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Humbled, Shocked: IGF's Grand Prize Nominees React

The developers of Fez, Frozen Synapse, Spelunky, Johann Sebastian Joust, and Dear Esther try to put thoughts into words.

Monaco designer Andy Schatz was the big winner at the IGF awards two years ago.

There were hundreds of games submitted to the Independent Games Festival this year--very nearly 570, actually. It was a record-breaking number of submissions, and it’s taken weeks for the organizers to whittle it down to the finalists list announced this week.

The nominees aren’t given advance notice, so when Fez, Frozen Synapse, Johann Sebastian Joust, Dear Esther and Spelunky were revealed as Seumas McNally Grand Prize finalists, it was a surprise to the men and women making them, too. It’d be an honor to win, and also a hefty financial boon--there’s a $30,000 prize.

As word spread, I asked the developers to give their spit-take on what it’s like to be up for the biggest prize in indie land.

Here’s what they told me.

Dan Pinchbeck (Dear Esther) -- writer, producer, creative director at thechineseroom

“We're unbelievably pleased--massive honor and it's great to be standing alongside some really fantastic games. I think the line up this year is brilliant, which makes it all the more amazing to get the nominations. You read down the honorable mentions and there are games there that could so easily be capable of carrying off awards, and that's before you even get to the finalists. So we're hugely happy over here, and it's a real boost to the team, who have put in a crazy amount of work to get Dear Esther ready for release. I'm really proud of them, and what we've made, and delighted to be coming over to SF in a few weeks to celebrate!”

Paul Taylor (Frozen Synapse) -- co-founder of Mode 7 Games

“Completely bowled over and celebrating with some strange oat stout we discovered in a local pub!

We are just delighted to be up there in such illustrious company and very happy to have an excuse to come out to the US and see everyone at GDC.

We want to thank everyone who invested time to help us test FS andpolish it up at the end - we're always grateful.”

Douglas Wilson (Johann Sebastian Joust) -- co-founder of Die Gute Fabrik

“We're humbled and honored! We had hoped that we might make the Nuovo category or something, but we didn't think Seumas McNally would be in the cards. Wow.

I also want to add that I'm very proud of the Where is my Heart team. I didn't work on the game myself, but I love that game to bits. Where is my Heart received three honorable mentions (Audio, Design, Seumas McNally). I'd give them my finalist spot if I could. They deserve it.

The other thought going through my head is: how the hell are we supposed to show Johann Sebastian Joust amid the hustle and bustle of the IGF pavilion?! And will there even be enough space for it? I've got some "creative" ideas - let's see what we can pull together. Inspired by the spirit of Babycastles, I'm hoping to bring a little bit of mayhem to the GDC showfloor!”

Derek Yu (Spelunky) -- designer, artist, co-founder of Mossmouth

“We JUST submitted a significant build of Spelunky to Microsoft, so it's been non-stop action over here. Andy and I were stressing about getting one nomination even, so getting three is... beyond our feeble comprehension at this point. We're sharing a beer over webcam to celebrate!

I think the other nominees are amazing, and I'm very, very proud to be up there. To be honest, I wasn't sure exactly how I'd feel if I got a chance to be in the IGF again (Aquaria won in 2007)... I'm extremely relieved and excited, though. Andy, Eirik, and I have worked hard on Spelunky and I can't wait to show the game off with them and the other nominees.

NOW BACK TO WORK! :)”

Phil Fish (Fez) -- artist, designer, head of Polytron

"im just really happy we got any nominations at all.

we would have looked pretty dumb if we didnt get anything at all after the whole re-entry controversy. phew!

but grand prize is a big deal! super thrilled to be part of that line-up.

some tough competition this year!

i wouldn't mind losing to any of those games.

especially johan sebastian joust!

it's such a good edition this year.

the nuovo nominees are particularly on point, i find.

i am STOKED!"

--

The winner will be announced at the Game Developers Conference here in San Francisco in March.

Patrick Klepek on Google+
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Posted by patrickklepek
Monaco designer Andy Schatz was the big winner at the IGF awards two years ago.

There were hundreds of games submitted to the Independent Games Festival this year--very nearly 570, actually. It was a record-breaking number of submissions, and it’s taken weeks for the organizers to whittle it down to the finalists list announced this week.

The nominees aren’t given advance notice, so when Fez, Frozen Synapse, Johann Sebastian Joust, Dear Esther and Spelunky were revealed as Seumas McNally Grand Prize finalists, it was a surprise to the men and women making them, too. It’d be an honor to win, and also a hefty financial boon--there’s a $30,000 prize.

As word spread, I asked the developers to give their spit-take on what it’s like to be up for the biggest prize in indie land.

Here’s what they told me.

Dan Pinchbeck (Dear Esther) -- writer, producer, creative director at thechineseroom

“We're unbelievably pleased--massive honor and it's great to be standing alongside some really fantastic games. I think the line up this year is brilliant, which makes it all the more amazing to get the nominations. You read down the honorable mentions and there are games there that could so easily be capable of carrying off awards, and that's before you even get to the finalists. So we're hugely happy over here, and it's a real boost to the team, who have put in a crazy amount of work to get Dear Esther ready for release. I'm really proud of them, and what we've made, and delighted to be coming over to SF in a few weeks to celebrate!”

Paul Taylor (Frozen Synapse) -- co-founder of Mode 7 Games

“Completely bowled over and celebrating with some strange oat stout we discovered in a local pub!

We are just delighted to be up there in such illustrious company and very happy to have an excuse to come out to the US and see everyone at GDC.

We want to thank everyone who invested time to help us test FS andpolish it up at the end - we're always grateful.”

Douglas Wilson (Johann Sebastian Joust) -- co-founder of Die Gute Fabrik

“We're humbled and honored! We had hoped that we might make the Nuovo category or something, but we didn't think Seumas McNally would be in the cards. Wow.

I also want to add that I'm very proud of the Where is my Heart team. I didn't work on the game myself, but I love that game to bits. Where is my Heart received three honorable mentions (Audio, Design, Seumas McNally). I'd give them my finalist spot if I could. They deserve it.

The other thought going through my head is: how the hell are we supposed to show Johann Sebastian Joust amid the hustle and bustle of the IGF pavilion?! And will there even be enough space for it? I've got some "creative" ideas - let's see what we can pull together. Inspired by the spirit of Babycastles, I'm hoping to bring a little bit of mayhem to the GDC showfloor!”

Derek Yu (Spelunky) -- designer, artist, co-founder of Mossmouth

“We JUST submitted a significant build of Spelunky to Microsoft, so it's been non-stop action over here. Andy and I were stressing about getting one nomination even, so getting three is... beyond our feeble comprehension at this point. We're sharing a beer over webcam to celebrate!

I think the other nominees are amazing, and I'm very, very proud to be up there. To be honest, I wasn't sure exactly how I'd feel if I got a chance to be in the IGF again (Aquaria won in 2007)... I'm extremely relieved and excited, though. Andy, Eirik, and I have worked hard on Spelunky and I can't wait to show the game off with them and the other nominees.

NOW BACK TO WORK! :)”

Phil Fish (Fez) -- artist, designer, head of Polytron

"im just really happy we got any nominations at all.

we would have looked pretty dumb if we didnt get anything at all after the whole re-entry controversy. phew!

but grand prize is a big deal! super thrilled to be part of that line-up.

some tough competition this year!

i wouldn't mind losing to any of those games.

especially johan sebastian joust!

it's such a good edition this year.

the nuovo nominees are particularly on point, i find.

i am STOKED!"

--

The winner will be announced at the Game Developers Conference here in San Francisco in March.

Staff
Edited by Godak

Bumbled, Bhocked: BGF's Brand Brize Bominees Beact

EDIT: Don't blame me! I am a product of society.

Posted by ArcadiaExeter

bociety.

Posted by Branthog

Holy crap, a list of winning indie games that didn't involve aspergers and relational disorder!

Posted by Grissefar

@Godak said:

Bumbled, Bhocked: BGF's Brand Brize Bominees Beact

EDIT: Don't blame me! I am a product of society.

That's really unfunny. Don't know why you would drag a joke that far out. It's really distasteful.

And wow, Phil Fish is really not a fan of capital letters, hehe. I guess he assumed Patrick was going to clean up his comments before posting!

Posted by xbob42

Very nice diversity of games from all around the world here!

Posted by Atwa

FEZ

Posted by Beforet

@Branthog said:

Holy crap, a list of winning indie games that didn't involve aspergers and relational disorder!

Is there a reason you bring up aspergers and relationship disorders in comments for every Klepek article. You seem to have something of a complex, friend.

Posted by Godak

@Grissefar said:

@Godak said:

Bumbled, Bhocked: BGF's Brand Brize Bominees Beact

EDIT: Don't blame me! I am a product of society.

That's really unfunny. Don't know why you would drag a joke that far out. It's really distasteful.

Oh, my. Someone on the internet is displeased with something I've done. How will I make it through the rest of my day?

Calling someone out because they have a different sense of humor is just childish. If someone laughs at a joke in a movie that you feel is overused, cliche, old news...do you walk right up to that person and give 'em a piece of your mind?

You honestly couldn't have just, say, rolled your eyes and been happy that independent video game developers are getting their due?

Posted by Branthog

@Beforet said:

@Branthog said:

Holy crap, a list of winning indie games that didn't involve aspergers and relational disorder!

Is there a reason you bring up aspergers and relationship disorders in comments for every Klepek article. You seem to have something of a complex, friend.

Because that's the indie game everyone was emptying their bladder over for the last few months.

Posted by aurahack

I'd put my vote in for Dear Esther. That game hit me hard.

Though I'd fucking love to play Johann Sebastian Joust. Looks fun as hell.

Posted by Beforet

@Branthog: Are you talking about a specific game here, because I don't know what you're talking about?

Posted by Branthog

I really like the look of Wunderputt. Also, I haven't heard anything about Monaco in so damn long. I was really looking forward to it, but had started to worry that it might never see a release.

Posted by Godak

@Branthog said:

I really like the look of Wunderputt.

That does look interesting...mini-golf with isometric graphics and crazy shit up the wazoo? On paper, it sounds pretty friggin' amazing.

Posted by Branthog

@Godak said:

@Branthog said:

I really like the look of Wunderputt.

That does look interesting...mini-golf with isometric graphics and crazy shit up the wazoo? On paper, it sounds pretty friggin' amazing.

I like the retro sort of art style to it, too. Crazy 50s rocket ships and everything. I guess "whimsy" is a word that comes to mind.

Posted by nail1080

@Branthog said:

Holy crap, a list of winning indie games that didn't involve aspergers and relational disorder!

you're very sad

Edited by Grissefar

@Godak said:

@Grissefar said:

@Godak said:

Bumbled, Bhocked: BGF's Brand Brize Bominees Beact

EDIT: Don't blame me! I am a product of society.

That's really unfunny. Don't know why you would drag a joke that far out. It's really distasteful.

Oh, my. Someone on the internet is displeased with something I've done. How will I make it through the rest of my day?

Calling someone out because they have a different sense of humor is just childish. If someone laughs at a joke in a movie that you feel is overused, cliche, old news...do you walk right up to that person and give 'em a piece of your mind?

You honestly couldn't have just, say, rolled your eyes and been happy that independent video game developers are getting their due?

I don't know. You seem more upset than you have any reason to so cheer up, buddy!

Posted by Vexxan

Go Fez!

Posted by Branthog

@nail1080 said:

@Branthog said:

Holy crap, a list of winning indie games that didn't involve aspergers and relational disorder!

you're very sad

I just don't wank over every pretentious attempt to be "deep" in a game so that I can feel erudite. Especially when the attempts are so painfully forced. If the specific game I'm talking about was made fifteen years ago, it would have been about AIDs, instead of aspergers, because that's what was trendy at the time. And it's that hipster insincerity (either by the artsy person creating it or - more often - by the reviewer who plays along with it) that is so off-putting.

Someone commented about Patrick. I didn't even notice this post was by him. I was simply referring to the fact that all of the games in the list seem to be about being games and not about putting forth some art-house poseur vibe. (And also understand that I'm not taking issue with games containing deep, emotional, or meaningful content - but gamers and journalists have a propensity to react to even the most obviously shallow attempt toward any of these things with far more reverence than they deserve. The equivalent to having a child die in your movie, because you think it'll really stir people; not because you have anything valuable to say about it. I dont' know why I'm still writing inside these parenthesis.)

Posted by HaVoK308

Man, I can't wait till Spelunky HD hits XBLA! Fez stole a piece of my heart when I first saw it. Sadly that was a couple years ago! I hope it releases soon so I can find my heart.

Posted by l3reak

Super glad to see more IGF coverage!

Now, if we could just get some write-ups of what these games are... ;)

Posted by mnzy

Some video footage would be nice. Maybe I'm lazy, but hey, these are games. They move.

Posted by Googolplexbyte

I'd never heard of spelunky before.

Posted by JackSukeru

@Beforet said:

@Branthog: Are you talking about a specific game here, because I don't know what you're talking about?

He's talking about To The Moon.

Spoilers, I guess.

Posted by nail1080

@Branthog said:

@nail1080 said:

@Branthog said:

Holy crap, a list of winning indie games that didn't involve aspergers and relational disorder!

you're very sad

I just don't wank over every pretentious attempt to be "deep" in a game so that I can feel erudite. Especially when the attempts are so painfully forced. If the specific game I'm talking about was made fifteen years ago, it would have been about AIDs, instead of aspergers, because that's what was trendy at the time. And it's that hipster insincerity (either by the artsy person creating it or - more often - by the reviewer who plays along with it) that is so off-putting.

Someone commented about Patrick. I didn't even notice this post was by him. I was simply referring to the fact that all of the games in the list seem to be about being games and not about putting forth some art-house poseur vibe. (And also understand that I'm not taking issue with games containing deep, emotional, or meaningful content - but gamers and journalists have a propensity to react to even the most obviously shallow attempt toward any of these things with far more reverence than they deserve. The equivalent to having a child die in your movie, because you think it'll really stir people; not because you have anything valuable to say about it. I dont' know why I'm still writing inside these parenthesis.)

Fair enough, but do you have any examples of the type of games you are referring to? And do you have links to any articles glorifying these games?

Edited by beef_melody

Everyone should play Wonderputt right now. It's like Zany Golf but goofier.

Posted by ghostNPC

Very happy and surprised that Dear Esther made that list. Forgot about the remake, hopefully it comes out this year.

Online
Posted by zockroach

Another awesome Klepek story. Keep up the stellar writing!

Posted by ptc

I'm stoked for Fez and Spelunky. 

Posted by mik_fox

I'm really happy about how well indie games are doing recently.

Finally something good about this generation in gaming.

Posted by Rowr

@nail1080 said:

@Branthog said:

@nail1080 said:

@Branthog said:

Holy crap, a list of winning indie games that didn't involve aspergers and relational disorder!

you're very sad

I just don't wank over every pretentious attempt to be "deep" in a game so that I can feel erudite. Especially when the attempts are so painfully forced. If the specific game I'm talking about was made fifteen years ago, it would have been about AIDs, instead of aspergers, because that's what was trendy at the time. And it's that hipster insincerity (either by the artsy person creating it or - more often - by the reviewer who plays along with it) that is so off-putting.

Someone commented about Patrick. I didn't even notice this post was by him. I was simply referring to the fact that all of the games in the list seem to be about being games and not about putting forth some art-house poseur vibe. (And also understand that I'm not taking issue with games containing deep, emotional, or meaningful content - but gamers and journalists have a propensity to react to even the most obviously shallow attempt toward any of these things with far more reverence than they deserve. The equivalent to having a child die in your movie, because you think it'll really stir people; not because you have anything valuable to say about it. I dont' know why I'm still writing inside these parenthesis.)

Fair enough, but do you have any examples of the type of games you are referring to? And do you have links to any articles glorifying these games?

This conversation is just wanky enough for a comments section related to indie games. I approve.

Posted by Gunharp

Great winners! A little unsurprising this year, but wow over five hundred entries? That is pretty awesome.

Posted by ArbitraryWater

@Branthog said:

@nail1080 said:

@Branthog said:

Holy crap, a list of winning indie games that didn't involve aspergers and relational disorder!

you're very sad

I just don't wank over every pretentious attempt to be "deep" in a game so that I can feel erudite. Especially when the attempts are so painfully forced. If the specific game I'm talking about was made fifteen years ago, it would have been about AIDs, instead of aspergers, because that's what was trendy at the time. And it's that hipster insincerity (either by the artsy person creating it or - more often - by the reviewer who plays along with it) that is so off-putting.

Someone commented about Patrick. I didn't even notice this post was by him. I was simply referring to the fact that all of the games in the list seem to be about being games and not about putting forth some art-house poseur vibe. (And also understand that I'm not taking issue with games containing deep, emotional, or meaningful content - but gamers and journalists have a propensity to react to even the most obviously shallow attempt toward any of these things with far more reverence than they deserve. The equivalent to having a child die in your movie, because you think it'll really stir people; not because you have anything valuable to say about it. I dont' know why I'm still writing inside these parenthesis.)

You sir are my hero.

Posted by nail1080

@Rowr said:

@nail1080 said:

@Branthog said:

@nail1080 said:

@Branthog said:

Holy crap, a list of winning indie games that didn't involve aspergers and relational disorder!

you're very sad

I just don't wank over every pretentious attempt to be "deep" in a game so that I can feel erudite. Especially when the attempts are so painfully forced. If the specific game I'm talking about was made fifteen years ago, it would have been about AIDs, instead of aspergers, because that's what was trendy at the time. And it's that hipster insincerity (either by the artsy person creating it or - more often - by the reviewer who plays along with it) that is so off-putting.

Someone commented about Patrick. I didn't even notice this post was by him. I was simply referring to the fact that all of the games in the list seem to be about being games and not about putting forth some art-house poseur vibe. (And also understand that I'm not taking issue with games containing deep, emotional, or meaningful content - but gamers and journalists have a propensity to react to even the most obviously shallow attempt toward any of these things with far more reverence than they deserve. The equivalent to having a child die in your movie, because you think it'll really stir people; not because you have anything valuable to say about it. I dont' know why I'm still writing inside these parenthesis.)

Fair enough, but do you have any examples of the type of games you are referring to? And do you have links to any articles glorifying these games?

This conversation is just wanky enough for a comments section related to indie games. I approve.

So is your hand?

Posted by Rawson

I'm perplexed as to why games that aren't out yet have won.

Posted by xyzygy

Fez!!

Posted by Claude
@Godak said:

Bumbled, Bhocked: BGF's Brand Brize Bominees Beact

EDIT: Don't blame me! I am a product of society.

I laughed. Screw that other guy.
Posted by TehChich

@Branthog: There's a game about Asperger's?

Edited by Cronus42
Posted by vinsanityv22

I think it's kind of unfair to include Fez here, since it's been in development for, like, 4 years. Isn't the point of making smaller indie games to NOT work on things for half a decade?

Posted by Mento

It's so weird to think video gaming has a middle class now. I imagine this sort of contest will become more important than it's ever been as these tiny studios attempt to leave the free flash/browser Indie game strata and get themselves some sweet downloadable market lucre.

Honestly, when you're stuck at the aforementioned flash game level, you're just making cutesy puzzle platformers, artillery physics games and tower defense. It'd be interesting to see what these creative teams do with a little more bank to work with.

I'm slightly intrigued about Johann Sebastian Joust's status as a video game. I assume there's some PSN program that keeps track of scores and such as well as telling the Move controllers what to do? It's reminding me of those board games that use VHS and whether they technically count as video games, in terms of the media part being largely incidental to the gameplay at least.

Moderator
Posted by frsty13

Maybe my memory is going bad, but wasn't Andy Shwatz's big year two years ago?

Posted by Branthog

@TehChich said:

@Branthog: There's a game about Asperger's?

It's that something Moon something game. It's actually based around a sort of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind science-fiction plot, but the big deal that every "game journalist" makes about it is "and the girl in it clearly has some sort of aspergers" (because aspergers has been the new self-diagnosed geek-chic of the last five years, of course) and that it's ostensibly really about relational disorder (a phrase I'd never heard of before, but after googling, appears to basically mean "you have problems in relationships" because there's a diagnosis in the DSM for everyone!).

The problem with criticizing such a game, topic, or anyone reviewing it is that it's so easy to counter absolutely any dissent with "you're a narrow minded hateful durp durp" than consider whether certain elements of a game (just like in movies, books, etc) are just trivial attempts at "depth" (like I mentioned, if the game was made fifteen years ago, it would have an identification with some other condition that was popular at the time).

Maybe I'm too critical and jaded, but the majority of things in gaming that try to be deep, topic, emotional, etc just come across to me as a sophomoric attempt to force those things (and then those on the receiving end heap them with praise, because they want to be seen as having the same qualities that the game aspires to).

Other than those aspects of it, the most basic premise is actually kind of cool. I'm not sure how familiar you are with the game, so I don't want to risk ruining it for anyone.

Posted by Branthog

@RockmanBionics said:

@Beforet said:

@Branthog: Are you talking about a specific game here, because I don't know what you're talking about?

He's talking about To The Moon.

Spoilers, I guess.

The aspergers and "relational disorder" parts aren't really spoilers. They are aspects of the characters and their relationship that are trotted out every time anyone writes or talks about the game, but I don't believe that anyone actually brings up "she has aspergers and likes skittles" or something. That, at least, is a point in its favor of possibly not beating you over the head with it (though it's then undermined by everything I've seen written about it bringing it up again).

The plot that actually encircles all of this is a science fiction one that is at once very familiar, yet new and frankly should be able to stand on its own without journalists always bringing up the "touches on serious sensitive topics of modern society" bit . . . because . . . you know . . . we're always striving to validate our expression as an artistic one to the rest of the world, even if we have to do it with an oversized mallet.

Posted by WolfieSelkie

@Grissefar said:

And wow, Phil Fish is really not a fan of capital letters, hehe. I guess he assumed Patrick was going to clean up his comments before posting!

Somebody doesn't have PHIL_FISH on Twitter ;)

Posted by CaptainCody

Branthog layin' it down with an article within an article. I tip my hat, sir.

Posted by Village_Guy

I love Spelunky so I'm stoked to see how it'll be on the 360.

Posted by Godak

@Grissefar: Yeah, I was probably a bit more peeved than I should have been. But we've both had our say, and no one seems to be fuming over anything. I attempted to do something silly, you did not find it silly, end of story?

@TehChich: Duke Nukem Forever was, in reality, a look at the social connections that those with Asperger's find difficult to create. Hence Duke's propensity towards casual sex and crude jokes. He is trying his hardest to make relationships with those around him, but, at the end of the day, he is just an empty shell of a man.

Posted by TehChich

@Branthog said:

@TehChich said:

@Branthog: There's a game about Asperger's?

It's that something Moon something game. It's actually based around a sort of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind science-fiction plot, but the big deal that every "game journalist" makes about it is "and the girl in it clearly has some sort of aspergers" (because aspergers has been the new self-diagnosed geek-chic of the last five years, of course) and that it's ostensibly really about relational disorder (a phrase I'd never heard of before, but after googling, appears to basically mean "you have problems in relationships" because there's a diagnosis in the DSM for everyone!).

The problem with criticizing such a game, topic, or anyone reviewing it is that it's so easy to counter absolutely any dissent with "you're a narrow minded hateful durp durp" than consider whether certain elements of a game (just like in movies, books, etc) are just trivial attempts at "depth" (like I mentioned, if the game was made fifteen years ago, it would have an identification with some other condition that was popular at the time).

Maybe I'm too critical and jaded, but the majority of things in gaming that try to be deep, topic, emotional, etc just come across to me as a sophomoric attempt to force those things (and then those on the receiving end heap them with praise, because they want to be seen as having the same qualities that the game aspires to).

Other than those aspects of it, the most basic premise is actually kind of cool. I'm not sure how familiar you are with the game, so I don't want to risk ruining it for anyone.

I think the only reason I would play it would be to confirm whether or not this character does have Asperger's. Because I have Asperger's. I was diagnosed at a young age so it's not just me trying to be "hip". ;)

Posted by TehChich

@Godak: Or he's just a man-whore.

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