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January 13, 2012

2012 Independent Games Festival Announces Student Showcase Winners

The Independent Games Festival has announced the eight Student Showcase winners for the fourteenth annual presentation of its prestigious awards, celebrating the brightest and most innovative creations to come out of universities and games programs from around the world in the past year.

This year's showcase of top student talent include the lithograph-sketched 2D logic puzzler The Bridge, from Case Western Reserve University, Art Institute of Phoenix's magic-moth platformer Dust, and DigiPen Institute of Technology's part-psychological-evaluator, part-boot-camp-instructor, possibly-part-malware action game Nous.

In total, this year's Student Competition took in nearly 300 game entries across all platforms -- PC, console and mobile -- from a wide diversity of the world's most prestigious universities and games programs making the Student IGF one of the world's largest showcases of student talent.

All of the Student Showcase winners announced today will be playable on the Expo show floor at the 26th Game Developers Conference, to be held in San Francisco starting March 5th, 2012. Each team will receive a $500 prize for being selected into the Showcase, and are finalists for an additional $3,000 prize for Best Student Game, to be revealed during the Independent Games Festival Awards on March 7th.

The full list of Student Showcase winners for the 2012 Independent Games Festival, along with 'honorable mentions' to those top-quality games that didn't quite make it to finalist status, are as follows:

The Bridge (Case Western Reserve University)
Dust (Art Institute of Phoenix)
The Floor Is Jelly (Kansas City Art Institute)
Nous (DigiPen Institute of Technology)
One and One Story (Liceo Scientifico G.B. Morgagni)
Pixi (DigiPen Institute of Technology - Singapore)
The Snowfield (Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab)
Way (Carnegie Mellon University, Entertainment Technology Center)

Honorable mentions: Be Good (DigiPen Institute of Technology); Lilith's Pet (University of Kassel); Nitronic Rush (DigiPen Institute of Technology); Once Upon A Spacetime (RMIT); Tink (Mediadesign Highschool of Applied Sciences)

This year's Student IGF entries were distributed to an opt-in subset of the main competition judging body, consisting of more than 100 leading independent and mainstream developers, academics and journalists. Now in its tenth year as a part of the larger Independent Games Festival, the Student Showcase highlights up-and-coming talent from worldwide university programs, and has served as the venue which first premiered numerous now-widely-recognized names including DigiPen's Narbacular Drop and Tag: The Power of Paint, which would evolve first into Valve's acclaimed Portal, with the latter brought on-board for Portal 2.

Others include USC's The Misadventures Of P.B. Winterbottom (later released by 2K Games for XBLA); Hogeschool van de Kunsten's The Blob (later becoming one of THQ's flagship mobile/console franchises as De Blob); and early USC/ThatGameCompany title Cloud, from the studio that would go on to develop PlayStation 3 arthouse mainstays like Flow, Flower, and their forthcoming Journey.

For more information on the Independent Games Festival, for which Main Competition finalists were also just announced, please visit the official IGF website -- and for those interested in registering for GDC 2012, which includes the Independent Games Summit, the IGF Pavilion and the IGF Awards Ceremony, please visit the Game Developers Conference website.

January 10, 2012

2012 Independent Games Festival Announces Main Competition Finalists

The Independent Games Festival (IGF) juries have announced their Main Competition finalists for the 14th annual presentation of its awards, celebrating the brightest creatives and the most influential game designs to come out of the independent community in the past year.

This year's finalists for the most prestigious indie game awards, each picked by a discipline-specific set of expert juries after recommendations from almost 200 top independent game experts, are led by multiple nominations for several standout titles.

These include thechineseroom's experimental first person game Dear Esther -- picking up nominations for Visual Art and Audio, as well as the Nuovo Award and Seumas McNally Grand Prize -- and Mossmouth's procedurally generated platformer Spelunky, which was nominated for the Design and Technical Awards on top of a nod for the Grand Prize.

Other multiple-nominated titles include Polytron's highly anticipated puzzle adventure Fez, Mode 7's turn based tactical shooter Frozen Synapse, and Die Gute Fabrik's digitally-enabled folk game Johann Sebastian Joust, all of which saw nominations for the Seumas McNally Grand Prize on top of nominations for Technical Excellence, Excellence in Design, and the Nuovo Award, respectively.

The Nuovo Award, once again honoring 'abstract, shortform, and unconventional game development' of all kinds, also saw some standout games in addition to some of the above titles among its eight nominees for the $5,000 prize. These include Bennett Foddy's fiendish climbing game GIRP, Daniel Benmergui's evocative title Storyteller, and Terry Cavanagh's two-player puzzle title At A Distance.

Now in its second year fully integrated into the IGF Main Competition, the Best Mobile Game Award saw nominations for Tiger Style's sci-fi action gardening game Waking Mars -- also up for an Excellence in Audio award -- Simogo's rhythm-stealth game Beat Sneak Bandit, Steph Thirion's constellation-crafter Faraway, Powerhead's color-puzzler ASYNC Corp, and Vlambeer's fishing/shooter Ridiculous Fishing.

All finalist games will be playable at the IGF Pavilion on the Game Developers Conference 2012 Expo floor from March 7-9, 2012, at San Francisco's Moscone Center, as part of a week of independent game-related content that also includes the Independent Games Summit (March 5th-6th), and the IGF Awards ceremony itself.

The IGF Awards, where this year's IGF winners will be unveiled, will be held on the evening of March 7, alongside the Game Developers Choice Awards. IGF award recipients will receive $60,000 of prizes in various categories, including the $30,000 Seumas McNally Grand Prize.

The full list of finalists for the 2012 Independent Games Festival, with jury-picked "honorable mentions" to those top-quality games that didn't quite make it to finalist status, is as follows:

Excellence In Visual Art

Botanicula (Amanita Design)
Dear Esther (thechineseroom)
Lume (State Of Play Games)
Mirage (Mario von Rickenbach)
Wonderputt (Damp Gnat)

Honorable mentions: Beat Sneak Bandit (Simogo); Dustforce (Hitbox Team); Fader (Chris Makris); Proun (Joost van Dongen); Toren (Swordtales)

Technical Excellence

Antichamber (Demruth)
Fez (Polytron)
Prom Week (Expressive Intelligence Studio, UC Santa Cruz)
Realm of the Mad God (Wild Shadow Studios & Spry Fox)
Spelunky (Mossmouth)

Honorable mentions: Frozen Synapse (Mode 7 Games); Nitronic Rush (DigiPen Institute of Technology); Reflow (Xymatic); Super T.I.M.E Force (Capy); Tiny and Big - Grandpa's Leftovers (Black Pants)

Excellence In Design

Atom Zombie Smasher (Blendo Games)
English Country Tune (Stephen Lavelle)
Frozen Synapse (Mode 7 Games)
Gunpoint (Tom Francis, John Roberts and Fabian van Dommelen)
Spelunky (Mossmouth)

Honorable mentions: Faraway (Steph Thirion); FTL (Justin Ma & Matthew Davis); Johann Sebastian Joust (Die Gute Fabrik); SpaceChem (Zachtronics Industries); Where Is My Heart (Die Gute Fabrik)

Excellence In Audio

Botanicula (Amanita Design)
Dear Esther (thechineseroom)
Pugs Luv Beats (Lucky Frame)
To The Moon (Freebird Games)
Waking Mars (Tiger Style)

Honorable mentions: Beatbuddy (THREAKS); Beat Sneak Bandit (Simogo); Fez (Polytron); Proteus (Ed Key and David Kanaga); Where Is My Heart (Die Gute Fabrik)

Best Mobile Game

ASYNC Corp (Powerhead Games)
Beat Sneak Bandit (Simogo)
Faraway (Steph Thirion)
Ridiculous Fishing (Vlambeer)
Waking Mars (Tiger Style)

Honorable mentions: Fingle (Game Oven Studios); Hundreds (SemiSecret and aeiowu); iBlast Moki 2 (Godzilab); Temple Run (Imangi Studios); Tentacles (Press Play ApS)

Nuovo Award
[Designed 'to honor abstract, shortform, and unconventional game development'.]

At a Distance (Terry Cavanagh)
Dear Esther (thechineseroom)
Fingle (Game Oven Studios)
GIRP (Bennett Foddy)
Proteus (Ed Key and David Kanaga)
Johann Sebastian Joust (Die Gute Fabrik)
Storyteller (Daniel Benmergui)
Way (CoCo & Co.)

Honorable mentions: Deep Sea (WRAUGHK); Four Letter Word (Terry Cavanagh); GlitchHiker (Aardbever); Hundreds (SemiSecret and aeiowu); POP (Rob Lach)

Seumas McNally Grand Prize

Dear Esther (thechineseroom)
Fez (Polytron)
Frozen Synapse (Mode 7 Games)
Johann Sebastian Joust (Die Gute Fabrik)
Spelunky (Mossmouth)

Honorable mentions: Antichamber (Demruth); FTL (Justin Ma & Matthew Davis); Proteus (Ed Key and David Kanaga); SpaceChem (Zachtronics Industries); Where Is My Heart (Die Gute Fabrik)

In addition, the IGF announced last month that the festival program has entered a new multi-year partnership with Microsoft Studios and its Xbox LIVE Arcade publishing team, to offer a new prize to support notable indies. A standalone jury of independent game creators is working with Microsoft to identify possible choices for the 'XBLA Prize'.

The prize includes a guaranteed first-party publishing deal to release the selected title on Microsoft's LIVE-enabled platforms, including the Xbox LIVE Arcade service, Windows Phone, and Windows, and full game funding to complete the title, if desired, and its winner will be announced on stage during the IGF Awards this March.

"While the sheer number of fantastic entries in this year's festival made whittling down this selection of finalists a difficult task for our judges and juries, that overwhelming show of quality is proof that independents truly are driving the future of games," said IGF Chairman Brandon Boyer. "I'm tremendously excited to see a wider audience discovering and getting to experience all of the beauty and brilliance showcased this year."

The Independent Games Festival was established in 1998 by UBM TechWeb's Game Network to encourage the rise of independent game development and to recognize the best independent game titles, in the same way that the Sundance Film Festival honors the independent film community. Organizers would like to thank sponsors including IGF Platinum Sponsor Microsoft, IGF Platinum Student Showcase Sponsor DigiPen, and IGF Gold Student Showcase Sponsor ENJMIN.

IGF Student Showcase award winners, contending for the Best Student Game award at the Festival, will be announced in the near future, and voting for an IGF Audience Award from participating titles will kick off in late January.

For more information on the Independent Games Festival, please visit the official IGF website at - and for those interested in registering for GDC 2012, which includes the Independent Games Summit, the IGF Pavilion and the IGF Awards Ceremony, please visit the Game Developers Conference website,

2012 Independent Games Festival Finalists: What The Jury Thought

2010techexc.jpgFollowing the announcement of the finalists for all categories of the 2012 Independent Games Festival, we've sifted through the months of conversations our juries had this year on the merits of each game they considered, and have pulled choice quotes which we hope will help illuminate the thought process behind their respective finalist choices.

While some games were discussed at great length, others found themselves nominated essentially on silent, unanimous nods from the jurists -- either way, presented below is a collection of some of the more interesting comments about this year's nominated games from all of our various juries.


"A lot of what Antichamber does to mess with your head is explicitly subvert all the expectations you have when playing a first person game; it's cutting across the UDK grain and can't have been easy."

"[What] impresses me... is how the tech seems to be directly influencing the game design and art style rather than just being used to achieve a given goal."


"Very satisfying, and strategies emerge really organically as you play with it, much like Tetris, instead of being things you are told and then try to learn..."

"This is one of those games where once you've played a lot, and you truly 'get it', it gets really, really good."

At a Distance

"A successful experiment... truly experimental and beautifully haunting."

Atom Zombie Smasher

"This game has a nice progression and tactics on many scales that all work together. Playing the overworld kind of felt like playing a board game... I had to play this one all the way through and stop the zombie outbreak."

Beat Sneak Bandit

"In terms of gameplay, I never would have thought a game where there's a single, simple beat to tap along with could be so interesting... Does it 'flow' like most rhythm titles? Not really. Instead it asks the player to plan a sequence, tap along in their head in preparation, and then go for it -- like playing a 'break' in samba. It's a genuinely unique type of puzzle, with some great level designs."

"This one got more involuntary grins out of me than any other game."


"Botanicula has some of the most charming and surprising animation I've played the entire IGF. I can't imagine anyone playing this and not giggling with wonder at all the hidden things one stumbles upon during a play session."

"My favorite so far, and kinda by a long shot. It has a ton of personality and charm. The music is really well done and interesting. The implementation is great as well. The interactivity is fun and really adds to the world. The more i played of this one, the more i liked the audio."

Dear Esther

"There's a lot of sensitivity to how the world design speaks to the player's emotions, and provokes curiosity."

"Dear Esther is top of my list. Mainly because I feel like it is taking a known genre and game engine and creating something from it that is a total artistic experience."

"There are a lot of games that would be less good as an overall package if their audio weren't as good as it is, but Dear Esther would not work at all if its audio wasn't as good as it is. To me, that warrants special attention."

English Country Tune

"One of the purest, most original, least-contrived puzzle games in years."

"Relatively simple... but its mechanics kept developing into more and more interesting places, and its surface simplicity belied how clever and demanding some of its puzzles could be. It felt like a came from a very pure, unique place. I was surprised by it constantly."


"A simple mechanic played out with really beautiful minimal art and sound, it's a good mix of an immediate, responsive control and a confining, broken control."


"Fez is so epic that i think we'll look back on it as both an homage to video game history, as well as one of the most compelling audiovisual experiences of our times. Such an amazing showcase of craft and talent and design perfection."


"A great multiplayer, multitouch iPad game -- with a great shag-carpet, audio-visual style."

Frozen Synapse

"As a model for strategic e-sports, Frozen Synapse is amazing."

"[I'm] still in awe that a small indie developer managed to craft a 1v1 game of such depth. wonderful, asynchronous mind-games."

"The flow and experience of playing multiple asynchronous matches of multplayer X-COM just blows me away."


"This game is such an interesting abstraction of rock climbing - it actually manages to reduce the task to one mechanic, and yet maintain a real sense of the tension and frustration of the act."


"Once you're messing around with the wiring to turn off lights to make guards move, then smacking them in the face with doors, it starts to be a whole lot of fun and I laughed a lot."

"This game did a good job making you feel like a spy. The game did a good job of teaching you the basics by showing you one line of text as you'd mouse-hover over things."

Johann Sebastian Joust

"This game is genuinely innovative (even as it builds on centuries-old playground games) and beautifully elegant. It really does redefine for me what a game can be, while still being well-crafted and enjoyable."


"Lume is beautiful and fascinating and it's like playing a game in a children's book. Technically, there is some pretty interesting things happening here that you have to see for yourself."

"Lume is such a handsome feast... overall, very lush and touching. The rich contrast, lighting and depth of field made me feel cozy."


"Probably my favorite so far, and definitely the first time a game has reminded me of Max Ernst..."


"Visually and sonically, it strikes the perfect balance between familiar and unfamiliar, it achieves more with less. Proteus, on the other hand, dispenses little gems with sobriety, giving you a reason to explore and a meaning to your button pushing. It has subtlety which is an extremely rare quality in games, indie and not."

Pugs Luv Beats

"This one took me by surprise. It's super charming and the music integration into the gameplay is really creative here. I was enjoying the audio until I realized that the planet selection screen basically andallows you to play two monosynths that point I was sold!"

Ridiculous Fishing

"Impossible to lose, it's really all about how your internal, OCD-desire for efficiency, along with the intrinsic fun of the two activities of fishing and blasting. I happily played through (in the sense that I bought everything in the shop and played for a bit longer) in one sitting."


"With Spelunky, you are never learning a 'piece' of music... It's still a game about repetition and learning, but what you are learning is the overall composition, understanding the overall system and how it works, and becoming fluent in that. At first I disliked the way the ghost worked against the other elements of the game, encouraging recklessness in a game where recklessness was fatal. But eventually I came to love this tension, and appreciate it as the beating heart of the game. Spelunky looks like a game of execution, but it's really a game about information and decision-making. How good are you at looking at a situation and understanding what it means? You can't memorize, and you can't take time to carefully analyze, you must rely on your literacy of the system, and this is a kind of holistic knowledge that feels great in my brain, a wonderful new flavor for a single-player game, and a deeply promising direction for further exploration."


"I've not only never seen anything remotely like it, but I've never encountered anyone even imagining anything in this direction. And if I had imagined it, I probably would have said, 'Nah, that will never work.'"

"It's a game about storytelling, one of the few I know, a fortunate Vladimir Propp + Scott McCloud mash-up that takes full advantage of the combinatorial properties of software. It has a greater level of complexity than the simple branching narrative at the core of his previous work and it requires, in my opinion, a more sophisticated intellectual effort from the player."

To The Moon

"What Amnesia's sound design accomplished in emotional terror, this game's music accomplishes in sentimentality and longing, and... thus struck me as having the most memorable audio."


"Wonderputt literally does inspire a sense of wonder."

"There's no pretense of depth or meaning, it's just surprising and wonderful (and absurdly well-animated) for it's own sake."

Waking Mars

"This one got me instantly, deeply immersed. Really feels exploratory in the way mechanic and story are combined, they're actually going for inspiring some suspension of disbelief in the player instead of just laying out the controls in a literal fashion."

"It's kinda like Another World meets Sim Earth, but with totally different controls and mechanics which are totally suited to the iPad."

"Good atmosphere and player feedback sounds... probably represents some of the most fully realized audio in any of the games in the competition."


"Subtle and very highly structured, but the pointing system is somewhat magical."

January 1, 2012

Letter From The Chairman: 2012 IGF Finalists Now Coming Jan.10th, 15th

Hey all -- a quick note to kick off the New Year: the 2012 Independent Games Festival finalist announcements will now be made on Tuesday, January 10th for the Main Competition, and Sunday, January 15th for the Student Competition.

The reason? We're taking extra time & effort to make sure that mobile (iOS, Android and other) contenders are given proper consideration in all categories alongside their PC and console counterparts, and aren't just limited to their own section -- the reason we integrated them into the main festival to begin with.

As anyone that's worked with pre-release mobile game distribution or has been reading the news recently will tell you, it's not the easiest process in the world to coordinate, thanks to UDID complexities.

This is especially true on a large scale -- but we feel like it's one worth undertaking properly to give equal consideration to every game in the festival for each of our standalone juries. Apologies if this extends the 'waiting' agony for some, but we'll sure it will be worth it. Please contact us if you have any questions, and thanks again to everyone for their support of the IGF.

- IGF Chairman Brandon Boyer