Indieyeahosity: IGF 2010 Finalists Announced

That the new year starts with the short-list of spangly new indie things is one of my favourite things about the gaming calender. Here’s what the 160 (Count ’em!) judges – including Jim, Walker and Myself, though our total judging record wasn’t (er) that (um) impressive – thought were the finest Indie achievements in each category. Well worth digesting this. The previous winners have included some of the most important Indie games of recent times – Darwinia, Braid, World of Goo, etc. The list and initial thoughts follow…

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 (Sidhe)
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)

And here’s the judge’s statement on the Nuvo award, which explains their thinking – also, a short-list of notable mentions.

Some good stuff here. Glad to see Pocketwatch in there – though we’re still waiting for Ventura: Dinosauria, sirs! – especially as the game sounds interesting and (er) I haven’t played it yet. Very pleased to see Joe Danger get the attention, because it has breakout hit written all over it. I haven’t played Trauma either, but the concept and video look fascinating. Surprised to see Heroes of Newerth in it at all, which probably speaks to my definition of Indie. In terms of games I’ve previously got excited about, it’s good to see Rocketbirds: Revolution! and Aaa(“Snip!” -Ed) in there.

Most obvious feted Indie Game missing? Captain Forever. Though I’m partially to blame for that, as it was one of the games I was assigned and I didn’t give any votes for it, not having had a chance to have a proper play at the latest version.


  1. Eater Of Cheese says:

    +1 Cogs!

  2. terry says:

    Is Super Meat Boy even out yet?

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Terry: IGF judges judge off an early version which is entered. Many games in the festival aren’t actually complete. Braid won the design award in 2006 and was only released in 2008, for example.

      Yes, I have reservations with the system too.


    • terry says:

      Ah, that would explain it. I just recall seeing it on Steam recently and being frustratingly unpurchasable.

    • LewieP says:

      If it were only to be games which were completed and out, I suspect that the cash prizes might be a lot less useful. Who knows, maybe Mr Blow would not have been able to finish Braid without the cash prize he got in 2006.

      Also, games which have not yet been released probably benefit more from the exposure than ones which have been released a while ago.

  3. Mihai says:

    Damn! Limbo is still getting done? That’s such good news! I waited to hear something new about this game for the past year or so…

  4. Supraliminal says:

    Enviro-Bear 2000 will take that prize, no doubt.

  5. SanguineAngel says:

    I have to say, Trauma seems to capture my interest by far the most. I hadn’t even heard of it before.

  6. Javier-de-Ass says:

    a bit too much of a group of friends voting for each other feel to this

  7. Gl3n says:

    I do enjoy the IGF Awards. A refreshing start to the year and far removed from the commercial run up to christmas.

  8. LewieP says:

    Pretty great selection. I’ve been meaning to check out Shatter, although I heard word of a 360 release, which I’d be more interested in.

    • RogB says:

      shatter has one of the best ‘old school’ game music soundtracks ive heard in years. Proper hummable tunes!
      listen here:
      link to

    • Casimir's Blake says:

      That looks absolutely addictive, and sounds superb too. But… not on PC? Well, all interest ceases, then.

  9. Lambchops says:

    Yay for Joe Danger (which looks awesome) and Cogs (which is).

    Closure was pretty neat as well.

    Not so sure about Rocketbirds – the demo was OK but it didn’t really grab me enough to want to play more.

  10. Doug F says:

    Are you sure this is the full list? I don’t see FATALE on there anywhere.

  11. Wolfox says:

    Where’s AI War? It should be there.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Wolfox: Good point. To be fair, it’s not a very – er – IGF game.


    • Wolfox says:

      I see. I just wish it had the recognition it deserves. But I don’t need to tell you that, since you know how good it is. ;-)

    • cliffski says:

      how is AI War not an IGF game?

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Cliffski: When was the last time you saw a hard-strategy game shortlisted?


    • Chris Park says:

      I wrote a longer post on the AI War forums about why I myself never really felt that AI War was IGF-ish, but KG pretty much hit the nail on the head with a much briefer explanation: the genre. But, more than that, I think it’s what that genre represents, given that longterm depth is prized over immediate accessibility with everything from Chess on up.

      IGF winners generally tend to be very short and have a clear and immediate hook. They might be hardcore-ish or casual-ish, but they’re the sort of thing you could immediately pick up and play while walking around a convention hall. I figured that AI War had a shot in the Technical Excellence category given the revolutionary AI. But, something so abstract as AI quality is really hard to judge if you aren’t already good at the game the AI is in, as well as comparable games with AI opponents (so that you have some referent point), so once again it is not hard to see why this would be passed over.

      The fact that AI War wasn’t a fit for IGF doesn’t mean I won’t enter anything else in the future. Our two upcoming games for 2010, the puzzler and A Valley Without Wind, are both still quite deep in their gameplay, but are also vastly more immediately accessible. Either one of those is much more of an IGF-ish game than AI War. Anyway, as they say, there’s always next year. In the meantime, AI War is doing well enough commercially to support fulltime myself, our composer/sound designer, and our artist. That’s my first and only goal outside of making excellent games, really.

    • cliffski says:

      This is all true, but depressing, as people who don’t follow indie games often assume the IGF totally defines what indie games are, which is just…not..true..

    • Turin Turambar says:

      Excellent. Now it’s not only the big mainstream sites that ignore indie titles because they are hardcore strategy games, or simulations, or old school rpg games, now they are also ignored by the indie guys!

    • RobF says:


      I’d always assumed that most people don’t lend that much weight to the IGF from the general populace. Or rather, that aside from “oh look, some new games to look at” when the press blitz comes round, it’s not really on their radar never mind as a definition of indie games.

      That said, the set up doesn’t really allow for an overly representative sample of Indie in the finals (or I’d argue, in the contenders also due to cost/attendance requirements).

      This year has seen vastly more variety in the entrants than before yet, Nuovo award aside, has probably the safest set of finalists in many a year. Although y’know, Enviro-Bear and A Slow Year aside, even that seems somewhat predictable. I can’t decide whether I’m just getting old or perhaps there really is “an IGF game” style.

    • Chris Park says:

      Well, there are certainly a lot of different kinds of indies. I would think that Cliff and I, and a lot of the others that tend to get coverage on more mainstream sites for the genre itself (other than indie) are one sort. Then there are the sorts that get only indie-focused coverage, or mainstream coverage as an indie game alone (Braid, Enviro-Bear, etc) that are another sort.

      Or, to put it another way: indie is a genre on many sites. Is the game primarily in the indie genre, or is it also sitting squarely in some other genre. I’d classify for AI War and GSB and Evochron Legends and the like as being primarily in their other respective genres, and then indie second — from a design sense on up, they were made by indies but fit more squarely as innovators in existing genres. Those sorts of games tend to get ignored by the indie gaming press more often than not, from what I have observed with AI War and other titles by other developers.

      I don’t know, it’s not like someone would fault for not covering the latest FPS game. If you think of “indie” as a genre and not a method of creation, then it makes perfect sense what the IGF is doing. The problem is when the genre and the method get confused. Maybe we need some sort of conference and such for non-Indie-genre games created by indie developers — there were a ton of such games in IGF, and none that I recognized got any love there. Not that I’m offering to organize such a conference, mind. Perhaps that’s sort of what the Indie Game Challenge, which I did not enter for various reasons this year, is aiming to be?

    • RobF says:

      Oh yeah, I think it doesn’t help that I’ve never wanted to be one of the latter. I’m an indie by definition not by wot I am/do. I’d sooner just have folks enjoy my games for what they are than because they’re more obscure/alternative than thou. The sort of “indie as a genre” thing always rubs me up the wrong way, especially considering indie is sort of disparate by design.

      That said, I’d take a thousand IGF’s/Indiecade over the Indie Game Challenge which appears to me to be a sort of “well, go on, admit it – you just want to be under the thumb of the majors really” approach. Perhaps it’s not the intention but that’s the sort of vibe I get from the spiel and presentation. “Break into the industry” as the main tagline is as good as saying “shoot yourself in the face” to me. Not that I’d spurn the cash, obviously, that’d go down very nicely but it seems to be kinda missing the point of the joys of being independent. I can be my own bean counter, ta.

      It’s a tough call. On the one hand you have something as wonderful and mainstream baiting as Joe Danger (which is an absolutely fantastic work of love) and something as hardcore as Monaco which also looks to have the same love invested in it, just at the opposite end of the scale.

      Perhaps it’s the lack of appreciation for the middle ground that gets me – the interesting stuff that exists like yours and Cliff’s stuff, which whilst generally isn’t my bag, we’d be a lot poorer for it not existing and also more fluffball stuff that *just plays well*.

      I often find my biggest gripe with the IGF (and infinitely more so with Indiecade) is that games just as games find themselves out of the running or in for a more difficult ride. I think the lack of VVVVVV and GSB (and Don’t Shit Your Pants should have been a sure thing) in the finalists amongst other things seems to hammer that home for me more this year.

    • Javier-de-Ass says:

      rule of thumb is that if it isn’t a cutesy platformer or pastel art game it won’t compete isn’t it. heh

    • Lambchops says:

      On the bright side (or not as the case me be!) it does show that games are growing as a medium than the “is indie a genre?” debate that crops up in music (still unresolved it seems) has cropped up in the gaming world as well.

      I added the or not in the first bit because although interesting at first it does become quickly tiresome trying to define the term “indie” and decide whether it is a genre or a way of working I guess it can be both it just depends on the context people use it . . . but unfortunately some people can’t bend to any other definition but their own.

  12. Rock Tumbler says:

    Is there some reason that Machinarium is ineligible for the competition? I’m surprised not to see it in the Excellence in Visual Art category.

  13. Farbs says:

    Hey Kieron, will you be at GDC? If so you can buy me a beer :)

  14. Skye Nathaniel says:

    Yeah, I think I’ve been waiting over two years for any kind of update on Limbo, so this is out-of-the-blue and wildly exciting. Though, yes, tempered with sadness for Captain Forever.

  15. Max says:

    Shocking! Tale of Tales’ “Fatale” isn’t on there at all!

    Even though it beats them all in every category. :)

  16. hydra9 says:

    Really great news about Limbo (which I never thought was going to emerge from its own, ah, limbo). What about Terry’s VVVVVV, though?

  17. ChaosSmurf says:

    Anyone get to play Zeit2? Looked interesting when I was trawling through them.

    • Thomas says:

      If you are interested in zeit2 feel free to sign up for our newsletter on we might need some extended preview/beta testers soon.

  18. SpellingNahtzee says:

    Is the misspelling of “Seamus” intentional?

  19. Lambchops says:

    As for VVVVV despite having not played any of it (the beta got taken down after the leak before i could get my hands on it with donation money) i was kind of suprised to see it wasn’t there; especially with all the really positive press it has been getting. I’m looking forward to its release in a few days as it looks rather like my cup of tea.

  20. Binni says:

    Let’s just hope we won’t have another Blueberry Garden style winner. I like me some indie but that game was just terrible.

  21. Casimir's Blake says:

    No love for Owl Boy? This has a not dissimilar feel to SNES platformers. Has some lovely music too, chip + strings?

  22. RagingLion says:

    Trauma looks really interesting having watched the video after Tale of Tales picked it out. Exactly the kind of thing I’m interested in

  23. frags says:

    It’s interesting that you(Chris Park) think that indie is becoming a genre by itself. I agree that many mainstream sites are beginning to differentiate them from the rest of the pack. But the word indie is so broad there isn’t a proper definition about what an indie game is. It is really unfair that the term indie is becoming narrower in its definition simply because of the past winners(puzzle game/platformer).

    Also I need to point out that Dyson(Eufloria now) has won an IGF award previously showing that strategy games can get nominated. It just seems like a complete oversight to me that AI War and GSB to not even be nominated(and GSB is a pretty easy game to get into)

    Anyway, in my eyes, AI War and GSB are winners for me.

    • RobF says:

      Eufloria was nominated as an IGF finalist but didn’t take away any gongs, so yeah – you can get a nomination but it is also a slightly more arty and more IGF-ish strain of strategy game than the out and out PC-game-isms of AI War/GSB.

    • Chris Park says:

      Well, that’s why I feel like there are basically dual definitions. If you view indie-as-a-genre in terms of the IGF, that has one specific meaning. With sites like Steam or Direct2Drive, they simply mean “self published digitally” (because at least some of the indies, myself included, are not self-published when it comes to regional retail — or retail in general, obviously, for those that have retail copies). So that’s two very different definitions right there.

      When you look at IGF, I guess there is just a certain amount of cohesiveness in the games that do well there — you could make a general vague genre description out of that (as vague as “sports games” or “casual” are, for instance). When you look at the distributors, though, there’s no such cohesiveness; quality varies in all aspects of indie-produced games, as do design decisions, intent, etc. Even Gas Powered Games is somewhat of an indie developer in one sense, as they never take traditional publisher relationships to my knowledge; they fund themselves. But obviously, they are a beast of a different sort than regular indies, and so even the big sites treat GPG as AAA (which they are, despite their funding method).

      So it’s all very muddy and obtuse, I think, but that doesn’t preclude indie being both a genre and a wider method of game creation, at least not to me. I guess that makes indie a homonym!

  24. Thomas says:

    Even if we are not in the finals the judging process seemed very fair. We got great feedback from the judges which is very much in line with what we are working on to improve our game.

    Good luck to all the finalists and enjoy your trip to SF! Our visit at GDC for the student competition last year was quite an experience.