As the year winds down around us, the 2018 Independent Games Festival is entering its jurying phase -- the period in which discipline-specific experts play, evaluate and discuss the highlights of the nearly 600 games entered in the 2018 Festival Competition, which together continue to push the boundaries of video game development and design.

Of course, an excellent group of game development notables are evaluating IGF 2018's most promising entries. After first-round IGF judging from hundreds of evaluators, these expert juries will ultimately determine the finalists and winners of the various IGF 2018 awards at the 2018 Game Developers Conference.

In recognition of their service, today we'd like to celebrate those who have volunteered their time and talent to take part in judging the Excellence in Design Award, the Excellence in Audio Award, and the Excellence in Narrative Award.

Also, we should point out that every IGF award juror will have a say in who wins the festival's top honor, the Seumas McNally Grand Prize.

The Excellence in Design Award

The Excellence in Design award is a category which seeks to highlight the innovation and quality of the underlying blueprint of each entered game -- including component parts like its level design, mechanic design and difficulty balancing. It will be awarded by the following jury:

Liz England - Liz England is a game designer at Ubisoft Toronto and specializes in systems design and narrative. She's worked on games such as Scribblenauts and Sunset Overdrive.

Luis Antonio - Luis started his game developer career over 10 years ago as an artist for Rockstar Games and later as Art Director for Ubisoft. Dissatisfied with the AAA studios, he joined Jonathan Blow to define and create the art for the critically acclaimed The Witness (2016). Inspired by the Indie community, he started his own studio, and is directing his dream project, Twelve Minutes, an interactive thriller about a man trapped in a time loop.

Lisy Kane - Kane is a videogames producer currently making waves in the industry. In 2017, Lisy was recognised by Forbes in its prestigious top 30 list: Forbes 30 Under 30 2017: Games. Ranked alongside the world's best game makers, Lisy was the only Australian to make the who's who of the global gaming industry.

Sarah Northway - Sarah is the creator of the Rebuild strategy series, and a programmer and designer on Fantastic Contraption VR. She spent 5 years traveling the world with her husband and making indie games in remote places, and now explores the worlds inside her Vive.

Noah Sasso - Noah makes games and writes music. Creator of Sportsfriends' BaraBariBall, he currently works as a designer at Iron Galaxy Studios in Chicago.

Kevin Zuhn - Creative Director at Young Horses. Lead Designer of Octodad and Octodad: Dadliest Catch.

The Excellence in Audio Award

As always, the Excellence in Audio Award is intended to celebrate the best musical and sound innovation, quality, and impressiveness in independent gaming. This year the following jurors will decide who takes home the prize:

Tomihisa Baiyon - Japanese multimedia artist, sound producer, art director and DJ. Q-Games creative producer. art and music direction for PixelJunk Eden and 4am, music for LittleBigPlanet 2, FOTONICA, and PANORAMICAL.

Doseone - Adam "doseone" Drucker is a Composer, Sound Designer, Rapper & Cat lover from Oakland California. He has been recording albums since the late 90's, and executing Sound Design and Music for Independent Video Games for the past 5 years. He is currently finishing up all things audio for Gang Beasts and has worked on Enter The Gungeon, Samurai Gunn, Catacomb Kids, Gun Gods, Heavy Bullets & more.

Sarah Elmaleh - Sarah Elmaleh is an actor and advocate for games and games performance. She can be heard in a wide range of interactive titles from Gone Home to Call of Duty: Black Ops III - she's also spoken at conferences like Control Conference, Boston FIG and GaymerX, worked at Kill Screen, curated talks for Games for Change, served as Gamemaker Relations for IndieCade and hosted the IndieCade Awards, and judged the Audio category for the IGF.

Eduardo Ortiz Frau - Eduardo is a game audio designer based in Austin, TX. He has worked in audio and music production since 2004 and has been specializing in sound design for games since in 2011. Throughout his career he has worked on titles such as Everything, What Remains of Edith Finch, The Stanley Parable, Gorogoa, and more. He has a preference for working with small, creative teams and is always looking for the next project that will spark that sense of wonder and excitement he desires in his worklife.

Sally Kellaway - Sally-anne Kellaway is an industry leading VR Audio Evangelist, and founder of the Virtual Reality Content Creators Network of Australia. Sally is a vocal advocate for VR, AR and MR as the future of audio, entertainment and industry and uses her education in Sound Design, Acoustics and Psychoacoustics to rise the tide for all audio professionals passionate about the future.

Daniel Rosenfeld - Daniel is the lead composer and audio designer of notoriously popular Minecraft. Aside from inspiring a whole new generation of young'uns, he is also very active in the indie games industry, helping out wherever he can. Oh, he also worked on Stranger Things.

The Best Student Game Award

At IGF 2018 the Best Student Game award will be given to a student developer (or team of student developers) to celebrate their submission as a standout example of an impressive, enjoyable and high-quality student-made game. The award will be decided by the following jury members:

Chelsea Hash - Having worked in the industry as an art lead and technical artist for the past 12 years as an independent 3rd party developer of licensed titles, but most recently at the lead technical artist on What Remains of Edith Finch, Chelsea specializes in design driven pipeline development.

Michael McMaster - Michael is a videogame developer and researcher based in Melbourne, Australia. In 2016 he released the weird local-multiplayer sports game Push Me Pull You to critical acclaim with his studio House House, and is currently working on a followup game called Untitled Goose Game. He is also working on a PhD research project examining the position of videogames in museums.

Eline Muijres - Eline is Communications Manager at the game incubator Dutch Game Garden. She is a former game journalist and has worked on the mobile ballet game Bounden, doing PR, marketing, and production. From her position at Dutch Game Garden, she connects people, organizes events, and supports indie developers with entrepreneurship.

Richard Perrin - Indie developer with a huge love for interactive storytelling. Creator of The White Chamber, Kairo, Journal and Cosplay Maker.

Jana Reinhardt - Jana Reinhardt is a game designer and graphic artist. Together with Friedrich Hanisch she founded the independent game studio Rat King. Apart from being a game jam enthusiast she created "TRI: Of Friendship and Madness" and "SOLITUNE".

Kimberly Voll - Kim is a senior technical designer at Riot Games, specializing in design, AI, and cognitive science. She's also a long-time indie, recently shipping Fantastic Contraption for VR. Previously a professor, Kim has a PhD in computer science and has been making games for over 20 years.

All entries in the 2018 Independent Games Festival are currently browsable at the IGF's official site. Competition finalists will be announced early next year, with the winners announced on the evening of March 21st at the (livestreamed!) IGF Awards ceremony during GDC 2018.

For more information on GDC 2018, visit the show's official website, or subscribe to regular updates via Facebook, Twitter, or RSS.

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