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We’d like to take this time to respond to the heated debate that followed from our “What’s Wrong with the IGF” post.

First, to anyone that took our blog post personally, please understand that this was not a personal attack.

We wanted to bring to light a fact that some judges don’t play games that they are assigned, and that that may be a problem in the future.

In light of the $95 entrance fee, we believe every developer deserves a fair shot at a nomination.

Judges not playing a game they are assigned to judge, for any number of minutes, is simply not acceptable.

Regardless, we had not intended this as a personal attack against Brandon Boyer or Simon Carless.

We understand that they do their best to make the IGF what it is.

As hard as they work, the system itself is flawed because it makes it easy to overlook games when the IGF was created to do the opposite: notice overlooked games.

However, we do not agree that calling would have solved anything. If we had decided to call, it would have been a word of honor against posting.

Furthermore, we mentioned the email because we are arguing for openness, not private correspondence.

Everyone should know about these issues and not be kept in the dark, so that we can have an honest debate over what could be done.

It is enlightening that some developers have already come out of the woodwork to voice similar complaints.

To that end, we’d like to wish everyone the best. Oh, and we’ll change the blog theme.

– the rotting cartridge

Read the rest of this entry »

UPDATE: We’ve posted a public statement about this post here.

Hello there.

Way back in December we posted an update saying that we would post “about our terrible IGF experience.” Granted, we may have exaggerated a few things back then. (read: a lot of things!) But with the IGF finals at GDC coming up, there is no better time than the present to relate our experience.

First, some backstory: We are an independent developer producing an iPhone game named Kale In Dinoland:

This year the IGF decided to use TestFlight for its iPhone games. We paid the $100 customary to the festival, as over 500 other developers did for their games. Going in, we didn’t expect to get nominated for anything. The game was content-complete but wasn’t done to the level of polish we wanted. Not to mention, there were still bugs. But this isn’t about the overall quality of our build, it’s about giving every game its fair shake.

Let me explain. When the IGF chose TestFlight for iOS distribution, they made a big mistake. We were given a list of all of our judges’ email addresses, revealing their identities. We aren’t going to release those names to respect the judges, but let’s just say we had a heavy-hitter.  For every judge, we could see how much they played; if they even started the game at all. How do we know this?

TestFlight records NSLogs (iPhone version of console logging) and custom “checkpoints,” uploading this data seamlessly for us to see. In addition, when a judge opened the TestFlight invitation email, downloaded and then installed the game on their iDevice, we can see all of that. I believe that the IGF organizers, who are usually lips-sealed on the judging process, did not know about this functionality. We can see exactly when a judge installed the game, when they started playing, how long they played, and how far they got. 

As you can imagine, this was an opportunity for us to see what really goes on behind closed doors at the IGF. How much do games really get played? Does hype count for everything? Is it true that to be a contender in the current IGF, your game has to already be widely known in indie circles? Does this mean that most of the judges won’t end up playing your game in these circumstances regardless of the quality of the title?

Here are the statistics:

Eight (8) judges were assigned to Kale In Dinoland. Of those judges, 1 didn’t install the game or respond to any of our invitations (which we had to send multiple times before judges joined). 3 judges didn’t play the game. Of the remaining 5 judges that played the game, 3 played it very close to the IGF deadline, which was December 5th. One judge, our outlier, played the game for 53.2 minutes. Excluding the outlier, on average each judge – including the 3 that didn’t play it – played the game for almost 5 minutes’ time. Back in that build, Kale’s intro cutscene took about a minute’s time. So we’re talking almost 4 minutes for each judge of actual game time.

Granted, they could have deduced the game was absolutely terrible and didn’t deserve their time. About this time, though, we were also running a beta that was being played by anonymous iOS gamers from the community. These helpful gamers were all interested in the game, having seen it on TouchArcade and What is the influence of prior marketing? The average play time for these external beta testers was 34 minutes, accounting for that one minute of cutscene time.

So, a large group of anonymous gamers who were not required to play the game averaged about 30 minutes more play time than the the 7 judges who were required to play the game, 3 of whom did not even play the game. Is 4 minutes enough time for someone to give a fair assessment of a 2-hour-long game? How many more games were given similar treatment? Had we not taken initiative and sent multiple emails urging judges to download the game via TestFlight, how many judges would have ended up playing the game? Here’s the last email I sent out, urging the judges to accept the TF invite:

The build has been up for a while now (I sent emails via TF), but only 1 judge has installed, and 4 other judges still haven’t even signed up for TestFlight.

The sad truth is, the heads of the IGF know about all of this. They made the mistake of using TestFlight and allowing us, the developers, to see backstage. Shortly after posting the update that included negative remarks about the IGF – on this relatively unknown blog – we were mysteriously followed on Twitter by @brandonnn and received an email from none other than Simon Carless.

Hey folks,

It’s just been brought to my attention that you believe that you’ve had some issues with your IGF experience and are preparing to blog about it. My name’s Simon Carless and I head up the GDC events, including the IGF – and I’m CC-ing Brandon Boyer, the IGF chairman here.

Before you go ahead and do that, could we have a phonecall discussing your perception of what happened during judging and your impressions of what didn’t run correctly from your perspective? We _do_ actually care about individual entrants such as yourselves, and it upsets us when people don’t feel like we’re doing a good job. So let’s talk about it directly!

Myself and Brandon are available at a few times on Monday – I’m in U.S. pacific time and he’s on U.S. central time. Do you have time for a call?


Simon Carless

EVP, UBM TechWeb Game Network

We considered calling. At the very least, we decided not to post what we would have, and gave it some second thought. Let’s be honest: It is obvious that Brandon Boyer and friends care about the IGF as the prime outlet for indie games. We don’t doubt that. But this isn’t about handling the situation silently. If we had called and talked about our concerns, the heads of the IGF don’t have to be held accountable for a broken judging system. It’s about transparency, which is something the IGF completely lacks.

So there it is, our story about the IGF. We hope that, as a community, we can change the IGF for the better by exposing flaws in the judging system and holding those in power accountable. But until then, please hold off on marking the IGF as the be-all end-all of indie games. Instead, join protests like the IGF Pirate Kart. And if you’re still not convinced there’s something wrong with the IGF judging system, hear it from a judge herself.

The Rotting Cartridge would like to give a heartfelt thanks to those that beta-tested the game in detail. Cheers!

In the past month, we’ve held a beta test, submitted to IGF, and frantically worked to fix bugs as we gear up for release. About two weeks ago, we agreed that we would take a break in lieu of the release, considering the holidays and our day jobs. The break is also time for our artist to transcribe the original Kale In Dinoland manual, and design the front screen.

The manual is a new addition. We want to make the title screen something new – to tap into some excess nostalgia and give context to the port. Here’s a working example:

Beta Test and Feedback

For the beta, we got a lot of feedback. First, the good stuff: most people enjoyed what they played of the game, and we didn’t hear anything negative about the d-pad and buttons – so let’s put that mystery to rest, shall we?

What we did hear about, and could see on our TF statistics, was that nearly everyone was having trouble with getting used to the game. The difficulty curve is too high. One of the ways we’re addressing this is with the manual.

A page of the new manual

But another way – and how small teams can re-examine levels – is to take a step back, take a breather, and come back with a fresh perspective. Our designer has decided not to look at the game during the break, and then come back and give it a playthrough with notes. Hopefully, any of the frustrating aspects of the level design can be hammered out. However, this shouldn’t be a cause for alarm for the retro purists: we won’t veer off from the original in difficulty.

The Coming Months

Another problem – and something you may have noticed – is our apparent lack of marketing. Wherever we’ve shown the game, we get positive responses all around, but there it is – we haven’t shown the game much. We have a teaser trailer and a simple website – lacking a web designer, which we should get next time around, although S did a good job for what little time she had. Obviously we need to get the word out.

We have some ideas as the game nears release, of videos and promos we could do. This will push back the release, but if the game comes and only a select few notice it, that’s worse than a delayed game.

What are the ideas? A development video, for one, to humanize us. The second video would require more time and effort, but should be worth it, to draw out the retro love from the corners of the internet. We would film a bunch of kids, teens and 20-somethings playing the original Kale In Dinoland in various places, making the parallel to playing our ported version, coupled with some retro head-banger music, and 90’s sound effects. It was a shame the original game didn’t have a TV ad, because we could have just stole that, but oh well.

For those of you waiting out for the full game, don’t worry, it’s coming! We’ll remind our subscribers when that time comes.

Our IGF Experience

In the meantime, we will expound on our terrible IGF experience, and how the IGF is a scam, in another post. The $100 is a loss for all of us, and our founder J is upset about it, though he should have expected that the self-proclaimed “indie game scene” is nothing but a giant hipster circle-jerk. In the IGF post, we are going to be very, very open about our TestFlight experience, who our judges were, what amount they played, and hopefully reveal many of the sleazy details of what goes on in the biased background of the IGF, the largest gathering of people with thick-rimmed glasses the world-over. We encourage everyone: please stay away from the IGF, it has lost its credibility as a viable outlet to objectively judge games, and Mr. Boyer should be lambasted out of the chairmanship. That is all.

So I turn on my GameBoy for the first time in years the other day, and —

the rotting cartridge: How’s that for self-justification?

Today’s Song of the Day is “The Saints Are Coming” by Skids. It can be found in the movie The Boondock Saints. I think it’s a very catchy song that has some great drums in the background. They’re very simply, but provide a great beat for this tune. It’s full of energy and really makes you want to start drumming on whatever is in front of. However it wasn’t until Green Day and U2 did a cover a song until it blew up. See which version you like, and share your thoughts in the comments sections!

Ever wish you could access your files from any other computer without flash drives and such? Well I did and this past year a friend of mine introduced me to this amazing and free program called dropbox. Dropbox is essentially an online storage drive that works on the principle of cloud sharing or instantaneous sync of information. Its extremely simple to use and even though you start off with only 250mb of free space you can double that space if you invite a friend or by paying for more space (which I dont think you’ll ever need). Speaking of friends, dropbox is the perfect way to share and edit files by using dropbox’s shared folders. I know from personal experience that being able to quickly share folders with whomever I needed was not only helpful but infinitely easier than email. You can also access your dropbox storage right from your desktop and if you are using a computer that does not have dropbox (which at the moment is pretty much every computer) you can just as easily access your files by going to the dropbox website. A year ago I believed that having a fancy flash drive was considered savvy but now I can honestly say that using online cloud storage such as dropbox is not only a faster way of sharing files between computers but it’s cost effective too (free :). Anyways, to sum everything up: try dropbox RIGHT NOW! I promise you won’t regret it and you might even find yourself using it all the time like I do.

P.S. If you like it tell your friends! Not only will they get to experience the awesomeness that is DropBox but both you and your friend will get a bonus 250mb of space so get everyone you know to try it out.