The 2nd Annual Horace Awards For Forgotten IGF Entrants

By John Walker on January 8th, 2014 at 2:00 pm.

The IGF finalists have been announced, and it’s a fantastic list. Very deserving games. But there are others, ones that didn’t make the grade, and I want to stand up and salute them in public. As a first round judge on the awards, I played a whole bunch of the 650 entries, and there are some real gems in there that are no longer in the running. (Obviously I didn’t play all the entries, so there will be many more great games that still go unrecognised, and that’s sad.) So, as we did last year, here are the Second Annual Horace Awards For Forgotten IGF Entrants.

The Horace Award For Being Bloody Good But Not Quite Finished: Secrets Of RætikonBroken Rules

Also winner of the Horace Award For The Stupidest, Least Memorable, And Most Difficult To Spell Game Title Of The Year, this is one to keep an eye on. It’s just appeared on Early Access, and we’ll be writing about it very soon. In the meantime, know that this is a visually striking and utterly spellbinding exploration puzzler, and I suspect will be far more widely recognised over the year.

The Horace Award For Being Just A Really Fun Game To Play: EldritchMinor Key Games

There were a lot of roguelites in the field this year, but it’s still a shame that Eldritch didn’t see recognition. The Lovecraft-inspired first-person… something absolutely won me over straight away. Perhaps by being so easy for the first randomly generated collection of dungeons, and then being so stupendously hard by the second. I WILL DEFEAT YOU, SECOND BOOK. Yes, it’s probably a shame it went for Minecraft-style graphics, but they quickly stop mattering, and being alive starts. With some really nice twists on the format (killing enemies is often the last thing you should do), and a fantastic ability to scare, this is a treat.

Our review.

The Horace Award For Being The Best Puzzle Game Since Slitherlink: HexcellsMatthew Brown

Behind the scenes of the IGFs there’s a place where judges can discuss each entry. Someone left a comment saying this was just Minesweeper, and I exploded. In response to my messy death a few other judges took a look, and people began commenting on just how splendid it is. Not enough, it seems. That’s not too surprising, I suppose – a pure puzzle game is a hard sell in the categories making up the awards. But there’s only one game that I’ve been repeatedly contacted about in the last few months, multiple people getting in touch to thank me for pointing them toward it, and that’s Hexcells. It’s stunning.

Our review.

The Horace Award For Nepotism: Sir, You Are Being HuntedBig Robot

While I obviously did not vote for Sir in the awards, what with it being made by Jim, I’m surprised that others didn’t in greater numbers. While I’m as biased as it gets, it’s a very splendid and interesting game, seemingly like solid IGF fodder. ROBBED, he was! ROBBED!

The Horace Award For Being Really Very Incredibly Pretty Again: ApotheonAlientrap

Winning a Horace two years running, this ridiculously gorgeous-looking game once again mysteriously lacks a Visual Art nomination. Designed to match the art style of Grecian urns, and succeeding at it, this huge, sprawling platformer is only every very beautiful. Still in development after a very long time, it still feels to undirected to me, too easy to get lost in. But it’s a stunner, and richly deserves its second infinite gong.

The Horace Award For Being On 3DS At The Time So Not Standing A Chance Of Getting Enough Votes: SteamWorld DigImage & Form

I really do think that had they had the PC version available for judges, this would have fared a lot better. It’s an incredibly slick, professional, and enormously fun digging/plaform game, and you can read my review about why, here. It’s very hard for games that aren’t either mobile or PC to get through the IGFs, and especially hard for something as niche as a 3DS download-only. But the PC version is now out, for all to enjoy.

Our review.

The Horace Award For Huh? What? How On Earth Didn’t This Get Picked?: Rogue LegacyCellar Door Games

Huh? What? How on Earth didn’t this get picked?

Our review.

The Horace Award For Worrying Us With Its Honest Portrayal Of Suicide: Actual SunlightWill O’Neill

I don’t think Actual Sunlight helped itself with its 3D re-release this year. The original 2D version was superior, the 3D build certainly more atmospheric, but clumsy and problematic to control. I imagine this may have put a good few judges off experiencing what I think should have been a shoo-in for a Narrative nom. It’s incredibly problematic, and writing about it terrifies me, but I think this only further underlines why it’s so deserving of recognition for its provocative, even dangerous writing.

Our review.

The Horace Award For Looking Absolutely Incredible Despite Only Being About Fifteen Minutes Of The Game: The Franz Kafka Videogame

A perennial problem with the IGFs is people entering games that are only partially complete, or just demos. They’re often far too short to judge. That was definitely the case for The Franz Kafka Videogame, which despite being a very promising puzzle adventure ends far too soon to know if it will work. However, there’s no doubt that the art is phenomenal. Check out the trailer to see.

And there concludes our ceremony. Obviously I’m going to have missed lots of great games, but these are the ones that caught my eye, that I then didn’t see make it to the finalists or honourable mentions. I encourage indie devs who think their game should have appeared here to get in touch with us and let us know why. All the best to all the entries that have made it through – it’s a fine collection of games indeed.

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39 Comments »

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  1. Meat Circus says:

    NO BIOSHCOK INFINITE
    NO GTAV
    NO CODHOSTS

    THUIS IS BULLSHITY

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      Gap Gen says:

      Dangerwrong.

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      kregg says:

      HOW COME TLOU ISN’T ON THE LIST, LET ALONE NOT AT #1????

      DISGUSTING RPS. DISGUSTING. STUPID MID-THIRTIES HIPSTERS! GOD THIS AFFECTS HOW I PLAY MY GAMES SO MUCH!!!!111

    • mouton says:

      Nothing about REAL games, just the usual feminist bolshevik propaganda.

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    Lexx87 says:

    Shame no Rogue Legacy inclusion!

    All the judges must be rubbish at it.

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    stahlwerk says:

    Know your HTML / XHTML / XML entities: æ, or æ is the ligature of ae.

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    The Sombrero Kid says:

    Every game on this list is absolutely stellar and I can’t believe they didn’t get an honourable mention at least.

    For my part Quadrilateral Cowboy and Banished were the most deserving games that missed out.

  5. InternetBatman says:

    I bought Rogue Legacy during the steam sale and absolutely love it. One of my favorite games in a long time. It’s a bit clunky, and the optional bosses are bastards, but it deserved to win something.

    • SillyWizard says:

      Ugh, me too! I actually just installed it last night, and am already 33 generations in.

      I can’t shake the feeling that I’m missing something terribly obvious. I die so easily, so often!

  6. onetruepurple says:

    Hellas was Apotheon months before Apotheon.

    Not the first time Alientrap does something morally gray-as-hell-area, either.

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      Matt_W says:

      Metroidvania platformer with silhoutte-based 2D art sounds quite a bit like Outland as well.

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    The Sombrero Kid says:

    Oh and I think you should have mentioned my game Alaska in this because I like it and I should know I made it!
    It’s a First Person Adventure Game where you explore a space station chat to it’s inhabitants who go about their lives dynamically and you must solve a murder. It’s main influences are Pathologic and Blade Runner the game.

  8. Xocrates says:

    Wait, Eldritch second book was hard? I beat the whole game on my first try and I’m not even good at it.

    Mountains of madness seems proper hard on the base difficulty though. *shakes fist at falling icicles*

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    Anthile says:

    And no Drox Operative either. This is clearly the worst of all worlds.

  10. bateleur says:

    Hexcells over Sokobond?!

    Apparently I gave up on Hexcells too soon… off to give it another try!

  11. Deano2099 says:

    With regards to the whole transparency/bias thing, I often wonder if the IGF’s success is down to the fact that they have (pay?) a whole bunch of games journos as judges, who then go and write about the thing because they then have a greater investment in the awards as a whole.

    So it gets a disproportionate level of media coverage compared to other awards.

    I mean, were it a game and a publisher was paying a bunch of journos to play it and provide feedback, people would call foul over those judges then writing about the game (even in a non-critical fashion).

    I don’t think this is a huge deal, and certainly not an OMG RPS IS CORRUPT post (I’m fairly sure they were covering it before any of them were judges anyway) but it bears thinking about in terms of why the media seem to think the IGFs are so important compared to any of the other game awards out there.

    • John Walker says:

      They absolutely don’t pay first round judges. No idea about anything after that.

      From my perspective, it’s a great way to get access to a lot of interesting indie games that we can go on to write about here.

      As for giving it more coverage than others, it’s nothing to do with judging. Gave it that when I didn’t, still do now I do. They’re interesting awards, ideally highlighting lesser known games without big studio backing. Our sort of thing.

      • Deano2099 says:

        Like I said, not an accusation I’m making at RPS, more on the industry as a whole, it’s covered by sites whose thing you normally wouldn’t expect it to be. Bothers me a bit, not hugely, but worth considering. The whole ‘we’d cover it anyway’ thing is the same reasoning many sites used for taking press trips etc.

  12. Philomelle says:

    I tried to enjoy Rogue Legacy as much as everyone else did and… couldn’t. It really is just Castlevania from the GBA/DS era, but with randomly generated map layout (which is actually the same rooms piled over and over in somewhat random order), some cute character generation that wears off once you realize it’s the same 15 traits over and over, plus the amount of content roughly equal to about a third of Aria of Sorrow (which already is the smallest Metroidvania in the franchise). The pixel art is pretty and the music is solid (I especially love the credits track), but the game itself is nothing special or reward-worthy. It’s a fun time-waster for about a week and that’s it.

    Before you wonder if I simply didn’t try to experience it thoroughly, I did. I love Metroidvanias, so I sat down and completed Rogue Legacy very thoroughly, getting 100% of Steam achievements and getting every single collectible in the game. I simply found nothing memorable in it. It’s a very basic, mediocre Metroidvania whose only edge over the other games in the genre is that it’s procedurally generated instead of hand-crafted (which is actually not an edge in this particular genre, given that Castlevania and Metroid have some devilishly clever and fun puzzles hidden in their world layout).

    What I mean to say is, I’m not surprised it didn’t get nominated. It’s one of the weakest entries I played in its genre so far.

    • Themadcow says:

      In an era soaked with budget priced gaming and short term thrills, calling any game a “time-waster for about a week” is actually quite a strong compliment. I probably have the same opinion, yet didn’t get close to a week of entertainment out of most of the titles I brought this year – including stuff like Bioshock Infinite.

      If anything, I’d say Rogue Legacy’s biggest downfall in terms of this kind of award was that it was almost too polished and mainstream to feel ‘indie’.

      • Philomelle says:

        I suppose that’s true. It did last me about as much as Bioshock Infinite and Tomb Raider combined, though I derived more enjoyment from the latter. It is a fun game that replicates the core Castlevania gameplay well. It’s just nothing particularly special or award-worthy.

        I’m mostly confused why people go so gaga over how flawless it is and keep wondering if I played it wrong.

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    Yachmenev says:

    I kinda missed this on both the actual nominees list, and this list:

    http://www.igf.com/php-bin/entry2014.php?id=2067

    I of course haven’t played it, but it looks silly and wonderful.

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    The Sombrero Kid says:

    I think they should get rid of the categories all together and just have 30-50 slots for nominees that go into a pool of winners, I think it’s a shame there were much fewer nominees overall this year despite the extra slot in each category. I still think If there’d been 50 slots I wouldn’t’ve got in because there was so many great games, but a lot of the games I’m really looking forward to would get in.

    I also think the judges should be required to play every game at least once, but i’m not sure if that’s just my personal bias.

    • John Walker says:

      You think judges should have to play all 650 games?

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        The Sombrero Kid says:

        maybe? I’m not sure. Maybe have a way to reduce the number of entrants, or just have a handful of games you are required to play as a judge, before I entered I expected more judges to download and play it than did, maybe that was nieve :s

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          jrodman says:

          The way this sort of thing is done in events like this that want full coverage is to require that N judges cover an entry, with a reassignment followup algorithm.

          Basically, each judges is required to cover some quantity of entries, say 10, each game is pre-assigned to be judged by some number of judges, say 4. You do some form of randomization to reduce possible judge and judge selection bias from the small sample, and then you require the judges to provide some reasonable level of information on each entrant (quite basic, they’re busy people too).

          If by date X, a game has not been judged by at least 3 judges already, it is assigned to more judges, some at random, with a bias towards judges who have gotten a significant way through their existing assignments. Sometimes you also have “spillover” judges singed up in advance who don’t plan to have the time to judge ten-and-extra, but who absolutely will do the spillover. Typically these people are identified from being dilligent judges in past years.

          In the end you can ensure that you get four, or more actual report cards from your judgement base, even for a large pool of applications like 650. And probably at least 2 of them are not phoned in.

          I’ve participated in a number of large-scale contests that were run this way, as an entrant and as a judge, and it worked well. It struggles if you get too many nonperforming judges. You can complete the event by having some judges do marathons of review but thats unfortunate in many respects, but at least you can ensure the coverage exists.

          Now if you want a really thorough ranking of (part of) the entry pool, you make that 650 coverage round a rather thin evaluation, and then retain the top 100 or 150 or whatever for a more thorough coverage. But I’m not sure if that would improve things or not.

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            The Sombrero Kid says:

            I think that sounds like a very good & fair system, if it works anything like that I’d be very happy & it probably does. I think maybe a bit more transparency is all that’s needed probably.

            I feel I’ve come across overly negative, so I want to point out that I’ve had some excellent feedback from some of the best in the business & the games that got nominated look to be absolutely fantastic.

            The fact that so many excellent games never got a look in just shows how spoiled for choice we all are and how excellent 2014 is going to be for gaming.

            For my part i’m just going to keep working and collecting feedback until I have something worth talking about/playing. You can follow my progress at ratusapparaus.com if you’re into that kind of thing :D

  15. willoneill says:

    Thank you, Rock Paper Shotgun and John Walker for this fine award!

    In honour of John’s fair and accurate observations, I’d like to invite all of you to download the original 2D version of Actual Sunlight for FREE – this is a HORACE AWARD SPECIAL, and I will cut it off at midnight EST.

    Download at: http://www.actualsunlight.com/downloads/

    Act now! And I don’t think RPS would like me to turn their comments section into an AMA, so please follow me on Twitter @willoneill or e-mail me if you’ve got any questions. Thanks!

  16. DirtyDivinity says:

    Sir, You Are Being Hunted : award for What On Earth Could Ever Be Conceived As More Marvellous Than A British Indie Randomized S.T.A.L.K.E.R. (with robots) ? Seriously ?
    Thank You, Sir Rossignol!