Indie games aren't the small-scale, niche interest they have typically been regarded as in the past. Today, they're a thriving part of the industry, clearly distinct from the more traditional developer-publisher model as well as other, newer ways of doing business -- and the Independent Games Festival (IGF) Awards seeks to celebrate the very best this sector of the games biz has to offer.
More than 650 games were submitted to the IGF this year from a wide variety of developers. Nearly 375 judges were enlisted to whittle that list down to a set of finalists for the awards ceremony's main competition, with the winners set to be announced during GDC in March of this year.
There are six main awards, covering Excellence in Visual Art, Excellent in Narrative, Excellence in Design, Excellence in Audio, the Nuovo Award and the $30,000 Seumas McNally Grand Prize. A number of games came up for multiple awards, and a number of others were given "honorable mentions" by the judges.
Up for consideration in the Excellence in Visual Art category are Simogo's intriguing iOS-based interactive fiction game Device 6; Jason Roberts' hand-illustrated puzzle game Gorogoa; Stoic's impressive strategy RPG The Banner Saga; Arcane Kids self-professed "perfect game" based on old-school first-person shooter movement exploits Perfect Stride; Amanita Design's gorgeous adventure Samorost3; and Etter's abstract collaborative tower-building game Drei. Honorable mentions include badger sim Shelter; PS4 blaster Galak-Z; puzzle platformer The Swapper; randomized choose-your-own-adventure game The Yawhg; and Klei's survival sim Don't Starve, which recently arrived on PS4.
The Excellence in Narrative category specifically honors The Yawhg and Device 6 alongside 2D narrative-based platformer Paralect; stop-motion interactive musical comedy Dominique Pamplemousse in "It's All Over Once the Fat Lady Sings!"; Galactic Café's mind-bending The Stanley Parable; and Lucas Pope's darkly humorous Cold War immigration game Papers, Please. Honorable mentions in this category include Gorogoa; hacker-themed game Quadrilateral Cowboy; sci-fi social networking strategy game Redshirt; stylized mystery adventure game Detective Grimoire; and monster-raising game Monster Loves You.
The Excellence in Design award celebrates Papers, Please and Don't Starve along with former Ouya exclusive TowerFall Ascension; abstract cyberspace roguelike 868-HACK; post-apocalyptic puzzle platformer Mushroom 11; and rhythm roguelike Crypt of the NecroDancer. Honorable mentions include The Banner Saga, Perfect Stride, Device 6 and Gorogoa alongside "tiny puzzle" Threes.
The finalists for Excellence in Audio are all familiar sights: Samorost3; Dominique Pamplemousse; The Stanley Parable; Crypt of the NecroDancer; Device 6 and The Yawhg. Honorable mentions for this category include Don't Starve and The Banner Saga alongside chemistry-themed puzzler Sokobond; short-form, surreal adventure Potatoman Seeks the Troof; and the '80s spoof movie-inspired first-person adventure Jazzpunk -- which I must confess I had never heard of prior to going through this list, but now really want to play.
The Nuovo Award finalists include Domique Pamplemousse and Papers, Please as well as Tale of Tales' game about making a tunnel happy Luxuria Superbia; Web-based alternate reality game Extrasolar; odd Kinect game Perfect Woman; "chanting game of sensory exploration" SoundSelf; conversation game Save the Date; and "mysterious intricate puzzle" Corrypt. Honorable mentions include Shelter and Device 6 as well as slow-mo shooter Superhot; Elegy for a Dead World, the game in which you write the story yourself; and storymaking game 18 Cadence.
Finally, The Stanley Parable; Don't Starve; Jazzpunk; Papers, Please; Device 6; and Dominique Pamplemousse are all up for the Seumas McNally Grand Prize of $30,000, with honorable mentions going to Crypt of the NecroDancer; TowerFall Ascension; Kerbal Space Program; 868-HACK; and The Yawhg.
If you happen to be at GDC 2014 between March 19 and 21 of this year, all of the finalist games will be playable at the IGF's pavilion. The winners will be announced on the evening of March 19.
If you'd like to find out more about any of these games, check out the full list -- which includes screenshots, videos and links to the official game sites -- here.