They Could Be Heroes: IGF 2012 Finalists

Who's that guy?

Aaaaand hot off the presses is the rather long list of exciting finalists for this year’s exciting Independent Games Festival. A truly corking selection of indie games here, and a chance to take bets, guesstimations and wild speculations on what might go home with a gong or two. They haven’t nominated my game, I note. Maybe I should have actually made one.

Excellence In Visual Art

Botanicula (Amanita Design)
Dear Esther (thechineseroom)
Lume (State Of Play Games)
Mirage (Mario von Rickenbach)
Wonderputt (Damp Gnat)

Technical Excellence

Antichamber (Demruth)
Fez (Polytron)
Prom Week (Expressive Intelligence Studio, UC Santa Cruz)
Realm of the Mad God (Wild Shadow Studios & Spry Fox)
Spelunky (Mossmouth)

Excellence In Design

Atom Zombie Smasher (Blendo Games)
English Country Tune (Stephen Lavelle)
Frozen Synapse (Mode 7 Games)
Gunpoint (Tom Francis, John Roberts and Fabian van Dommelen)
Spelunky (Mossmouth)

Well done friend-of-RPS Tom Francis! And all the other guys, obv.

Excellence In Audio

Botanicula (Amanita Design)
Dear Esther (thechineseroom)
Pugs Luv Beats (Lucky Frame)
To The Moon (Freebird Games)
Waking Mars (Tiger Style)

Best Mobile Game

ASYNC Corp (Powerhead Games)
Beat Sneak Bandit (Simogo)
Faraway (Steph Thirion)
Ridiculous Fishing (Vlambeer)
Waking Mars (Tiger Style)

Nuovo Award
[Designed to honor abstract, shortform, and unconventional game development’.]

At a Distance (Terry Cavanagh)
Dear Esther (thechineseroom)
Fingle (Game Oven Studios)
GIRP (Bennett Foddy)
Proteus (Ed Key and David Kanaga)
Johann Sebastian Joust (Die Gute Fabrik)
Storyteller (Daniel Benmergui)
Way (CoCo & Co.)

And the big one:

Seumas McNally Grand Prize

Dear Esther (thechineseroom)
Fez (Polytron)
Frozen Synapse (Mode 7 Games)
Johann Sebastian Joust (Die Gute Fabrik)
Spelunky (Mossmouth)

Of those, the only two I’ve not played are Fez, because it’s not out yet, and Johann Sebastian Joust, because I haven’t been in the right place at the right time. I have heard amazing things about it, but until I’ve played it I think I’d like to see Frozen Synapse take this one. BUT THAT’S JUST ME.

Also, it’s a big fat shame that the Pirate Kart isn’t in there anywhere. And SpaceChem too (though it did get an honourable mention). Bah! Nonetheless, huge congratulations to everyone that made it onto the finalists list, everyone who submitted a game to the IGF this year, and anyone who’s made a game ever, apart from the guys behind X-COM: Enforcer.


  1. randomnine says:

    SpaceChem got an honourable mention for the Design award. It totally deserved a nomination… but so did the five games in there! That list’s FORMIDABLE.

    Not sure I can blame ’em – looks like a really tough call.

    • bear912 says:

      I’d certainly have put SpaceChem on the list somewhere.

    • Consumatopia says:

      Those five design nominees ARE an extremely formidable list, granted, but I’d still give SpaceChem the edge over any of them.

  2. simoroth says:

    Congrats to everyone. Even those who didn’t quite make the list. So many excellent games. A real indie renaissance.

  3. db1331 says:

    I noticed Atom Zombie Smasher in my games list one day and decided to give it a go. I must have gotten it in one of the Humble Bundles. I cannot adequately express how much I did not like it. I’m surprised to see it’s up for an award. I’m sure that it’s just not my cup of tea, but it’s extremely rare for me to dislike a game so much that I will actually take the time to uninstall it, just because I don’t want it fouling up my games list.

    • The Sombrero Kid says:

      atom zombie smasher is a brilliant game, the default settings are way too hard though, slacken them off & enjoy it as a tidying up game as opposed to the default where it’s an inevitable fail game, which does suck a bit.

    • HexagonalBolts says:

      I’m not good at games, in fact I’m generally awful at games, but the default settings of Atom Zombie Smasher are not too hard – I did get whooped in my first go but with a little thought on my second go I realised you simply have to pick your units and research wisely. The game will make it seem like you are in a great deal of trouble but then gives you extremely powerful weapons.

    • rustybroomhandle says:

      AZS is one of my favourite games of last year, and definitely not too hard. In the beginning, sure, but as you start developing a feel for it, you eventually find that you win more times than lose (well, as much as one can win because – SPOILER: you can’t really ever win in a zombie apocalypse)

    • jonfitt says:

      I got AZS in a bindle and wasn’t expecting anything from it, but I was pleasantly surprised. It was stylish and slick with a great concept.
      I played one game of Normal and lost badly, and another of Easy and won easily, but I think if I play through again I might be able to beat Normal.

    • InternetBatman says:

      My enjoyment of Atom Zombie Smasher depends entirely on what modifiers I pick at the start of the game. I find that the game is not much fun if you’re stuck with units you don’t like, so the ability to pick your units for every mission is critical. Also the game gets a lot more fun with good artillery and a couple of bombs.

    • Suits says:

      Well just to balance things a bit, played AZS as well, but it didn’t grab me enough to contiue playing after one campaign. Maybe it’s because there are so many other games I have still left and rather do, but I expected more after all the praise I’ve seen it get.

  4. bear912 says:

    Out of curiosity how does Spelunky qualify for this? Is it the yet-to-be-released Box-of-X-ness port that makes it eligible?

    • jill says:

      spelunky better than zach zero or ect or proun? HELL NO! Its just cause Derek Yu is an insider. the whole IGF turns out to be pathetic.

      Spelunky ??? LOLOL that is a below average game that looks like it was made in 1994

    • Bremze says:

      Spelunky is one of the biggest reason behind the wave of procedural generation and rogue-like elements. Still, that should go to the original instead of the remake.

    • Skabooga says:

      @Bremze: +1 to what you said.

    • jill says:

      if you think spelunky is behind procedural generation in games you are an idiot born in 2008

    • MellowKrogoth says:

      @jill are you a troll, an idiot, or a harmonious mix of the two? Doesn’t matter anyways since I won’t see your answer. Welcome to blockland. Ahhh, silence.

    • Thants says:

      @jill: One hint that he doesn’t think that Spelunky is behind procedural generation in games is that he didn’t say that.

    • bear912 says:

      I’m not actually talking about the game itself, really. I was just under the impression that the last release of the game was in 2009, seemingly making it rather less eligible for such an award.

  5. MaXimillion says:

    No Terraria?

    • Fwiffo says:

      Not Scene enough.

    • brandonnn says:

      Totally not scene enough. Or! It didn’t enter. It’s definitely one of those two things.

    • Matthew says:

      Terraria didn’t enter the IGF.

      Edit: Brandon beat me to it! But yeah, this happens every year (sometimes with previous IGF winners, ie: “No Braid?? IGF is a farce.”)

    • RobF says:

      I can’t believe I didn’t get a nomination either.

      The IGF is rigged against people who don’t enter :(

  6. The Sombrero Kid says:

    gutted i missed the deadline, i’m entering next year though, some good games there, competition is heating up year on year.

  7. pakoito says:

    English Country Tune before SpaceChem? Bollocks.

    Spelunky? Are we awarding 2005 games? Why not Cave Story+?

    • Matthew says:

      They entered an all-new XBLA version of Spelunky: link to

    • Suits says:

      So, you might as well enter pakoito’s example of Cavestory+, then we have a winner

    • jamesgecko says:

      Suits, you are aware that the Xbox version of Spelunky is pretty much Spelunky 2? There’s going to be a lot of new content. CaveStory+, while amazing, didn’t bring a whole lot of new stuff to the table for anyone who had already played the first game.

    • Suits says:

      Didn’t you notice the ‘+’ ? :)

      Upgraded “HD” graphics
      Remastered music
      Mix-and-match new/old artwork and music
      Six new play modes (including Wind Fortress, Boss Rush and more)
      Future content updates

      Though Pixel doesn’t need a stamp of approval.

  8. Reapy says:

    I guess I don’t follow the different award and such, but how is it that games which aren’t out yet are nominated? I guess that is also why i’ve been confused why I keep seeing stories about that sword game N and monaco winning stuff yet they aren’t out yet. Doesn’t really make sense honestly.

    • jill says:

      come on clearly the IGF is a lil group of buddies and they promote the same crap every year.. FEZ AGAIN? IGF is a joke

    • sinister agent says:

      Maybe you should have just made a better game, Jill.

    • jill says:

      @sinister Im not an entrant. I knew it was setup long ago. In fact I dont enter competitions ever for anything. If you like my work enjoy, if you dont move on.

      For all the folks who entered thinking it was legit, they have a right to know whats going on with this lil gang of grown jerkoffs.

      Making games is one of the high arts that deserves to be treated with respect not trashed by a small group of major assholes who jerk each other off and give each other trophies while collecting from the innocent hard working outsiders

    • Mo says:

      That’s such nonsense though. Sure, it’s frustrating to see no real surprises or underdogs. And yeah, for full disclosure, I’m disappointed my game didn’t get selected. But I can understand why, the nominees are fantastic!

      IGF is run by Brandon Boyer, who has done more for indie games in the past few years (with than anyone else really, apart from perhaps the crew here at RPS. Brandon is great about finding unknown games to promote. Case in point: Steph Thirion was a no-name, but his first game (Eliss) was bloody fantastic, and Brandon wrote about it. Eliss was successful, I think in no small part thanks to Brandon’s enthusiasm around it. Steph built upon that success with Faraway.

      I think the problem is that it’s *really* hard to get noticed, but I do think that great indie games eventually get noticed and find their audience. And once they do, continuing to engage that audience becomes a lot easier.

    • jill says:

      looks like offworld promotes the same crappy NES style games that tigsource does… big surprise.

      Lets vote a shit ass gamemaker platformer as technical excellence. Ya pixel platformers are so technicly great! WTF????

    • Mo says:

      (oh, jill edited the post above, so I guess my reply doesn’t make work in context anymore. I’ll leave it here, because it still makes sense)

      Well clearly indie devs have done the most work, without them there’d be no indie games to play. :P

      I was talking about the work done to make the general gaming public aware of indie games. Agreed that Microsoft has done great work here (I’d stick Sony, Valve and Apple on that list too), but Microsoft (and the others) tend to pick games which are covered favourably by the press.

      My point still stands, but you can continue to ignore it I guess.

    • Mo says:

      Also, about this:

      Lets vote a shit ass gamemaker platformer as technical excellence. Ya pixel platformers are so technicly great! WTF????

      I assume you’re talking about Spelunky. Mossmouth are making a version for XBLA, and the lighting technology looks kinda gorgeous.

      But anyway, I think I’m done with this discussion because it’s pretty clear that you’re not willing to be mature about it.

  9. Unaco says:

    The Alt-Text… Who is that guy? In the header image? Looks like Big Dipper to me.

  10. jill says:

    looks like all the insiders got noms again. When will the outsider devs realize IGF is a setup for insiders to promote
    check this article

  11. Blackcompany says:

    Looking at the number of awards for which Frozen Synapse was nominated makes me wonder if I should perhaps give this game a try. Heard nothing bad about it, ever. Perhaps I shall give it a play.

    • Omroth says:

      Well, the first level is a bit hard.

    • Skabooga says:

      I think they have a demo available if you want to get a taste of it. It does give a good feel for what the full version is like.

    • Suits says:

      Missed the Humble bundle eh

  12. DarkFarmer says:

    /losers rant beginning/ Not even looking at the mobile games finalists/honorable mentions to see if they are better than Gem Goblin, because I’m sure they are. Entering the IGF is stupid, mainly because you aren’t going to win, with 700 entrants and 10 prizes, unless you think 170 website hits off the listing and some feedback from some industry guys is worth 100 bucks. If your game is good enough to get nominated, you’ll be asked by the competition to enter. At least that’s how it should work. Shit’s a ripoff the way it works now and a bad choice for most indie devs who haven’t “made it bundle” yet. it isn’t gonna help. /rant over/

    • pakoito says:

      Your game is for iPhone and Android, hence only a tiny supersmall fraction of people can+want to play it. I state it every day in /r/IndieGaming, jumping in the iPhone bandwagon means that you’re not with the “average gamer” anymore, rather with the biggest market with highest signal to noise ratio. Your visibility will be low, as the expectations about your game. To get a non-mobile award you probably need a name AND a game, yet IGF didn’t award Angry Birds or Cut the Rope.

  13. shoptroll says:

    That’s an impressive list right there. Damn.

  14. RagingLion says:

    I was going to say this is probably one of my favourite parts of the gaming calendar since this is where many of the innovative movers and shakers first make themselves known. Seeing the list I know of more than normal so maybe that’s less so the case this time, in terms of getting the early glimpse of what’s going to be really big in a year or two but it’s still pretty great.

  15. Bremze says:

    I really dislike the categories. What does Excellence In Visual Art mean? Why are Fez and Spelunky nominated for Technical Excellence? Splitting these to up into Visual design, Tech, Graphics and splitting Design into Overall design and Gameplay design would work far better in my opinion. For Example, while I think Spelunky isn’t that amazing from a purely technical standpoint, it has it’s usage of procedural generation and rogue-like gameplay elements have influenced gaming as a whole, and so it would be far better suited for an award in Gamplay design.

    • pakoito says:

      Wasn’t Fez nominated last year? And the year before that?

    • jill says:

      procedural generation has been around since hunt the wumpus… come on and bejeweled influenced real time 3d

    • outoffeelinsobad says:

      Yeah, gettin’ kinda sick of seeing Fez take a nomination spot in every god-damned awards ceremony ever. I’ll be glad when the blasted thing is released so I never have to hear about it again.

    • brandonnn says:

      Pakoito: No, and also no. And also no for the year before that!

    • Suits says:

      @brandonnn how about the one before that?

    • Hulk Handsome says:

      Fez actually WON an award previously. Why the hell is it allowed to be entered again? Fuck off and give other people a shot.

  16. InternetBatman says:

    Why is Botanicula on the list? It hasn’t been released yet. I’ll admit that I’m not hip to the administrative procedures of the IGF.

    • Eclipse says:

      IGF is mostly done for unreleased games, to promote upcoming games and help indie developers. Of course the jury needs to play it to judge, but the game itself doesn’t really need to be out.

  17. Zephos says:

    I really hope Dear Esther is mostly as well-written and interesting as people say it is.

    • pakoito says:

      Well you can play it right now if you want, just download the old mod.

  18. mickiscoole says:

    Wasn’t Prison Architect supposed to be entered as well?

  19. Spacewalk says:

    Yeah, shame about no Pirate Kart but I’m not really surprised. We’re doing something for GDC though, hopefully with 2012 games but it would be nice if it ended up being more.

  20. hosndosn says:

    They’re nominating games that aren’t released again. Sigh. Why do this? It’s embarrassing how many awards Fez got in a state that probably isn’t even comparable to the final game.