Submitting a game to the Independent Games Festival at GDC 2023 can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn't have to be! We've brought in an expert to help out.
IGF judge Aura Triolo has spent years coaching potential submitters on her Twitter account, providing key insight from someone who's been on the inside of the process. This year, we asked if we could share some of her best tips for our audience.
Below is an edited, condensed version of her latest conversation on Twitter (you can head to her account for more).
10 Tips for Submitting to IGF
1. The odds of winning may be small, but that's not the only reason to submit your game. It's also a way to get your game in front of devs and press who can become your advocates. The judge and jury pools have indie veterans, press, and more who have signal-boosting and deal-making power. it isn't guaranteed that you'll get noticed, but it provides an ongoing opportunity for you and your team.
2. The best time to submit your game kind of depends on your goals. If you're 100% going for an award, it should be when the game is as finished as possible. However, if you're more interested in the connections IGF could provide, it should be as soon as the game is capable of conveying why someone would love it.
3. The best way to make your game stand out among hundreds of submissions is to be as up-front as possible about selling judges on your game. Say how your game is exciting and unique! Don't hold things back for fear of spoilers—this is not the place to do that. Tell the judges what's exciting up-front and explain what your goals are. The people playing these are gamedevs and press, they're happy to hop onboard for a compelling idea.
4. Assume people may not necessarily have time to play your whole game—most judges are busy professionals—and highlight the best parts. Include pre-made saves if it would let people see big moments. If your game has a cool thing 30 minutes in, say so! People will look for that stuff.
5. Debug features can be really useful for letting judges see moments in the game they might not be able to get to naturally. They also have the side-benefit of letting judges recover if they hit a game-stopping bug.
6. Speaking of bugs: Please frequently check the email you submitted your game with, because that's where tech support requests from judges will go. Nothing hurts more than seeing people stuck on getting a game to run and the submittee doesn't get back to them. Don't let that happen!
7. Applicants will not receive official feedback from judges or jurors, as it is not currently part of the system. However, if you're interested in hearing from press or judges who liked your game, feel free to include contact info—like an email or Twitter handle—so people can reach out and say hello.
8. The best build (Steam, downloadable, etc.) really depends on your game. Generally more is better, but there are lots of cases where one is more ideal. Steam's autopatching is helpful for bug fixes, while downloadable builds help with distributing multiplayer games.
9. Make sure to fill in the platform field! Judges are assigned games based on what platforms they say they have. This means that if you leave your platform field blank or N/A, there's a risk that no judges will receive your game. If your game requires a perhipheral, like VR, mark it as required for all builds or people with no VR hardware may get assigned the game. Also, Make sure to split your NA and EU console keys into separate build entries. Judges get randomly assigned a key from the pool, and if you stack them both in a single set they could end up wasting a bunch of keys they can't use.
10. Online multiplayer games can be a challenge for IGF because trying to organize several near-strangers around playing a single game at a single time is like corraling cats. Please make sure players are available for these. This could mean waiting until your online multiplayer game is already out, or setting up "play with the devs" times and putting them in your submission info or in the game itself. Just make sure the entire onus isn't put on judges to fill out a whole multiplayer round from scratch.
The IGF will nominate six finalist standout titles in each of these categories: Excellence in Visual Art, Excellence in Audio, Excellence in Design, Excellence in Narrative, and Best Student Game. The Nuovo Award, which honors the title that “makes the jurors think differently about games as a medium,” will have eight finalists. The IGF Audience Award will be decided by a public poll that features all the competition's finalists. Six finalists will be selected to compete for the Seumas McNally Grand Prize.
Creators have until November 16, 2022 to enter in all categories for the IGF Awards. For those making interesting or experimental works who, because of the entry fee, might otherwise not enter the contest, you can apply for a waiver on the $75 entry fee by November 1, 2022.
IGF is part of GDC 2023, which will be held at San Francisco’s Moscone Convention Center from March 20 to March 24, 2023.
Game Developer and GDC are sibling organizations under Informa Tech.