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Slamdance Gamemakers Competition Announces Contest Winners
posted by: Sean Hilliard
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date posted: 04:05 PM Sun Feb 12th, 2006
last revision: 04:17 PM Sun Feb 12th, 2006

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Click to read.The 2006 Slamdance Guerrilla Gamemaker Competition proved to be not just an event, but a destination, fulfilling the goals of the competition\'s creators and delighting gamers and developers alike.

\"We were double the size of [last year\'s] venue this year, and we\'ll need to be double the size next year,\" said Carolyn Cohagan, director of development and marketing for Slamdance Games.

There were five winners out of the 12 finalists, which were drawn from a pool of 50 game entries. The categories included Grand Jury Award, Audience Award, Student Physics, Student Art and PopCap Casual Award.

Grand Jury Award

The Grand Jury Award went to Fa?ade, which was designed by Procedural Arts. The award winner was determined by a jury of people in the gaming industry.

\"We brought in Penny Arcade, Rooster Teeth (the makers of gaming comic Red Vs. Blue), Michael Lew, an interactive artist and Alistair Cooper, a video game composer for Xbox games,\" said Cohagan.

The judges played each of the 12 finalists and picked their favorite game, Fa?ade. Fa?ade is a game that had been in development for six years, and it is an experiment in first-person drama, combining 3D graphics and a branching storyline into a one-act play. Gamers play as themselves, but they are placed in the middle of a couple\'s marital trouble. Featuring multiple endings, Facade encourages repeat playthroughs to get every angle of the story.

Procedural Arts, the makers of Fa?ade, earned several prizes for their efforts according to a press release from Slamdance.com, including:

Audience Award

The Audience Award went to N, which was designed by Metanet Software. The audience scored each game they played from one to five, in terms of how much they enjoyed the game with one being the lowest and five being the highest, according to Cohagan. The audience did not have to play each game, however, only as many as they wanted to.

N was the overwhelming choice by the audience, and it is a 2D puzzle/platformer game that has gamers taking control of a ninja trapped in a world full of homicidal robots. There are 500 levels in the game, 50 of which were made by fans of the game.

Metanet Software, the makers of N, also earned several prizes, including:

Student Physics Award

The Student Physics Award, which was new this year, according to Cohagan, went to Rumble Box, which was designed by Insert Coin, a team of two undergraduate students at DigiPen.

Joe Bourrie, one of the students on the team, had the goal of getting Rumble Box recognized by his school. \"The fact that we\'ve taken it to the point of winning national awards is well beyond that and a bit unreal to us,\" he said.

The Student Physics Award was given to the game with the best engine designed from the ground up, according to Cohagan. Rumble Box is a 3D beat-em-up where gamers must escape the box, which is full of thugs, ninjas and bombs. However, the character and the enemies are made of simple shapes that remain behind when destroyed, changing the landscape of the box. The goal is to stack up enough enemies to fill the box and allow escape.

Patrick Hackett, the other member of the team, said Rumble Box\'s physics engine was the reason they won the award. \"Our ability to render and maintain upwards of 8,000 independent objects at once was a feat that took months to accomplish, and, if never recognized, would still be our personal crowning jewel of development,\" he said.

Rumble Box took 14 months to make, and it was originally a project they were assigned at DigiPen, according to Hackett. Winning two $15,000 scholarships to DigiPen\'s graduate school was the highly ironic icing on the cake.

Student Philosophy Award

The Student Philosophy Award, another new award this year, according to Cohagan, went to Cloud, which was designed by USC Interactive Media.

The award was for artistic achievement using a shareware- or freeware-based engine, according to Cohagan, meaning it wasn\'t designed from scratch. She described Cloud as \"very esoteric and very relaxing.\"

\"You\'re flying in the sky, gathering clouds to make storms,\" Cohagan said. \"You have to play it slowly. It\'s very beautiful and very original.\"

USC Interactive Media, the makers of Cloud, earned several awards, including:

PopCap Casual Game Award

The last award was sponsored by PopCap, who chose from the original pool of 50 games, not just the final 12. The winner was The Odyssey, which was designed by Liquid Dragon Studios, a team of three: a programmer, an artist and a programmer/designer.

Laurent Coulon, the CEO of Liquid Dragon Studios, didn\'t expect to win anything at Slamdance because there was no award in physics for non-students. \"It did not really occur to us The Odyssey would win in a different category. It was quite a surprise and a really pleasant one, too, when we got the news,\" he said.

PopCap gave their award to the best casual game. The Odyssey is based on Odysseus\'s trip home to Greece from Troy after the Trojan War. In The Odyssey, gamers control the Greek goddess Athena and the water currents propelling the boats, rather than the boats themselves.

Coulon said The Odyssey won because of the technology behind it. \"Additionally, The Odyssey was designed to be a commercial casual game. That contributed to make the final product more likely to be selected by PopCap against maybe more experimental but ultimately less marketable candidates,\" he said.

Liquid Dragon Studios won the opportunity to work with PopCap to further polish and market their game. According to Coulon, they are close to closing a deal with a major casual publisher.

A Lasting Impression

Cohagan sees the Slamdance Guerrilla Gamemaker Competition as a success. \"People really got into the panels,\" she said. \"They were fired up.\"

Besides the opportunity to play each other\'s games, the developers got to meet each other and discuss their games in the aforementioned panels, which were held throughout the week during the festival. The event\'s LAN party also got the attention of gamers at the festival.

Cohagan hopes to one day see the Slamdance Gamemakers Competition go on the road, much like the Slamdance Film Festival. This would not involve an additional competition, but rather the opportunity to play the games in different cities, like at Slamdance New York. Currently, only the film festival is involved there.

As an indie gaming Web site, GF! encourages its readers to check out the hard work of these developers, and to remember most of these games are available for free download on the game developers\' Web sites. If you enjoy playing these games, make sure to tell the developers, too. They appreciate feedback from fans.

Links to the websites for the games mentioned in this article, as well as the rest of the finalists in the Slamdance Guerrilla Gamemaker Competition, are available in our earlier Finalists Round-Up.

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