The GILM Awards 2017 Favorite Small Developer Game


Favorite Small Developer Game

What was the bespoke experience that was just right for you? What was the little gem that caught your eye before it snatched your heart? What game’s size belied its significance? This is the category for the small developer, whether that means one person weaving the threads together or the dozen pooling their talents.

This is a counterpart to Favorite Big Developer Game and the distinction is not firm. In our view, you should look at the game, consider the circumstances /around its development, and make your judgement accordingly. Speak with your gut and speak honestly, asking whether this was worked over by hundreds of people or by a select few. That is the distinction, rather than pricing, ‘indie’ status, or game length.

And now, it’s go time. It’s time for the payoff for so much hard work. Show those small teams that their work is recognised! Speak to their strengths, present your nomination (bold it for all the world to see), and show us your passion for the games out there on the periphery.


Q: Uhhh, sorry to ask, but... what are the GILM Awards?

A: Nothing to apologise for! Just head over to our pinned topic if you need a catch up! You can also find details on the process for the awards here.

Q: How do I nominate a game?

A: To nominate a game, you have to write the game in your post and bold it, ideally at the top of your post. If we don’t know what you’re picking, we can’t count it. You get one (1) nomination. For a game to be eligible for the voting phase, it must have two nominations.

Nomination: (GAME)
(Rest of Post, full of lists and good takes)

You can make a list as long as your arm, just be clear chose. We welcome thoughtful posts about how you made your decision and discussion, as long as we keep it positive and respectful.

Q: I disagree with someone else's choice!

A: As per our Code of Conduct, be considerate about other people’s perspectives. There’s no need to puff out someone else’s candle to make yours a little brighter. Negativity is only going to hurt your case for what you love. What’s said in the thread stays in the thread. The mod team frown deeply on people taking disagreements thread-to-thread, like bringing up a user’s nomination in a previous category in a case against the present one.

Q: Someone already nominated the game(s) I wanted to twice, what do I do?

A: We still want to hear your thoughts! Be mindful of what has already been nominated, but as always, this topic is a conversation, so feel free to write about other nominated games.

Q: When does the nomination process end?

A: The period of time to make your nominations will end 12/10/2017.

Q: Can I nominate ports, re-releases, or remasters?

A: Generally, only games that saw their first release in 2017 are eligible. Full remakes may be eligible, but games like White Day: A Labyrinth Named School, which is a full remake of a game released in 2001 from 2015 that was ported to PC and PS4 this year, are still not eligible if they are ports. Expansions on existing games that stand alone, like Uncharted: The Lost Legacy or Dishonored: Death of the Outsider are eligible, but please consider these games on their own, separate from their full game companions. Please see the pinned topic for more information on eligibility criteria.

Q: Wait, is this game Big or Small…?

A: Good question! We have a few games that we think are pretty big ‘edge cases’, so we’ve taken the liberty of indicating where we think they fall. If you have an edge case in mind, talk to us and we’ll adjudicate.

  • Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice: Big Dev.
  • PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds: Big Dev
  • Sonic Mania: Big Dev


Nomination: Pyre

Ever have a game you’ve wanted to exist for years and then something that sounds like it’s going to hit that mark is announced, and you’re worried it’s going to disappoint, but then it doesn’t? That’s Pyre for me. For ages I’ve wanted something that transposes the /just one more game/ element of games like Football Manager, FIFA Manager Mode, NBA2k/Madden GM Mode into a fantasy or sci fi world. I’ve also had a fascination with the idea of a society that intertwines politics and solves disputes through athletic competition. So, the high concept of Pyre is extremely my cup of tea. And in playing it, it did not disappoint.

My favorite thing about this game is how it re-contextualizes my favorite parts of sports games, and of sports themselves (making obvious the ritualistic parallels that modern sports have to religion in the process). The game shines in emphasizing small changes over time, and instead of ‘this player did his knee—out for season’ or ‘this player plays for another team now’ the small changes were character based and/or reflected you chipping away at your ultimate goal. It gave those changes real weight, relating to season to season growth, loss, and interaction between your “team” and the world it existed in.

It helps that the Rites themselves are also a blast. The play styles of various characters encourage a lot of interesting team composition, and the way you have to adapt as you lose players made the game a consistent challenge. Multiple times I developed a strategy and started rolling with it only to lose a key cog for a Rite, or permanently, and develop another strategy. Whether it was bodying people with Jodariel, dashing through them with Pamitha, darting around them with Rukey, being everywhere at once with Ti’Zo, or ‘pulling up from 40 with my shorty’ Rhae, I found the Rites a joy to play. In my ideal world, there would be an online multiplayer component, but as I understand it that’s one of the things that just wasn’t feasible for a team the size of Supergiant.

The game also managed to make me care about my opponents to the point that in my current, hard mode play through, I’m absolutely throwing two specific matches to put Dalbert and Oralech over. It’s super interesting to see a game embrace defeat the way it does, and in my opinion absolutely makes good on their early promise of defeat not being a failure state.

I had a conversation with Jade_Kiwi on discord and she had a completely different deep read of the game than I did, one focusing on the responsibility of academia and privilege relating to Volfred and the Commonwealth. And an incredibly interesting point she brought up was that one of the first things you’re told is “That you possess [the book of rites], and have capacity to glean its words, is testament enough to your potential” And how this speaks to a false meritocracy on a lot of levels, but where my mind immediately went was Waypoint Radio 111 where Austin and Rob talk about the failures of the new Madden Story mode and the racism leveled at African American quarterbacks. The only reason your character is special is because you’ve got the book and I’m not a good enough writer to explain why that’s a profound statement within the context of the game.

I could go on for way too long about this game, and need to save some stuff for the Favorite Music thread (Korb’s soundtrack has the range, anchored by a combination of mandolin, harpsichord, and industrial/Drum’N’Bass motifs, it set such a mood), Favorite Aesthetic Thread (the psychadelic dystopian hell we are playing in is the most interesting take on a dystopia or a hell in a long time), and Favorite Characters (Dalbert Oldheart, my heart) threads — where I’ll be Nominating this game as well. Suffice to say this game nails just about everything it set out to do, it’s the game I thought about most this year, and it’s the one that, while I was playing it, I was most conscious of the fact that it was special and I wanted to savor it.


Nomination: Heat Signature

It has the systemic complexity and “emergent gameplay” of bigger titles, with the singular voice and wit of Tom Francis. It has just the right scope, and executes on its premise excellently.


Nomination: West of Loathing

This game has no right to be as good as it is. The original Kingdom of Loathing is essentially a text adventure with sketches. West of Loathing is a delightfully animated set of stick figures walking around the world and solving puzzles. 90% of the jokes hit for me, and I found myself laughing out loud more than once. The puzzles are interesting without being impossible. A slider lets you select battle difficulty, so the game has good accessibility. It isn’t easy to design a game that looks this simple; the visuals are exactly spare enough to work.


Nomination: Hollow Knight

If you’re active on the Waypoint discord at all, you had to know this was coming.

I am a huge metroidvania fan, Metroid has always been my favourite game franchise. No other genre of game, I feel, can truly capture the essence of exploration and discovery as the metroidvania does, I don’t think any other genre creates worlds as immersive, enticing and as awe-inspiring as those you find in the great metroidvanias.

So hopefully that gives it weight when I say Hollow Knight is the best 2D metroidvania since Super Metroid. And is a far better game than The Actual Metroid that came out this year.


Night in the Woods
I’ve already nominated this for a bunch of other awards, so I have to nominate here as well. The dialog alone is the best this year, combined with the fantastic art and relevant setting and story to today just puts it over the top.



I wanted to play something scary for Halloween. I had read on Gamasutra about the way this game localized parts of its story and puzzles that were specific to Taiwanese culture and history. Little did I know I was picking up the horror game with the best story since Silent Hill 2.

It’s not scary, but it sure is an affecting trip into the lives of some people during the “White Terror” period of Taiwan, which is very similar to America’s Red Scare. I enjoyed learning about this history, engaging with simple but creative puzzles that all had a fun twist and getting pulled hard into the incredibly engaging story, visual style and sound design.


A Hat in Time

2017 has been the year of the 3D platformer. It feels like we got more platformers this year alone than we have over the past five years. When compared to big name games like Super Mario Odyssey, A Hat in Time still manages to hold its own. The characters and world are very charming, but I think the biggest compliment I can give to the game is how fun it is just to move around the world. I would run aimlessly around the hub world simply because the movement controls feel great. Each stage had a unique identity, and no single mechanic ever wore out its welcome, but when it comes to platformers, if moving doesn’t feel good, it’s not going to make for a great game.


seconding the nomination for West of Loathing

growing up, Kingdom of Loathing had a really magical sense to it. you know when you’re 12 and you’re playing Neopets and some mysterious random event message appears on your screen? maybe you try googling it and since it’s 2006 there’s no clear answer available to you, and it becomes this wild enigma with no obvious solution besides diving back in and clicking on everything in sight. the original KoL managed to feel like it was comprised entirely of that experience in the best way possible; full of baffling puzzles and one-liners, the esoteric and arcane hiding behind every webpage.

being able to play a much more condensed and accessible version of that experience, with all the wit and charm still intact from the original, was an incredible treat for me this year.


Nomination: Night In The Woods.

Not sure what I can say that hasn’t been said, but NITW is one of the most powerful games experiences I’ve had in the past few years. It’s heartfelt, gorgeous, and extremely well-written, with some of the best characters to come out of games in the past decade.


Doki Doki Literature Club

A free visual novel that slowly turns to a horror game that twist it visual novel system and puts you into a uncomfortable state. Even looking in the game’s files makes you creep out as you start to loss control of the game’s narrative and character’s state of mind.


Seconding Heat Signature

It does a great job of distilling the chaotic & emergent nature of recent AAA stealth/action hybrid games. Every weapon & gadget is interesting & has really cool interplay with every other item & game system. Plus the setting is really fun & writing is great throughout.


Nomination: Human Fall Flat

Getting past the clear Gang Beasts aesthetic and moving out of the tutorial level, this has got to be the most fun multiplay physics puzzle game in years! It uses very simple movement controls where your character and the objects around you are equally affected by a sensible physics system. But it’s what it makes you do with those physics that is the real charm. Climbing, rowing a rowboat (alternating rows with friends), controlling catapults that fully function in the game’s own physics logic and can catapult physics objects and players alike. The multiple ways to beat, shortcut and sequence break levels add to the multi-faceted puzzle solving and the very tactile movement controls make every accomplishment feel like really conquered something.

I realize this may be a 2016 game… not sure if it’s still in early access though. It isn’t according to Steam. Hey but check it out anyway?


Nomination: Subsurface Circular
There are plenty of “expected” places to go in a robot-centric narrative, and while this game did go to some familiar places, it took some very new paths. I played Prey this year, and it was fun to watch the practical test of the almost painfully quaint morality test play out in real decisions that forced you to call into question academic answers for beliefs with practical applications. Subsurface Circular does a very similar thing, but I would argue, in a much more subtle way.

Certain elements of this game are very familiar, robots with increasing sentience, and demanding more, automation dominating the job market, there are familiar, old stories in this game, to the point of being wrote, but these serve as more of a backdrop than the main question. The real question of this game, the endgame of the mystery is a question of identity.

I can’t spoil the game here, but there is something that happens toward the end that made me simultaneously personally attacked, and incredibly invested in seeing through the game. Maybe the most satisfying thing about the game, shy of the incredible music and adorable robots, is the ending that feels fulfilling, leaves you with something to ponder, but certainly no sense of ambiguity.


I’ll second the Steamworld Dig 2 Nomination (Image and Form is a small Swedish developer with 20 employees)
I had fun with Dig 2 from start to finish. It’s really hard think of ways you could improve on the two demensional digging simulator more than this one has.


Night in the Woods

The quality of art, writing, and music they managed to achieve with so few people is a real triumph.


Loved this game! played it back to back with Tacoma which made a fun AI based diptych


Approximately how not-scary would you say it is, on a scale of “kittens frolicking through a meadow” to “covered the screen during the scary parts of Stranger Things” to “Silent Hill 2”?

…this may not be the most useful scale, hmm.


Nomination: Night In The Woods.

I. Love. This. Game. Let me clarify. I have nostalgia for this game. I have nostalgia for Possum Springs. I feel like I have friends living in this tiny town Like it’s a place I could go back to one day. I never get like this with games. Games can (and frequently do!) affect me emotionally, yet I’ve never felt like I have left something in the game. Night in the Woods made me feel just like that. Possum Springs is cloistered. Possum Springs is even actively bad for some of the game’s characters. Yet, on some level, it is still home and there’s always hope of Bright Harbour.

P.S. Gregg is the best boy. Fight me! Actually, don’t fight me. Let me have this. Please?


Somewhere right above “covered the screen during the scary parts of Stranger Things”. Things don’t jump out a lot, but there’s a creeping sense of dread that maintains and sometimes builds, and that can make things that aren’t actually that scary seem more so when they happen.