[Cross-posted from GameSetWatch, originally by simonc: 'In order for us to run the Independent Games Festival every year, sponsors have to step forward to help us out, and this year's Platinum Sponsor is Wizards Of The Coast - who you might know from Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons, but are getting into digital games in a major way.

Here's their announcement of their own sponsor-backed awards to be given out next week at the ceremony during GDC. Quite apart from the extra money/prizes for worthy indies, it's particularly neat to see they've picked both IGF entrants and finalists to contend for their own Gleemie Award. Here's the press release.']

"In a world of stagnating digital strategy gameplay, Gleemax™, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.'s (NYSE: HAS) community for gamers, consisting of social networking, online gaming and game related content, today announced the finalists for The Gleemax Award for Strategic Gameplay ("The Gleemie").

Prizes will be awarded to those representing creativity in innovative strategic game design at the 10th Annual IGF Awards Ceremony on February 20, at CMP's Game Developers Conference (GDC). GDC, the world's largest industry-only event dedicated to the advancement of interactive entertainment, takes place February 18-22 at San Francisco's Moscone Convention Center.

"We live in a world where independent developer creativity gets handicapped by limited budget and resources," said Randy Buehler, Vice President of Digital Games for Wizards of the Coast. "Through Gleemax and the Independent Games Festival we want to recognize Indie developers' hard work and ultimately give them and their games a chance to flourish."

Three of the seven finalists will be awarded "The Gleemie" during an awards ceremony consisting of a custom designed trophy accompanied with a tiered prize package. All three winners will walk away with a cash prize (1st - $5,000, 2nd - $3,000, 3rd - $2,000). In addition, all seven finalists will get the opportunity to sign distribution agreements worth at least $50,000 in total.

The finalists for "The Gleemie" were selected from a field of more than 170 game submissions based on strategic and innovative game play. The seven finalists for "The Gleemie" are as follows, in no particular order:

Game 1:
World of Goo by 2D Boy
World of Goo is a physics based puzzle/construction game in which players control millions of goo balls to build structures and manipulate objects with the objective of rescuing as many of the lovable goo balls as possible. The game features five chapters, each one consisting of 10-15 challenging levels all taking place in a beautiful World of Goo.

Game 2:
Crayon Physics Deluxe by Kloonigames, of Helsinki Polytechnic Stadia
Crayon Physics Deluxe is a 2D physics puzzle game that lets players experience what it would be like if the things they drew became real. The goal in the game is to collect yellow stars by manipulating the world through the use of objects drawn with a red crayon ball. The game is not only a test of skill and strategic game play, but of creativity as well.

Game 3:
Skyrates by Airship Studios
In Skyrates, players are airborne privateers that need to fight, trade and explore their way to fame and fortune in a fantastic world of floating islands. Every action players take has an effect on other players in the thriving online game world. Skyrates is an experiment in sporadic play, meaning the game can be experienced in several short play sessions rather than one large chunk of time. This accommodates players interest at all levels, regardless of whether they choose to be a peaceful trader, a careful diplomat or a bold fighter.

Game 4:
Depths of Peril by Soldak Entertainment
Depths of Peril is a single player action role-playing game (RPG) with strong strategy elements set in a fantasy world. As barbarian leaders, players protect the city of Jorvik by destroying threatening monsters and completing challenging quests. But defending the city is not the only goal as rival barbarian factions use diplomacy, trade, and at times, civil war to see who will ultimately rule the city of Jorvik.

Game 5:
Quadradius by Quadradius
Quadradius is a two player, head-to-head internet game that pits strangers and friends against one another in a battle of skill, strategy, luck and bluffing. Set in an industrial arena, players compete to destroy each other's squadrons. The acquisition of various Power Orbs scattered throughout the game board adds an additional layer of strategy to the game. The Power Orbs allow many tactical combinations that can be used to attack, defend, or foil opponent's plans.

Game 6:
Desktop Tower Defense by Mandible Games
Desktop Tower Defense is a puzzle/strategy game that challenges a player's desktop against waves of cute, but relentless invaders called "Creeps". By strategically building towers to defend their desktops, players can shoot, trap, and lead the invaders through fiendish mazes as they try to overwhelm the desktop's defenses. The object of the game is to stop as many invading "Creeps" as possible.

Game 7:
Polarity by Carnegie Mellon University - Entertainment Technology Center
Polarity is a 2D platforming/puzzle game based on magnetism. The goal of the game is to navigate environments and solve puzzles by using your suit's magnetic properties to attract and repel objects. Players can boost the suit's magnetic strength or instantly switch its polarity throughout the game.

As part of Wizards of the Coast's continued commitment to provide creative and innovative strategic game play to today's gamers, the winning games will have an opportunity to be published on Gleemax's game portal, a portion of Gleemax currently under development that will host a finite number of Indie third party digital games, each having received the Wizards of the Coast seal of approval for strategic game play.

Along with being published next to the best-of-the-best in Indie games, the games will be promoted to Wizards of the Coast's robust strategy game playing community made up of more than 6 million unique gamers who visit Wizards of the Coast's sites regularly.

For more information on Gleemax and its presence at the Independent Games Festival, please visit www.wizards.com/igf."