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IGMC: A Judge’s Reflections

The eight staff judges of this year’s Indie Game Maker Contest have completed their work and our unranked Top 10 can be seen here. We have to wait for our celebrity judges (these cool people) to weigh in before we can announce the winners but given that my role is just about done, I thought I would take some time to reflect on my experience as a judge.

When you’re involved in a community devoted to indie games, you hear a lot of talk – talk about what makes a game good or what makes a game sell (as if any of us know). However, you don’t always see a lot of action to back that up. Finishing a game is a lot more work that finishing a post containing your opinion. But for this year’s contest, hundreds of you proved you can walk the walk in addition to talking the talk. These games were full of creativity and ambition. I saw very few games that were “phoning it in.” You weren’t out to just win the money, you were out to make excellent games…and many of you did!

I wish I could be more specific but that still has to wait. I will say that when the full list of prizes has winners and not just the top three, you will understand what I mean. I saw people willing to take a leap of faith with genres and engines that were not nearly as well-represented last year. More often than not, that ambition was backed up by some formidable talent, whether in art or programming or just good old game design instincts.

And some big rewards at that!

Of course, with ambition comes risk. There were some beautiful-looking games that crashed immediately when I tried to play them, resulting in disqualification. Even more unfortunate was when we had a game that many judges liked a lot but had a game-breaking bug that got through screening. This happened pretty often and not everyone hits these bugs but when you do, the procedures are clear. In a contest this competitive, losing 10 points for a bug like that instantly takes you out of the running for the big prizes.

If I have one suggestion to offer next year’s entrants, it would be one that I’ve emphasized several times in this blog – Test Your Game. Have other people test the game. Leave yourself time to clean up whatever bugs they might find. I know a month isn’t a lot of time to work with, but the games that will win this thing all run very smoothly.

Once again, I think this contest brought out the best in the indie game community. The passion with which you all embraced this challenge made it an awesome experience. 10/10 would judge again.

I will have much more to say once the winners are announced on October 24. See you then!


IGMC Top Ten!

We’re two months into judging, and its time to see who is still in the running for the Grand Prize!

Below, in an order unrelated to their current standings, are the top 10 games as determined by our eight internal judges. These are now being sent to the Humble Bundle, Guest, and Celebrity Judges for scoring.

Someone in this group will win the Grand Prize of nearly $27,000 dollars!

BosstardianGenre: Shooter
Author: Ricardo Baeza

Corinne Cross’s Dead and Breakfast
Corinne Cross
Genre: Adventure
Author: badchalk

Free Spirits
Free Spirits
Genre: RPG
Author: PentagonBuddy & Emmych

Grist of Flies
Grist of FliesGenre: RPG
Author: Razelle

NanuleuGenre: Strategy
Author: Carlos Villagran & Alhvi Balcarcel

Oh! I’m Gettin’ Taller!
Oh! I'm Getting Taller!Genre: Platformer
Author: Elfgames

Once Upon a Beanstalk
Once Upon a BeanstalkGenre: RPG
Author: Cabygon

SalimGenre: Adventure
Author: SOMEgame

SymbioteGenre: Platformer
Author: Des

ZIZGenre: Adventure
Author: nerdvsgame

Congratulations to all the games that made it this far. They truly are outstanding. But even if your game didn’t make it on this list, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t great. There were many many amazing games in the competition, and even some of our favorites couldn’t all fit in the top 10.

We are very very happy to see the level of creativity and skill shown this year, and hope that every one of you comes back next year to wow us again. And remember, even if you aren’t in the top 10, that doesn’t mean you are completely out! With Genre and Engine prizes, we still have way more than 10 prizes to award.

Good luck to everyone!

Additional Note: There is a slight delay in announcing our People’s Choice as well. This is not related to any suspicions of cheating, but due to an error in our site. We will announce this as soon as possible.


IGMC: Announcement Delays

Hi everyone.

Nick Palmer here, head judge and organizer for the Indie Game Maker Contest. I know that everyone is looking forward to hearing the announcements of our winners on the 10th, but unfortunately, there has been a delay in our plan.

This delay, is unfortunately, on me. Everything this contest has gone exactly to the plan I created. All of our judges did a SPECTACULAR job, and completed everything by the deadlines I gave them.

The problem, is that I forgot to include the time for the Humble Bundle, Guest, and Celebrity Judges to play the top 10! So while our in house judges finished last Monday, this unfortunate oversight means that we will have to wait a couple of weeks for the official announcements of all prizes.

So what WILL you get to hear this Saturday? We will be making an announcement, it just will NOT be of the winning games. Instead, we will be cutting off fan voting, and we will be announcing two things: The current Top 10, based on our internal scoring, which is what has been sent off to our other judges, AND we will announce the winner of the People’s Choice!

All the rest of the awards will be announced on October 24th.

I personally, apologize for all delays, as everyone has done everything I have asked for them to do, even when they were also working insane hours on other projects. Even when they would have to judge an entire round in a single day because of other responsibilities. It was not their fault. It is 100% on me.

The good news though, is that this is the ONLY major snafu we have faced, and that means we have learned for next year, which should run even smoother.

And thank you for your patience. You have all done an amazing job, and there were so many excellent games that didn’t even make the top 10. Some that I was really impressed with didn’t even make the top 20. We may have had slightly less entries than last year, but the field was much stronger. You should all be proud of yourselves.

We look forward to announcing the winners as soon as we can. Thank you.

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Common Grammar Mistakes, Part III

We covered a lot in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, but there’s plenty more grammar wackiness to figure out! Let’s get to it, this time with a heavy dose of punctuation.


You don’t see semicolons used very often anymore and I think that’s for a couple of reasons. It’s a strange bit of punctuation that’s never essential for communicating meaning or rhythm in the way that a period or an apostrophe is. Another is that people are intimidated by the rules for their use. Hopefully we can help with that second part.

The most well-known use of the semicolon is to connect two sentences that have common subject matter. “I have to get my voice in shape; a new Rock Band game just came out.” You wouldn’t want to use this for sentences that are unrelated, i.e. “The sky is blue; don’t do drugs.”

You can also use a semicolon as something like a “super comma.” The idea here is that it makes a sentence easier to read than if it were just commas. Here is an example. “While searching for the perfect burger, I ate at restaurants in Seattle, Washington; Tokyo, Japan; and London, England.” It helps for situations where you’re using lists of locations or calendar dates.

A Lot

Believe it or not, “alot” isn’t a real word. See, my spellchecker just underlined it…oh wait, you can’t see that. If you want to talk about a great quantity of something, it’s “a lot.” Two words.

Make sure not to get it confused with “allot,” a verb typically used in situations involving precise distribution of resources or responsibility.

Quotation Marks

The most common use of quotation marks is to indicate spoken or quoted language. You see this all the time with dialogue. “Hello,” he said. “How are you?” It’s also frequently used to indicate titles, although not consistently. Some people might use it for movies or books, others might use italics instead.

What do you do when dialogue includes a quotation? Then you use single quotation marks (basically apostrophes). Here’s an example.

“So I said to him ‘what’s going on?’ and then I realize that he’s drunk and passed out!”

A more modern use of quotation marks is a form of sarcasm. They are placed around a certain word to imply that the use of the word in the described context is illegitimate.

So Jonathan Swift’s “great idea” during the potato famine was to eat babies instead.

There’s also the question of whether or not other punctuation should be inside or outside the quotation marks. There isn’t really a consensus on this, so let’s look at both.

The book was called “Moby Dick”.

Logically, it makes sense that a period or another punctuation mark would be outside the quotes unless it was part of the work’s official title. And yet…this just isn’t aesthetically pleasing. In fact, it looks crappy. I think that’s the main reason why we see a lot of writing like this:

The book was called “Moby Dick.”

It just looks so much better! But you be the judge; take a look at each one and pick your favorite.

The Adventures of Peak and Peek

Another case of similar sounding words being confusing. Peek is when you take a quick look at something, usually when you’re not supposed to. As kids, many of us peeked at our Christmas presents.

Peak means the top of a mountain, but it’s also used figuratively as a synonym for “high point,” i.e. “The Cell Games saga is the peak of Dragon Ball Z.” There’s also a verb version of this where we can say something “peaked” at a certain point.

My grammar is…PERFECT.

Compliment and Complement

Most people know that compliment is something positive you say about someone or something. However, when spelling it, it’s common to get it mixed up with complement, a less ubiquitous verb that refers to one thing matching something else well. An example would be “Her brown hair complemented her brown eyes.” I guess that’s also a compliment, but I think you get it.

Adjective forms of these words get a little weird. Complementary is what you expect and is used the same way as the verb, i.e. “Iron Maiden has three guitarists who play complementary parts.” However, complimentary has a few meanings. The one you would expect is an adjective similar to “flattering.” But another version is typically a synonym for “free,” i.e. “Get your complimentary mints on the way out of the doctor’s office.”


Have you ever seen someone try to calm someone else down on forums or social media by telling them to “breath?” I have. However, breath is a noun that refers to a single act of sucking in air and letting some out. Breathing is a verb that refers to this process and if you want to keep someone from flipping out, tell them to breathe.

Dashes and Hyphens

The two marks look the same but have different functions; one is much more versatile than the other. Dashes are used like brackets or parentheses. “The Wicker Man – the 2005 remake, not the 1970s original – is one of the unintentionally hilarious movies in recent history.” It’s considered less formal but it works. Dashes can also be used for emphasis and drama, i.e. “You might think Donald Trump is an idiot – you’re right.”

Hyphens have several uses. Are you ready?

  • They are used for spelling out numbers and fractions, such as thirty-five and two-thirds.
  • They are also used when a number connects with a word in a description, like 50-meter race or eighteenth-century architecture.
  • They are used for describing certain family relationships, like great-grandfather or brother-in-law.
  • They connect words in a way that makes more sense than if the two words were separate, such as anti-nuclear, post-grunge, rogue-like, etc. Sometimes these change over time, like when “e-mail” became accepted as email.

I hope this was useful! As always, feel free to suggest additional grammar issues that could use some clarification in the comments!


Why There Aren’t Any Good Mario Maker Levels (Yet)


Mario Maker is a fantastic package! You can create, share and play levels created by other makers in 4 of the Mario game templates. Creating levels in Course Maker is both intuitive and entertaining, with tons of visual and aural feedback, that make the often dull process of level creation fun. I only purchased the game a few days ago and already I’ve sunk many hours into it; including fast forwarding my system clock a day at a time to unlock all the level creation tools as fast as possible! To note, it normally takes a whole week to unlock all the tools and templates.

I’ve played many of the pre-built levels, as well as other users’ creations in Course World. One thing I’ve noticed having played dozens of levels now is that… none of these levels are very good. At least, not in the traditional sense of what makes a “good” Mario level. There are some highly creative levels that are both entertaining to experience, as well as levels that will put your platforming skills (and patience) to the ultimate test. But none of these levels would have made it into a Mario game; not even into the Tubular and Gnarly levels that made up Star Road of Super Mario World.

I don’t think this is a limit of the Maker. From what I’ve seen of the tools provided, everything is there to make a great Mario level.

So why aren’t there more?

The game has only been out not even two weeks at the time this post was written. Users are still experimenting with what can be done in the game. Even though the game has many of the classic Mario elements, there’s also new dynamics that have been introduced that were not seen in previous Mario games. This is part of what makes creating levels in Mario Maker so fun; the element of experimentation. If I drag Wings onto a Cheep Cheep, will it fly? Now, what if I take that flying Cheep Cheep and put it into a cannon? And then put that cannon into the Koopa Clown Car? All these things are possible and very easy to quickly test, which means you can make some INSANE Mario levels.


The best part is these components work between all 4 Mario games. Many of the elements of the later Mario games have retroactively been added to the earlier Mario games. This, of course, is easily abused to create situations like the one shown in the screenshot above. These levels can be fun (and surprising) but often lack good design principles seen in most commercial platformers.

Many of the levels being featured right now are levels that either have a huge “Wow!” factor (like the automatic levels), levels with an interesting gimmick (like the “don’t touch the shrooms” level), levels that are designed like other games (the Sonic and Metroid levels for instance), and of course, the Kaizo Mario style levels. None of these types of levels adhere to good game design principles. I don’t think it is necessarily a bad thing; but it gets frustrating when you want to play a REAL Mario level.

Level design is an art form. Just like observing great art at a gallery won’t make you a great artist, playing great Mario levels won’t make you a great level designer. Certainly playing these levels with a critical eye will go a long way, and I think there are some pre-built levels that give you a good basis to work with. But, in the end, it comes down to practice. There are probably not too many professional level designers creating levels in Mario Maker yet. Most that own Mario Maker are the general consumer, who like to play games but don’t create games themselves. Most of them will mess around in the Maker and have a fun time making crazy levels to torture their friends; but my hope is that the remaining few will stick with it. And after they get through their “experimental phase”, they’ll attempt crafting real Mario levels.

I don’t have any levels I’ve created that I would share. I’m still learning what is possible, while at the same time attempting to reinforce what makes a good Mario level. I’m excited about the prospect of creating levels that I can one day share with the world and hopefully get some good feedback. It’s always been a goal of mine to make a platformer and there are none better than Mario to learn from! That said, I’m also looking forward to making sadistic levels to torture my friends with in the future. :)

This is a great tool for budding designers as well as experienced ones. I would highly recommend Mario Maker to those who plan on designing a platformer some day. It’s better than any course or book you could read on the subject of 2D platformer level design.

Well, I’ve gone on long enough. I’d like to hear what you think. Do you prefer the non-orthodox Mario levels or would you rather see more authentic Mario levels topping the charts? Perhaps a mix of the two? Please sound off in the comments!

Also, if you have any levels you’d like to share, please leave your course ID. I’d be glad to play your level and leave feedback!


Indie Game Development and Discouragement

If you follow game development news (and if you’re reading this, I suspect you do), you’ve probably seen many articles reflecting on the increasing difficulty of finding success in a crowded market when it comes to indie games. Despite how many experts have weighed in on the subject, one thing seems very clear – nobody knows anything.

A particularly interesting piece was published recently by Daniel West, the developer of a game called Airspace: The Fall of Gravity.  It is described as a tough platformer starring a lost octopus and featuring gravity-shifting mechanics. We’ve heard tales of successful retro platformers, but this wasn’t one of them and what’s striking about this example is that the studio appears to have done everything right. They sent out tons of messages to the press and popular YouTube personalities (some of whom even played the game, which is better than most of us can manage). They signed up for big-name contests (and did well in a few of them). They secured good reviews. And yet none of that translated to success. In West’s words, “The game is good, the marketing campaign was good, the sales were terrible.”

It’s hard to think of what team behind that game should have done differently. Some people will talk a big game about how you just need the right marketing and blather on about analytics or growth hacking or something like that, but none of that stuff will guarantee success. People don’t like to hear this, but honestly it’s completely random.

A nasty Catch 22.

Needless to say, this can get quite discouraging. Here’s a lament from West at the end of the article.

“I’ve lost pretty much all confidence in the possibility of reliably making a living with indie games. I had never put a whole lot of stock in it, however at the moment I see it as a risk that’s simply not worth taking. I can’t help but make games, so I’ll keep working on them in my spare time, but without any real hope for commercial success.

I truly wish that I’m wrong, and that Airscape’s failure is not an indication of a larger trend. The indie development scene is incredibly vibrant and I’m absolutely honored to be a part of it. Indie games will certainly survive. I only hope that the toll on their creators is not too heavy.”

That’s tough to read, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit to struggling with those feelings myself. For all the creative fulfillment you can get from making your own game, trying to get it out into the world (and to make money on it) is incredibly discouraging.

So why is it so hard? Well, people have talked plenty about the issue of market saturation, which is a real thing but no potential solution comes to mind. Who’s going to volunteer to give up so that someone else has a little less competition? Yeah, that’s what I thought. I’ve written about the race to the bottom on this blog before and it remains deeply frustrating that people are willing to spend $10 for a movie they can only watch once but think $10 for a game they can replay as many times as they want is too much. And yet, I’m part of the problem. I wait for sales like anyone else. Honestly, indie game developers should probably spend their money carefully when it comes to buying games since most of us aren’t making much. Oh, cruel irony.

As much of a downer as this is, I don’t believe any of us should give up. The healthiest thing we can do is probably to shift our expectations and focus on whatever it was that got us here to start with. Was it the possibility of easy money? Probably not. It was probably because we love games and making them is a uniquely rewarding experience. As long as we keep that in mind, it’s not wasted time. However, we probably shouldn’t quit our day jobs either.

What do you guys think? Is it practical to try and sell a small game when success is so elusive? Is there anything we could do to make a difference? Let’s talk about it in the comments!


Common Grammar Mistakes, Part II

There are plenty of other topics we didn’t get to last time around, including the wide world of commas. We’ll work our way up to that. Let’s start with some easier ones.

Me, Myself, and I

Aside from being a quirky little catchphrase, these three words are meant to be used differently. “I” is used when you are the subject of a sentence. “I am playing a lot of games for the IGMC.”

“Me” is for when you are the object of a sentence. “My employers gave me money for playing games.”

“Myself” is a little trickier – it’s when you are the subject of the sentence and then you are referring back to yourself in the same sentence. “I bought myself an XBox One so I could play the new Rock Band.”

A common issue with this is when two people are involved. Lots of people say “My buddy and me played Smash Brothers,” but that’s actually wrong. It should be “My buddy and I.” A good way to check this is to take out the other person and see how the sentence sounds. “Me played Smash Brothers” sounds like Cookie Monster, a known enemy of grammar nitpickers everywhere.

That’s how English teachers feel when they hear you talk.

I Could(n’t) Care Less

“I could care less” is not the sick burn you think it is. This sentence is saying that you are capable of caring less, which is an admission that you actually do care. If you really want to dismiss something, say “I couldn’t care less.” That means you care as little as possible. I find myself using this phrase a lot during football season.

Less and Fewer

This is one that not many people know and seems to have left the realm of common usage.However, traditional grammar says that “fewer” is supposed to refer to an amount that you can actually count. “Despite the massive difference in size, Alaska has fewer congressmen than Connecticut because hardly anyone lives there.”

“Less” is meant for amounts that aren’t as tangible. “The movie theater is less than 50 miles away.” How much less? He doesn’t know, or else it would be fewer. It’s weird. Again, it’s not commonly used anymore, but it might be useful for a game set in the middle ages.

Principle and Principal

Like “populace” and “populous,” these are two words that sound the same but have totally different meanings. Principal has two uses – the first is a noun that refers to a top administrator, usually at a school but it’s also used at other organizations like law firms. It can also be an adjective used to imply prominence, i.e. “My principal objection to Kingdom Hearts is that the dialogue is awful.”

Meanwhile, principle is a fundamental belief or truth that serves as the foundation for anything from scientific theory to moral philosophy. In science, Bernoulli’s Principle refers to fluid dynamics. The idea that you should “love thy neighbor” is a moral principle. If you hear someone they can’t do something “on principal,” they’re doing it wrong.

Farther vs. Further

Another pair of words people use interchangeably without much consequence, but they do originally have different meanings. Farther is meant for specific distances, i.e. “China is farther from the United States than Canada.”

Further is typically used to discuss degree or an extent, i.e. “I wanted to discuss it further, but there wasn’t enough time.” It can also be used as a synonym for “additionally,” as in “Further, you hurt my feelings.” Most people use the word furthermore instead, but further still works.


This is not really a grammar problem, but it is a major word usage problem that’s very common. I constantly see people using the word “literally” in exactly the opposite way as it is meant to be used. When you describe something “literally,” that means it happened just like it sounds. “I will literally play over 100 games while judging the IGMC.” This is an accurate statement so it’s an accurate use of the word.

The other day I heard someone say “When I got in my car after work, I had literally no gas.” Well…that’s not true. If you had literally NO gas in your car, you wouldn’t have gotten home or even to a gas station. It gets ridiculous when you hear people say something like “I was so hungry that I ate literally a million pancakes.”

This kind of stuff is hyperbole, which is humorous exaggeration used for emphasis. I love hyperbole, it’s fun to say how something feels rather than how it is. But the word “literally” has no place here because it’s role is solely within the realm of what is. Spread the word.

And now…Commas!

This is why you need the Oxford comma.

Believe it or not, not everyone agrees on how to use commas. This is especially true when it comes to the “Oxford comma,” which is used for items in a list. Some people don’t like the idea of using it before the “and” at the end of a list. But as the above example illustrates, it’s an important tool to avoid confusion. “My heroes are my parents, Superman, and Wonder Woman” reads much clearer. Let’s run though the many other uses of the mighty comma.

  • It’s used with a conjunction, which is a word that links two otherwise separate statements. Words like “but,” “yet,” and “nor” are conjunctions. Example – “He wanted to play the full game, but it crashed during the first battle.”
  • It’s used to separate introductory phrases in a sentence. Example “Running toward the road, he tripped over a stone and fell.”
  • It’s used for a parenthetical clause, which is information that doesn’t need to be there but adds some detail. Example – “The Founders Bridge, which spans the Connecticut River, is in bad shape.”
  • It’s used when something or someone is addressed directly. Example – “Iggy, you should probably wash that dragon costume after wearing it for a month straight.”
  • It’s used to set off a quote. Example – “Sorry,” said the IGMC judge, “but I can’t play these games anymore. I need sleep.”
  • There are various typographical reasons to use them as well. Dates like “September 14, 2015.” Locations like “Seattle, Washington.” Big numbers like “1,000,000.” Names like “Martin Luther King, Jr.”

There are other situations, but these are the most common. Hope this helps everyone out with their commas. There’s more grammar out there to explore, any suggestions for next time?

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IGMC Judging: Behind the Scenes

So we’re a little over a month into the judging, and its been a lot of work so far. A lot of fun work mind you, but still a lot of work.

I thought I would take this time to talk about how this year is different from last year, how we are doing things differently, and how it has improved the contest overall.

The first thing I will say is: We are on schedule. Last year, there was a lot of delays, but this year, we should be able to hit the original date we stated for the winners announcements. So what did we do differently?

More Realistic Judging Period

Last year, we had a one month judging period. Which, we thought was plenty. I mean, how many entries could we possibly have? As we watched them come in in an endless stream we realized how many it could be.

I swear, somewhere, is the end to these submissions...

I swear, somewhere, is the end to these submissions…

We ended up with over 700 submissions. With one month, it was nearly impossible. Once you add in that the judges had other things to do besides judge games the entire month, and it was soul crushing. Even as fun as it was, there just was never enough hours in the day.

This time, we decided to go with a TWO month judging period. 7 Weeks for actual judging, then another week and a half to play with before announcements. This lets us pace ourselves much better, and I think it lets us be better judges.

Better Organization

Last year, we expected a few hundred entries. Not SEVEN HUNDRED. So we divided into two categories, RPG and Non-RPG, and just let it ride. Each of our four judges judged half of the games. Two of us judged all the Non-RPGs, and two of us judged all the RPGs. That meant each of us played nearly half the selection. Even with screening, it was a lot. I remember judging fourteen games a day for a week at one point.

This year, we have double the judges, and we are using a tiered system where games are divided up, then the best of each grouping is handed up the chain until the best of the best have been played by everyone. This lets us each have to play less total games, while still finding the best possible games.

Click for a full sized version of the chart.

Click for a full sized version of the organization chart.

This setup was organized to easily accommodate up to 1500 entries. We didn’t have nearly that many, but this organization of entries means that we can continue to use this from year to year with no hiccups; unless we grow a ridiculous amount in one year, we have it covered.

Better Communication

This year, every judge is in contact with every other judge. Last year, all the communication was unfortunately a bit more loose. We didn’t act as a cohesive team, and I feel the contest suffered quite a bit because of it.

But changes have been made, and communication between judges is near constant now. There has been hardly a day gone by since the start of the contest where I haven’t talked about something with at least one of them. We are very careful not to mention individual games, as we do not want to influence each others scores, but we are able to keep up on where everyone is in the judging process and how things are going.

Better Automation

Last year, each judge kept track of their scores and comments separately however they felt worked best. This was a huge problem when we got to the end of the contest, and were trying to send all these scores and comments to the people who requested them.

This year, we have revamped it completely. Each of us has a judge dashboard on the site. It divided the games out to each of us randomly, and combines the lists at the end of every round. We disqualify (most dqs were from missing download links), judge, and write our comments in directly on the site. And when the judging is all over, we can automatically send it out to everyone.

Here is a shot of my judging panel taken during the screening process. With nice big black bar to prevent spoilers :P.

Here is a shot of my judging panel taken during the screening process. With nice big black bar to prevent spoilers :P.

This means, less work for us, and less delays for you.

Overall, everything is just moving much, much smoother. I’m super happy to have been in charge this year, and judging has been a blast. I won’t say I’ve never felt a bit of slog, but anything done for a long period of time, no matter how fun, can drive you a bit batty. But overall, its been amazing fun. There have been good games, and not so good games. Several have really wowed me. I’m really looking forward to seeing more.

But enough from me, let’s close this out with a few words from some of the other judges:

“It’s been great to see all the creativity that goes into most of these games, even ones that might have issues with bugs or gameplay. There are a lot of really creative people out there and I feel lucky to see all these ideas in one place. I was also impressed by how many people challenged themselves by using newer engines and ambitious concepts. Whichever game gets the top spot will really have to bring it because there’s a lot of good stuff to choose from.”

“First time doing judging for IGMC, but I’m very impressed by all the different games. There’s a lot of surprising ideas so it makes it very entertaining to judge them all. Congratulations on completing your games! I look forward to judging more of them.”

“Although the amount of games we got this year is less than we had last year, there’s a definite improvement overall and I’d like to thank everyone who returned from last year for trying harder and pushing themselves further during the course of the year. I’m looking forward to seeing how people grow next year too, so keep up the great work everyone. It’s amazing to see so many people come together and make games and just pull together as a community. New or old, you all deserve to feel proud of the accomplishment that is creating a game and as a veteran of the community it warms my hearts to see so much interaction between all of you. Keep supporting each other in your game making endeavours – you never know when a kind word will inspire greatness!”

Its been great so far, and hopefully everything continues on as smoothly as it started. Thank you everyone for your entries, and we look forward to telling you how awesome each of the winners is!


Planet of the Eyes: Quick Review

The late film critic Roger Ebert once said that “no good movie is ever too long and no bad movie is ever short enough.” I think this holds true for video games as well and certainly would apply in the case of Planet of the Eyes, a recently-released indie game from Cococucumber that enthralled me for about 90 minutes and then ended, leaving me with that “good book” sort of hangover. It’s a short game but you get a lot of bang for your buck.

Planet of the Eyes is a platformer with the occasional puzzle about a robot wandering a striking alien landscape in search of his creator and to discover his purpose.  The art deco aesthetic is instantly striking and the whole game looks like a neon-colored episode of Batman: The Animated Series. Screenshots don’t do it justice – seeing the game on full-screen with the beautifully-animated robot exploring is a striking experience. Despite the short length, the game takes you to a wide variety of different locations where all sorts of twisted creatures and obstacles await.

Players who are familiar with the early indie hit Limbo will probably have a little bit of deja vu. As with that game, our protagonist is quite frail. He can’t jump very high or run very fast, but you will have to make the most of your limited abilities to continue on. Most of the puzzles involve pushing something to a certain spot and, with a few exceptions, are quite intuitive and satisfying to solve.

Story details are conveyed through audiologs left behind by the robot’s creator. These sections were written by Will O’Neill of Actual Sunlight fame, although despite being a game about getting lost in a hostile alien environment, it’s not nearly as bleak. These monologues are quite good, really selling the world-weariness of the inventor and making you hope that the robot will eventually find his way to him. It’s a simple story of adventure but there are real-world parallels if you look for them.

Anyone who likes platformers and has even a small pocket of time to try something new should definitely check out this little gem. It’s a small but beautifully-crafted experience that doesn’t waste a moment of your time. It’s available on Steam now and I’ll be waiting eagerly for the next Cococucumber game.

Anyone played this? What did you think? Any ideas on what to review next?


Looking at Common Grammar Mistakes

I’ve been playing a lot of IGMC entries lately and I’ve noticed quite a few that take some liberties with the English language. Some of these might be from people who don’t normally speak English but had to use it to follow the contest’s guidelines. But then again, there are plenty of people from English-speaking countries who make just as many mistakes. So consider this your quick primer on the linguistic mistakes I see the most often in amateur games. I hope it’s helpful.

There, their, they’re

They all sound the same, but mean totally different things. “There” is a place. “Their” is used to indicate possession by multiple people. “They’re” is an abbreviation for “they are.” Let’s put them all into action.

They’re very happy with their food from that restaurant over there.

Your and You’re

I see this all the time and not just in games. For whatever reason, this one is hard for people to keep straight. Here’s the deal – “your” means it belongs to you, i.e. “I’m playing your game.” “You’re” is an abbreviation for “you are,” i.e. “You’re making a game.” Let’s use them both at once.

You’re going to like what I have to say about your game.

It’s and Its

This one’s tricky because proper nouns use apostrophes to indicate possession, i.e. “Rob’s job is to write blog entries.” However, with “its,” it’s the opposite (see what I did there?). The one with the apostrophe is actually an abbreviation for “It is.” However, when you want to say something belongs to it, you actually don’t use an apostrophe when you add the “s.” Let’s use both in a sentence.

Now that I am done with the game, it’s time to talk about its strengths and flaws.

If you happen to be talking about It, from the Stephen King novel, you have to use the apostrophe since It is a proper noun is this case. “It’s favorite form is a clown.” The more you know.

The apostrophes all FLOAT down here!

To and Too

Most people know that “two” is a number, but these other two words trip up a lot of people. “Too” means “also,” as in “I’m coming along too!” while “to” has, ahem, two meanings. You can say it as the infinitive form of a verb, such as “I am going to play games” or as a synonym for “towards,” such as “I am going to the store.” Check it:

You’re going to PAX too? Let’s get ready to see some games!

Affect and Effect

I don’t blame anyone for being confused by this, why do the words have to be so similar? So here’s the deal – “affect” is a verb. “Playing over 70 games will affect your free time.” “Effect” is a noun. “One effect of IGMC judging is sleep deprivation.”

Words that look the same as singular or plural

Most of the time, we turn a word into plural form by adding  “s,” such as “games” instead of “game.” Other times, the plural form of a word has a vowel at the end of it, something left over from ancient Latin. Examples include “cacti” as the plural for “cactus” or “alumni” as the plural of “alumnus.” Or maybe it’s a different word altogether, like “mice” as the plural of “mouse.” But with English being the wacky language that it is, we also have words that look exactly the same regardless of the number you’re describing. A few examples.

  • Deer is the plural of Deer, there’s no such word as “deers.”
  • Same with moose, there is no “mooses.”
  • The plural of “scum” is just “scum.” I see “scums” used in games a lot, but that’s not a word.

Bias and Biased

This one is popular on both social media and games. Bias is a pretty common issue that comes up in journalism…and a common accusation from people losing arguments. However, the word is spelled differently depending on its use. The noun “bias” is something a person has, i.e. “Rob has a bias about The Land Before Time because it was one of his favorite movies as a kid.” But when you’re using it as a way to describe the person, it’s “biased,” i.e. “Rob is biased about The Land Before Time.” There is no scenario where it is correct to say “You’re bias” although “your bias” is accurate (see above).

Me watching The Land Before Time.

Populace and Populous

“Populace” is a noun that refers to the general public. “Sega unleashed another terrible Sonic game on the populace.” “Populous” is an adjective that means “full of people.” “Gamestop was populous as customers lined up to return the latest Sonic game.” Sorry, Sonic.

In other words, it’s a bad idea to say, “You’re bias against the populous.”


I feel your pain. Apostrophes are a major nuisance. Let’s go over their different functions.

  • They are used in contractions that abbreviate multiple words, such as “don’t” instead of “do not.” Other examples can be found above.
  • They indicate possession by one person, i.e. “Rob’s game.”
  • They can also refer to something owned by multiple people, but here it goes at the end of the word. An example is “Stay out of the girls’ room, Josh Duggar.” (Too soon?)

What also might be helpful is a couple examples of what NOT to do.

  • Apostrophes are never used to make a word plural. “The horse’s need food” is not correct.
  • They also don’t belong with numbers. “My favorite games are from the 1980’s” is wrong (the grammar, not the opinion…although some may disagree).

So is that helpful? Did I miss any? Let me know and I’ll write a sequel!