At the sixth annual Independent Games Festival (IGF) last night, a wide range of indie teams -- some expected, some not -- took home awards. The awards ceremony, which took place last night in front of a near-capacity audience at the San Jose Civic Auditorium, reflected the growing interest in the indie community -- and the expanding definition of what it means to be an "indie" game developer.
The IGF doubled the number of awards it was giving out this year. The expansion came about because the IGF split the competition into two categories: one for web and downloadable games, and another category for everything else - an "open" category. As a result, the number of awards and the prize money doubled as well (to $40,000), including two Seumas McNally Grand Prizes worth $15,000 each.
As many predicted, the team from S2 Games (Rohnert Park, CA) won the Seumas McNally Grand Prize in the "Open" category, for its game Savage: The Battle For Newerth. Savage combines real-time strategy and first-person action in a collaborative multiplayer battle setting.
There wasn't an odds-on favorite to win the "web/downloadable" category, so many in the audience wondered which team would take home the big prize. In the end, the grand prize went to Mind Control Video Games (San Rafael, CA), for its rapid turn-based strategy game, Oasis. The team at Mind Control included Mark LeBlanc and Sean Barrett, both of whom worked at Looking Glass Studios years ago.
S2 Games accepting the Seumas McNally Grand Prize for Savage: The Battle For Newerth.
But not all the IGF winners fielded teams with prior big-game experience. The winner of the "Innovation in Game Design" award in the "Open" games category was Bontãgo - developed by a team of students from DigiPen Institute of Technology.
In addition to doubling the IGF prizes, there was a new prize presented by the event's platinum sponsors, America Online and Cartoon Network. The two sponsors announced the winner of "Project Goldmaster" - a riff on HBO's "Project Greenlight". The winner of "Goldmaster" would be awarded a team a contract to created a game based on a Cartoon Network character such as Samurai Jack, for the network's Power Play Games web site. And like "Project Greenlight", the team's progress will be chronicled on AOL. The contract was awarded to Flashbang Studios, which submitted the IGF game, Beesly's Buzzwords.
Here's a rundown of all of the 2004 IGF winners:
"Web/Downloadable" Games Category Winners:
- Innovation in Audio: Dr. Blob's Organism by Digital Eel (Kirkland, WA)
- Innovation in Visual Art: Dr. Blob's Organism by Digital Eel (Kirkland, WA)
- Innovation in Game Design: Oasis by Mind Control Video Games (San Rafael, CA)
- Technical Excellence: Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates by Three Rings Design (San Francisco, CA)
- Audence Award: Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates by Three Rings Design (San Francisco, CA)
- Seumas McNally Grand Prize: Oasis by Mind Control Video Games (San Rafael, CA)
"Open" Games Category Winners:
- Innovation in Audio: Anito: Defend A Land Enraged by Anino Computer Entertainment (Manila, Philippines)
- Innovation in Visual Art: Spartan by Slitherine Software (Epsom, Surrey, United Kingdom)
- Innovation in Game Design: Bontãgo by Circular Logic (Redmond, WA)
- Technical Excellence: Savage: The Battle For Newerth by S2 Games (Rohnert Park, CA)
- Audence Award: Savage: The Battle For Newerth by S2 Games (Rohnert Park, CA)
- Seumas McNally Grand Prize: Savage: The Battle For Newerth by S2 Games (Rohnert Park, CA)
AOL/Cartoon Network "Project Goldmaster" Winner:
- Flashbang Studios (Tempe, AZ)
For a full listing of the IGF finalists, go to www.igf.com.