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2011 Independent Games Festival Reveals Main Competition Finalists

The Independent Games Festival has announced the Main Competition finalists for the thirteenth annual presentation of its prestigious awards, celebrating the brightest and most influential creations to come out of the independent video game development community in the past year.

This year's finalists for the most prestigious indie game awards are led by multiple nominations for standout titles including Frictional Games' psychological horror game Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Mojang's acclaimed 3D worldbuilding sandbox title Minecraft, which received three nominations each.

Other multiple-nominated titles include QCF Design's short playtime 'dungeon crawl' adventure Desktop Dungeons, Messhof's two-player retro fencing game Nidhogg, which received 3 nominations including a Nuovo Award nod, and Supergiant Games' lush isometric adventure title Bastion.

In addition, with the Best Mobile Game award integrated into the IGF Main Competition, there was stiff competition across all categories from games on platforms including iPhone, Android, iPad and beyond, with Best Mobile Game finalists including Ratloop's unique 'line of sight' puzzler Helsing's Fire and former IGF Grand Prize winner Erik Svedang's 'minimalistic dueling game' for iPad, Shot Shot Shoot, as well as Mikengreg's popular App Store title Solipskier.

All of the finalists announced today will be playable on the Expo show floor at the historic 25th Game Developers Conference,
to be held in San Francisco starting February 28th, 2011. In addition,
nearly $50,000 of prizes in various categories, including the $20,000
Seumas McNally Grand Prize will be awarded to these games at the
Independent Games Festival Awards on the evening of March 2nd.

The almost 400 Main Competition entries
represents almost 30 percent more games than last year's record 306
titles, itself a 35 percent rise over the previous year. This emphasizes
the continued popularity and importance of the IGF, which has helped to
highlight and popularize the major independent games of the last
decade, from Darwinia and Braid through World Of Goo to Limbo and beyond.

The full list of finalists for the 2011 Independent Games Festival,
with jury-picked 'honorable mentions' to those top-quality games that
didn't quite make it to finalist status, are as follows:

GDC Vault Debuts Invitation-Only Beta For Individual Subscribers

The GDC Vault, which holds hundreds of streaming video, audio and slides-based presentations to the multiple Game Developers Conference yearly events, has opened Beta invitations to individuals for a yearly subscription.

Though it was available to All-Access GDC Pass holders and to group subscribers over the past few months -- and entire studio and school subscriptions are still available, a limited-time Beta offer for individuals is now in place.

For a limited initial period only, the invite-only GDC Vault individual subscription Beta will offer a year's access to hundreds of specially recorded videos of the top Game Developers Conference talks, for less than the price of a GDC Main Conference pass.

The free section of GDC Vault showcases just a fraction of the content recorded by GDC organizers, with Vault subscription-only audio recordings currently stretching back to GDC 2004, and subscriber-exclusive synced video, audio and slides starting during GDC 2009.

With the majority of the content from Game Developers Conference 2009 and every GDC event in 2010 to be recorded in video form, a total of nearly 400 hours of GDC talks are already available to Vault subscribers, allowing those who missed out on specific programming, design, business, art, or audio talks to catch up in full.

The 'GDC 25' Chronicles: We Have (IGF) Video

[Continuing his 'GDC 25' archival research ahead of the 25th Game Developers Conference in San Francisco next February, official GDC historian Jason Scott puts his first digitized video online -- a showreel of the first-ever Independent Games Festival finalists.]

As part of my contract as GDC's archivist and historian, I am tasked with digitizing audio and video from GDC's multi-faceted and multi-decade past. Audio has been getting all my attention, as it's pretty simple to do, and so dozens of talks will show up in the Vault. But video was always going to be the most difficult part... I just knew it would be, and I wasn't wrong.

First, the video is primarily on VHS tapes. Remember VHS tapes? They're nowhere near as popular anymore, and especially not for the kind of thing you connect to a computer and have it "just work".

There's also issues with getting the right video framing, the best method of recording, and also the whole "turning it into a digitized file" thing. It was, in other words, an excellent way to spend an entire Sunday.

(For the techs at home, I am using a LG DVD/VHS Combo I got at Best Buy (Model #RC897T) going through a Hauppauge! USB-Live2 video ingesting connection, to a Hauppauge! program called WinTV which has 4:2:2 sampling, into TS streams. Then I deinterlace and render out in Sony Vegas.)

So if I'm going to go through all this effort, the first video should probably be something reasonably fascinating, and so here's a screengrab of what I dug up (click to access it on GDC Vault):

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GDC 2011 Smartphone Summit Adds Infinity Blade, Google, Smule Talks

GDC 2011 organizers have revealed notable GDC Smartphone Summit talks for the February/March 2011 event, including an Infinity Blade postmortem and talks from Google and Smule (Magic Piano).

The brand new summit, taking place on February 28th and March 1st during Game Developers Conference 2011 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, will feature lectures from the top iOS and Android developers, and other smartphone game creators.

The Summit is intended to "share ideas, introduce best practices and discuss the future of gaming on established and emerging smartphone and related platforms, including the iPhone and iPad, Android OS phones and tablets, Blackberry and a cornucopia of similar handheld devices."

Advisors for the Summits include Tiger Style's David Kalina (Spider: The Secret Of Bryce Manor) and Korean mobile veteran Gamevil's U.S. president Kyu Lee (Baseball Superstars).

With a final set of lectures to be announced soon, a number of major talks have been revealed on the Summit homepage and the Smartphone Summit section of GDC's Schedule Builder. Highlights include the following:

- In a talk called 'Infinity Blade: How We Made a Hit, What We Learned, and Why You Can Do it Too!', Chair Entertainment co-founder Donald Mustard will discuss the design and implementation of the fastest-selling iOS game of all time.

The session from the Shadow Complex creators claims to "share the methodologies we have learned that are unique to the process of creating a critically and commercially successful mobile title", discussing "how to take the limitations of the platform and turn them to your advantage [and] how to quickly and successfully find the fun in your title."

2011 Independent Games Festival Reveals Nuovo Award Finalists

The Independent Games Festival (IGF), the prestigious GDC-held video game industry event highlighting and awarding the talents of independent game developers, has announced the finalists for the 2011 Nuovo Award, which honors "abstract, short-form, and unconventional game development."

Some of this year's finalists include unconventional party game Brutally Unfair Tactics Totally OK Now (B.U.T.T.O.N.), first-person dinner simulation title Dinner Date, Messhof's chunky 2-player fencing title Nidhogg, and zen-like tree simulation title Bohm.

The Nuovo Award, the top video game art prize, is announcing an increase to $5,000 for this year's award winner, thanks to the quality of this year's entries. The winner of the award will be revealed at the Independent Games Festival Awards on March 2, 2011 at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, during Game Developers Conference 2011. In addition, all Nuovo finalists will be playable in a special section of the IGF Pavilion on the GDC show floor from March 2nd to 4th.

Now in its third year, the Nuovo Award allows more esoteric art games from among the almost 400 IGF entries to compete on their own terms alongside longer-form indie titles, and has been newly expanded this year to include eight finalists.

The full list of this year's Nuovo Award finalists, with links to screenshots and videos of the titles on their official entry pages, is as follows:

- Bohm, created by Monobanda - ("Gives you control over the life of a tree. It's a game based on slow gameplay and the act of creation.")

- A House in California, created by Cardboard Computer - ("A surreal, narrative game about four characters who bring a house to life... with environments and activities drawn from a combination of memory, research, poetry, and fantasy.")

- Nidhogg, created by Messhof - ("A 2 player fencing game with football & platforming elements".)

- Dinner Date, created by 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...")

- Loop Raccord, created by Nicolai Troshinsky - ("Manipulate a series of video clips in order to create... continuous movement.")

- The Cat and the Coup, created by Peter Brinson and Kurosh ValaNejad - ("A documentary game in which you play the cat of Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh, the first democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran.")

- Brutally Unfair Tactics Totally OK Now (B.U.T.T.O.N.), created by Copenhagen Game Collective - ("A one-button party game for 2-8 players. ... rather than let the computer carry out all the rules, the players are themselves responsible for enforcing (or not enforcing) the rules.")

- Hazard: The Journey Of Life, created by Demruth - ("A philosophical first person single player environmental puzzle game. The game presents no goals directly to the player, but they create goals for themselves based on what they know of the world.")

GDC 2011 Adds Biz, Production Talks From Sony, WB, CCP Veterans

Organizers of the 2011 Game Developers Conference have revealed Production and Business & Management Track talks spanning Sony, Warner Bros. and CCP veterans for the Main Conference at the 25th edition of the industry's leading digital entertainment event next March.

The Production and Business & Management Tracks take place from Wednesday March 2nd to Friday March 4th, 2011 during the pre-eminent, San Francisco-based event, alongside other discipline-specific Tracks dedicated to art, audio, programming and game design.

As the overall session list for the event further expands, and following notable Game Design/Programming Track and Art/Audio Track highlights, organizers are spotlighting these two final Main Conference tracks.

All of the above Track sessions are open to those with a Main Conference or All-Access Pass. Some of the top new sessions debuting in the Production and Business & Management Tracks are as follows:

Production Track

Newly revealed as a key GDC 2011 Production Track lecture, 'More Pirates on a Burning Ship and Other Leadership Challenges' sees WB Games Seattle GM and Microsoft veteran Laura Fryer discussing key game business learnings.

GDC China 2010 Sees Record Attendance, Show To Return In 2011

Now that 2010's Game Developers Conference China has concluded, organizers are revealing that the three-day event saw a record 3,300 attendees from China, Asia, and worldwide -- and will make its return to Shanghai in 2011.

GDC China 2010 hosted nearly 40 international speakers and over 50 exhibitors and sponsors for the December 5th-7th event, and also was the stage for the second annual Independent Games Festival China.

The 'GDC 25' Chronicles: A Numbers Game

[Continuing his 'GDC 25' archival research ahead of the 25th Game Developers Conference in San Francisco next February, official GDC historian Jason Scott unearths a GDC 1997 talk on the arcane art of pricing retail games in the '90s.]

I've been humming along with audio recording digitization for the GDC Vault (and intend to start doing video as well) and as I cast the net wider, I get to listen to a range of subjects I normally wouldn't sit around for. It's like I'm suddenly an attendee who went to every panel, in every year. And in the front row, besides!

With this mega-attending of a quantum GDC, I've gotten a real appreciation for clear and well-spoken speakers, and subjects presented comprehensively. The titles don't have to sound sexy, and they don't have to have speakers' names that are ripped from the cover of top-selling games. They just have to give a great talk.

So with great pleasure, I present to you "Strategic Pricing", a Game Developers Conference 1997 presentation given by Phil Adam and Ann Stevens, and for which the audio is available on GDC Vault for free. A talk in which... hey, come back here! I'm serious!

Phil Adam co-founded Spectrum-Holobyte, a grand game publisher founded in the early 1980s; the company nearly made it to 20 years before being absorbed by Hasbro in 1998. At the time of this presentation, Mr. Adam is working at Interplay, a company he'd ultimately become president of.

As we're all living in the future now, the urge to point where the past got it wrong is pretty strong. But what I think is more useful than pointing out this prediction versus that prediction is the clear, straightforward way the speakers describe the nature of choosing what price to charge for retail games and when, how to assess the lifetime of a game, and some examples of successes and failures they've been a part of.

GDC 2011 Debuts Details For Artificial Intelligence Summit

GDC 2011 organizers have revealed an initial set of Artificial Intelligence Summit talks for the February/March 2011 event, including talks from Rockstar, Double Fine, Electronic Arts and Blizzard notables.

The always-popular summit, taking place on February 28th and March 1st during Game Developers Conference 2011 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, will feature panels and lectures from more than two dozen of the top game AI programmers in the industry.

Organized as a collective effort by the AI Game Programmers Guild, this event promises to "give you an inside look at key architectures and issues within successful commercial games, as well as let you eavesdrop on conversations, debates, and rants on how game AI can move forward."

Advisors for the much-anticipated Summit include Intrinsic Algorithm's Dave Mark, author of the book "Behavioral Mathematics for Game AI", and Nintendo of America's Steve Rabin.

With a final set of lectures to be announced soon, a number of major talks have been revealed on the Summit homepage and the AI Summit section of GDC's Schedule Builder. Highlights include the following:

- 'AI Unplugged: How Experienced Devs Think Through AI' sees sequential microlectures from notables including Blizzard's Brian Schwab, Double Fine's Chris Jurney, Rockstar Leeds' Brett Laming and more, building on the premise that "designing good AI depends upon analyzing the specific behavior or problem that needs to be addressed and decomposing it in such a way that it can be dealt with in the first place."

GDC 2011 To Feature StarCraft II Postmortem, Dance Central, Valve Talks

Organizers of the 2011 Game Developers Conference have debuted initial lectures from the Game Design and Programming Track for the Main Conference, spanning a Starcraft II postmortem, Harmonix's Dance Central dissected, Valve on forensic debugging, and much more.

As the overall session list for the event further expands, organizers are specially highlighting the initial Main Conference session announcements around these two areas.

The Game Design and Programming Tracks take place from Wednesday March 2nd to Friday March 4th, 2011 during the pre-eminent, San Francisco-based event, alongside other discipline-specific Tracks dedicated to art, audio, business and management, and production.

All of the above Track sessions are open to those with a Main Conference or All-Access Pass. Some of the top sessions debuting in the Game Design and Programming Tracks are as follows:

Game Design Track

Being revealed as a key Design Track talk for 2011's 25th edition of Game Developers Conference is 'Remaking a Classic: The Game Design of Starcraft II' by Blizzard Entertainment's Dustin Browder.

Drawing from the experience of designing the standout RTS, Browder offers a rare glimpse into Blizzard's core design philosophies, as well as insight into the special challenges of Starcraft II's complex game design and the benefits and costs of designing an e-sport.

Another notable lecture is 'The Design Process and Philosophy of Dance Central', led by Matt Boch and Dean Tate of Harmonix. The duo talk about the nuances of designing for full-body motion gaming on the standout Kinect title, also considering unconventional ways to approach exploratory prototyping when starting from scratch.

11th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards Opens Nominations

Organizers have announced that the 11th annual Game Developers Choice Awards, the most prestigious honors in the world of video game development, are now open for nominations through Jan. 4, 2011.

In its eleventh year of honoring the best games and developers, the Game Developers Choice Awards -- the leading awards voted on by developers, and created for developers -- has adopted a new voting methodology.

Nominations - as always - are selected by any game professional worldwide, simply by submitting ballots via the Game Developers Choice Awards website. (Submitters are required to log in with a username and password so professional developer status can subsequently be verified.)

Category finalists and Special Award winners are selected by the 20 person-strong Game Developers Choice Awards Advisory Committee, including notable industry veterans from Harmonix, Valve, PopCap, Ubisoft, BioWare, and more.

In addition, winners are now being selected by the Game Developers Choice Awards-specific International Choice Awards Network (ICAN), which is a new invitation-only group comprised of 500 leading game creators from all parts of the video game industry.

Choice Awards organizers believe that, in tandem with their goal of having the most focused, impartial awards in the game industry, this additional voting transparency will further boost the awards' reputation.

The 2010 award categories are open for nominations to any member of the video game community until January 4th, combining both Regular and Special Award nominations, are:

2010 IGF China Announces Asian, Australasian Indie Winners

Organizers of the second annual Independent Games Festival China have announced winners for the Asian and Australasian indie games showcase in Shanghai, with South Korean developer Turtle Cream's 2D tile-flipping platformer Sugar Cube getting the Best Game prize, and a host of other notable winners.

Following the announcement of the finalists last month, the teams attended a special awards show at the Shanghai International Convention Center during GDC China last night, where the winners of each category were revealed.

Supported by Platinum Sponsor Crystal CG and Gold Sponsor NetEase, the winners of the 2010 Independent Games Festival China announced at the award ceremony include unique modular 'tower defense'-style title The White Laboratory, which won Best Student Game, and The Voxel Agents' addictive iPhone/iPad puzzle hit Train Conductor 2: USA, which took Best Mobile Game.

The winners of the 2010 IGF China awards are:

Best Game: Sugar Cube (Turtle Cream, South Korea) [RMB 20,000, $3,000]
Best Mobile Game: Train Conductor 2 (The Voxel Agents, Australia) [RMB 10,000, $1,500]
Excellence In Audio: Skillz: The DJ Game (Playpen Studios, Hong Kong) [RMB 5,000, $750]
Excellence In Visual Arts: ButaVX: Justice Fighter (Nekomura Games, Singapore) [RMB 5,000, $750]

Best Student Game: The White Laboratory (Huazhong University of Science & Technology, China) [RMB 10,000, $1,500]
Excellent Student Award: Dead Steel (Media Design School, Auckland, New Zealand) [RMB 3,000, $450]
Excellent Student Award: Ponlai (National Yunlin University of Science and Technology, Taiwan) [RMB 3,000, $450]

GDC 2011 Debuts Initial, Wide-Ranging Summit Line-Up

Organizers of the 2011 Game Developers Conference have announced initial line-ups for major Summits at the 25th edition of the industry's leading digital entertainment event next February.

Held alongside the GDC tutorials on Monday, February 28th and Tuesday, March 1st in San Francisco, a large range of key one- and two-day Summits will kick off GDC week with innovative and informative programs led by industry experts -- including notables from Zynga, Area/Code, Google, Klei Entertainment, MIT, and more.

As the overall session list for GDC 2011 continues to grow, organizers are highlighting the top initial talks for the seven Summits, including the expanded Social & Online Games Summit, the new Smartphone Summit, and the long-running Independent Games Summit -- all open to GDC 2011 pass-holders with a Summits & Tutorials or All Access Pass.

Newly announced GDC 2011 summit sessions of particular note include ones from the following Summits:

- The Social and Online Games Summit is expanding even further for 2011 after a blockbuster 2010 Summit, with initial technical-specific highlights including 'Social Speed: Improving Flash Performance for Social Games' from Zynga director of engineering Amitt Mahajan, centering on the different approaches studios can take to making their social games both "load and run fast."

The full lecture list to date for the Summit includes 'Business', 'Essentials', 'Tech' and 'Vision' themed mini-tracks, and spans everything from Playdom's Peter Fishman on 'Behavioral Economics and Social Games' through Spry Fox's provocative Daniel Cook on 'How to Survive the Inevitable Enslavement of Developers by Facebook'.

2010 GDC China Confirms Final Schedule, Adds Ngmoco, Zynga Talks

Game Developers Conference China organizers have now debuted a completed schedule for the December 5th-7th Shanghai event at the Shanghai International Convention Center, with late additions including Ngmoco's Caryl Shaw and Zynga Beijing's Andy Tiang.

Now in its third edition, Game Developers Conference China -- a sister event to the major GDC shows taking place in San Francisco, CA; Austin, TX; and Cologne, Germany -- offers valuable and timely insight into the art and business of making games for an audience of both local and international developers

Leading Chinese and Western developers have once again been recruited, with late additions to the schedule including Ngmoco's Caryl Shaw, a veteran of notable studio Maxis (SimCity, The Sims, Spore). She will discuss 'The Future of Game Production', and another new confirmation sees Zynga Beijing head Andy Tiang presenting a lecture called 'Building Sustainable Social Game Experiences'.

Also now locked down are Sunday's tutorials, with Autodesk presenting two half-day seminars on 3DS Max, Maya, and Mudbox, and a rare Asian appearance from Visceral Games' Matthias Worch (Dead Space 2), presenting 'Level Design in a Day: Best Practices from the Best in the Business'.

A Serious Games Summit is also now confirmed, with speakers including Realtime Associates' David Warhol and NewGame Solutions' Shigeru Bart Chigusa discussing games used for learning, corporate, education, and other uses.

Another highlight of this Summit is a featured lecture from Crystal Digital Technology, analyzing the company's game featured in the recent Shanghai World Expo.

All talks at GDC China will be simultaneously translated into both English and Chinese for attendees, and the two confirmed keynotes for GDC China 2010 are from Square Enix's Hiromichi Tanaka -- on building Final Fantasy XI and XIV, as the latter is poised to become the first-ever official Final Fantasy title to debut in China.

The other keynote features Blizzard, Flagship and Cryptic alumnus Bill Roper on "how the game industry in the Western world has learned from Asia's successes in both development and business models", promising plenty of insight into the history and future of online games.

With the entire schedule locked down, organizers are drawing highlights from the tracks as follows:

Connecting the Global Game Development Community

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