GDC 07: Aquaria swims off with IGF top honors

Bit Blot's 2D aquatic game takes the top prize, but Everyday Shooter and Bang! Howdy cause a right ruckus at indie gaming's top annual event.


At 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, the Game Developers Conference held a so-called "recruitment booth crawl" in the West Hall of the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco. While its title was benign-sounding enough, the reality was several thousand would-be developers, designers, and programmers milling between numerous developer and publishers' booths in various states of inebriation at an old-fashioned dorm-room-style progressive party. Between free beers, each hoped their resume and/or clip reel would let them vault ahead of the competition and land the proverbial holy grail of the game world--a job making games.

After several hours sampling a kaleidoscope of international fermented hops products, many of the attendees made their way to Moscone's South Hall, where two prestigious ceremonies were being held. First up was the Independent Games Festival, the annual appetizer to the Game Developers Choice Awards, the primary honors handed out at GDC.

Castle Crashers took home the Excellence in Digital Art award.
Castle Crashers took home the Excellence in Digital Art award.

To present the awards, GameTap and Telltale Media's loveable cartoon duo Sam & Max appeared on the screen to level a series of charmingly disparaging remarks about the IGF. Then, CMP Media's Simon Carless and Jamil Moledina took the stage to introduce the nominees before yielding the stage to Andy Schatz, director of the 2006 IGF Seamus McNally Grand Prize finalist Wildlife Tycoon. Guildhall's Weekday Warrior took home the best mod prize, followed by Toblo for Best Student Game. One of the winners took the opportunity to ask his fiancée if she'd marry him; she leaped to the stage and accepted with a passionate kiss. The thunderous applause had Schatz nonplussed. "I had a joke about that guy, but I don't think I can tell it now," he said, dryly.

Excellence in Digital Art was the next prize handed out to The Behemoth's Castle Crashers, followed by the Design Innovation trophy which went to...(wait for it)...Everyday Shooter. The Bang! Howdy posse had a rootin' tootin' time at the event, winning the Technical Excellence Award, while the French-produced Samorost 2 downloaded best Web browser game honors.

The Audience Choice Awards, which were awarded by an online poll on GameSpot, went to Castle Crashers. Then it was time for the designers of the 2006 IGF Game of the Year winner Darwinia, the UK-based Introversion, to take the stage. One had this chestnut of advice: "Don't take any money from publishers, urged one--they will only mess up your game." Thunderous applause ensued.

Last but certainly not least was the 2007 Game of the Year prize, which went to Aquaria, the previously unhonored 2D fantasy game from indie shop Bit Blot. After stumbling verbally, one of its designers admitted, "This is a terrible speech." But the massive applause proved the audience didn't really care.

For a full rundown on the winners and nominees, check out the official Independent Game Festival Web site.

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