bitsummitawards.jpgAbove photo courtesy of Dylan Cuthbert.

Disclosure: I have been volunteer staff for BitSummit every year that it's existed. I had a hand in choosing the award winners.

Another Bitsummit has come and gone. This was the third BitSummit, subtitled Return of the Indies. After exploding from an event with less than 200 people total in attendance in its first year to an event with 180 developers and 5,000 people total in attendance in its second year, it scaled back to just over 80 developers this year and still pulled in about 4,500 people. Last year the BitSummit Awards were introduced, but those were scaled back this year, too, with only six awards to win.

Originally there were only going to be five awards to win, restricted as last year's BitSummit Awards were to games made by developers based wholly or partly in Japan. However, this year, thanks partly to the involvement of Indie MEGABOOTH, there were so many quality games from outside of Japan that it was decided that from now on there will be another award at BitSummit, an International Award to highlight non-Japanese indie games present at the show. There was no physical award to give to the International winner this year, but one was still chosen.

Vermillion Gate Award: La-Mulana 2Nigoro's La-Mulana 2 took home the BitSummit's Vermillion Gate Award this year, the grand jury award for best of show. This archaeology-themed metroidvania is due out later this year.

Runners up: Brave Yamada-kun, a new RPG/puzzle hybrid from Onion Games (Million Onion Hotel), and moppin's Downwell, "a curious game about a young man falling down a well, battling enemies with his gun boots and collecting treasure."

Visual Excellence Award: VaneI didn't get to check Friend&Foe's Vane out personally, but looking at the trailer they do some neat things with visual texture. The rocks that pop up in the character's wake and the sandstorm look particularly neat. From the developer: "Vane is an adventure game about evoking a sense of mystery and wonder, giving the player the freedom to explore a place and its underlying narrative. Navigation, puzzle-solving and dangerous encounters with both the natural environment and the strange civilization that inhabits it are some of the challenges that face the player on his adventure."

Runners up: One or Eight's action game Earth Wars and Oink Games's Legendary Warriors, a game in which players build up and train teams of giant monsters that will fight automatically.

Excellence in Sound Design: Makai PicnicMakai Picnic is a casual puzzle platformer about bug-like creatures trying to save their friends with the power of song. Developer Route24 is a one-person studio consisting of Kenichi Nish, whose game development career stretches back to working on Chrono Trigger and Super Mario RPG for the company then known as Squaresoft.

Runners up: 8BIT MUSIC POWER, a Famicom music-and-minigames toy by RIKI consisting of new chiptunes by musicians who were active when the Famicom/NES was big, and Hype Lyfe's FD, another music toy in which any song can be made into a neat landscape to traverse through a combination of procedural generation and user control. FD is publicly available with Oculus Rift support.

Mobius Strip Prize for Innovation: GENSOAstralGate's GENSO is a multimedia Myst-like adventure game, with the full puzzle spread not just across multiple video games but stretching into physical media. It's an ambitious project.

Runners up: A Healer Only Lives Twice, detailed below, and SKT's Kappa Namooooon.

Special Achievement Award: A Healer Only Lives TwicePon Pon Games is a one-person development studio whose solo developer always plays healer in MMOs. A Healer Only Lives Twice is his attempt to capture the pure healer experience as a single-player game.

Runners up: Back in 1995, a game made in Unity that does a great job of capturing the look and feel of early PlayStation 3D games, and Bonion Games's Garden Tale, an isometric tactical RPG which is my personal favorite of the games I got to check out at BitSummit.

International Award: Assault Android CactusAssault Android Cactus is a twin stick shooter that forgoes lives in favor of having an energy resource which serves as renewable time limit. Since the player has to leave safety to pick up more energy, the game forces aggressive gameplay and lots of movement. Developer Witch Beam has gone out of their way to make every aspect of the game as accessible as possible for people with both visual and hearing impairments, too.

Runners up: Rhythm roguelike Crypt of the NecroDancer and Drool's "rhythm violence" game, Thumper.