Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

….Cart Life, which scooped up an an impressive triple-whammy of Nuovo Award, Excellence in Narrative and the coveted Seamus McNally Grand Prize at last night’s Independent Games Festival 2013 awards. The warmest of all congratulations to Richard Hofmeier, whose affecting, brave game is well overdue for this kind of attention. (more…)

PC Gamer
rel="bookmark"
title="Permanent Link to GDC 2013: IGF and GDC Award winners revealed">Cart Life







This year's GDC has been the source of many interesting industry tidbits. But forget them for now, because it also hosted two award shows last night. Shiny, slightly crass and easily digestible in a handy list format - we've got all the winners from the Independent Games Festival Awards and Game Developers Choice Awards right here. Did Hotline Miami's masked protagonist beat the living snot out of the FTL crew for the Seumas McNally Grand Prize? Did Incredipede's creepy-crawly monstrosities scare away the other Visual Art nominees? Did any game not called Journey win a GDC Award? Read on to find out.



We'll start with the IGF Awards, primarily because its the one that wasn't dominated by a PS3-exclusive game about plodding through a desert.



Independent Games Festival Awards



Seumas McNally Grand Prize



Hotline Miami (Dennaton Games)

FTL: Faster Than Light (Subset Games)

Cart Life (Richard Hofmeier)

Little Inferno (Tomorrow Corporation)

Kentucky Route Zero (Cardboard Computer)





Excellence in Visual Art



Incredipede (Northway Games and Thomas Shahan)

Kentucky Route Zero (Cardboard Computer)

Guacalamelee! (Drinkbox Studios)

Loves in a Dangerous Spacetime (Asteroid Base)

Year Walk (Simogo)





Excellence in Narrative



Thirty Flights of Loving (Blendo Games)

Cart Life (Richard Hofmeier)

Kentucky Route Zero (Cardboard Computer)

Dys4ia (Auntie Pixelante)

Gone Home (The Fullbright Company)





Technical Excellence



StarForge (CodeHatch)

Perspective (DigiPen Widdershins)

Little Inferno (Tomorrow Corporation)

Intrusion 2 (Aleksey Abramenko)

LiquidSketch (Tobias Neukom)





Excellence In Design



Samurai Gunn (Beau Blyth)

FTL: Faster Than Light (Subset Games)

Starseed Pilgrim (Droqen & Ryan Roth)

Super Hexagon (Terry Cavanagh)

Super Space (David Scamehorn and Alexander Baard/DigiPen)





Excellence In Audio



Kentucky Route Zero (Cardboard Computer)

Bad Hotel (Lucky Frame)

140 (Jeppe Carlsen)

Hotline Miami (Dennaton Games)

Pixeljunk 4AM (Q-Games)





Best Student Game



ATUM (NHTV IGAD)

Back to Bed (Danish Academy of Digital Interactive Entertainment)

Blackwell's Asylum (Danish Academy of Digital Interactive Entertainment)

Farsh (NHTV IGAD)

Knights of Pen & Paper (IESB - Instituto de Ensino Superior de Brasilia & UnB - Universidade de Brasilia)

the mindfulxp volume (Carnegie Mellon University Entertainment Technology Center)

Pulse (Vancouver Film School)

Zineth (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)





Nuovo Award



Cart Life (Richard Hofmeier)

Spaceteam (Henry Smith)

Dys4ia (Auntie Pixelante)

Bientot l'ete (Tale of Tales)

7 Grand Steps (Mousechief)

MirrorMoon (SantaRagione + BloodyMonkey)

VESPER.5 (Michael Brough)

Little Inferno (Tomorrow Corporation)





Audience Award

FTL: Faster Than Light (Subset Games)



Thoughts? Firstly, congratulations to Zineth, deserved winner of Best Student Game. It's great, and you should play it. More obviously, well done to Richard Hofmeier for the runaway success of Cart Life. I'm sure many will be surprised by just how well it's done, especially among such a strong list of contenders for the Seumas McNally Grand Prize. If you're currently thinking "Cart What now?" let Christopher Livingston's Sim-plicity column on the game fill you in.



Elsewhere in the list, I'm surprised to see Little Inferno getting a Technical Excellence award (it had nice fire, I guess), unsurprised to see FTL nab the Audience Award, and marginally disappointed to see Hotline Miami go back to its DeLorean with nothing. Although, hey, it's still got a chance at a Games Developer Choice Award! Haha, no, just kidding. Journey won everything.



Game Developers Choice Awards



Game of the Year



Dishonored (Arkane Studios/Bethesda Softworks)

The Walking Dead (Telltale Games)

Mass Effect 3 (BioWare/Electronic Arts)

XCOM: Enemy Unknown (Firaxis Games/2K Games)

Journey (Thatgamecompany/Sony Computer Entertainment)





Innovation Award



Mark of the Ninja (Klei Entertainment/Microsoft Studios)

Journey (Thatgamecompany/Sony Computer Entertainment)

FTL: Faster Than Light (Subset Games)

The Unfinished Swan (Giant Sparrow/Sony Computer Entertainment)

ZombiU (Ubisoft Montpellier/Ubisoft)





Best Audio



Journey (Thatgamecompany/Sony Computer Entertainment)

Hotline Miami (Dennaton Games/Devolver Digital)

Sound Shapes (Queasy Games/Sony Computer Entertainment)

Assassin's Creed III (Ubisoft Montreal/Ubisoft)

Halo 4 (343 Industries/Microsoft Studios)





Best Debut



Humble Hearts (Dust: An Elysian Tail)

Polytron Corporation (Fez)

Giant Sparrow (The Unfinished Swan)

Subset Games (FTL: Faster Than Light)

Fireproof Games (The Room )





Best Downloadable Game



The Walking Dead (Telltale Games)

Spelunky (Derek Yu/Andy Hull)

Trials: Evolution (RedLynx/Microsoft Studios)

Mark Of The Ninja (Klei Entertainment/Microsoft Studios)

Journey (Thatgamecompany/Sony Computer Entertainment)





Best Game Design



Dishonored (Arkane Studios/Bethesda Softworks)

Mark Of The Ninja (Klei Entertainment/Microsoft Studios)

Spelunky (Derek Yu/Andy Hull)

Journey (Thatgamecompany/Sony Computer Entertainment)

XCOM: Enemy Unknown (Firaxis Games/2K Games)





Best Handheld/Mobile Game



Gravity Rush (SCE Japan Studio/Sony Computer Entertainment)

Hero Academy (Robot Entertainment)

Sound Shapes (Queasy Games/Sony Computer Entertainment)

The Room (Fireproof Games)

Kid Icarus: Uprising (Sora/Nintendo)





Best Narrative



Spec Ops: The Line (Yager Entertainment/2K Games)

Mass Effect 3 (BioWare/Electronic Arts)

Dishonored (Arkane Studios/Bethesda Softworks)

The Walking Dead (Telltale Games)

Virtue's Last Reward (Chunsoft/Aksys Games)





Best Technology



Far Cry 3 (Ubisoft Montreal/Ubisoft)

PlanetSide 2 (Sony Online Entertainment)

Halo 4 (343 Industries/Microsoft Studios)

Call of Duty: Black Ops II (Treyarch/Activision)

Assassin's Creed III (Ubisoft Montreal/Ubisoft)





Best Visual Arts



Borderlands 2 (Gearbox Software/2K Games)

Journey (Thatgamecompany/Sony Computer Entertainment)

Far Cry 3 (Ubisoft Montreal/Ubisoft)

Dishonored (Arkane Studios/Bethesda Softworks)

Halo 4 (343 Industries/Microsoft Studios)





Ambassador Award

Chris Melissinos, curator of The Smithsonian's The Art of Video Games exhibit



Pioneer Award

Spacewar creator Steve Russell



Audience Award

Dishonored



Lifetime Achievement Award

BioWare founders Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk



Conclusion: award show judges really love Journey.
PC Gamer
rel="bookmark"
title="Permanent Link to GDC 2013: Your guide to the IGF grand finalists">igf noms







The IGF winners will be announced on Wednesday alongside the GDC awards in San Francisco. The Independent Games Festival has turned out another strong field of nominees, some of which you can play entirely for free right now. Here's your guide to the Seumas McNally Grand Prize at the IGF awards 2013, with interviews and details on the five finalists, Cart Life, FTL, Little Inferno, Hotline Miami and Kentucky Route Zero.



Click on the links below to go straight to your game of choice:





FTL

Little Inferno

Hotline Miami

Kentucky Route Zero





And let's start with Cart life.



Cart Life





Creator Richard Hofmeier describes the scrolling, grey world of Cart Life as a "retail simulator," but that's a bit of an undersell. It celebrates the mundane and touching aspects of everyday life, at work and beyond. You can choose from a pair of characters, including a single mom working in a coffee store and a Ukrainian immigrant trying to keep his newspaper stand afloat (you can pay $5 to play as a third character, Vinny the bagel guy). Melanie must look after her daughter and earn $1000 to fight her side in a custody hearing. Andrus must take care of his cat, Mr Glembovski, and fend off a racking smoker's cough.



Cart Life is about the struggle of day to day existence in an unglamourous monochrome cityscape, rendered in excellent pixel art. On the business side, you're choosing products, balancing stock and selling as much as you can against the clock. Outside of work, you're trying to balance what little time you have between eating, sleeping, drinking and socialising.



You can play for free by downloading the .exe file from the Cart Life site. For more on Cart Life, Chris Livingston documented his experiences as part of our Sim-plicity series. Read all about it here. Cart Life is in the running for the Nuovo award, the Excellence in Narrative Design award and the Seumas McNally Grand Prize at the IGF.



I sent over a few questions to Cart Life creator Richard Hofmeier to find out which indie gems he'd like to see do well at the competition. "I'd enjoy seeing IGF give their highest endorsement to Porpentine's Howling Dogs, which is a dour enchantment in that holy dread kind of way, but, because it's text-based and rarely classified with other videogames, it's largely unplayed by people interested in good games." You can play through Howling Dogs on Porpentine's site for free.







"Now, it's important to note that Howling Dogs wasn't submitted to the IGF (and where the hell is Dwarf Fortress, anyway?). So Thirty Flights of Loving would be a great winner, too, but I'd really like The Stanley Parable in such a position, because it secretly remarks on the fact of videogames, themselves. If IGF wanted to be The Oscars, Stanley would make a suitable "best picture", which often confess something useful of their medium. Then again, both Dear Esther and Fez (which do this exact thing extremely well) were released this year, but aren't candidates on account of having been candidates previously... All right, okay - I'd pick Emily Short's Bee. Yes yes yes yes." Here's Emily Short's Bee.



Why is the IGF important? "I'm not fond of this question's presumption that your interview subject feels this way," Richard responded, "It's important because sponsors and GDC attendees have elevated the means by which it's carried out, and an elevated assessment of small videogames seems comprehensive, conclusive and respectable-- but I guess that'd be "How is the IGF important?". Either way, IGF will get some excellent games into the lives of people who, otherwise, wouldn't have found them. That's useful, and it makes the world a better place in a small way."



"But, when you presume its importance, I just think about how much money it must take to put together, and how it wouldn't exist without the games themselves. Wouldn't you say that the IGF is less important than the games it declares? Of course IGF nominees and winners will sell higher numbers for having been recognized, but I think the premise of determining merit is much more interesting and, you know, important."







How could the IGF formula be improved? "Mostly, I just want to see the submission process deteriorate entirely, over time. It seems like there are better judges every year, so I'm increasingly inclined to trust their own choices, from all they've seen in a year instead of limiting candidacy to a submission pool. Like the MacArthur Fellowship Grant or Nobel Prize nomination process. Easy for me to say, right? You set me up with that last question, you bastards, didn't you? Anyway, the distinction of "indie" games vs "regular" games will become obsolete and they'll have to come up with something else for the "I" to stand for."



An IGF nomination won't drag a paparazzi horde to one's door, but has life changed for Cart Life's creator since nomination? "I'm getting more freelance illustration and design work this year than last, so I'm able to keep up this fantasy lifestyle of the bathrobe and coffee cup."



He adds: "The best part of making games, though, is the shared premise which allows me to start conversations and sometimes even befriend the people I most admire. At Indiecade, I kissed several of my heroes, I spent a few hours with two vibrant luminaries in an emergency room, I spilled whiskey on my idols. Almost like having coworkers, only without the building resentment."







FTL: Faster Than Light





FTL was the first Kickstarter-funded game to see release, which has set the bar nice and high for all those to follow. At PC Gamer,w e've been lucky enough to have access to a few pre-Kickstarter prototype builds. Long before release, this roguelike space exploration sim showed promise. You control the crew of a small, upgrade-able ship as they flee from a pursuing army across randomised sectors of space. As you jump from star to star, you encounter moral dilemmas, pirates, attack drones aliens and intergalactic superstores. You must improve your ship with new weapons, drone bays and teleporters and nurture a competent crew to put out fires and stave off attackers.



It's good. In fact, we gave it our short form game of the year award this year, and gave it a score of 89 in our FTL review. Check out Tom F's description of an FTL encounter for an idea of how tense FTL's ship vs. ship showdowns can get.



So how do the developers feel about the IGF nod? "It feels pretty great," says designer Justin Ma. "We went from having Honorable Mentions in Design and the Grand Prize last year to being officially nominated this year. It's validating to find out we improved on last year's prototype."







IGF mentions have proved helpful when the team started promoting the polished version of FTL late last year. "Last year's Honorable Mentions certainly changed our situation," says Justin. "It was a ton of publicity and helped launch our Kickstarter which started around the time of GDC 2012.



As for other contenders, Justin mentions that he'd like to see Mark of the Ninja getting some future recognition, fellow designer Matthew Davis would pick Super Hexagon. "I haven't tried all of the games so I cannot fully comment" adds Justin, "but I just played through Ep. 1 of Kentucky Route Zero and I was blown away by the art and atmosphere. It felt like a spiritual successor to Out of This World (Another World)."



Subset are currently working on finishing up backers' Kickstarter rewards. "The next big project is still up in the air," they say.



Why is the IGF important? "The IGF is one of the most influential events that celebrate independent gaming partially because of its connection with GDC. They are able to get a large assortment of judges with specific knowledge about their category from all over the game development world. This not only means it is prestigious but it also helps promote independent game development by putting it in the spotlight."







Little Inferno





2D Boy co-founder Kyle Gabler is certainly no stranger to IGF success. World of Goo scooped IGF gongs for design innovation and technical excellence in 2008. Now he's teamed up with software developer Allan Blomquist and Henry Hatsworth creator Kyle Gray to make Little Inferno. It's is up for the Nuovo, Technical Excellence and Grand Prize awards in this year's competition.



Little Inferno invites you to burn all of your toys in a huge fireplace. Once you run out of stuff to torch, you can order more flame-fodder from a catalog using the currency you've earned burning things. For some, it's a sly comment on time-sink social games, for others, it's a hypnotic way to wile away a few hours immolating innocent possessions. It's as dark and charming as it is divisive.



Kyle Gabler is chuffed to be nominated. "The mighty orange orbits are mesmerizing, and we're surprised to be included" he says, "but we're also well aware Little Inferno is a controversial experience up against some insanely beloved and beautiful indie games."



But which ones would he like to see win? "A few years ago, World of Goo totally lost the grand prize to Petri Purho's Crayon Physics (that jerk!!). He's a fellow who we'd known for a long time as someone who consistently submitted memorable and creative games to the Experimental Gameplay Project competitions. This year, we once again hope to lose to another friend of EGP: Kentucky Route Zero or Hotline Miami."







Kyle Gray says "I'd love to see Incredipede win Best Visuals. Colin and Thomas took a risk pushing Incredipede's artstyle in the direction of wood carvings, and it would be great to see that pay off." (you can read about Tom's experiences with Incredipede here, and learn more about its globetrotting creator in our Incredipede interview.)



Gray reckons that the IGF is useful for generating the sort of exposure that big developers pay PR departments manufacture. "Because indie studios are so small, we often don't have the resources to promote their games properly. IGF does a great job of pushing these games into the spotlight, and can really help indie devs find their audience."



Gabler, meanwhile, has some suggestions for how to improve the event. "The IGF is modeled after real award shows like the Academy Awards with all the lights and glamour and thumping music and scary disembodied voices announcing categories and nominees - but indie game developers like us would probably be just as happy, and possibly more comfortable, having a barbecue in (IGF/GDC/Gamasutra overseer) Simon Carless's backyard."



I've no idea how big Simon's backyard is, but the steak point is hard to argue. Things are going "great!" for the Little Inferno team, according to Gray. "Except my family still thinks I sit in front of the TV all day with a controller glued to my hand, making a game where you shoot people in the face. One day we'll reach a state where people know what an indie developer is, but we're not there yet."







Hotline Miami





Dennaton's frenzied murder death kill rampage sim bludgeoned its way into our hearts last October. The top down perspective does little to distance players from the lurid and sudden torrent of violence that pours out of the monitor every time you kick in the front door of a new level, but none of it would be quite the same without the soundtrack (hear it here). Crazed bouts of electronica bring a psychotic sheen to every improvised killing spree. Grab the knife. Stab the dog. Throw the knife. Grab the gun. Kill the man. Kick the door. You're on a dance floor. Kill them all!



Hotline Miami's strange delirium is so infectious that IGF nomination seemed assured. Our pick for the best music in a game last year is in the running for an audio excellence award, and it's battling for the top spot in the Seumas McNally Grand Prize category too.



Dennaton's production habits may be partly responsible for Hotline Miami's sense of pent-up, frenetic energy. Jonatan "Cactus" Söderström is used to turning games around in less than a day. "I usually stop when it gets hard to push the idea further or doesn’t feel like it’s worth it to keep pushing," he told us in an interview in PCG247. "Some game concepts work a lot better if you keep them small and concentrated and would just get repetitive if you try to make something bigger from them."







The concept of Hotline Miami has been around for a while, however. "My original idea, when I made the first prototype called Super Carnage, was just to make the goriest game I possibly could, with as many weapons as possible. I was only 18 at the time so it was a pretty silly and incomplete idea," he said.



"Then I remade it about a year later, this was after playing some of Ikiki’s games and I really wanted to capture that feeling of always being outnumbered and having to master the controls and plan your actions to beat a level. I had to quit though, because I couldn’t solve the pathfinding I needed for the AI. Then last winter I realised I was now able to do the whole thing without any technical problems, so I showed the old prototype to Dennis (Wedin, Dennaton's artist). He liked it a lot and started doing graphics for it before I knew it."



It turned out pretty well. In fact, we liked it so much it secured a score of 86 in our Hotline Miami review. If you've played through it five times already and need another fix, cool your jets. Dennaton are preparing a sequel. More "sweet tunes" are planned.







Kentucky Route Zero





This dark and enigmatic adventure game is described by its creators as a "magical realist adventure game about a secret highway." The tale is set to unfold across five parts over the next year or so, but part one has already done enough to catch the eye of the IGF judges. Kentucky Route Zero is more about atmosphere and exploration than complex puzzle solving. The beautifully restrained, moody artwork evokes a sense of quiet unrest quite marvelously. "It’s a game about hard times, and people trying to connect with each other," the developers told us earlier this year. "It’s also about the culture of Kentucky."



It's made by two chaps - Jake Elliot and Tamas Kemenczy - who, when merged, form a single indie devzord entity known as Cardboard Computer. As well as Kentucky Route Zero, they released Limits and Demonstrations - an examination of the work of installation artist Lula Chamberlain - for free last month. That offers a short shot of the quiet, introspective pacing that makes Kentucky Route Zero such a hypnotic experience.







A modest Kickstarter campaign gave the team the capital they needed to license the game engine, but the benefits of Kickstarter extended beyond monetary gain.



"As a solution to our financial roadblocks in getting the game made, it worked very well, but the continuing support from folks who backed the Kickstarter drive has ended up being the most valuable part of the experience for us. Some of them helped beta test the game, or just provided feedback and encouragement as we updated them on our progress."



"We never seemed to run afoul of supporters’ expectations," they added, "even when the release of the game was delayed, we just communicated frankly about it with our supporters, and they were all very understanding in their responses to us.



Part One of Kentucky Route Zero was released in January this year. We gave it a score of 84 in our Kentucky Route Zero review. You can find out more and buy the game on the Kentucky Route Zero site.
PC Gamer
rel="bookmark"
title="Permanent Link to Steam Indie Spring Sale springs up, discounts loads of indie games in lieu of Easter eggs">steam indie spring sale







To coincide with IGF, PAX, GDC, OMG and WTF, Steam have slung up one of their impromptu sales, discounting tons of indie games to ensure that our libraries continue to heave under the sheer weight of unplayed games. How nice of them. I hope you've hidden your wallet after last time, because there are some cracking deals to be had, including Super Hexagon, Binding of Isaac and Terraria for silly money.



There's no countdown, so I'm assuming the many games on sale are going to stay the same price until the sale ends on March 29th (the 'Featured' games will likely rotate day by day, without offering any additional savings). There's a lot of games going cheap - more than is evident from the main page - so be sure to poke around for the ones you're interested in. Here are few of the better offers:



FTL - £3.49 (50% off)

Hotline Miami - £3.49 (50% off)

To The Moon - £2.79 (60% off)

Amnesia: The Dark Descent - £3.24 (75% off)

Miasmata - £5.99 (50% off)

Lone Survivor - £3.39 (50% off)

The Blackwell Bundle - £3.74 (75% off)

Retro City Rampage - £3.99 (67% off)

Ultratron, which came out like yesterday - £3.49 (50% off)

Euro Truck Simulator 2 - £12.49 (50% off)

Feb 12, 2013
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

Not pictured: everything on fire, everyone dead

Things that would happen in the best of all possible worlds:

- Cats would empty their own litter trays- Israel and Palestine would mutually agree “screw it, let’s have a fancy dress party instead”- People would read the article before commenting- McVities would bring back Marmite-flavoured Mini Cheddars- LEGO approves and manufactures this proposed FTL building set (more…)

PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Dishonored and The Walking Dead score high in Game Developers Choice Award nominations">The Walking Dead thumb







The Game Developers Choice Awards are the other side of a coin that also contains the IGFs. Sure, indies are allowed into this GDC organised awards show, but they have to promise to be on their best behaviour. And wash behind their ears.



The nominations for this year's award - chosen by a panel of game developers - have been announced, with The Walking Dead and Dishonored scoring plenty of nods. Not the most, though - that honour goes to Journey, which is apparently a PS3 game about collecting scarves. Or something.



Dishonored picked up four nominations, including Game of the Year, Best Game Design, Best Narrative and Best Visual Arts. The Walking Dead also received nominations for Game of the Year and Best Narrative, as well as a chance to nab Best Downloadable Game. Wait, aren't all games downloadable?



Other PC relevant nominations include Game of the Year nods for Mass Effect 3 and XCOM, a well deserved Best Audio mention for Hotline Miami, and a Best Technology listing for Planetside 2. FTL also did well, being nominated for the Innovation Award, along with a shot at Best Debut for its developer, Subset Games.



Here's the full list:



Game of the Year

Dishonored (Arkane Studios/Bethesda Softworks)

The Walking Dead (Telltale Games)

Mass Effect 3 (BioWare/Electronic Arts)

XCOM: Enemy Unknown (Firaxis Games/2K Games)

Journey (Thatgamecompany/Sony Computer Entertainment)



Innovation Award



Mark of the Ninja (Klei Entertainment/Microsoft Studios)

Journey (Thatgamecompany/Sony Computer Entertainment)

FTL: Faster Than Light (Subset Games)

The Unfinished Swan (Giant Sparrow/Sony Computer Entertainment)

ZombiU (Ubisoft Montpellier/Ubisoft)





Best Audio



Journey (Thatgamecompany/Sony Computer Entertainment)

Hotline Miami (Dennaton Games/Devolver Digital)

Sound Shapes (Queasy Games/Sony Computer Entertainment)

Assassin's Creed III (Ubisoft Montreal/Ubisoft)

Halo 4 (343 Industries/Microsoft Studios)





Best Debut



Humble Hearts (Dust: An Elysian Tail)

Polytron Corporation (Fez)

Giant Sparrow (The Unfinished Swan)

Subset Games (FTL: Faster Than Light)

Fireproof Games (The Room )









Best Downloadable Game



The Walking Dead (Telltale Games)

Spelunky (Derek Yu/Andy Hull)

Trials: Evolution (RedLynx/Microsoft Studios)

Mark Of The Ninja (Klei Entertainment/Microsoft Studios)

Journey (Thatgamecompany/Sony Computer Entertainment)









Best Game Design



Dishonored (Arkane Studios/Bethesda Softworks)

Mark Of The Ninja (Klei Entertainment/Microsoft Studios)

Spelunky (Derek Yu/Andy Hull)

Journey (Thatgamecompany/Sony Computer Entertainment)

XCOM: Enemy Unknown (Firaxis Games/2K Games)





Best Handheld/Mobile Game



Gravity Rush (SCE Japan Studio/Sony Computer Entertainment)

Hero Academy (Robot Entertainment)

Sound Shapes (Queasy Games/Sony Computer Entertainment)

The Room (Fireproof Games)

Kid Icarus: Uprising (Sora/Nintendo)





Best Narrative



Spec Ops: The Line (Yager Entertainment/2K Games)

Mass Effect 3 (BioWare/Electronic Arts)

Dishonored (Arkane Studios/Bethesda Softworks)

The Walking Dead (Telltale Games)

Virtue's Last Reward (Chunsoft/Aksys Games)





Best Technology



Far Cry 3 (Ubisoft Montreal/Ubisoft)

PlanetSide 2 (Sony Online Entertainment)

Halo 4 (343 Industries/Microsoft Studios)

Call of Duty: Black Ops II (Treyarch/Activision)

Assassin's Creed III (Ubisoft Montreal/Ubisoft)





Best Visual Arts



Borderlands 2 (Gearbox Software/2K Games)

Journey (Thatgamecompany/Sony Computer Entertainment)

Far Cry 3 (Ubisoft Montreal/Ubisoft)

Dishonored (Arkane Studios/Bethesda Softworks)

Halo 4 (343 Industries/Microsoft Studios)





The winners will be announced at GDC on March 27. Can you think of anything that's been unfairly missed out?
PC Gamer
rel="bookmark"
title="Permanent Link to FTL designer wary of another Kickstarter pitch: “It just adds a whole new layer of stress”">FTL







Indie space roguelike FTL warped into our top pick for 2012's Short-form Game of the Year and tickled our auditory sensors with wonderful space pew-pew music. Its Kickstarter campaign boasted $200,542 in donations over the $10,000 goal. But given a chance to do it again, FTL designer Justin Ma wouldn't be as keen to include crowdfunding. Speaking to Polygon, Ma said the constant exposure of a publicly tracked project would weigh down the two-man team and add a "whole new layer of stress."



"I feel like I wouldn't be able to work as freely or with such agility as we were with FTL," Ma said. "We prefer to work from within a cave until we have something we feel is worth showing. I'm not sure how some developers are able to publicly show their progress at every stage of development; it just adds a whole new layer of stress."



Ma's thoughts show the other side of the coin on the level of outreach expected by developers when carting their concepts through Kickstarter. Double Fine's Tim Schafer stated people felt crowdfunding made him "unafraid of being open" to sharing as much updates and unfinished media as possible. But as Ma explained, that option could also turn into a burden and constrain developers on a tight schedule.



"Unlike some projects that could simply hire more people, we did not have the option to increase our scope greatly since we also committed ourselves to a deadline only a few months away,” Ma said. “We tried to walk the thin line between using the extra funds to increase the quality of the final product while trying not to delay the release too long. In the end, I think we were reasonably successful."
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (David Valjalo)

Music man David Valjalo follows-up his exploration of the big-budget orchestral soundtracks in the mainstream games industry with a look at the other end of the scale – the super-low-budget, ultra-catchy, sometimes kitschy scores of indie darlings. He rounds up the men behind Hotline Miami, Sweden-based Dennis Wedin and Jonatan Soderstrom, two of the soundtrack artists they hand-picked, US artists M.O.O.N. and Scattle, and FTL composer Ben Prunty, to get the scoop on making music for small games and, quite often, small change.>

(more…)

PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to The music of FTL: Faster Than Light – an interview with composer Ben Prunty">ben_prunty







It goes blip and bloop and ding-ing-ing with reverberating voices, wrapping hazy nebulae and fierce space battles with warm melodies that sing "Oh my God, we're in spaaaaaace!" It's the soundtrack to indie sleeper hit FTL: Faster Than Light, and it's some of the finest game music of 2012.



The 29-track album ($5 on Bandcamp), composed by San Francisco Bay Area-based musician Ben Prunty, combines existing sci-fi motifs such as lonely, echoing synth bells with a unique space adventure sound. Tracks like MilkyWay and Civil are a skirmish between eerie tension and soothing, stargazing melodies, and their sparse chord progressions, warm synth melodies, and chiptunes-like blips have been stuck between my ears since they became my spaceship command companions last year.







In between are ambient tracks, such as Cosmos (Explore), which are harder to separate from the game, but flood their sectors with danger and mystery. Its sibling (each track has a Battle variant), on the other hand, builds to one of my favorite themes in the soundtrack.







FTL is Prunty's first major success as a game music composer, but he's been making music for 10 years and has another album, Chromatic T-Rex, available for the price you name on Bandcamp. What luck: when I got in touch with Prunty, we discovered that he's just a short drive from our South San Francisco office, and he offered to come by for an interview about FTL, his music, and his career.







PC Gamer: So you said you’re from Maine. Why did you move to the Bay Area?



Ben Prunty: Because I wanted to work for games. I wanted to do music for games. After I graduated from college—I had a degree in audio engineering—I knew that I wasn't gonna get any jobs in music for games in Maine. There’s not really any game industry presence there. It’d be kinda cool if there was, but, yeah, I had to move...and then I kinda got distracted and worked at Google for a couple years.

"...I kinda got distracted and worked at Google for a couple years."

What did you do at Google?



I fixed computer hardware in data centers, so I’d figure out what was wrong with a computer and then rip it apart. It was pretty fun.



So you've got a few fields of expertise?



Sort of, yeah, I didn't know anything when I—I just had a friend who worked there and this was in the old days when Google would just hire you because they liked you, and not necessarily because of your skills. I didn't know anything about computers but I started there and they taught me a ton. I learned all about Linux and discovered that I hated Linux.



Yeah, I was there for a couple of years and then I realized that I needed to get back to doing music.



So, what do you do now? Is it music full time?



Actually, in November I quit my last day job and I’m doing music full time. The sales of FTL are good enough to support me...FTL is a big success and I kept the rights to the music, so whenever the soundtrack sells on Steam or Bandcamp that money goes to me.



So you do the soundtrack and keep the rights—get the money from soundtrack sales—but not royalties when the game is sold, right?



Right, I don’t get royalties from the game. I was paid upfront. I was working for the promise of money for a while, and then the Kickstarter thing exploded. Justin and Matt, the two FTL guys, they asked for $10,000 and they got $200,000. So, they came to me and were like, “We want to pay you what you’re worth, so let’s talk about that.”



So they paid me up front. I negotiated with them and asked them, “Hey, maybe we can do a revenue share or something,” but they didn’t want to do that, so I asked instead to keep the rights so I could sell the music myself, and they agreed to that. So yeah, it worked out.



Things worked out much better for Ben than they usually do for me when I play FTL.



Before you started working on FTL, did you go to them and say, “Here’s what I can do,” or did they seek you out?



So, at Google I made a friend who I still hang out with a lot, he’s a really good friend. His name’s Anton Mikhailov. He developed the PlayStation Move controller.



We were coworkers at Google—we both ripped apart computers together and it was really fun—and he knew that I was doing music and looking for work, and he would always help me out by finding people who were making games, and he knew Matt Davis, the programmer for FTL. They both went to Berkeley together. So, one day Anton came over with a USB stick and said, “Hey, my friend is making this game, wanna check it out? He needs music.”



"I was definitely not musically inclined. I played trumpet in band and I was awful."

So we started playing FTL and it was awesome. They already had a nearly complete—not a complete game, but it was a fully functional game. And it was super fun, so I was like, “Yes, I want to be part of this.”



So, moving along to the music: When did you start? Were you always musically inclined?



I was definitely not musically inclined. I played trumpet in band and I was awful.



I played the tuba in school and I was terrible.



Well, I can tell you that being bad in music class doesn’t necessarily you’re going to suck at music in general. I had no musical talent. All I had was the thought that making music with computers would be really, really cool, and I wanted to do that.



Well, you're right. It's really cool.



Yeah, I was like, “Wow, this would be really awesome!” I had no understanding of music and I spent a long time making really terrible music. It was decently produced because I was an audio engineering major, but it sounded awful because I couldn't write music. Eventually, I put in the time to learn music theory and learn piano, and then my music suddenly got pretty good—or, at least, not terrible.



Ben's current work space.



There are some fundamentals that I've struggled with music theory, scales, why we use the notes we do—



...Yeah, it’s really abstract, and I read a ton of music theory books and most were gibberish. And then I found—you know, at this point after reading several of them, I did get some understanding of music theory and my music was starting to improve—but the best one I found was The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Music Theory. The guy who wrote it was amazing. He was able to explain it in this purely, wonderfully functional and logical way. It made more sense.



It’s a little embarrassing, I guess, but sometimes those books can be great. It’s how I learned to play the harmonica.



Yeah, they can be fantastic books. Some of the best resources you can get are the Idiot’s Guides or the For Dummies books or whatever. They’re amazing.

"I’m profoundly lazy, so, yeah, it’s really hard."

And playing the piano is kind of a standard learning method, like you mentioned. Is it something you work on or is it just a tool to help compose?



I actually don’t play piano that much anymore. Yeah, it’s definitely just a method for me to understand music better. Right now, I've just been focusing on banjo. I play about an hour a day at least. I love banjo.



Banjos are amazing.



I’m a huge fan. I got a banjo when I was in college and I just didn't have enough self-discipline to play it constantly, so I never got past the beginner level. You know, I could play chords and do a bunch of different picking styles, but the last, I don’t know, five or six months, I've been trying to plow through it and get better.



Self-discipline. It’s hard.



I’m profoundly lazy, so, yeah, it’s really hard.



But when you do get the motivation to work, do you have this idea for a song in your head, and then you sit down and make it real? Or is it more something that evolves as you work?



It’s a little of both. Often times I’ll have an idea for a direction for some kind of sound, or even just a bass line I want to build off, but it often ends up going in completely different ways than I intended. So yeah, it’s both. I have an idea, but it’s just a jumping off point for a song that’ll go nuts.



A particular track is Cosmos. So there’s Cosmos Explore and Cosmos Battle in FTL, and they’re completely different. They sound nothing like each other even though everything else sort of sounds similar, with the two versions of exploration and battle music...











There’s a shared theme.



Yeah, but these are completely different. Cosmos Battle was like—I had no idea where it was going at the time I was writing it. It was surprising me as I was doing it and it was really fun.



On the next page: more music and the rest of the interview...











Do you have a favorite track in FTL?



I’m really proud of the Engi music. It has a really cool chord progression that I like.







Your title theme does it for me. Something about bells and reverb just says “space,” I guess...it suggests vastness. Was that a lot of pressure? To just encapsulate the whole game in this song that people would hear all the time, every time they started the game?



Well, we didn't know it would be as popular as it was. We totally thought it would be a niche thing for a niche audience. Permadeath, really difficult, not very flashy, kind of like playing a board game—we didn't think these are the kind of things that would appeal to a huge audience.







I’m so happy that they are.



Yeah, I know! It’s really pleasing to know that there’s such a demand for this kind of thing. But, I don’t know, I didn't have too much pressure on me. I was mostly just trying to please them, the guys making the game. That title screen music was actually my original pitch music. They were like, “OK, why don’t you send us something, and if we like it we’ll use it for the game.”



So I was thinking, I have to come up with something that feels like cruising through space but doesn't feel too threatening. Kind of breezy, but not overly happy. I don’t want to be saccharine, but I don’t want to be dark either. So, I spent two or three days just trying to come up with a chord progression that sounded like this cruising thing that was not too threatening. That’s what you hear when it builds up to a climax in the beginning—those chords are what you hear, and I reuse them all throughout the soundtrack.



"I’m like, 'Hey, Denise! Do you want to go grunt in a closet for me while I record?'"

On your blog you wrote a post about what you used to make the soundtrack. The Natural Instruments Komplete bundle and all that. Did you have a favorite sampled instrument or synth?



I had a synth bass that I started to call the Mantis Bass. I don’t remember what it was called originally but some bassline from one of the synths in the Komplete bundle. I don’t remember now, because I saved it as a preset. I loaded up this bassline and made modifications and saved it as Mantis Bass. And that bassline shows up a ton in the whole soundtrack, but it was really prominent in Mantis.



Mantis (Battle) by Ben Prunty Music





Do you record any of your own samples? I noticed you mentioned some microphones.



There was like, an older project where I recorded my banjo a bit. I haven’t done any real recording except for sound effects. Sound effects for FTL and Gravity Ghost.



So you did all the sound design for FTL?



Mmhmm.



Right, oh yeah, there's the screams.



Right, if a male crew member dies, that’s me screaming. If a female crew member dies, that’s my roommate.



It’s nice to have resources like roommates.



I’m like, "Hey, Denise! Do you want to go grunt in a closet for me while I record?" Not creepy at all!







So, obviously you love games, since you wanted to compose specifically for games. Do you have any desire to enter development, or do you just plan to stick to music?



So, yeah, actually, for the last year or so I was really trying to learn more about game development and programming. When I was a kid I made a lot of games. I made card games and stuff, I made like--I was a big fan of Jurassic Park and I was 10 when it came out—and I made this Jurassic Park single-player card game that was kind of like a roguelike. I didn't realize at the time that I was going to become a huge fan of roguelikes, but it was already starting there. I made this crazy single-player card game and a whole ton of other ones.

"I’m often flying by the seat of my pants, but that’s fun too."

I found this old TRS-80 pocket computer made by Radio Shack in the ‘70s in my dad’s basement, and I started learning programming on that, which was a variant of BASIC. So I started making games on that, and I do have this desire to make games, but obviously I’m much better at doing music because I have a lot more experience. And my other real passion is writing, and those things I know I’m decent at, so I think I’m going to stick to that. But I don’t know, maybe something will come up and I’ll have to make something.



So, now you’re working on Gravity Ghost, full time composing. Any other projects?



Not yet, I’m looking for other projects. I’m kind of working on a solo album, but I don’t know how far that’s gonna go.



OK, last question. You call yourself an expert at giving off the appearance that you know what you’re doing. Do you know what you’re doing?



Yeah, I’m really good at making it look like I know what I’m doing, but I don’t necessarily know what I’m doing. I’m often flying by the seat of my pants, but that’s fun too.



Thanks for coming by, Ben! The FTL soundtrack is available for purchase on Bandcamp and Steam.
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