter with the minigun-toting Caruthers himself, whom the player meets six maps later on USP-15, "Kra'filnish Valley".
Ultimately, though, the award of "Best Subplot" goes to Lightning Hunter for the storyline of Captain K'tes, Captain Maldrin and the Disgruntled Krall of E'Nara, which plays out in USP-03, "Cellars of E'Nara" but is introduced, briefly, in Hellscrag's expanded version of USP-02, "E'Nara Town". Congratulations, Lightning Hunter, on receiving your second award out of the two so far awarded!
Award #3 - Best Boss Fight
The "Best Boss Fight" poll posed the question "Which staged boss fight in Deja Vu v2.01 did you find the most interesting?"
Unfortunately, this poll also resulted in a tie, but this time it wasn't for a lack of interest in the poll, as it was one of the most subscribed.
Not all of the boss fights were very popular, and the Giant Gasbag fight in USP-06, "Catacombs of Shia'dorle" was regarded as too conventional to get any votes. Caruthers in USP-15, "Kra'filnish Valley", was hardly considered a boss next to the map's StoneTitan(s), so he didn't get any votes either. However, the Titan fights in USP-08, "Nd'defel's Defeat" and USP-09, "Palace of Chizra" were more popular, getting one vote each. The beautifully skinned Captain Maldrin in USP-03, "Cellars of E'Nara" also only achieved one vote when he really deserved more, but the battle ended up being too easy.
Bringing up fourth place, with two votes, was the Merc Leader Noork from USP-13, "Nuk'Ratha Pass", created by Willis but tweaked by Lightning Hunter. In third place was MMAN UGITU's stone GasBeast from USP-11, "Entry to Triskaden", which largely resolved the Carpathus story arc, but lost a vote or two because not everybody liked the arena in which the fight was staged.
This means that, with four votes each, the joint award of "Best Boss Fight" goes to Lightning Hunter (again) for the highly original Cave Slith fight in USP-03, "Cellars of E'Nara", and to Mister Prophet for the Skaarj Elder and CryoSkaarj fights in USP-16, "Location Z-14" (tweaked by Hellscrag to balance the difficulty). Apparently, not everyone is tired of Warlord battles, especially when as interestingly staged as the latter!
Award #4 - Most Improved Field
The technical award was well fought but in the end there was a clear winner. Voters were asked to choose from Visuals and Sound (Architecture, textures, lighting, ambient sound and music use), Thematic Consistency (Convincing flow of the environment from start to end), Gameplay Progression (Difficulty of the pack from start to finish), Gameplay Originality (Use of creature pathing, placing and special events), and finally Technical Execution (Framerates, bugs, BSP errors and coop compatibility).
Despite the visual improvements made to a number of maps, Visuals and Sound only scored one vote; but, as one voter correctly pointed out, the improvements to the maps occurred far more as extension and elaboration than actual changes to existing areas. Gameplay Originality also picked up a vote due to the innovative creature placement used in some maps, but there wasn't enough of this going around for the field to score any further votes.
In third place is Gameplay Progression. Although one reader still regarded the difficulty of the pack as a "Hockeystick Curve", at least two voters were in agreement that the difficulty curve was much more balanced. Several people stumbled at USP-09, "Palace of Chizra", but this was as much to do with gameplay technique as the balance of the map.
In second place, with three votes, is Thematic Consistency. A priority of the team leader this time round was to ensure that every map was connected to the next one by logical and seamless means. Hellscrag inserted connecting rooms between several maps that had almost-but-not-quite managed to nail the transition, as well as constructing an elaborate cave (pictured) between USP-03, "Cellars of E'Nara" and USP-04, "Temple of Somana" solely for the purpose of making the transition from cellars to temple convincing.
However, the final award, with five votes, goes to Team UnrealSP as a whole for the improvements to technical execution acquired through thorough testing and remediation. Several BSP holes were fixed and coop bugs squashed, and significant performance and BSP improvements were secured to Sarevok's USP-02, "E'Nara Town" (pictured) by Hellscrag. Lightning Hunter also had a major part to play, aligning vast tracts of rock textures across several maps. Congratulations, everyone!
Award #5 - Best Newcomer
Although several maps in Deja Vu v2.01 were expanded upon and / or drastically improved, only four were completely new. These were USP-04, "Temple of Somana"; USP-07, "Shia'dorle Refuge"; USP-11, "Entry to Triskaden"; and USP-12, "Triskaden Station", which was represented in v1.01 only by a placeholder map. Among other things, USP-04, USP-11 and USP-12 provided a much-needed Skaarj tech component to the pack, bringing Deja Vu v2.01 into much greater balance than its predecessor.
As it happened, every new map found a fan, and no map was left without votes. In fourth place zynthetic's USP-07, "Shia'dorle Refuge", managed to get two out of the fifteen votes submitted to the poll.
There was a tie for second place, which was shared (with three votes each) by USP-11, "Entry to Triskaden", a short but atmospherically creepy map by MMAN UGITU that sets the stage nicely for USP-12, and USP-04, "Temple of Somana", by Drevlin and Frieza, which effectively melds the Ancient and Skaarj texture sets into one, sprawling map. Congratulations to MMAN UGITU, Drevlin and Frieza for creating these levels.
However, the final award for Best Newcomer goes to Hellscrag for the detailed Skaarj map USP-12, "Triskaden Station". Triskaden was popular enough to receive seven votes; this author thanks you for your support!
Award #6 - Most Improved Map
Twelve of the maps that appeared in Deja Vu v2.01 had appeared before in Deja Vu v1.01. The purpose of this poll was to establish which of these maps was the most improved since the first version; what is remarkable, but simultaneously understandable, is the total landslide victory of the winner.
Thanks to the success of the winner (only ten people voted on this poll), only three out of the twelve maps nominated gained any votes at all. The nine maps that were left voteless were USP-01, "Back Again"; USP-02, "E'Nara Town"; USP-05, "Valley of Shia'dorle"; USP-06, "Catacombs of Shia'dorle"; USP-08, "Nd'defel's Defeat"; USP-09, "Palace of Chizra"; USP-13, "Nuk'Ratha Pass"; USP-14, "Fortress of K'etrith"; and USP-16, "Location Z-14". Although many of these maps had significant improvements made, they weren't enough to sway the voters away from the winner.
Joint second, with one vote each, were EBM's "Kra'filnish Valley" (great improvements made by Lightning Hunter) and MMAN UGITU's USP-10, "Temple of Novana". This author feels that the latter deserves an honourable mention and would certainly have won this category had it not been for the winner, which could justifiably have been placed in the "Best Newcomer" category instead, but for the inclusion of a large part of v1.01 material. Great work MMAN, your temple was massively expanded and improved - but the winner landslid over you as much as everybody else at the end of the day!
The winner is, of course, Lightning Hunter with USP-03, "Cellars of E'Nara". Lightning Hunter took Naveed's original map and expanded upon the map and its story immeasurably, introducing in the process the pack's most innovative combat and mover-heavy, interactive environment. Congratulations Lightning Hunter - a prize well deserved!
Award #7 - Best Map
With the final, overall poll of the sixteen maps in Deja Vu v2.01, there simply weren't enough votes to go around. Sixteen maps were on offer but there were only eleven voters; there was a winner, but only just... and it won't have taken a genius to work out what it was going to be.
With sixteen maps and eleven votes, some maps had to go with zero, even though they were all great maps. The zeros are, USP-01, "Back Again"; USP-04, "Temple of Somana"; USP-05, "Valley of Shia'dorle"; USP-06, "Catacombs of Shia'dorle"; USP-07, "Shia'dorle Refuge"; USP-08, "Nd'defel's Defeat"; USP-11, "Entry to Triskaden"; USP-14, "Fortress of K'etrith"; and USP-15, "Kra'Filnish Valley".
Some maps were more popular, swaying voters away from the winning three enough to get one vote each. These were USP-02, "E'Nara Town", chosen by a voter who is a sucker for Nali towns and who appreciated the improvements made to the map for v2.01; USP-09, "Palace of Chizra", chosen for its scale and architecture; USP-12, "Triskaden Station", which must have immersed somebody pretty well; and USP-13, "Nuk'Ratha Pass", presumably chosen for its appealing visuals and hot Skaarj / Mercenary action.
Now for the real winners. Joint second place with two votes each are USP-10, "Temple of Novana" and USP-16, "Location Z-14". With USP-10, MMAN UGITU produced a very large and detailed temple and the score is highly deserved - also, it seems that two voters were willing to look past USP-16's gameplay shortcomings to appreciate the beautiful architecture of Mister Prophet.
There can only be one winner, though, and the official award for Best Map in Deja Vu v2.01 goes to Lightning Hunter for USP-03, "Cellars of E'Nara". Congratulations Lightning Hunter, you have won or co-won five out of our seven categories! I don't think you have anything to be ashamed of.
So that's it - the official Deja Vu v2.01 Critic's Choice Awards. I hope you enjoyed the voting and reading my report; and my sincere thanks to everyone who helped UnrealSP.Org's Third Anniversary Pack become a reality!