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Archive For February, 2008

IGS: The State Of Indie Games

February 21, 2008 7:08 AM | Simon Carless

- [This was the last Independent Games Summit panel, but I only just got round to posting it on here. Still, it was a really worthwhile, fulfilling group discussion, with a minimum of Jon Mak getting angry at things in an amusing fashion, tragically! Here's the rundown.]

A gigantic panel of independent developers - including Noel Llopis (Powerof2Games), Jacob Van Wingen (Gastronaut Studios), Jamie Cheng (Klei Entertainment), Jon Mak (Queasy Games), and Ryan Clark (Grubby Games)

Starting off, Klei Entertainment's Jamie Cheng (Eets: Chowdown) revealed that he's working with Nexon to make a free-to-play, pay for items title - but only with 5 or 6 employees.

He pointed out of the indie scene:"The opportunities that have come around have made us kind of come full circle" - from bedroom programmers in the '80s back to simple bedroom programmers. He suggested indie developers can, if they choose, make mass-market games that aren't quirky.

Following on, Noel Llopis of Power Of Two Games tried defining the independent genre: "Indie games are like porn... you know it when you see it", he quipped at one point.

Grubby Games' Ryan Clark continued with a discussion on the ethos of making games for an audience, mentioning that the expanding audience, but noting: "It's hard now... and it will still be hard in the future to earn a living making indie games."

This then moved into a discussion about whether people would make games if there was nobody else to play them, with Clark suggesting he wouldn't, but Everyday Shooter's Jon Mak vehemently disagreeing, revealing: "I have a Star Control II clone that nobody has ever played."

Gastronaut's Jacob Van Wingen then chimed in discussing the history of downloadable games for console, noting that "it's hard to get games on the Xbox 360 as a developer", but explaining that he makes the kinds of games that are meant to be played against people on a couch - thus his decision to use Xbox Live Arcade.

Finally, Jon Mak then discussed the history of indie gaming in his signature eccentric style, pointing out that in the past, "You had to really love computers to make a game", but that new technology and game making software is making it ever easier to create games.

Some of the Everyday Shooter creator's final thoughts? "Just code the game that you want to make... There's only two genres that you need... cool and not cool."

Portal Takes Game Of The Year At 2008 Choice Awards

February 21, 2008 3:53 AM | Simon Carless

- [Now you're playing with portals! Congratulations to Valve's awesome puzzle-actioner for grabbing Game Of The Year at the Choice Awards tonight.]

Valve's genre-blending first person shooter/puzzler, Portal, was the recipient of three honors including Game of the Year at the 8th annual Game Developers Choice Awards, presented at a ceremony this evening at CMP's 2008 Game Developers Conference (GDC).

The game -- one of three new games on the developer's Orange Box, alongside Half-Life 2: Episode 2 and Team Fortress 2 -- also took the prizes for Innovation and Best Game Design.

Also taking three awards was 2K Boston/2K Australia's blockbuster shooter, Bioshock, which won for Best Audio, Best Visual Art and Best Writing. Realtime Worlds' Crackdown, Thatgamecompany's Fl0w, Crytek's Crysis and Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass were the recipients of the remaining awards, taking home one honor each.

Produced and hosted by GDC and presented by Gamasutra.com and Game Developer Magazine, the Game Developers Choice Awards honors the creators of the best video games released during the previous calendar year, as well as awarding key figures from the video game community.

"The Game Developers Choice Awards stand out from other game industry prizes by being open to all games of a calendar year and by recognizing the individual developers behind each celebrated game," said Jamil Moledina, executive director of the Game Developers Conference. "We are thrilled gamers at home will be able to meet the people behind their favorite games when our first ever television broadcast special on the awards airs soon on the G4 television network."

The recipients of the 8th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards are:

2007 Best Game Design
Portal (Valve)
Kim Swift, Realm Lovejoy, Paul Graham

2007 Best Visual Art
BioShock (2K Boston/2K Australia / 2K Games)
Scott Sinclair, Shawn Robertson, Andrew James

2007 Best Technology
Crysis (Crytek/Electronic Arts)
Cevat Yerli, Douglas Binks, Timur Davidenko, Martin Mittring

2007 Best Writing
BioShock (2K Boston/2K Australia / 2K Games)
Ken Levine, Emily Ridgway, Joe McDonagh, Susan O'Connor

2007 Best Audio
BioShock (2K Boston/2K Australia / 2K Games)
Eric Brosius, Pat Balthrop, Emily Ridgway, Justin Mullins

2007 Best Debut
Crackdown (Real Time Worlds / Microsoft Game Studios)
Ramon Gonzalez, Violetta Sanchez, Rafael Diaz, Jose Guerra

2007 Innovation
Portal (Valve)
Kim Swift, Erik Wolpaw

2007 Best Handheld Game
The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (Nintendo / Nintendo)
Eiji Aonuma

2007 Best Downloadable Game
Flow (thatgamecompany / Sony Computer Entertainment)
Kellee Santiago, Jenova Chen, Martin Middleton, Hao Cui, John Edwards,
Nick Clark

2007 Game of the Year
Portal (Valve)
Kim Swift, Erik Wolpaw

Recipients for the evening's special awards were:

Lifetime Achievement Award
Sid Meier

Pioneer Award
Ralph Baer

Ambassador Award
Jason Della Rocca

"It was an incredible year of innovation, top-notch explorations within known franchises and introductions of great new properties," Simon Carless, publisher, Gamasutra.com and Game Developer. "The whole community mobilized to express their admiration for the best works, and we are proud to present these meaningful peer awards."

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Actually, I could have done with a portal gun when I got stuck in the hotel elevator about 45 minutes before the awards (yes, seriously. We pried the doors open to get out!) And congrats to all winners - you guys rock.]

2008 IGF Awards Topped By Crayon Physics Deluxe

February 20, 2008 6:00 PM | Simon Carless

- [Wow, these awards were a real blast to help put on. And now we know the results - congrats to Petri and all the other worth winners, and thanks for bringing on the swearing, the monocles, and the style - in what was another super-memorable awards show.]

Crayon Physics Deluxe, Kloonigames' 2D physics puzzle game that allows players to experience what it would be like to transform drawings into physical objects, was named the winner of the $20,000 Seumas McNally Grand Prize at the 10th Annual Independent Games Festival (IGF) Awards, presented at a ceremony this evening at CMP's 2008 Game Developers Conference (GDC).

Other major winners at the IGF ceremony included physics-based puzzle action game, 2D Boy's World of Goo, which won the awards for both Design Innovation and Technical Excellence, and Audiosurf by Invisible Handlebar which won the $2,500 Audience Award, after receiving the largest share of more than 3,500 votes cast online over the past two months at IGF.com.

The IGF awards have been described as the Sundance Festival of the videogame industry, and offer both global exposure and over $50,000 in cash prizes to the developers of the winning games.

Other award recipients included One Ton Ghost's comical treasure-seeking adventure Iron Dukes, which took the award for Best Web Browser Game, Kokoromi's Fez, which won for Excellence in Visual Art for its presentation of a 2D character exploring a 3D world, Invisible Handlebar's Audiosurf, a game that lets players experience their songs in real time, in full color, and in 3D, and which took the prize for Excellence in Audio, and, winner for Best Student Game, Synaesthete, a music-driven arcade-style shooter developed by students at the DigiPen Institute of Technology.

Another notable award given at the IGF ceremony was The Gleemax Award for Strategic Gameplay ("The Gleemie"), presented by IGF Platinum Sponsor, Gleemax, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.'s community for gamers. Three games were awarded "The Gleemie" prize package, which consisted of a custom designed trophy accompanied by a tiered prize package. (1st - $5,000, 2nd - $3,000, 3rd - $2,000).

"As the video game industry grows bigger by the day, it becomes even more important to give a voice to the independent developer," said Simon Carless, chairman, IGF. "This year's Independent Games Festival winners are showcasing how important independent games are -- both as an artistic movement and as accessible titles that are really damn fun to play."

The IGF awarded the following games in each category in the main competition -- each received a cash prize of $2,500 as well as sponsor-related prizes, and the Grand Prize winner was awarded $20,000.

Seumas McNally Grand Prize:
Crayon Physics Deluxe, by Kloonigames

Best Web Browser Game:
Iron Dukes, by One Ton Ghost

Design Innovation Award:
World Of Goo, by 2D Boy

Excellence in Visual Art:
Fez, by Kokoromi

Excellence in Audio:
Audiosurf, by Invisible Handlebar

Technical Excellence:
World Of Goo, by 2D Boy

Best Student Game:
Synaesthete, by DigiPen Institute of Technology

Audience Award:
Audiosurf, by Invisible Handlebar

Gleemie Awards:
-- First Place: Desktop Tower Defense, by Handdrawngames
-- Second Place: Skyrates, by Team Skyrates
-- Third Place: Quadradius, by Quadradius

The IGF was established in 1998 by the CMP Game Group to encourage innovation in game development and to recognize the best independent game developers, in the way the Sundance Film Festival honors the independent film community.

With a record-breaking 173 entries from all over the world, the 2008 IGF reflects how global the game development community has become. The IGF jury included journalists from MTV News, Kotaku, Newsweek, Wired, and Joystiq; the creators of previous IGF winners Aquaria, Braid, Flow, and N; and veterans from across the game industry.

IGS: The Kyles - From EA's DS 'Indie Side' To WiiWare Praise

February 20, 2008 8:01 AM | Simon Carless

- Kicking off day two of the Independent Games Summit, Kyle Gabler - co-founder of World Of Goo creator 2D Boy, and Kyle Gray - working at EA Tiburon on a "quasi-indie title" - discussed how the two CMU grads and Experimental Gameplay Project had diverging paths but both innovative ways of making independent-minded games work.

The session was hilariously honest - and filled with Powerpoint captions and puns on the perils of working at a big company and at a tiny start-up developer respectively.

Firstly, Gray showed a Flash-based EA prototype he did at Tiburon called Monkey Business - clearly designed for the Nintendo DS - in which the top screen featured a 2D side-scrolling action title with a British explorer fighting with monkeys and powering up with giant robots made out of Big Ben. The bottom screen is a block-shuffling pzzler, and platform game actions affect the blocks that appear in the bottom of the screen.

The project - in modified form, but still starring the British explorer, sometimes called 'Hatsby' - was then seen by the newly segmented EA Casual, which greenlit it. Gray finally showed a video "for an un-named platform" of the latest version of the game - clearly the Nintendo DS - with the same dual-screen gameplay, and classic 2D side-scrolling goodness - complete with an opera-singing boss and other quirkiness. He quipped in questions: "It's this weird new face of EA... they're actually looking to do new things now."

As for Gabler, his first game as 2D Boy was The 100 Year Tree, where he modeled an eco-system - but after seeing a Russian developer 'borrow' the Tower Of Goo concept for a Pocket PC game, they decided to make an enhanced version of the concept in the form of World Of Goo - which is one of the two most-nominated titles for this year's Independent Games Festival Awards.

The title is still in negotiations with publishers, but is confirmed to appear initially on PC and Nintendo's Wii. Gabler made it clear In questions that the title is not yet confirmed for WiiWare, and hinted that they might be considering different type of distribution in different territories, but noted after dealing with publishers: "I cannot speak more highly of WiiWare."

The Waxy View Of GDC: Opening Impressions

February 20, 2008 1:38 AM | Simon Carless

- [As previously trailed, Andy Baio from Waxy.org is attending GDC as a guest 'Web 2.0/geek culture/game culture crossover' observer, and blogging about it on his popular blog and GameSetWatch. Here's his first dispatch from the wilds of San Francisco.]

I'm already overwhelmed at my first Game Developer's Conference, and from what I've heard, things don't even really get moving until tomorrow! The first two days are dominated by a number of excellent summits and tutorials, but apparently, the real action doesn't start until tomorrow when the game competitions, expo floor, major announcements, and big keynotes all begin in the morning.

I'm very interested in the parallels between gaming and web, and how the lines have blurred between game-like social software and social games. With that in mind, several people told me Worlds in Motion summit would be most relevant to my interests with sessions that "delve into online worlds, social gaming and media and player created activity, providing insight for developers of all backgrounds into how the game industry is collectively building socialization into games and integrating personalization and player-generated content into gameplay."

Instead, I've found the most inspiring and innovative talks have been in the Independent Games Summit. Unlike the companies in World in Motion, these tiny two-person startups and student projects are operating on a shoestring budget and exploring territory that the big guys aren't.

IGS: Totilo, Croal Talk Indie Ethos

February 19, 2008 6:15 PM | Simon Carless

-[Going to be cross-posting a few of the Indie Games Summit talks from today, since they're readable and stand alone fairly well in a GSW context. Enjoy, or else.]

In an afternoon session at the Independent Games Summit on Tuesday, Newsweek's N'Gai Croal and MTV News' Stephen Totilo discussed the state of independent games in the media, and their personal opinions on how to get noticed in the indie game business.

Starting off, Croal quipped of the state of indie: "This is right around Sundance started up... but before Sex, Lies & Videotape."

The expectation of the independent movement right now, according to Totilo, is: "This is going to be different... because now there's going to be no filters." This is sometimes true - but as the duo stressed, you need to find a unique selling point.

Totilo also noted that PR plans for XBLA and PSN games are "not nearly as aggressive" as retail ones, even when Microsoft and Sony are sending out information on behalf of those indie developers.

Obviously, the above isn't always the case, and Croal particularly noted that it's all about "...teaching people who make indie games about the PR process.... you have to be both an artist and a hustler, but you can't confuse the two."

As he noted even of his own personal efforts to promote his own Level Up weblog to a select band of higher-end influencers and key outlets: "I spam some of the journalists I respect the most."

Moving on, Totilo underlined that the story behind the game is as or more important than the game itself - particularly to the mainstream media, and increasingly in the industry in general.

Croal chimed in on this that you can look to other industries, ending on a bit of a boggling but fair comparison in terms of people who have woven personal stories into great media messages: "50 Cent is an interesting story... Jonathan Blow is an interesting story... Jonathan Mak is an interesting story."

Overall, the duo urged, above all, that if you have a unique message and you target independent-minded journalists and influencers, indies can get noticed through the crowd of even mainstream games.

2008 IGF Mobile Award Winners Announced

February 19, 2008 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

- [The ceremony for the mobile part of the IGF was held during GDC Mobile today. Though I couldn't be there thanks to Independent Games Summit responsibilities, I heard it went really well, yay - with happy developers, and video of it due to be posted online after the show.]

CMP Game Group has announced the winners of the inaugural Independent Games Festival (IGF) Mobile awards. IGF Mobile is the sister event to the Independent Games Festival, held at the 2008 Game Developers Conference, taking place February 18-22 at San Francisco's Moscone Convention Center.

The IGF Mobile showcases innovation in handheld and cell phone gaming, including the Sony PlayStation Portable and the Nintendo DS platforms, in addition to mobile handsets.

Among the winners for this first-of-its-kind event are KnowledgeWhere's PhoneTag Elite, winner of the Innovation in Augmented Design Award, Presented by NVIDIA. PhoneTag Elite is an elaborate version of "hide-and-seek," using the GPS built into the user's cell phone. Capybara Games' Critter Crunch, winner of both the IGF Mobile Best Game and Audio Achievement awards, takes on the puzzle genre with refined graphics, animation and addictive gameplay.

The finalists for the IGF Mobile Competition will be showcasing their games at the IGF Mobile Pavilion alongside the tenth annual IGF Main Competition and Student Showcase, taking place February 20-22, 2008. All finalists will be featured in playable form within the special pavilion on the Game Developers Conference 2008 show floor.

Out of a distinguished field of 20 nominees, from an overall field of 50 entries, the following winners were selected:

* IGF Mobile Best Game: Critter Crunch
* Innovation in Mobile Game Design: EGO
* Innovation in Augmented Design - Presented by NVIDIA: PhoneTag Elite
* Achievement in Art: Kodo
* Technical Achievement: Steam Iron: The Fallen
* Audio Achievement: Critter Crunch

The Platinum and Founding Sponsor for the IGF Mobile competition is NVIDIA. The IGF was established in 1998 by the CMP Game Group to encourage innovation in game development and to recognize the best independent game developers, in the way that Sundance Film Festival honors the independent film community. IGF Mobile likewise serves as a venue to highlight the bourgeoning talents of the mobile and handheld game industry, rewarding and recognizing the innovation and advancement of the space.

"When the IGF first opened 10 years ago, few could have seen the impact that the festival would have on the future of gaming," said Mathew Kumar, IGF Mobile Content Director, "Years later, we’re seeing the explosion of the downloadable content and online distribution, and with it, IGF-alums-turned-mainstream titles like Fl0w, N+ and Everyday shooter have become commercial hits. We've now seen that the mobile IGF has further ignited this same drive for innovation, creativity and craftsmanship. We congratulate all the winners, as well as the talented developers behind all the amazing nominees and entries."

For more information on the Independent Games Festival Mobile, please visit the official website.

Game Developers Conference - Monday Highlights

February 19, 2008 1:19 AM | Simon Carless

- Honestly, I'm a little tired here to think straight, but just wanted to pass along the stuff I personally wrote up from the first day of Gamasutra's GDC 2008 coverage - specifically the Indie Game Summit stuff - but check out the above links for LOTS more awesome coverage.

The first day of IGS seemed a little uneven in places, careening wildly from Introversion discussing branding to some pretty high-end Mak/Santiago/Koskinen design talk to Tom Buscaglia adlibbing.

But everyone had something important to contribute, and there were particular highlights in the Aquaria postmortem and Q's Dylan Cuthbert revealing the frankly gorgeous-looking PixelJunk Eden. And here's the write-ups:

- IGS: Q Games' Cuthbert Reveals PixelJunk Eden, Postmortems Series
"In the final Independent Games Summit lecture of Monday, Kyoto, Japan-based Q Games' Dylan Cuthbert discussed the PixelJunk series for the PS3's PlayStation Network, revealing the first-ever video of psychedelic PSN title PixelJunk Eden."

- IGS: The State Of Flash Games
"The Flash games panel at the Independent Games Summit on GDC at Monday showed an interesting dichotomy of different approaches to making money from Web browser-based games - though it's clear that the monetization angle is still being explored."

- IGS: N+ Creator On Game Creation's 'Unique Knobs'
"In an afternoon Independent Games Summit talk, Metanet's Raigan Burns (N+) discussed creativity and the making of unique technology to make unique gameplay, referencing games from Portal to Braid in his quest to discover how simple tech concepts can grow into great games."

- IGS: Inside The Making Of Aquaria
"In a well-received Independent Games Summit lecture, Derek Yu and Alec Holowka from Bit-Blot discussed Aquaria, the IGF Grand Prize winner from last year, presenting a postmortem of their critically acclaimed 2D underwater action title."

- IGS Keynote: Flow, Everyday Shooter Creators Talk Gaming Ethos
"In an intriguing and wide-ranging Independent Games Summit keynote, ThatGameCompany's Kellee Santiago (Flow), Queasy Games' Jon Mak (Everyday Shooter), and cult mod maker/previous IGF finalist Pekko Koskinen took three short presentations to showcase in-depth concepts on independent game design."

Gamasutra, Game Developer Call For 2007 Salary Survey Participation

February 19, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

- The editors of Game Developer magazine and Gamasutra.com [EDITOR'S NOTE: And even, yes, GameSetWatch - we know a bunch of you guys are actual developers, too!] invite you to complete the annual Game Developer's Salary Survey. The information you provide will help inform the entire game development community.

The results of this survey will be published in the April 2008 issue of Game Developer magazine, and will again be available in overview form on Gamasutra, and in much more detailed form as a Game Developer Research

In appreciation of your time and effort, once you complete the survey, your name will be entered into a drawing to win one of five Main Conference Passes for your choice of the lineup of Game Developers Conference (GDC) events in the 2008-2009 cycle: Paris GDC in June, Austin GDC or China GDC (in Beijing) in September, or GDC 2009 in San Francisco.

The results of the prior survey were revealed in April of 2007, calculating an average American game industry salary of $73,316, slightly down on 2005's figure of $75,039.

In addition, the average salary in 2006 over all American game programmers was $80,886, and the 2006 average for artists was $65,107 - with game designers' average was $61,538. Following these results, this year's survey has also added support for important emerging job functions such as community manager, which will be showcased in the new results due in April.

Interested game professionals can now click through to take part in the survey. Thanks for helping us to advance the industry!

[NOTE: A separate, optional MIT Business School survey on entrepreneurship in the game industry is available to fill out at the end of this year's Salary Survey - results will also be made available in conjunction with CMP if you'd like to fill it out.]

Combat Canceled: God of War & Action Game Design

February 18, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

- [In this special feature, former God of War combat designer Eric Williams breaks down 'cancels' - the ability to end one combat animation early by beginning another - explaining how God Of War II did it and Ninja Gaiden and the Devil May Cry series handle the concepts.]

As he explains in his intro: "A lot of the questions I've been asked in the past regarding God of War have always swirled around some of the attacks Kratos has in his arsenal, namely the L1+ Button special moves. These questions usually stem from the inability to “cancel” these moves - thus rendering them useless, so to speak. Instead of just defending those moves, I am going to examine the entire concept of move canceling - from its early days in fighting games, to its cross-pollination with action adventure games."

Birth Of The Cancel

Let’s start with the granddaddy of them all: Street Fighter 2: World Warrior. There is a legend that one day, during early tests of this game out in California, a guy named Tomo Ohira was destroying people in the game with some crazy technique. He could link certain moves together that normally could not be linked together - thus creating a combo by canceling.

I was a kid in Ohio when I heard this, so of course I believed it, because Tomo Ohira was the best American Street Fighter player at the time. However, I later learned that this was a “bug” in the game - known by the development team in Japan. They thought executing it was too difficult to be useful, so they left it in the game.

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