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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.
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

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“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

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“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

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“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

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“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

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"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!"

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

Patrick Klepek on Google+