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:
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)
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.