Monday, 3 October 2005

best of the independent games festival / point & tilt: mobile phone camera games

Best of the Independent Games Festival

In the lead up to the next Australian Games Developers Conference, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) will present Best of the Independent Games Festival, a selection of the most innovative and exciting new computer games from the 'Sundance Festival for Games', San Francisco's 2005 Independent Games Festival. 

Best of the Independent Games Festival will open in ACMI's Games Lab on Wednesday 12 October, simultaneously with Point and Tilt, a second showcase featuring the next generation of mobile phone games in development.

The Independent Games Festival was formed 8 years ago in San Francisco when organisers - noticing the valuable recognition and commercial exposure that the Sundance Film Festival provided to independent filmmakers - decided to create a similar event for independent games developers.

In today's conservative computer games market, the Independent Games Festival is one of the few avenues where today's niche, innovative and independently developed games can achieve industry recognition and exposure to potential commercial opportunities.

While some of the best-selling, highly innovative games in gaming history, such as Doom, were originally created by independent developers, the last few years have seen a severe reduction in the commercial opportunities for the current crop of independent developers that have followed.

Rapid technological advances - in particular the refinement of 3D animation, increased processing power and the soon-to-come release of the next generation of consoles - has seen the average development budget per new game blow out to an estimated $20 million, with the big publishers often eschewing investment in innovation in favour of franchises, sequels or movie-licensed games.

Among the eleven games that will be showcased in Best of Independent Games Festival is Alien Hominid, which scooped the prize pool at 2005 event, winning the awards for Innovation in Visual Arts, Technical Excellent and Audience Favourite in the festival's open category.

The success of Alien Hominid, with its 2D hand-drawn and hand-animated characters (a rarity in console games), is an amazing and unusual story of an indie underdog made good.

Originating as an online Flash Game, Alien Hominid is a fast-paced side-scroller where players must run, jump and shoot their way across the globe in pursuit of the alien's coveted UFO. While the original web version became wildly popular, attracting downloads by the millions, when Alien Hominid's creators, independent San Diego-based game development studio The Behemoth, decided to seek investment to turn Alien Hominid into a console game, they found that no publisher was willing to take a risk on them.

In the end, one of the team mortgaged his house to provide the much-needed 'seed capital' to fund the game's development. Since then, Alien Hominid has gone on to cement publishing deals in the U.S. (via O3 Publishing) and Europe (via Zoo Digital), as well as much critical acclaim and has even branched out to produce a mobile version.

ACMI's Best of Independent Games Festival showcase will also feature many other award winners from the 2005 festival: Gish, a physics based 2D game where the player becomes an animated ball of tar on a mission to save his girlfriend; Steer Madness, a Grand Theft Auto-meets-Chicken Run adventure involving an escaped cow on a mission to save the environment; the visually stunning Wik and the Fable of Souls, a Tim Burton-esque 3D action-fable involving the archetypal unlikely hero battling a mysterious foe; N, a unique 2D puzzle / platformer which combines the addictiveness of Tetris, the simplicity of Pacman, and the intangible hilarity of ninja dismemberment; and Soccer Ref, a student-made 3D PC game which embroils the participant in a corrupt world of soccer refereeing, complete with hysterical players, bribery and emotional crowds.

Point and Tilt: Mobile Phone Camera Games

The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) will introduce Australians to the next generation of mobile phone games in Point and Tilt, a new Games Lab showcase opening on October 12, simultaneously with Best of Independent Games Festival.

Few people today choose to be without their mobile phone. For most of us mobile phones are social devices with which we share and store information, travelling with us everywhere as a vital link to our community. They are readily customised and personalised in both look and operation, and cameras are now an essential feature of the standard mobile phone.

While there are already commercial available mobile phone games, the majority of these are simply computer and console games ported to phones. The games in Point and Tilt address the unique nature of mobile phones and their cameras.

The games in Point and Tilt - which have been created by the Australasian Cooperative Research Centre for Interaction Design (ACID) with an eye for possible future commercial development - the mobile phone camera becomes a movement sensitive game controller enabling the player to interact with objects in the real world and also with other players.

About the games:

ARTennis - Your phone becomes the racket hitting a virtual ball. The game can be played competitively or as collaborative gaming where players work together to achieve the longest continuous volley. It is an example of how Augmented Reality (AR) technology can be used to naturally enhance face-to-face collaboration.

ARBlock - Virtual Lego like blocks that you can manipulate with your phone.

Mobile Maze - Based on the traditional ball bearing maze game - guide a ball through a maze by tilting your phone. This game uses Camera Motion Flow tracking techniques to control the ball through the maze.

Mega Marker - Reveal a gallery of cute AR characters by rearranging the blocks in this tangible interface. Could these magical creatures embedded in the ARToolkit markers be the Pokemon of the future?

Colour Block - A hands-on demonstration of colour theory this simple tangible interface using the ARToolkit marker system allows you to blend colours and transform the appearance of Bearmonsta.

Further information

Danielle Poulos, ACMI Communciations Coordinator
Tel: 8663 2415
Mob: 0417 540 543

Justin Rogers, ACMI Communications Coordinator
Tel: 8663 2475
Mob: 0412 172 887

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