The (Mostly) Complete IGF Factor 2010

By Kieron Gillen on March 11th, 2010 at 10:32 pm.

We're getting a lot of mileage from this stolen image.
The awards start at 6:30 tonight, so it’s time to draw a close to our project of the last few weeks. We’ve interviewed all those who have been nominated for the short list (Except Shatter who I only realised was coming to the PC too late to arrange an interview and Heroes of Newerth, who just couldn’t be bothered answering in time and the student competition folk.) So – in a few hours time, when you want to know about who these winners are… this is where to look. Unless the winners are Shatter or Heroes of Newerth, then you’re right out of luck. Links to all interviews follow, plus – bonus – my speculation on who’ll be picking up the gongs tonight…

Seumas McNally Grand Prize:

Joe Danger (Hello Games)
Monaco (Pocketwatch Games)
Rocketbirds: Revolution! (Ratloop Asia)
Trauma (Krystian Majewski)
Super Meat Boy! (Team Meat)

Excellence In Visual Art
Shank (Klei Entertainment)
Owlboy (D-Pad Studios)
Trauma (Krystian Majewski)
Limbo (Playdead)
Rocketbirds: Revolution! (Ratloop Asia)

Excellence In Design
Miegakure (Marc Ten Bosch)
Star Guard (Sparky)
AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! — A Reckless Disregard For Gravity (Dejobaan Games)
Monaco (Pocketwatch Games)
Cogs (Lazy 8 Studios)

Excellence In Audio
Super Meat Boy! (Team Meat)
Shatter
Closure (Closure Team)
Rocketbirds: Revolution! (Ratloop Asia)
Trauma (Krystian Majewski)

Technical Excellence
Closure (Closure Team)
Limbo (Playdead)
Heroes Of Newerth (S2 Games)
Joe Danger (Hello Games)
Vessel (Strange Loop Games)

Nuovo Award
Today I Die (Daniel Benmergui)
A Slow Year (Ian Bogost)
Tuning (Cactus)
Closure (Closure Team)
Enviro-Bear 2000 (Justin Smith)

Okay – while I was abstracly one of the judges in the IGF, I only contributed in the first round, so haven’t played the majority of the game’s here. This is just a relatively educated outsider’s ignorant opinion, coloured by looking at the previous years’ results.

So, in reverse order….

Nuovo: This differs from the rest, as rather than being voted by well over one hundred judges, these are selected by a short list of luminaries. Orher short lists are formed by the games being divided up among all the judges, each of who judges 15 from the full list. In other words, in the second round, chances are the judges will be playing stuff they didn’t play in the first round – meaning there’s a lot of room for things to shake up. With the Nuovo… well, you suspect when the short list is formed, they already know who they’re going to select as the winner. In other words, I suspect Enviro Bear 2010 is a deliberate nod towards something light, as the other four games are much more serious pieces that exist in a similar part of the aesthetic spectrum. My guess would be Cactus’ Tuning. I think I’d personally prefer Today I Die, however.

Technical Excellence: One of the trickier ones to judge, this. Last year, a programmer got in a bit of a stomp, dismissing most of the judges as “writers”, who’ll clearly not be able to judge what’s important in a game. His point was undermined by arguing that Designers were – basically – writers, but in this award, you can kinda see his point. What is being technically impressive? It seems to gravitate towards technical slickness rather than anything particularly innovative. The outsider has to be Heroes of Newerth. If it wins, I suspect they’ll be an uproar in the indie community. I’d personally argue that it shouldn’t even be in this competition. It’s a mainstream PC-game by an independent team. You may as well have Valve in there as they’re independently owned. Of course, I’m slightly coloured by them being the one team who haven’t got back answers to this… but the fact they didn’t get the answers back is a real sign of how they don’t belong here. Real independents all jumped at this. S2 didn’t. QED.

Of the rest of the list, I’d say it’s a toss up between Vessel and Joe Danger. The former seems more interesting technically while the latter takes the hyper-slickness to new areas. The award probably should go to Vessel, but I suspect it’ll lean towards Joe Danger.

Excellence In Audio: To be fair to S2, Shatter didn’t respond either, and they’re also a larger-than-you’d-expect sort of team for the IGF, but I’m not willing to automatically hit them with the “doesn’t give a toss” stick because I really did try to contact them vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvery late. They’re a strong contender in this, unless they pick up a little of the “Are you really indie?” anti-vote from judges. I’ll go for either Closure or Super Meat Boy. I’d go for Super Meat Boy, for the THUD OF MEAT.

Excellence In Design: The interesting thing about the Design award is that last year it moved from “Design innovation” to Excellence in Design, with the Nuovo award being for innovation. Except, that the Nuovo is also for shortform games. It kind of does leave you wonder where previous winners like World of Goo and Braid would be today. In that older world, you’d suspect Miegakure would have got it. As much as I like AAA(Snip-Ed!), I feel that this one may go to Monaco – assuming Monaco doesn’t win the Grand Prize. There seems to have been a falling off of winning multiple awards since 2006 and Darwinia’s 3 – though World of Goo did manage 2 in 2008. As good as Cogs is, it seems to lack the glamour for an award. I suspect Star Guard’s nature will turn off some of the more reactionary judges. A lot really depends on whether Miegakure manages to actually charm people as well as impress them. Generally speaking, this is one of the strongest categories and – speaking historically – one of the most important in terms of predicting future success.

Excellence In Visual Art: This will be fun. Shank’s retro cartoon look is bold as hell. Owlboy does a very pretty retro videogame take. Trauma looks like nothing else. Rocketbirds: Revolution! fowl-based Flashback-isms are very ballsy. And Limbo looks a lot more comfortable here rather than in the technical category, being one of the most uncanny looking games in ages – and bonus marks for reminding me of Blade Warrior. I think Limbo is probably the favourite here – Shank and Owlboy are better as concept art than actual in game graphics for me. I personally hope it goes to Trauma, though I suspect I’m favouring innovation rather than “excellence”.


Seumas McNally Grand Prize:
And the big one.

Hmm. I tend to feel that the Grand Prize leans towards less the full game and more the initial impression of something which is realy sparkling and clever. It’s, for my money, why Crayon Physics Deluxe beat World of Goo back in 2008. Of what was available to the judges, Crayon Physics promised that it could be a better game. World of Goo was a better game. As such, Joe Danger, Super Meat Boy! and Rocketbirds: Revolution! all strike me as a little trad, if the judges are still leaning in that way. Trauma or Monaco? Trauma is immediately oddly striking, but there does seem to be an anti-narativist bent to the IGF judges which I suspect will leave it losing out. Which leaves Monaco, which would be an awesome winner, and the game I’m personally most excited about. All that can hold it back is that its heart is in the co-op. That’s something else for the judges to try and get… and they won’t necesarily have.

So realistically, it’s down to Super Meat Boy! and Joe Danger – because Rocketbirds: Revolution! is the one which was most lucky to get to the shortlist. I think my preference is slightly towards Joe Danger, but I think it’s more likely to be Super Meat Boy! for reasons of reputation. Simply, a lot more people on the indie scene know about TEAM MEAT than Hello Games. C’est la vie.

But I hope it’s Monaco.

4 hours to the awards. Stay tuned to see exactly how full of wrongness I am.

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31 Comments »

  1. ZIGS says:

    Wait, wasn’t Amnesia also in this competition?

  2. HexagonalBolts says:

    Anything that looks as beautiful as Vessel deserves to win several awards. I hope Monaco is as fun to play as I imagine it to be, it’s really difficult to tell what it’ll play like…

  3. Imperialles says:

    S2 have been crunching hard as of late (trying to roll out the last few features before they can start open beta), and as a result their community/promotional efforts have gone down rather markedly. I am certain they meant no disrespect.

  4. kwyjibo says:

    The whole wrangling over whether Heroes of Newerth is indie enough should not exist.

    There should be well defined criteria for entry into the competition. The dicking about of QGames because they’d done contracting work for Sony was a farce that could have been resolved with some defined standards.

    If it is a finalist, it should be judged for what it is, not whether or not it’s indie enough. There’s a perception within the indie crowd, that indie should mean unsuccessful.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      I strongly agree.

      The game made it to the list of finalists. It should be judged for its merits within that category. Judging a game for its… indieness should not be part of the process at this stage. If there are any doubts than definitely the IGF should review their process for the annual festival.

    • Wulf says:

      I’m getting a 9.5 on my snooty-o-metre, here.

      There’s nothing wrong with — as you say — indie-ness, the problem arises when it’s a competition, and as the bloke said, there should be a criteria for entry, which would remove all the faffing around over it. But saying that an indie contest shouldn’t judge games based on indie-ness is silly. That’s like saying that a top ten games list shouldn’t judge the best games based on game-ness. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, it’s just the concept is silly to me. Indie contest, indie games, people judging indie games, and judging by their own criteria on what makes a great indie game, which is probably indie-ness, then.

      It’s just that they need to make their criteria for judging and entry known. In fact, this is a problem for IGF and it has been with every IGF thus far, there’s been some controversy surrounding it. The problem arises when there are many, many judges and each of them has their own idea of what indie is and makes their judgements based on that. A criteria is necessary, but there’s no need for nostril-flaring at the word ‘indie’, and I certainly don’t believe that it’s a common concept that indie is equated to unsuccessful.

      Braid was hugely successful. Is there anyone who’d say that Braid isn’t indie?

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      >> But saying that an indie contest shouldn’t judge games based on indie-ness is silly.

      You missed the part where i say “at this stage”. Meaning, it’s not after the game made it to finalist that this should be an issue.

  5. Mario Figueiredo says:

    I don’t think this was a particularly happy year for indie games. I was totally not blown away by anything in particular. I was hoping for something, heck even a little breeze sending a slight tingle. But nothing. Nothing really caught my eye.

    My votes (not my guesses. My votes):

    McNelly: Trauma
    Visual Art: Limbo (and i could never vote for an unfinished game even if it was better, which shank is not)
    Design: Trauma… I know, I know. But Trauma is pure game design. So screw their finalists.
    Audio: ??? could never judge this. I lack the ability.
    Technical Excel: Closure
    Nuovo: Today I Die

  6. jarvoll says:

    Keiron, I love your writing, but you seem to have a real grudge against “whom”. Sure, almost no-one uses it in the general object sense any more (“the girl whom I loved”), but you also seem to omit it in the two stock phrases in which it is still generally used by everyone: who verbs whom (“it’s hard to tell who’s tricking whom”); and of whom (in this article: “each of whom”). Why the whom hate?

  7. Wang Tang says:

    Wha. My comment really was not applying. Is there a chance I can delete it?

  8. Mister Yuck says:

    The winner is Spelunky. Spelunky wins everything.

  9. Mike says:

    Monaco! Hooray for Monaco!

  10. RobF says:

    Via the ever lovely Tim, the winnerisers:

    Student Showcase Award Winner:
    Continuity

    Technical Excellence Award Winner:
    Limbo

    Excellence in Design Award Winner:
    Monaco

    Excellence in Audio Award Winner:
    Closure

    IGF Best Mobile Game Award Winner:
    Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor

    Excellence in Visual Art Award Winner:
    Limbo

    Nuovo Award:
    Tuning

    Tuning was pretty much a shoe in (and I do like it a lot), I’ve not been impressed by anything I’ve seen of Limbo to date I’m sad to say. It’s pretty enough but I dunno, just doesn’t grab me. Glad to see Monaco come away with the design prize (very glad!)

    Grand prize isn’t up yet, I’ll admit I’m hoping for Joe Danger really. It totally charmed me last year at the EG Expo.

    • RobF says:

      And it’s Monaco coming away with the grand prize. I can live with that.

      Still sad to see JD not come away with anything but I kinda expected it.

  11. poop says:

    Monaco fucking won!!! YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAH

  12. HexagonalBolts says:

    Hooray for Monaco! Can’t wait to give it a go

  13. Frank says:

    Hooray for Monaco, indeed!

    Too bad Gamestop’s video stream cut Warren Spector off at the end there.

  14. Larington says:

    Rumour mill: A trailer for Deus Ex 3 ran after the gamespot video concluded. I’m a tad miffed about that, for obvious reasons. The last bit of info that came out was a screenshot of the flame of a lighter, I felt thoroughly trolled.

  15. Oh My God A Bomb says:

    @Larington

    I facepalm’d

  16. Matt R says:

    Too bad Gamestop’s video stream cut Warren Spector off at the end there.

  17. terry says:

    I am going to play the shit out of Monaco.

  18. Burningpet says:

    if Heroes of Newerth should have been judged for its technical aspects and them alone. they should have won.

    the game isnt innovative at all and the engine is a slightly modified former engine they made for another game, and yeah, they arent the usual indie team we love to pet (even though they are as indie as the term applies), but the game itself is technically more impressive than the rest in that group.

    • M says:

      It’s not really, is it? It looks like pretty much any old game. If you’re saying they’ve achieved a professional look despite being Indie then, fine, but that’s not what the award is for in my opinion. Games like Closure offer up a far more interesting technical accomplishment, actual feats of coding meeting design and creating something playable. Newerth is very average.

    • Burningpet says:

      not in its netcode aspects, which i suspect, is what gave them the nomination.

    • Burningpet says:

      By the way, i dont think that Heroes of Newerth should have been judged strictly by its coding, i actually agree with kieron, this game shouldnt have been nominated at all.

      its a good game and i enjoy it, but its completly unoriginal in all aspects.

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