Calling all aspiring game developers. Microsoft’s annual Dream.Build.Play Challenge for Independent Game Developers is once again upon us. Bringing forth games like Dust: An Elysian Tail, Prismatic Solid, and Beat Hazard, the competition challenges indie developers to develop a game for Xbox LIVE using Microsoft’s XNA Game Studio for a chance at a percentage of the $75,000 prize, exposure on the Xbox LIVE Marketplace, and a chance at an Xbox LIVE Arcade publishing contract.
The idea of Microsoft encouraging aspiring developers to take a shot at developing a new original title is some thing I’m a big fan of and it is always interesting to see what kind of ideas get entered into the competition. For more information about Dream.Build.Play, check out the full press release.
Independent games definitely seem to be finding their place these days, especially with digital distribution starting to come into its own as a viable distribution system. As such, Microsoft’s XNA Game Studio software has been a great way to provide indie developers with tools necessary to get their games from the planning stage and into the hands of gamers. Microsoft’s Dream.Build.Play Challenge is an annual contest meant to encourage indie developers to make games for the Xbox Live Arcade. One of those games, Prismatic Solid, an intense, forced rail shooter and fourth place winner of this year’s challenge, was released back in June for 80 Microsoft Points. Check out more after the break.
At least year’s PAX, we here at Pixelated Geek got the opportunity to try out a few indie games submitted for Microsoft’s Dream.Build.Play competition and were pretty amazed at the games that were submitted. Regrettably, we didn’t get the opportunity to try out the entries for this year. However, last week, Microsoft announced the winners of this year’s competition.
“We are continually amazed at the fantastic work and game quality submitted by Dream.Build.Play contestants,” said Stephanie Reimann, Microsoft Developer Outreach and Developer Platform Integration. “Xbox LIVE has made its mark as the place to be for independent developers and the games are top quality and fun to play. We look forward to continuing to nurture the amazing independent talent that comes to light through this competition.”
Indie games seem to be gaining notoriety these days. It’s not hard to figure out, really. Digital distribution is quickly picking up steam, making it easier to make games available without shipping or manufacturing cost.
My first day here at PAX, I saw a lot of fun and interesting things. But nothing stood out to me more than when I headed to the Microsoft XNA Booth (XNA is a set of tools that allows for a more streamlined system for game development) to check out the six finalists for their Dream.Build.Play, which challenges independent game developers to create new, innovative titles using XNA Game Studio. While the games I demoed were all rather fun and interesting to me, only one really stood out to me: Dust: An Elysian Tail.
Created by Dean Dodrill, Dust is a beautiful, sidescrolling action RPG. What I played didn’t delve too much into the story of the game, but for those of you wondering why exactly Dust stood out to me, it is quite simple: the visuals for the game were hand-animated and painted, not computer generated and it flowed quite nicely during gameplay. The combat itself was allowed for some combos and seemed fairly intuitive for the most part. The visuals strike a chord with that part of my inner-child that calls for childish fantasy.
Yes...those are actual gameplay graphics.
Again, while not delving too much into the story, the demo definitely showed that much work and passion had gone into development, and has used a world that he had established as part of an independent animated film as a backdrop for his vision. As a fantasy fiction writer (not a very good one, I’ll admit), crafting a fantastic and imaginative world is difficult and I applaud Dean Dodrill for doing such a good job.
Microsoft will be announcing the winner of the Dream.Build.Play contest on Sunday, the winner of which gets $40,000, plus the opportunity at winning an Xbox Live Arcade publisher’s contract. Whether Dust wins or not, I truly hope we see this on the Xbox Live Indie channel as a downloadable title, as each contestant has the opportunity to submit their works onto XBLA. It’s something I’d definitely pay to get my hands on.
For more info on Microsoft XNA and Dream.Build.Play, visit their site.
For more info on Dust: An Elysian Tail and Dodrill’s Elysian Tail universe, visit the official website.