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IndieGames.com is presented by the UBM TechWeb Game Network, which runs the Independent Games Festival & Summit every year at Game Developers Conference. The company (producer of the Game Developers Conference series, Gamasutra.com and Game Developer magazine) established the Independent Games Festival in 1998 to encourage innovation in game development and to recognize the best independent game developers.

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Jonathan Blow Expands on Indie Rise, "Joyless" Japanese Games

March 9, 2012 6:43 AM | John Polson


In a rather reflective video discussion with Gamespot, Braid developer Jonathan Blow discusses the indie scene, the idea of fun in games, and the state of Japanese game development.

Those who have been following GDC news this week may have heard about a response given during a screening of Indie Game The Movie at GDC, where Fez developer Phil Fish said Japanese games "just suck". Blow seemed to agree with Fish's general sentiment, referring to Japanese games as "joyless husks".

In this video discussion, Blow articulates his disinterest in most modern Japanese games, which he feels come with a severe case of hand-holding that can be off-putting to those, like himself, who appreciate the joy of discovery. Blow also describes how similar hand-holding plagues many Western AAA titles, with it creating an experience that is just not fun for him.

[Source: Gamespot, via Reddit]

Get a job: Square Enix and others hiring now on the Gamasutra jobs board

March 9, 2012 3:00 AM | Eric Caoili

In the latest postings over the last seven days, Gamasutra's jobs board plays host to roles in every major discipline, including opportunities at Square Enix, Disney Mobile, Toys For Bob, and others.

Each position posted by employers will appear on the main Gamasutra job board, and appear in the site's daily and weekly newsletters, reaching our readers directly.

It will also be cross-posted for free across Gamasutra's network of submarket sites, which includes content sites focused on independent games and more.

Some of the notable jobs posted this week include:

Square Enix: F2P Producer:
"Square Enix, Inc. develops, publishes, distributes and licenses Square Enix, Eidos, and Taito branded entertainment content throughout the Americas as part of the Square Enix Group. The Square Enix Group operates a global network of leading development studios and boasts a valuable portfolio of intellectual property, including: Final Fantasy, which has sold over 97 million units worldwide; Dragon Quest, which has sold over 54 million units worldwide; Tomb Raider, which has sold over 35 million units worldwide; and the legendary Space Invaders."

Disney Mobile - Palo Alto: Sr. Game Designer:
"Disney Mobile, a division of the Disney Interactive Media Group, is a leading mobile gaming and entertainment network, reaching more than one out of every 3 iPhone, iPod touch and iPad users. Disney branded apps, including platinum titles Disney Fairies Fly, Jelly Car 2 and Toy Story 3, bring the magic of Disney stories and characters to life in new ways on mobile devices. Disney Mobile's Palo Alto based Tapulous studio creates top-selling music and social apps including Tap Tap Revenge, which is one of the most successful gaming franchises on the iPhone platform."

XBLIG Companion App Out Now For Windows Phone

March 8, 2012 9:00 PM | Danny Cowan

Responding to the difficulty Xbox 360 owners face in browsing the Xbox Live Indie Games category online and via mobile devices, Eleventy-Aught Twelve Studios has released XBLIG Companion, a marketplace browser app for Windows Phone platforms.

XBLIG Companion tracks new games added to the service, and notifies users of recent updates to existing games. The app also aids in browsing screenshots and recommendations from XBLIG-specific websites. Users can purchase XBLIG titles directly from the app and queue up console downloads remotely.

XBLIG Companion is available as a free download. Ports for iOS and Android devices are currently in the works.

[via Joystiq]

GDC 2012: A few words with Minecraft's Markus 'Notch' Persson

March 8, 2012 1:00 PM | John Polson

notch GDC.jpg[This article was written by Tom Curtis on Gamasutra.]

As one of the industry's most most successful indie developers, Markus "Notch" Persson knows how to make it as a game creator. He's grown from an independent programmer to an industry giant, and at GDC 2012 on Wednesday he took a moment to reflect on his design practices and how he came this far.

In an intimate chat with SpyParty's Chris Hecker (complete with virtual fireplace), Persson reflected on a wide range of topics and issues, ranging from Minecraft's creation, his career progression, piracy, and much more.

Hecker opened the session by asking Persson about his approach to balancing realism and abstraction in Minecraft. The game follows a number of principles from the real world -- fire spreads appropriately, for instance -- but other elements, like gravity, behave in very odd ways in the game world.

Persson argued that it isn't about making things realistic or believable; he only wants to make a smooth experience for the player.

"When you're playing the game, I wanted to try to make it as simple and possible and tailored for what the player is doing." Gravity, he added, doesn't work realistically, because otherwise whole mountains could fall in on themselves and ruin players' hard work -- not to mention that it would be taxing on a technical level.

Persson said that when he sets out to design gameplay mechanics, he looks at the experience at a very high-level, hoping to determine large-scale, overall goals. Once he starts actually creating the game, the smaller details start to work themselves out.

14th Annual Independent Games Festival Award Winners

March 8, 2012 3:16 AM | John Polson

IGF2012.jpgMonaco developer Andy Schatz hosted the 14th annual Independent Games Festival awards show this evening. Over 800 entries filled the student and main competitions.

Until March 11, OnLive users across the U.S. and UK can play 16 of this year's IGF nominees and honorable mentions. Each game is available as a 30-minute free trial on the OnLive Facebook page.

Here are the winners:

Best Student Game: Way, The Way Team
Technical Excellence: Antichamber, Demruth Games
Excellence in Audio: Botanicula, Amanita Design
Excellence in Design: Spelunky, Mossmouth
Excellence in Visual Arts: Dear Esther, thechineseroom
Best Mobile Game: Beat Sneak Bandit, Simogo
Audience Award: Frozen Synapse, Mode 7 Games
XBLA Award: Super Time Force, Capy Games
Nuovo Award: Storyteller, Daniel Benmergui
Seumas McNally Grand Prize: Fez, Polytron Corporation

Congratulations to all those who managed to submit an entry to the IGF and those who won!

GDC 2012: The Indie Composer Speaks

March 8, 2012 1:00 AM | jeriaska

shigihara_01.jpg
Laura Shigihara, composer of Melolune

During the 2012 Independent Games Summit, three musicians laid out various unique concerns of composers for independently developed games.

"The Indie Composer Speaks" panel featured brief talks by Laura Shigihara (Plants vs Zombies, Melolune), Danny Baranowsky (Super Meat Boy, The Binding of Isaac) and Rich Vreeland, aka Disasterpeace, (Fez, Shoot Many Robots.)

Shigihara began her talk by asking the audience if they remembered the classic videogame music of the NES and Super Nintendo console eras. The musician credited game composers of the '80s and '90s for inspiring her interest in writing melodies and crafting arrangements.

"If you don't believe me that NES music is complex, check out 'Gravity Man' from Mega Man 5," she said. "It will blow your mind."

GDC 2012: How Journey was designed to facilitate non-verbal communication, friendship

March 7, 2012 8:00 PM | John Polson

igf chrisbell.jpg[This article was written by Brandon Sheffield and originally appeared on Gamasutra.]

How do you design a game for friendship, when the players are interacting over the internet? Can you do this without even letting them speak, or see each others' faces? This is a question Journey sought to tackle, and was paramount in ThatGameCompany designer Chris Bell's mind when he joined the team about halfway through the project. It hit home to him because he had already spent the better part of a year developing his own game about friendship across the wires; Way.

"What I'm interested in personally is that spontaneous bond between strangers," he says, which is very well facilitated by online play. Online multiplayer can emphasize shared goals, freedom of choice, anonymity, vulnerability, and communication, he says. The trick is to "get people to empathize before their prejudices allow them to draw lines between each other."

One way this happened in recent times was the somewhat unfortunate Chat
Roulette. "Players are behind the screen without any rules to guide their behavior," he says, thus unfortunate players claimed the space for themselves, and ruined it for the rest.

GDC 2012: 10 indies, 10 ways to think outside the box

March 7, 2012 4:00 PM | John Polson

IGF mwegner.jpg[This article was written by Leigh Alexander and appeared originally on Gamasutra.]

The Indie Soapbox session at GDC is theoretically a "rant session," but "rant" is generally a misleading prompt for some, says host Matthew Wegner (pictured). Instead, he asked 10 indies to share what's on their mind and what their anxieties are.

The result was a fast-paced but fascinating session of condensed ideas on what indies need -- as creators, innovators and as a community -- to transcend current limitations and address common problems. From 10 speakers came 10 pieces of passionate advice.

Innovate Better

Lazy 8's Rob Jagnow made Extrasolar, a game about land rovers -- and is fatigued of being asked about "how rovers kill each other." We've built up assumptions about games over years that tend to box us in, constrain our thoughts and limit our ideas, he says: "We made this box; it's ours. So if we want to, we can think outside this box, we can reshape this box, we can destroy this box. That is our option."

That's not to say there's no innovation going on in the game space: they just aren't quite in the right spots. Innovations occur in promotion, but it focuses on putting applications into top ten lists in a fashion where quality becomes irrelevant. Cloning what works is a rampant strategy, and companies pay to out-promote one another.

"You innovate and you get cloned; you fail to innovate and you get ignored," he says.

So what can indies do? They can innovate in form, in ways that will be protected by copyright and set the games apart from competitors. Aesthetic, story and characters aren't steal-able and make games stand out. Another solution is to take giant risks -- high risk design behaviors tend to set products far apart from the idea-stealers and static market leaders.

Constraint is one way to help engender innovation, Jagnow asserts; for example, in an era with more console buttons than ever, the idea that you can make a game with one button created a hit like Canabalt. Even the idea that there must be a screen is an assumption that, when discarded, results in fascinatingly innovative games, such as IGF nominee Johann Sebastian Joust.

Think Like A Web Developer

Eliss and Faraway creator Steph Thirion has only been in game development for about three years; his background is in web development. He shared the story of 37signals, developer of the Ruby on Rails language whose roots were in the goal not only of productivity, but "to be happy and to enjoy programming." In other words, the co-founders placed their professional future in an obscure language for the sake of their own happiness -- which might seem like a "suicidal" move, but now Ruby on Rails is used by thousands of companies.

GDC 2012: The great middleware debate

March 7, 2012 3:00 PM | John Polson

IGF JE.jpg[The article was written by Ben Abraham and appeared originally on Gamasutra.]

On the same day caucuses around the U.S. line up to vote for their preferred candidate in the 2012 presidential election, two candidates squared up to debate the best practice in game design and whether it's better to build or buy a middleware engine.

In a GDC 2012 session moderated by thatgameocmpany's Kellee Santiago, Alexander Bruce of Antichamber fame and John Edwards from thatgamecompany debated whether game design is best served by licensed middleware or a custom made solution.

Alex Bruce began the debate with an opening statement aimed at those that create their own tech: "Building your own engine is like building your own Photoshop." His argument rested on the fact that developers need to balance an artist's needs with the practicality of engineering.

Instead, Bruce prefers to start with something (in his case, the Unreal engine) and then add, subtract, bend and twist it until it does what he wants. There are numerous precedents for this -- Team Fortress Classic, for instance, was built on Half-Life, which was itself built on top of the Quake engine.

The advantage, said Bruce is that "engines are about optimization" which means he can spend more time and energy worrying about other aspects of the design.

GDC 2012: How to get funding on Kickstarter

March 7, 2012 1:00 PM | John Polson

IGF cindyau.jpg[This article was written by Patrick Miller and originally appeared on Gamasutra.]

It's no secret that crowdfunding is big news to independent game developers, especially those who have been following Double Fine's adventure game project amass over $2,430,000 on Kickstarter (at the time of this writing).

But how can a would-be indie game developer maximize her chance for a successful Kickstarter pitch? Julie Coniglio (cofounder, Awkward Hug) and Cindy Au (community manager, Kickstarter) offered GDC 2012 attendees a few tips from the experience of an actual Kickstarter-funded developer and Kickstarter's own behind-the-scenes insights.

"Do your research," Coniglio stressed. "Prepare. Read the blogs. It's changing all the time, it's growing so rapidly, if you don't stay up-to-date, you'll be left behind."

In Awkward Hug's case, they knew they'd need at least $6,000 in funding to have a shot at completing the game, which was $1,000 more than the average video game Kickstarter pitch could make. "We decided to be bold and just ask for the $6,000 anyway, though we did try to cut some game features and restructure our project as well."

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