Indie Rock: 2011 IGF Winners Announced

It's not the size of your house, but what you do with it. NOTCH, HURRY UP AND ADD CONTENT THAT LETS US DO THINGS WITH OUR HOUSES.

The Independent Games Festival has announced its winners for 2011, plucked from this very list of finalists. Of the ten categories, seven games took home prizes (not to mention prize money), including some games you’ve probably played and two you most likely haven’t. Now, who do you think took home both the Grand Prize and the Audience Award? Go on. You’ll never guess. It’s crazy. A real under-dog. A long shot fired from a broken gun.

YES, yes, yes it was of course Minecraft. But another game that did very well for itself was Amnesia: The Dark Descent, scooping the Excellence in Audio, Technical Excellence and Direct2Drive Vision awards. Here’s the full list.

* Seumas McNally Grand Prize ($20,000)
Minecraft, by Mojang

* Nuovo Award ($5,000)
Nidhogg, by Messhof

* Excellence in Visual Art ($2,500)
BIT.TRIP RUNNER, by Gaijin Games

* Excellence in Audio ($2,500)
Amnesia: The Dark Descent, by Frictional Games

* Excellence in Design ($2,500)
Desktop Dungeons, by QCF Design

* Best Student Game ($2,500)
FRACT, by University of Montreal

* Technical Excellence ($2,500)
Amnesia: The Dark Descent, by Frictional Games

* Best Mobile Game ($2,500)
Helsing’s Fire, Ratloop

* Audience Award ($2,500)
Minecraft, by Mojang

* Direct2Drive Vision Award ($10,000)
Amnesia: The Dark Descent, by Frictional Games

I think it’s time I had a look at FRACT. You can read our Jim’s investigations into it here, and it does sound pretty neat. Good to see Desktop Dungeons getting some kudos, of course. That Nidhogg still hasn’t been released to the public is getting farcical, but whatever. And then there’s BIT.TRIP RUNNER, which came out on Steam this very week.

All good stuff, but I’d encourage you look to take another look at the finalists. What do you reckon? Think anyone in particular got robbed? I wouldn’t have minded The Dream Machine’s lovingly-crafted cardboard and clay winning over Bit.Trip.


  1. Risingson says:

    It’s fair, I guess. As for the student finalists, I actually loved Paperplane over everything else, but you know, it’s only my opinion. Congratulations to the winners!

  2. crainey92 says:

    I’m glad Minecraft won a few awards, although, does it really need the recognition or money? I totaly agree with the awards Amnesia got, really deserved them.

  3. SimonHawthorne says:

    What is lovely is that the prize money Minecraft won is nothing next to how much it made. They have a whole different level of recognition.

    Actually, is that so lovely? Is the point of Indie awards to raise the profile of small Indie games?

    But then, is success an automatic disqualification criteria for being a loveable Indie game?

    Damn you, Philosophy BA.

    • Bilbo says:

      There’s no easy answer. I think ultimately you can come down on either side of that debate and still be “right”.

    • Tacroy says:

      Personally, I think that Mojang Specification should have accepted the invitation but publicly notified the judges that since they already have all the publicity they need, they wouldn’t be accepting any prizes. It would have let other Indie games take the spotlight; after all, Minecraft is basically the juggernaut in this arena, and could very easily crowd out the rest of the indie games scene.

    • SimonHawthorne says:

      I really wouldn’t be surprised if they did donate the prize money (but I don’t think it’s fair to compel them or even say they have a moral obligation to do so – although check out their purchase price of the Humble Indie Pack 2).

      It’s just interesting to note the purpose of the prizes and whether Minecraft winning an award serves that purpose.

      I suppose the fact that we’re even thinking about this is a testament to how nobody expected an indie game to grow to the size that Minecraft has done. Minecraft has broken the genre ‘indie’.

    • Dinger says:

      The IGF’s whole point is to support Independent games as a viable artistic and economic undertaking alongside the big studios. In that perspective, the IGF has to get behind Minecraft. Independent game and game of the year? This is exactly the direction we want things to go in.

      Minecraft plays to all our conceits. It is the ultimate in canned narcissism: the game and the story behind the game correspond to whatever narrative we think should correspond to them.

      For me, that narrative is that an indie developer starting building a great game, then used all the cheap, force-multiplying tools in his arsenal. Chief among those: let the players and the media own the narrative. I mean, look at the RPS folks who crowed “Minecraft is our story. Well, our story, and (that other site’s that won’t be mentioned)”.

      Hell, I buy into it too. Minecraft is my story. Mojang/Notch realize this is their major selling point, and make darn sure to be as seemingly transparent as possible, while at the same time promoting as many cool indie titles as they can.

      That’s why it’s called Indie lovefest.

    • Wulf says:

      Well said, Dinger!

      And they’re doing even more to make it the story of the players now by making it more open and developing a modding API, which is something I’m glad that Notch decided to get behind, because it’ll only help with the game. I’ve decided to wait for that before I start modding Minecraft – and when that happens I’ll be damned if there won’t be playable werewolves and ridable dragons. If it’s within my capability, I’ll do it, and it’s not like I haven’t done noteworthy things with mods before.

      I think others will likely get into modding too, and make the sorts of things happen that players really want to see, and not just nerdy things, but awesome things. It’d be wonderful to see elements like Mo’Creatures and the NPC towns appearing as mods which one can toggle on and off via an in-game menu, and that’s absolutely the route Minecraft should take. Interestingly, in the Minecraft documentary by 2PP, Notch said that the hardest thing for him to do was to just let go and not have such dominion over the project, but that he realises that’s what he has to do for the good of Minecraft. So you’re right about Mojang realising the importance of transparency.

      And as that happens, Minecraft will become ever more and more something of those who play it.

    • Nesetalis says:

      aye, your point is right. Indie games doesnt mean ‘small’ it means independent. Minecraft has no publisher, has no venture capitalists, it is independent and it is awesome. It deserves to win.

  4. Kaira- says:

    Nice to see Desktop Dungeons getting awards, though I still insist it’s too much based on luck. But it’s way better than last summer, that’s for sure. Anyways, congrats to everybody who won something.

    And if you didn’t win anything: what a shame.

  5. pupsikaso says:

    Sweet, so happy that Amnesia is getting the recognition that it deserves.

  6. CMaster says:

    Wow, most of the IGF winners are games that you can actually play, rather that games that might maybe be released in a few years, possibly. But they’re great, honestly.

  7. Cooper says:

    FRACT is a piece of beauty, and a bit of a naughty dream for all of us who go weak at the knees when confronted with bright, neon, polygon worlds.

    Don’t let the MYST comaprisons put you off though. It’s nothing like that.

    • Urael says:

      I disagree. It contains the very best qualities of Myst: the exploration, the discovery, the experimentation, the delight when you finally work out a puzzle, the little animated reward for doing so…sounds like Myst to me. :)

      Oh, and I love the idea of ‘Comaprisons’. I’m so using that in my writing.

    • Wulf says:

      It’s exactly Myst in everything other than visuals. The interface is even almost directly lifted from Uru, which was the first thing I thought when I played it. “Hey,” I thought, “that little circle interaction thingy looks oddly familiar to me.”

      I don’t know why people are hard on Myst, and I don’t know why there are those who say Fract isn’t like Myst. In fact, Fract is exactly Myst, it’s just that Myst is set in more Sci-Fantasy worlds, and Fract is set in more Neon alien worlds. But both possess the same gameplay mechanics and the drive for exploration, as has been said.

      Though to be honest, I really feel that those saying “It’s not like Myst!” simply haven’t played Uru, which would make sense. It’s not like Myst 1, no. It’s very much like Real Myst and Uru, however. In fact, if you play Uru you’ll find yourself in for a very similar experience, providing that you can accept that the visuals are different.

      Finally, Uru != Myst V, either. Myst V was more like previous Myst games, and a bit of a large step backward from Uru in my opinion.

    • bigtoeohno says:

      When did people stop liking myst I missed that.shift completely. I loved everything about that game all 5 discs of it. Reven also or do we hate that too? BTW you set an a for the sneeze of subconscious genius that is comaprisons.

    • Urael says:

      @Bigtoeohno: There’s a long tradition of UK games journalism putting hefty boots of mockery (+1) into the Myst series, decrying it as nothing more than an interactive spreadsheet, or worse. That attitude lingers still in the RPS Hivemind, although not nearly as often. It’s always angered me that we get told repeatedly to broaden our gaming horizons, with all sorts of weird and wonderful creations presented with “you gotta try this!” gusto, but those same fertile minds suffer an aggravating blind spot that renders them apparently incapable of seeing Myst games in their proper context or giving them the recognition they honestly deserve.

      They’re not exactly beloved among most commenters, either, but those voices are much easier to tune out. :)

      Very frustrating, as they’re some of my favourite gaming experiences. FRACT is amazing to me precisely because it has grown from the very same acorn Myst did.

      Oh, and as Wulf says – Uru is plenty awesome. Subtly different from the main Myst games but well worth a try. If you liked Riven you should get on well with Uru. (link to

    • Matt says:

      How can you not like Myst? It’s The Surrealistic Adventure That Will Become Your World.

    • horsemedic says:

      Didn’t really see what was special about Fract. It had a total of four puzzles. The solutions to them were as follows: 1) Look up! 2) Go to this spot and remember the code you see 3) Twist these dials about for a bit. 4) Remember some codes you saw earlier in the game and punch them in here.

      The beatbox at the end was nice, but I was expecting music to be more fully integrated throughout the game given the designer’s description. It was just some easy puzzles with a bit of music at the end…

  8. 3lbFlax says:

    And Amnesia’s 50% off on Steam at the moment. I bought it yesterday and felt kinda sleazy, as I’ve been putting off my purchase until I had time to play it (having loved the demo). I don’t really have the time yet, but I bought the sale version anyway. But, crucially, I bought it, and I imagine it’d be a disappointment if they had a sale and nobody gave them any money. In my defence I spent the money I saved on a copy of Braid, but sadly that was also on sale. But I already bought it once on XBLA, so on balance I think it’s fair to say I’ve single-handedly saved independent gaming.

    • Ignorant Texan says:

      Amnesia is currently residing at #4 on Steam top sellers’ chart. While I’m glad to see it win awards, I do hope the recognition leads to the massive increase in sales that it deserves. Any word on the boxed version?

    • Urthman says:

      I saw a boxed copy of Amnesia in a Wal-Mart in Idaho yesterday.

  9. Jesse L says:

    We want Nidhogg.

    • Urael says:

      Correction: YOU want Nidhogg. Some of us…not so much.

    • MD says:

      I want Nidhogg too, and that makes two of us. So, we want Nidhogg!

    • Matt says:

      I would at least like the opportunity to play it before deciding whether or not I want it.

  10. nuh uh no way says:

    How the fuck does Nidhogg win one of these awards when it isn’t even RELEASED.

    Release the damn game! The internet wants to buy it! Christ.

    • Kaira- says:

      Well, technically speaking, Minecraft hasn’t been released yet either.

      Funny world.

    • nuh uh no way says:

      Yes, “technically”. But I was able to pay for it in its current state at that time, and was then able to play it.


  11. Eightball says:

    It would be cool if Mojang took the prize money and donated it to the indie fund or something like that. Obviously they don’t have to – they earned it fair and square (and I won’t rage if they don’t) . But it would be super classy.

    EDIT: doh, should’ve replied to SimonHawthorne

  12. Eclipse says:

    Minecraft really not deserved that prize, but it was clear it was going to win…

  13. Icarus says:

    “That Nidhogg still hasn’t been released to the public is getting farcical”

    Yes. Yes it is. What on earth is holding them back from just releasing it?

  14. stahlwerk says:

    Congrats all around!

    Quintin, is there anything specific you have in mind regarding the header alt/title?

  15. mod the world says:

    The most interesting Minecraft news today for me:
    Notch: “Piracy is not a theft”
    link to

    • Chunga says:

      Seems a bit clueless to me. But hey, it’s easy to say when you have couple of million euros in your pocket, flying half the world around, sipping drinks at parties.

    • Zoonp says:

      He is saying that only because A) He is already a millionaire and B) He isn’t developing the type of games that suffer heavily from piracy (mainly singleplayer only games and shooters).

    • Andy_Panthro says:

      He may have said “piracy is not theft” but he didn’t say it was okay either.

      Anyway, multiplayer games can get affected by piracy. I’m sure you can make a fake server or something. I know of Ultima Online “free shards” for example, of which I’m unsure of the legality.

      Your point about him not caring because he’s made plenty of money already might be true of course, it’s difficult to say. But how much money do you need to make to consider piracy irrelevant?

    • caesarbear says:

      I think it’s more like Notch is saying ‘don’t make these pirates your enemy, They’re really just a potential sale not a lost one.’ And I for one buy into that wholeheartedly.

    • Carra says:

      Well, it’s not stealing. It’s copying.

    • Jhoosier says:

      “Well, it’s not stealing. It’s copying.”

      Academic dishonesty?

  16. Deano2099 says:

    If Nidhogg were a commercial release we’d all be dismissing it as over-hyped tat that was inevitably going to disappoint by now.

    • Wulf says:

      Interestingly I don’t see too many people doing that with DNF. Flawed sarcasm?

  17. shagen454 says:

    I voted for Amnesia over Minecraft simply because Minecraft is not finished. Amnesia was a solid product all around – creepiest game I’ve played since Thief or System Shock 2. But, I don’t think alpha’s or beta’s should be considered for awards. That being said I planned on voting for Minecraft when it was released because it is definitely a timeless classic and it’d surely win no matter what year it was released.

  18. suibhne says:

    Uh…what?! Amnesia has been removed from the Steam catalog, despite being in the Top Sellers list only an hour or two back (no doubt because it was on sale for an attractive price). This is either a weird Steam glitch, or there’s an interesting backstory that I’m dying to learn.

    • suibhne says:

      Well, now it’s back after about 10 minutes of being gone. Weirdly, it’s lost its status in the Top Sellers list — which could actually cost the game a lot of sales, so that’s a non-trivial detail.

    • Delusibeta says:

      It’s back on the Top Sellers list: admittedly 17th and on the second page, but still.

  19. Lambchops says:


    Congratulations to all the wonderful winners.

    I’m very glad to see Amnesia and Desktop Dungeons (both two of my personal favourites from last year) scooping awards.

    Minecraft’s victories may have been predictable but are throughly deserved.

  20. Olivaw says:

    Everyone’s all like “NIDHOGG NIDHOGG NIDHOGG” and I’m like “that sounds cool I’ma get it!” and then I look and it’s not available to the public for no reason that I can actually discern and I’m like “fuck this douchebag” and then I angrily close my browser tab.

  21. Moth Bones says:

    Didn’t Monaco win an award last year? That’s still unreleased. Colour me old-fashioned, but it seems reasonable that public availability should be a criterion, imo.

    • Xocrates says:

      Well, the IGF is supposed to give indie projects visibility, so it kind of makes sense for them to attribute them before release since it helps build up the hype and the money can be used to aid the development.

      A problem only really starts to emerge when said games are released Years after they enter. Heck, Braid entered in 2006, a full 3 years before release.

      Even so, at this year ceremony they joked about Monaco not being out yet, so they at least are aware of this being a bit silly.

    • Moth Bones says:

      I guess the student ones aren’t publically available either, but they have a specific award. Maybe it would make more sense to have an award for ‘Most Promising Development Project’ or similar for the unreleased games?

      Or am I just being dense, and that is actually what ‘Nuovo Award’ means?

    • safetydank says:

      Many of the past winners were unreleased at the time they won – Blueberry Garden, Crayon Physics, Braid, Monaco, Everyday Shooter. From memory initial submissions are not even required to be playable, but a playable build must be submitted to judges by a certain deadline.

      I think it’s worked out well for the awards and the development community. it broadens the field to include promising projects in progress and motivates indies to get their games to a minimum playable state.

  22. Xocrates says:

    Pretty sure the Nuovo Award is for innovation.

    EDIT: This is meant as a reply to Moth Bones :P

  23. Casimir's Blake says:

    Fract receiving an award was unexpected but thoroughly justified. Excellent visuals, audio, gameplay, everything. But there simply isn’t enough of it!

  24. erhebung says:

    In that screenshot, is water being pumped up to the… fort-thing?? And if it is being pumped… how? Looks great.

    • Urthman says:

      Water physics in Minecraft are weird. It started as a limitation of the engine, but it turned out to be fun, if not at all realistic, so Notch is leaning toward leaving it the way it is.
      You can pick up a block of water with a bucket and then set it down somewhere and it will create a spring from which water will flow perpetually like a river or a waterfall. The water flowing from the floating island originates in several such blocks and falls endlessly into the ocean.

      Boats are so buoyant, that they can actually float up a waterfall, which makes waterfalls+boats a good way to get up to a floating island.

      More details here:
      link to

    • Urael says:

      Water is one of the things I don’t like about Minecraft. It’s weird. My brain wants it to behave like water and actually flow into spaces, filling them up. Not create permanent, never-ending stream or defy physical laws by refusing to flow in certain directions. It makes it much harder to work with, imo. Bah. But I suppose we don’t want to deal with flooded subterranean caverns all the time, do we? :(