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Some of the information in this article pertains to documents that were obtained illegally through the hacking of Polytron.com. Gamesnosh will not be directly linking to these documents, (you can freely find them yourself online). We will however be reporting on them as we believe the contents of the documents are of legitimate public interest. Any claims of fraud or foul play are (at this point) speculation.
Back in 2011, Independent game studio Polytron and it’s owner Phil Fish were the recipients of the awards for Disciplinary Excellence in Story/World Design and the General Excellence by Grand Jury (grand prize) for the title FEZ at the IndieCade International Festival of Independent Games.
The following year at the Independent Games Festival (or IGF) FEZ again walked away with another Grand Prize. These awards in conjunction with FEZ’s release a short while after the IGF led to a plethora of coverage in the media and huge sales and profits for Polytron and its owners/investors.
Recent information that has come to light in wake of the hacking of Polytron’s website reveals that several investors of FEZ have a direct connection with the IGF and IndieCade and could potentially have had a hand in the allocation of the awards.
In 2009 (the year of Polytron’s inception) the company received funding from a number of individuals to finance the development of the title FEZ. On Page 19 of the loan contract that was drafted up as a part of this deal; it lists all the people who had invested, how much they invested, and what profit percentage and voting rights they received for their investment.
The 7 people (listed to the left) later went on to form Indie Fund, the “funding source for independent developers” who were “looking to encourage the next wave of game developers.” As FEZ was an investment prior to the creation of this group you can consider FEZ to have received the “Beta” Indie Fund, as such it is not listed on the official IndieFund website as a funded Project.
The connection between these investors and the relevant awards becomes apparent in 2011
In 2011, the Independent Games Festival (or IGF) had 5 members of Indie Fund on the finalists panel, and 3 members of Polytron’s staff. That’s 8 out of 10 judges. Mere days before IGF was to accept submissions, FEZ creator Philippe Poisson had to announce the delay of FEZ. Had Polytron finished FEZ on time, the game would have been a shoe-in to win the grand prize at IGF that year as they had a controlling interest.
In 2012, FEZ gets through nominations and wins big. Of note here is the IGF anonymous nomination panel: all of the finalist judges are invited back to nominate games the following year. So the Indie Fund judges from 2011 would anonymously judge entrants for 2012.
The nomination process is simple: a majority of people who vote on your game is all that is needed to push you through to the selection process. While judges are explicitly told that they can only vote on the games they are given, this is not the case, and any judge can vote on any game; for example, eight people who are members of a small clique can give one game a huge starting bias.
In this instance FEZ would have started off with a bias of +8, and since it only takes a majority of people who voted to push a game through it would take at least 8 other judges to vote no, plus the number of judges that legitimately vote yes for FEZ.
Even more interesting is that judges are not even required to play the game to submit a ruling on them. So, no time need be wasted by the submitting judges: they merely must say yes or no to continue the process.
We know all of this thanks to leaked conversations of anonymous judges from past IGFs. We’d like to thank these judges for coming forward.
Interestingly, the anonymous voting software used by the IGF in the voting process was created by FlashBang studios (owner Matthew Wagner), one of the above listed investors for Polytron and FEZ.
As it stands with the current information; there are 8+ people with a financial investment in FEZ that were directly involved with the judging process of the IGF awards. While it cannot be currently confirmed that they did indeed vote for their investment, many are pointing towards this and the fact FEZ came away with the grand prize as evidence of foul play.
Moving onto the IndieCade Awards the following year; another of the Investors of FEZ listed above seems to have a very direct connection to the Judging process of this event.
In 2011 Kellee Santiago (Listed FEZ investor) became the chair of the Awards jury for IndiCade; the same year that FEZ won two awards from the same event.
IndieCade’s rules on the voting process state that:
The IndieCade jury is comprised of more than 100 jurors from around the world. These jurors are artists, academics, independent game creators, industry specialists, and more. The jury chair works with these jurors to review all of the games anonymously. At the end of multiple rounds of jurying a selection of finalists are identified. These finalists are then reviewed by the awards jury for additional recognition.
Kelle Santiago, chair of the IC’s awards jury, having a direct financial interest in FEZ, worked with the jurors judging FEZ to determine their vote in a festival in which FEZ won two awards. She directly had involvement in every single vote that was cast during the IndieCade awards.
The implication of these accusations is that Kelle Santiago used her influence as Chair of Jurors to siphon IndieCade sponsor money and ticket sales into the prize fund that Fez won, she then received a percentage of this money due to her investor status. While this is just an accusation, the fact that Kellee (who had a direct hand in the judging process) received a percentage of the prize fund money due to her 2009 investment in FEZ is a cause for concern within itself.
If all of these claims turn out to be true, Indie Fund appears to be responsible for manipulating events at both IndieCade and IGF in order to maximize their profit margins on FEZ to the detriment of all the other Indie developers that entered the events looking to win the awards that FEZ received. Any publication that gave FEZ coverage due to these awards, or any customer who bought FEZ based on these awards (or the coverage of them through the media), seems to have also possibly been duped.
As always, let us know below what you think of the accusations.
LordKat Article: http://www.lordkat.com/igf-and-indiecade-racketeering.html
ShortFatOtaku Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HM_Z5YTop7g
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