June 19, 2012 12:00 PM | Staff
[Ahead of opening submissions for the 2013 Festival, IGF Chairman Brandon Boyer goes in-depth on the shifts in policy and rules for this year's 15th anniversary IGF experience, and the ethos and considerations behind them.]
Hello everyone, and a fine hallo to you, as we approach the opening of the 2013 Independent Games Festival. If you're playing along at home, you'll note that this is officially the 15th edition of the IGF, a remarkable landmark that puts into perspective just how far the business and culture of independent games has come since its 1999 debut (see the photos of that year's winners to drive the point home -- also, should we bring back the giant novelty check?).
As you know, each year we take some time following the ceremony to consider how best to improve and evolve the Festival in preparation for the next. It's a discussion we hold along with the community that has brought changes in previous years such as our two-tiered judge and jury system, and this year we'll be introducing a number of new changes as well.
Let's kick off the list of changes we're making this year with the one that most directly affects our entrants:
We'll be opening IGF submissions a bit later than our usual schedule.
Traditionally, we open submissions for the festival around this time (mid-June). This year, we're giving our entry and judging backend a major upgrade, so we'll be officially opening our submissions in late July. And though our submissions are usually very light until much closer to the deadline, we're mentioning this change so you can begin planning now.
Our deadline dates, however, will not change: submissions will close on October 17th for the Main Competition and October 31st for Student. We think you'll appreciate the new features that this short delay will bring -- we'll have more details on those as we get closer to opening back up.
From this year forward, previous IGF finalists will not be allowed to re-enter the same game to subsequent festivals.
This is a notable one, as originally mentioned in the opening note for the 2012 IGF. In prior years, the shifting nature and scope of development has seen a number of previous finalists -- recognized early for the promise of their core ideas -- given time to grow and return in a more final form.
As the Festival continues to grow in size and importance, this is proving to strain the system: not only does it mean that our judges and juries have even more games to (re-)consider, it has begun to tip the scales away from one of the Festival's core principles -- to highlight new work from new and established developers alike.
As I mentioned last year, the 2012 IGF was a leeway year, meant to give finalists from prior years one last chance to have their work recognized, rather than slamming the door in their face with no prior warning. From IGF 2013 on, this rule will be firm. To be clear: this does not mean that a developer who has previously been a finalist with one game cannot enter another. It simply means they can not continue to re-enter that particular game. This rule also does not apply to any of our "honorable mentions".
We hope you understand our reasoning here: I believe that all parties involved both internally and externally would like to see the IGF as a yearly showcase of new and especially yet-unseen developments. All of us are excited when a game seems to appear from nowhere and finds an enthusiastic audience through the Festival.
What it means, though, is a new consideration for developers: before you enter your game, consider whether you believe this year is the right time for it to truly shine, because it may be its only chance. To further address this, we will also be asking each developer to express their intent at the time of submission (via a tickbox similar to our "are you indie?" box) to release any entered game within 12 months of the IGF ceremony. The IGF will not be retroactively stripping awards if this doesn't happen, but only hope it will affirm a developer's intent to enter games that they consider "near completion".
IGF 2013 will no longer include a "Mobile" category.
In 2011, we made the decision to move away from a separate "Mobile" Festival and fold those games into the main IGF, based on new opportunities and avenues that were opening for independent developers.
Two years on, those avenues and mobile devices are now so ubiquitous that we believe they no longer need to rely on special recognition. Mobile experiences from the past few years have in many cases at least matched, if not exceeded, similar experiences on consoles or PCs. We no longer feel like the question needs to be raised whether a game is great, or great "as a mobile game": each game will now compete on equal footing.
The number of finalists in each category will be raised from five to six.
With the striking of the Mobile category, we now have room to recognize more talent in all of our remaining traditional categories -- Technical Excellence, Audio, Visual Art, Design, and our Seumas McNally Grand Prize -- so each of those categories will now include six finalists, in addition to the honorable mentions in each. Our Student Showcase and Nuovo Awards will remain steady at eight finalists each.
The stipend for Student Showcase winners will increase from $500 to $1,000.
We understand that travel costs can be difficult especially for our student developers, so we've doubled the amount of money each Student Showcase winner will receive, in hopes that it will marginally ease the burden of joining us at our yearly ceremony and on the floor of the IGF Pavilion.
Those five changes are the most major that we will be highlighting ahead of officially opening submissions for IGF 2013. As mentioned above, this year's submissions will close on October 17th (for our Main Competition) and October 31st (for our Student Competition). In the coming weeks, we'll also have more to share about what our backend changes mean for both developers and our judges and juries, all which should hopefully make this 15th anniversary show our smoothest and most enjoyable yet, for everyone.
If you have any questions about any of the detailed changes above, please don't hesitate to drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss this further. Hope you're all having a great year, and looking forward to seeing what you're all preparing for this year's Festival!