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GDC09: IGF showcases 'the next great mobile game' concepts


Before the Independent Games Festival organizers handed out today's awards for best mobile titles, they welcomed several indie devs on stage to pitch their ideas for the "next great mobile game." It was an interactive affair; after the presentations, the audience got to "vote" for the best of the bunch via the most scientific of methods: how loud we clapped.

We honestly wanted everything we saw to win; there are clearly some very bright designers working on some very cool "games" that can only be done on mobile platforms. The first we saw, Depict, is an iPhone title from VillaVanilla -- although we could easily see it on DSi -- that challenges a group of online players to take photos that match a "target image" as closely as possible. In the demo we saw, everyday household items and even people were used to compose the shots, which were then scored by the app. The closest to the target won.

Depict was just the first of several intriguing concepts which we'll tell you more about after the break.

FastFoot Challenge uses the iPhone's GPS as the mechanic of an "escape" game meant to be played with a group of friends in the real world.

Another spin on the competitive photo-taking concept was Picopoke, which is being developed by Singapore-MIT's GAMBIT Game Lab. It's different in that it "lives" on Facebook, calling a mobile device into the equation simply to snap pictures. Each week, a new target image is displayed via the app, but it's not an absolute -- the winner is chosen based on community votes. So, for example, if the original image is a jack-in-the-box, a user could take a photo of their friend Jack in a box and it just might win.

Rhythm of War -- previously talked about on the site -- was the most traditional concept of the lot. A collaboration between KranX Studio and SME Dynamic Systems, it presents players with four scrolling, horizontal rows packed with enemies. The only way to defeat them is to tap the rhythm displayed for each line accurately a couple of times, which causes your "forces" on one side of the screen to open fire. This has to be managed between the four rows, which looked quiet challenging.

Our favorite concept was Urban Team's FastFoot Challenge, which turns the iPhone's GPS into the mechanic of an "escape" game meant to be played with a group of friends in the real world. Outdoors. Using map data from Google Earth, players place a red "X" on a "finish line" location, meet up where they want to start and one of them has to try and make it to the X before the others. The whole time, players can see icons representing one another on the map; in the video demonstration, we watched as friends rushed through a park and downtown area, taking shortcuts, faking each other out by running through areas that looked solid on the map and generally having what looked like a lot of fun.

The audience-chosen winner, Reflection, is actually an indie DS title. (You can download a PC prototype here.) Although its designers at the University of Southern California tried their best to explain the concept, it was (slightly) easier to grasp by simply watching. The action-platformer takes place on both DS screens simultaneously, with the idea that whatever happens to the character on the top screen is mirrored, er, reflected on the lower screen, and vice-versa. In the demo, the top screen's character was faced by a giant chasm; the character on the bottom screen leapt across a series of platforms, which their counterpart mimicked -- and survived, standing on air. The whole thing seemed like a very diabolical two-screen twist on Braid.

We'll have more on these titles tomorrow when they go on public display -- and get into our hands.

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