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Independent Games Festival Unveils 2011 Entries

Independent Games Festival Unveils 2011 Entries  (photo)

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Every year, thousands of upstart game studios submit their work to the Independent Games Festival with the hope of gaining the recognition of their peers and raising the profiles of their works-in-progress. Last year’s entry list was a whopping 306 games, including future award-winners “Monaco,” the hit indie “Limbo” and the freshly released “Super Meat Boy.” This year sees an increase of about 30%, with 391 games submitted.

The IGF’s under new stewardship now, as Brandon Boyer (formerly editor of Offworld, Boing Boing’s gaming blog) was named Chairman in May. He–and the designers and industry professionals who help make the IGF and its sister symposium the Independent Games Summit happen–will be plowing through the nearly 400 games until next year. Sometime before the next Game Developer Conference happens, nominees will be announced and a lucky few will be awarded at GDC 2011. I’ve read through all 391 entries on the list, here are a few that stuck out to me:


A Mobius Proposal

Matt Gilgenbach

A Mobius Proposal is a co-op puzzle platformer I created in order to propose to my girlfriend. Players are on opposite sides of a Mobius band, and they must work together in order to overcome obstacles. I incorporated the proposal in the game by displaying a fake low battery message and hiding the ring inside the battery pack of the controller.

[Ok, I don’t remember if there’s an IGF category for “awwwwww, cute!” but if there is “A Mobius Proposal” wins it, hands down.]


Brutally Unfair Tactics Totally OK Now (B.U.T.T.O.N.)

Copenhagen Game Collective

B.U.T.T.O.N. (Brutally Unfair Tactics Totally OK Now) is a one-button party game for 2-8 players. The game consists of short rounds. In each round, the game instructs players to put down their controllers and take several steps back away from the computer. Then, after displaying an additional direction designed to add some chaos (e.g. “Lie on the floor”), the game announces a micro-challenge (e.g. “Any player whose button is pressed loses”). In a race in physical space, players rush to the controllers to press the “right” button – be it their own or that of their opponents.

In B.U.T.T.O.N., what players are “allowed” to do will depend on the specific community of people playing. The computer, of course, cannot detect if players are taking a full six steps back, or if each player really completed five pushups, etc. This is not a shortcoming, but a feature. Rather than let the computer carry out all the rules, the players are themselves responsible for enforcing (or not enforcing) the rules. On this account we were inspired by old folk games and board games, which encourage improvisational play and “house rules.”

[Saw this played a bunch at IndieCade and it’s pure hilarity in video game form. “B.U.T.T.O.N.” should be in every bar in the world. It’s that good.]

Cave Story

Nicalis, Inc.

Arguably the most well-known indie game of all time, Cave Story features a completely original storyline wrapped with personality, mystery and classic 2D action! Overflowing with unmatched charm and character, Cave Story takes you into a rare world where a curious race of innocent rabbit-like creatures, called Mimiga, run free. Their only hope against a vile scheme rest squarely on the shoulders of a quiet, amnesiac boy who can’t remember his own name. Take control and learn the origins of this world’s power, stop a delusional villain and save the Mimiga!

[I’m already on record as having loved this game. But hasn’t it won an IGF award in some previous incarnation?]

Dinner Date
Stout Games

You play as the subconsciousness of Julian Luxemburg, waiting for his date to arrive. You listen in on his thoughts while tapping the table, looking at the clock and eventually reluctantly starting to eat…

“Dinner Date” is the portrait of Julian: from his desires and doubts to reflections on his friends and his place in the world. You are not merely witnessing – by interacting with Julian and his world you gain a clear vantage point on his life.

The wait for the beautiful girl he invited over becomes longer and she becomes the dominant factor in his thoughts. And yet his true problems may not even begin with the girl: what of his work, of his boss, the headhunter, his fascination of Byron and his friendship with Jerry, who had been pushing Julian to take on this date?

In “Dinner Date” you will experience all this: with some drinks, some bread, some soup – and with a clock that slowly mocks the constant wait for when she comes, this elusive girl who will solve everything.

[An anti-dating simulator? Filled with neuroses and escape fantasies? Did these developers stalk me in my early 30s?]

It’s Just a Thought

Yellow Monkey Studios Pvt. Ltd.

A thought is an ephemeral yet tangible impulse in your mind. It is unstable, extremely dynamic and contains an essence of YOU. The objective of this game to keep your thought alive. “It’s just a thought” relies on skill and patience to help you take your thought across the endless depths of your mind.

The mind is a monkey, it is fickle and erratic. All across the neural network you will find other disturbing thoughts that will change your state of mind. However your memories will aid you in your journey. If you fumble you must quickly recover or else your thought will be lost, only to be seen if you tread those pathways again.

[Another game that aims to put you in a person’s head, albeit it in a more literal way.]


Laichenberg

AND-OR

Laichenberg is a firstperson shooter with a defect. Frags are corpses; and they do not disappear in this game. The corpses of the enemies you kill, remain where they died and fell to the ground. If you kill more enemies, their remains start blocking your way and the narrow tunnels of the bunker system become insurmountable.

Laicnenberg refers to Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s narrative fragment “Winter war in Tibet”. Soldier 23 has to substitute his legs with rolls and his arms with weapons. In the end, all that remains for him is scribble on the wall, meter for meter, back and forth. Laichenberg means mountain of spawning (german: “laichen”) and piles of corpses (german: “Leichen”). In an apocalypse it shows how a simple defect alters a game. Laichenberg does not make the dead disappear such as firstperson shooters usually do. The effect is that soon enough there is no space left to play in the labyrinth.

[I like the idea of purposefully using a bug as a gameplay mechanic. It’ll be interesting to see if there’s as much meta-awareness as the description promises.]

Sexy Adventures

Grimmstone Limited

Sexy Adventures is an AO title in which you puzzle your way through adult movies! The player drops actors in tetris-like poses onto the game board, attempting to “connect” them together to score points and complete the scene.

There are a variety of movies and sets to film on, from your backyard all the way to outer space or on a pirate ship.

Have you had your sexy adventure today?

[It’s Porn Tetris. I have to see what that looks like. For, um, research.]

Thank you Mr. Robeato: I can finally watch music videos while playing video game.

Sang Hyuk Park

Thank you Mr. Robeato offers unique combination of beat matching gameplay as well as continuous cutscene changes based on analysis of a music. Song parts that has high beat rates are converted into beat matching gameplay cutscenes. Song parts that has more melodic sounds are converted into visual cutscenes. End result is a series of cutscenes that has an intro, end, gameplay, and visual only cutscenes all put together like a music video in a convincing way.

Thank you Mr. Robeato creates a music video for any song you choose. So the level you choose will always match the music you choose to play.

[Lots of indie games have used the data in mp3 files to generate levels and gameplay elements. “Thank You Mr. Robeato” sounds a hybrid between a gameplay idea and an editing program. Will be looking forward to this.]

The Game Conference
LowPolyCount

Are you a bad enough dude to rescue the pres… wait, wrong game.
Attend “The Game Conference” and get a job by telling everyone about your cool game ideas.

[This one intrigues me for the sheer level of its meta-audacity. Please be full of inside jokes. PLEEEEASE.]

The Screetch

Piston Games

Drop7 meets World of Goo in this addictive puzzle game.

The Screetch offers twist in the match-3 genre. As the different colored orbs dropped they become hidden after your turn by slime (which is the “screetch” you’re collecting) and the only way to reveal them again is to match three of the orbs next to the covered orbs.

[It’s a bold claim to compare your game to one of the best iPhone games ever and one of the most successful indies of all time. It’s on the App Store, so I’ll be checking it out to see if it stands up to that claim.]

(this is a) META game!
Bloody Monkey

Games are made of rules.

Every other game makes you follow its rules. In this game, finding rules is the game.
It’s as simple as reaching the high score. But you don’t know how to score a single point.
Based on a essential but fun arena shooter, (this is a) META game! changes on every level its rules.

You will try to shoot enemies… Nothing. You will try to grab bonuses… Nothing… Have you already tried to shoot bonuses?

Rules are made to be broken, but you have to know them, first.

[And, as meta seems to be a big theme in this year’s entrants, here’s one with the actual word in the title. Despite telegraphing its philosophy, the core idea of “META game!” sounds intriguing.]

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.