I would probably never have thought that I would spend a day, let alone a Saturday, at the Swedish National Defence College, but I did this past weekend. Well, perhaps not a full day but a few hours at least. It was the venue of this year's Swedish Game Awards, a competition that has been around since 2002 where games developed by students go up against each other. Despite the locales most of the games on display were peaceful.
Plenty of innovative game design could be found amongst the exhibited nominees. It was striking what a wonderfully diverse medium games are as the competing titles had very little in common with each other. I enjoyed a game called Alcheriga where two players co-operate to move clouds around and make it rain so that the Australian outback can bloom. A favourite of my colleague Vic was the 2D platform/racer Vertigo. Another nominated game that failed to take home any prizes, but that still deserves a mention.
A fantasy themed top down tactical death match game called Bloodline Champions took home the grand prize. I never had a chance to try it myself, but what really impressed me was the level of polish and the artistic design. It is rare to see that in a student competition. Bloodline Champions also won the prize for best XNA title.
A fun take on the tower defence genre was Imperii and it won two prizes, best execution and best Java FX game.
The game that undoubtedly draw the most laughs was Carpet Wrestling. An extremely simple, but alarmingly entertaining concept where two players "wrestle" in five different ways on a dance mat. Now imagine this with Project Natal... or would that just be regular wrestling? Carpet Wrestling won the award for best innovation. Finally the urban ghetto RTS Conquer the Hood won the gamer's choice award.
Overall the exhibition showed us that there is a lot of creativity coming for the colleges and game development schools in Sweden. Several established developers such as Avalanche, DICE and Starbreeze were in attendance, but there was little focus on recruiting new talent as the recent cuts at Avalanche and Grin has meant that there is a lot of experienced game developers looking for jobs. For the winners of game of the year Frostfire this is of little consequence as they will start a studio with the goal of launching Bloodline Champions as a commercial release. Going down the indie route is a more attractive proposition than ever before with the rise of digital distribution, but the chances of succeeding are still slim. Let's hope some of these talents make it.
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