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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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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.