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Terry Cavanagh

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Is the Bohemian ethic of selfless devotion to art driving the indie movement? Are we amidst a new era of expression? Or will the indie movement fall victim to uninspired cash-spinners?

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To Infinity and beyond, as long as it isn't more than about 700 pixels wide

One of many 7-Day Roguelikes created for this year’s challenge (which Mr Smith will be presenting a more fulsome guide to in the not-too-distant), free browser-based game-ette Me Against The Mutants further complicates the risk of perma-death with the concept of ‘Infinities.’ Either you’re trapped in a repeating angular vortex or you need to create one of your own in order to get the drop on dangerous enemies. Drag a square and anything it will be replicated to fill the screen – including you.
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This week on "Best Of Indie Games," we take a look at some of the top independent PC Flash/downloadable titles released over this last week.

The delights in this edition include a tale about two treasure hunters, a new browser pick from VVVVVV developer Terry Cavanagh, a procedural-generated exploration game, plus a 2D platformer created by IGF Award-winning developer Tiger Style Games.

Here's some recent highlights from IndieGames.com:

Game Pick: 'Wyv and Keep' (a jolly corpse, commercial indie)
"Wyv and Keep tells the story of two treasure hunters on an expedition to a long lost temple, but like any good ancient video game temple, this one is filled with danger and box pushing puzzles."

Game Pick: 'Proteus' (Ed Key and David Kanaga, commercial indie)
"You start Proteus plonked on a beautiful island, each time slightly remixed by clever procedural generation, and then you wander around looking at bizarre blocky environments and taking in the pseudo-interactive soundscape."

Game Pick: 'Hexagon' (Terry Cavanagh, browser)
"VVVVVV and At A Distance developer Terry Cavanagh has made one hell of a palm-sweating, vertigo-inducing experience in Hexagon, one of hundreds of games made for the GDC-bound Pirate Kart."

Game Pick: 'Swindler' (Nitrome, browser)
"Swinging from a rope made of his own stretchy mass, Swindler's starring pile of green goop must carefully avoid enemies and obstacles in order to reach the treasure chest at the end of each level."

Game Pick: 'Lemma' (Evan Todd, freeware)
"The lazy description of this game would be something along the lines of Mirror's Edge meets Minecraft, although it's also got sweet physicsy kicking, and a neat bit of storytelling by way of mysterious text messages."

Game Pick: 'All Against One' (Leon Arnott, browser)
"All Against One differs from other boss rush-styled shooters in that the boss remains the same in each level. The player's equipment changes after each boss is defeated, with later levels challenging players to win using cumbersome and unconventional weaponry."

Game Pick: 'EvilQuest' (Chaosoft Games, commercial indie)
"In EvilQuest, the monstrously evil dark knight Galvis seeks world domination after being betrayed by his once-loyal followers. Gameplay is largely inspired by SNK's underappreciated NES action-RPG Crystalis, and players have access to a variety of magic spells in addition to an arsenal of melee weaponry."

Game Pick: 'Zombies, Inc.' (Aethos Games, browser)
"Zombies, Inc. is yet another title that features the cannibalistic undead but this time around, things are a little different. Instead of shambling mindlessly into human cities, these zombies have offices to plot in."

Game Pick: 'Russian Subway Dogs' (Miguel Sternberg, freeware)
"Created by Miguel Sternberg, Russian Subway Dogs is an arcade-y little title that works on a very simple premise. You're a dog. You're hungry. You're totally okay with scaring people into dropping their food - they don't need it as much as you, after all."

Game Pick: 'Waking Mars' (Tiger Style Games, commercial indie)
"Waking Mars is an exploration-based platformer in which a lone astronaut navigates a vast network of caverns beneath Mars's surface. Equipped with a jetpack, players must carefully observe the planet's ecosystem in order to sustain helpful lifeforms, eliminate infestations, and eventually escape."

Game Pick: 'Orbitron: Revolution' (Firebase, commercial indie)
"Originally published for the Xbox Live Indie Games service late last year, Orbitron: Revolution offers wave-based gameplay in a looping playfield -- a style similar to Williams' arcade classic Defender."

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hexagoncomplete.pngVVVVVV and At A Distance developer Terry Cavanagh has made one hell of a palm-sweating, vertigo-inducing experience in Hexagon, one of hundreds of games made for the GDC-bound Pirate Kart. I've spent several tries (in between periods of resting my eyes and brain) to get further than 35 seconds into Hexagon, but I fail.

Players control a triangle that skirts along the edges of a hexagon, dodging oncoming patterns of lines and shapes. In addition to the onslaught of patterns, the visuals often pulse and the stage switches between clockwise and counter-clockwise rotations. The game is one continuous stage, with shape-themed "levels" layered in 10-second increments. I cleared point, line, and part of triangle, and I learned square was next. Maybe there's an end-goal; I'll never know.

I never had the stomach for carnival rides, but I imagine this is a wonderful substitution. How about a stereoscopic 3D Hexagon experience? That would be a sensory overload. With Flash installed you can play the browser version here or download Hegaxon here. Cheers to Chipzel for the 30 seconds of great music I heard!

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demruth IGF.jpg[In the latest in our "Road to the IGF" series of interviews with 2012 IGF finalists, Gamasutra speaks with Alexander Bruce about his 2012 IGF Technical Excellence Award nominee Antichamber.]

Alexander "Demruth" Bruce's Antichamber is a game about discovery, set inside a vibrant, minimal, Escher-like world, where geometry and space follow unfamiliar rules, and obstacles are a matter of perception.

The game was a finalist for the Nuovo Award at the 2011 Independent Games Festival, back when it was still called Hazard: The Journey of Life and "only a couple of months away from release."

Twelve months later and with some work still to be done, Bruce's game is back in the competition, with a new name and new recognition as a finalist in the Technical Excellence category.

What background do you have making games?

Does this work like a resume, where if over a certain amount of time has passed since some of the work that you did, you don't have to list it anymore? I sure would like to forget about those cancelled titles that I mentioned in my Road To the IGF from last year!

On a more serious note, I started making games when I was 20, went through a university degree and worked in the industry for a year. Throughout that entire time, I felt like I didn't have enough experience at anything that I was doing, because I was always surrounded by people who had been doing this stuff for years. So in 2009 I came to the conclusion that if I was going to stand out at all, I'd have to do things differently.

I think I've succeeded at that, because G4TV tried to describe the game at PAX by saying "it's like an Escher painting meets Bastion, then someone did some heroin and threw paint on a wall." That's both one of the best descriptions and one of the most ridiculous descriptions I've ever heard.

This mindset of continuously pushing things to be different was something I addressed when I spoke at the Nuovo Sessions at GDC 2010. I'm sure that a lot of what I said at the time probably sounded naive and idealistic, but that mindset drove me through two years of hell trying to make everything work cohesively. It's also why the game has done a pretty decent job of standing out the further it has progressed. When people responded to earlier versions with "oh this is like Portal. You should make these things like this though, because in Portal...", I didn't want to embrace that. I wanted to get the hell away from that, because Portal already exists and is fantastic.

All of that is a very long winded way of saying that I think the important insights into my background are a relentless desire to explore in new directions, and being completely driven in trying to make what I'm doing work. The trailer for an upcoming documentary titled Ctrl+Alt+Compete had an amazing quote in it related to that kind of determination mindset, where someone said "If I didn't get paid to do this, I'd probably figure out how to get paid to do this. I want to be an entrepreneur."

How long has your team been working on the game?

For a whole year longer than the couple of months I said I had remaining last year! Making games sure is hard.

Since last IGF, I ended up practically redoing half the game, implemented the entire soundscape, changed the name, and was exploring concrete plans regarding distribution. In my mind, polish is the process of refining or removing all of the reasons that someone who is within your audience would have reason to stop playing, and when you view things that way, even small changes can have a huge difference for the feel of the game. I'd say that things are paying off, looking at the honorable mention I got for the Grand Prize.

At the end of the day, I'm not trying to make a good game. I'm trying to make an exceptional game, because this has my name on it. With that said, though, the risk of changing anything else too radically anymore is outweighing the potential benefits, and I'm reaching that point where I just have to stop and release it into the world. I said at PAX last year that I wanted the finished game at PAX East, and I'm still aiming to do that. Maybe not the release candidate, but it'll be close.

Antichamber's development been extremely iterative, and it has gone through a number of substantial changes (at one point it was even an arena combat game!). How can you afford to change the design so rapidly?

Nothing that led to here has happened rapidly, make no mistake about that. I've been messing around with the ideas that spawned it since 2006. All of the changes that happened were very calculated, and I'd probably been thinking about them in the back of my mind for months before I finally decided to actually execute upon them.

I think the difference between how I work versus how Stephen Lavelle or Terry Cavanagh work, is that I keep all of my focus centered around a single thing. We're all going through the process of throwing ideas at a wall, but I'm just more interested in working out why one particular thing didn't stick before I move onto the next one.

This is the second time that Antichamber has been nominated in the IGF. How do you feel about previous finalists that re-entered their games?

This will be the last time that this is ever an issue, given that the rules are disallowing it next year onwards. But I actually don't think that games that re-enter after being nominated previously have any advantage at all over games that are new to the IGF. If something is good, and it's new, I think it's way easier to respond positively to that than it is to something that is great, but that you've seen before.

None of the games that were renominated (I know of Gish, Miegakure, Fez, Faraway and Antichamber) were nominated in the same categories, which means that they had to stand out even more without relying on what they'd been selected for previously. I'm actually really happy that Fez was nominated again this year, despite the fact that I'm competing directly against it!

I know that there are a lot of people who are vocal about what the IGF is or should be, and I know that Brandon [Boyer, IGF chairman] gives a lot of thought to this issue, but at the same time there are other competitions that exist as well. Sure, they don't all have the reptutation that the IGF has, but if your reasoning for entering the IGF is to try to get your big break and have the world know about your game, I really don't see why you wouldn't take other competitions seriously as well. If you can get through a couple of those, who knows, maybe you'll also work out all of the things that need to be fixed in order to improve your chances of getting into the IGF. That's what I did.

Have you played any of the other IGF finalists? Any games you've particularly enjoyed?

I've played several, though I think the ones that stuck with me the most were when I played At a Distance and Way at IndieCade with Chris Hecker.

When we were playing At a Distance, we were constantly speaking back and forth about what we were doing and where the other player had to go, and conquering the game was really easy because of that. When we were playing Way, though, our inability to communicate directly like this left us pretty screwed on a particular puzzle.

Way is all about puppetry, and if you're really expressive with your character, you can say quite a lot just by waving your arms around, shaking your head, etc. But I don't think Chris or I solve problems socially like that. When something didn't work, both of us would just sit back and stare off into the distance and think "what is the other person not understanding about what I'm doing, and what is the most effective way that I can purposefully animate my character to express that?" As a result, a lot of the time our characters just stood around on screen doing nothing. Other people found it hilarious and pretty painful to watch.

Chris Bell (the designer) ended up taking over Hecker's computer and started waiving his characters arms all around the place, shaking his characters head furiously whenever I did anything wrong, etc. and I could instantly understand what he wanted to say. Within about 30 seconds, the level was solved, and I felt incredibly stupid. But... that's the beauty of a good puzzle!

This is a game that seems to demand more from the player than most. What should an Antichamber player gain from playing the game?

I wouldn't say that Antichamber is more demanding than other games. Often times the puzzles require you to do a lot less than puzzles in other games. They're just a very different kind of puzzle than what people are used to. People who are naturally really good at thinking outside the box end up blasting through the game relatively quickly, while people who are used to games that more directly tell them how everything works and expect them to just execute upon that knowledge are the ones that end up finding it more difficult. In any case, it's introducing some new concepts into games, and forcing players to think differently.

What do you think of the current state of the indie scene?

I don't think there's much point in labeling everything as "the indie scene". Personally, I just have the work that I do, a group of friends who all make stuff that I find interesting, and then a whole lot of other people that I'd really like to meet.

[This article was originally posted on Gamasutra, written by Frank Cifaldi.]

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IGF 2012

The Main Competition finalists for the 2012 Independent Games Festival have been announced! The list is reprinted below and you can read some quotes from the jury here. TIGForums members are discussing the results in this thread.

Excellence In Visual Art
Botanicula (Amanita Design)
Dear Esther (thechineseroom)
Lume (State Of Play Games)
Mirage (Mario von Rickenbach)
Wonderputt (Damp Gnat)

Technical Excellence
Antichamber (Demruth)
Fez (Polytron)
Prom Week (Expressive Intelligence Studio, UC Santa Cruz)
Realm of the Mad God (Wild Shadow Studios & Spry Fox)
Spelunky (Mossmouth)

Excellence In Design
Atom Zombie Smasher (Blendo Games)
English Country Tune (Stephen Lavelle)
Frozen Synapse (Mode 7 Games)
Gunpoint (Tom Francis, John Roberts and Fabian van Dommelen)
Spelunky (Mossmouth)

Excellence In Audio
Botanicula (Amanita Design)
Dear Esther (thechineseroom)
Pugs Luv Beats (Lucky Frame)
To The Moon (Freebird Games)
Waking Mars (Tiger Style)

Best Mobile Game
ASYNC Corp (Powerhead Games)
Beat Sneak Bandit (Simogo)
Faraway (Steph Thirion)
Ridiculous Fishing (Vlambeer)
Waking Mars (Tiger Style)

Nuovo Award
At a Distance (Terry Cavanagh)
Dear Esther (thechineseroom)
Fingle (Game Oven Studios)
GIRP (Bennett Foddy)
Proteus (Ed Key and David Kanaga)
Johann Sebastian Joust (Die Gute Fabrik)
Storyteller (Daniel Benmergui)
Way (CoCo & Co.)

Seumas McNally Grand Prize
Dear Esther (thechineseroom)
Fez (Polytron)
Frozen Synapse (Mode 7 Games)
Johann Sebastian Joust (Die Gute Fabrik)
Spelunky (Mossmouth)

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The indie world has a lot to rejoice over today. Not only has Frozenbyte released the absurdly good-looking Trine 2, Terry Cavanagh has chosen to make At A Distance available to the world on the same date as well. To recap for those who haven't a clue as to what I'm talking about, At A Distance is a first-person co-op puzzler with platforming elements that premiered at No Quarter sometime earlier this year. Though deeply focused on co-operation, At A Distance will not have players directly interacting with one another. Nonetheless, both parties will still be working towards the same goal.

Download the game here.

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The organizers of the 14th Annual Independent Games Festival -- the longest-running and largest festival relating to independent games worldwide -- are proud to announce another year of record entry numbers for IGF 2012's Main Competition.

In total, this year's Main Competition took in nearly 570 game entries from both leading indie developers and first-time entrants, a more than forty five percent jump over 2011's total entries. Entries for mobile hardware like the iPhone, iPad, DS, PSP and Android devices alone -- now fully integrated into the festival and eligible for their own unique Best Mobile Game award -- nearly doubled over the prior year, proving the platform's increasing importance for independent development.

Some of the titles entered in the IGF Main Competition this year include Ed Key and David Kanaga's Proteus, an adventure game that dynamically generates its ambient soundtrack as you explore, Waking Mars, the action-gardening game from former IGF Mobile winner Tiger Style, and Super T.I.M.E. Force, a time-twisting shooter from Critter Crunch, Clash of Heroes and Sword & Sworcery EP developer Capy.

In addition, a number of returning developers previously honored at the Independent Games Festival have entered new games including Prison Architect, a previously unannounced game from 2006 Seumas McNally Grand Prize winners Introversion, Jesus Vs Dinosaurs, an arcade game co-developed by Crayon Physics creator Petri Purho and two new games from the team behind 2007 Grand Prize winner Aquaria: Infinite Ammo's Alone and Spelunky, a revamped version of Mossmouth's cult favorite rogue-like platformer.

Other notable entries this year include ____ (Four Letter Word) from VVVVVV developer Terry Cavanagh, Storyteller, an experimental visual-narrative game from former Nuovo finalist Daniel Benmergui, and mobile debuts from a number of beloved indie regulars: Vlambeer's Ridiculous Fishing, Rockfish, from Cave Story creator Daisuke 'Pixel' Amaya, and English Country Tune from Stephen 'Increpare' Lavelle.

In-depth information and entrant-provided screenshots and videos are now available on IGF.com for careful perusal of all titles from entrants both established and those making their first appearance at the festival.

"The continued growth of both the Independent Games Festival and of independent games as a cultural force is incredibly heartening," said festival chairman Brandon Boyer. "The diversity -- and the plain overwhelming number -- of entries in the festival this year is proof positive that we're in the midst of a true renaissance in games history."

This year's IGF entries will be distributed to more than 150 notable industry judges for evaluation, and their highest recommendations passed on to a set of discipline-specific juries for each award, who will debate and vote on their favorites, before finalists are announced in January 2012.

In turn, winners will be awarded on stage during the IGF Awards ceremony during the Game Developers Conference 2012 in San Francisco next March, and all finalists in the Main Competition (including the art-centric Nuovo Award) and the Student Showcase (which is due for submission by October 31st) will be showcased in the IGF Pavilion on the GDC Expo Floor from March 7th-9th, immediately following the 5th Annual Independent Games Summit on March 5th and 6th.

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Today's collection of independent game links includes more indie game previews, a couple of development updates, and the usual round-up of interviews with developers from around the 'net. (image source).

DIYgamer: Terry Cavanagh Interview
"Continuing on with our Eurogamer Expo coverage, we've got quite the large build up of indie interviews. To kick things off, we decided to start with none other than Terry Cavanagh to talk about his new game At A Distance."

GameScenes: Paolo Pedercini Interview
"GameScenes is conducting a series of interviews with artists, critics, curators, gallery owners operating in the field of Game Art, as part of our ongoing investigation of the social history of this fascinating artworld. The conversation between Mathias Jansson and Paolo Pedercini took place in August 2011 via email."

Roguelike Radio: Episode 5, Frozen Depths (audio)
"Welcome to this week's episode of Roguelike Radio. Episode 5 focuses discussion on Frozen Depths, a cold-themed roguelike by Glowie. Talking this week are Darren Grey, Andrew Doull and Ido Yehieli."

A Jumps B Shoots: PAX 2011 Special, Day 1
"A Jumps B Shoots is on-hand at 2011′s Penny Arcade Expo, talking with the creators of Spelunky, Snapshot, A Flipping Good Time and Atom Zombie Smasher."

Indie Games Channel: Andrés Chilkowski on Bunch of Heroes, Regnum Online
"I talked to Andrés Chilkowski, one of the members of NGD's management team, about NGD Studios, Bunch of Heroes, the growing popularity of Regnum Online, and their plans for the future."

Pixel Damage Podcast: The Bastion Guest Host Episode (audio)
"We have the huge honor of having the one and only Darren Korb, creator of the amazing soundtrack for Bastion the hottest game of the summer, guest host with us this week."

TruePCGaming: Dead Horde Developer Interview
"TPG had a chance to speak with DnS Development about their new top-down survival horror title, Dead Horde. You will get their view on topics throughout the PC gaming industry as well as how the development of Dead Horde took place."

The TouchArcade Show: Interview With Kode80
"On this week's episode of The TouchArcade Show, Eli and I grill the dude behind Kode80 and the game 1-Bit Ninja, Ben Hopkins. Our interview spans an insane amount of topics including Hopkins devastating injury and how that is effecting him as a creator and what informed his work on 1-Bit Ninja."

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it's a spiritual successor to many things but not to Pineapple Express
Pineapple Smash Crew was our favourite of the excellent games on show at the Eurogamer Expo Indie Arcade. It’s a top-down, squad-based arcade style shoot ‘em up with retro appeal in abundance. To find out more about the design process, influences and what we can expect from the release, we spoke to designer Rich Edwards. With inspirations ranging from all things Team 17 to Space Hulk, alongside a dash of oft-forgotten Sega oddity Gain Ground, Pineapple Smash Crew is a heap of good things on top of a stack of more good things. As well as covering the game, we chatted about the indie scene, funding and what comes next.

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