You're right, I'm finding this year's entries to be stronger.
Since my first selection, I already re-arranged my choices twice, and removed my two favourite entries from my first voting, after reading the game concept PDFs and forum updates, which further developed some of the other pitches.
My favourite pitches are, in no particular order:
-Jet Girl & Ghost Dog
-The Last Missile Commander
-What Could Go Wrong
But that's 14, so sadly I had to make some hard choices, and exclude 11. In the past couple of days, I ended up excluding:
-Ether: while a lovely concept, especially visually, I kept picturing a game with somewhat limited gameplay potential, a bit like Andrew Wood's last pitch, The White Birch, which also looked lovely, but whose gameplay was a bit underwhelming. Plus, he already had a winning pitch, so I thought it was time to give someone else the chance to lead a team.
-ExtraTerrarium: again, I though the concept was pretty interesting, and this one was a personal favourite. It was really painful to have to exclude some of these entries. I ended up excluding this one because since Asif Siddiky isn't a game designer, I'm not sure he could lead a team and have the "game designer" mindset to properly explore this concept in such short period of time. It's still an idea I would like to see developed in the future.
-Derelict: I'm a sucker for sci-fi, and exploration-based games. This pitched appealed to me, but I ended up excluding it purely because some of the other pitches were further developed.
-Parabolic: again, a very appealing pitch. I ended up excluding it because I thought the long-term gameplay potential was limited compared to other entries. I would love to see this pitch turn into a full game, but it would probably work better as a 2-3 hour game, otherwise I'm not sure the gameplay, without variation, would manage to hold the player's interest.
-Great Spirits: I loved this concept, both visually and in terms of gameplay potential, especially since I enjoy quite a few of the works Elliott Roberts referenced. I excluded it purely because I thought this concept, to be properly realized, would need a significant budget (like Psychonauts had), and I'm not sure it would be doable for DF at the present. Still, it's an idea I would love to see as a full game.
-Headlander: like Great Spirits, I rather liked the concept, and the fully-realized video pitch was certainly appealing, but I thought this pitch would need a big budget to make it into a proper title, something I'm not sure DF can afford at the moment. Also, I'm not sure this head-switch mechanic would remain appealing in the long run. If I had to rank Headlander and Great Spirits, I would place Great Spirits higher than Headlander because I think it has a bit more gameplay potential, with its spirit/ghost mechanics, compared to the head-switching mechanic. Still, It's something I would love to play.
-Breach: great idea, but I think this pitch would need a great amount of time and money to properly work. Maybe it's a bit over-ambitious. When I think of the time and budget most space-sims need, and add to that the damage and boarding mechanics, I have a hard time believing DF can afford to develop a title such as this by itself, and I'm not sure a publisher would jump on this idea. This is not to say I didn't like this pitch, I certainly did. I just tried to think if this would be doable, and sadly I don't think it is, at least currently.
-Buried Metropolis: I love roguelike-likes, so liking this concept was a no-brainer (although I'm not too sure about the hotspot thing). But since JP LeBreton is still working on Spacebase DF-9, and he got to lead a team already on Amnesia Fortnight with that project, I decided to vote on someone else, to hopefully help them get a chance to do so.
-The Last Missile Commander: another pitch that appealed to me, but I ended up excluding it because I think the end result would end up being similar to the already-existing DEFCON game by Introversion Software.
-What Could Go Wrong: this was the first pitch I voted for on the very first day, and I must say the concept of it is very much something I always wanted to play. I always wanted a game that translated the fun of 70's/80's slashers to the gameplay realm, and there's none. Although it quite pains me, I ended up excluding the game from my votes purely because I thought the pitch was "lacking" compared to entries. It's a great concept, I would love to play it (and I'm sure it will be one of the finalists, since it's a popular entry), but when I looked at other entries that had visual drawings/artwork/pixel work, gameplay mechanics info, in short, a better idea of what they want to do, I thought it would be fairer to support some of the pitches that had more work put into it.
So currently I'm down to 4 options, and I have 3 votes. I honestly don't know which one to exclude, and I already resorted to asking the opinion of random people, some who never played a videogame in their life, to help me decide.
My current finalists (if I don't change my mind yet again):
-Dear Leader: I love the concept, and the visual references the lead is going for. It's one of the pitches that seems perfectly doable, and fun to play. Also, it's one of the pitches that I think can result in a better prototype, because by not being overly ambitions, the team can probably make a small, self-contained prototype in the next 12 days, that can be further expanded if DF decides to upgrade it into a full game.
-Mnemonic: of my 4 finalists, it's the one I have most doubts about, purely for budgetary and time concerns. But since the pitch, game concept PDF, and further info posted on the forums just sounds so damn appealing, and had clearly so much thought and effort put into it, it's definitely one of my favourite entries.
-Jet Girl & Ghost Dog: a crazy, turn-based RPG inspired by EarthBound, with lovely pixel art and a chip-tune soundtrack certainly appeals to me, and it's one of the pitches I believe that can work as a proper full title, with a small budget and team. Like Dear Leader, I think the team behind this pitch can produce a solid, working prototype in the next days.
-Steed: of the four finalists, this was an entry that was nowhere near my favourite options, and I didn't vote for it on the first day. When I watched the pitch video, I kept thinking how the game would work in terms of gameplay, and had a hard time picturing how it would remain fun for the whole duration when you control only a horse. Would it be a purely "go from A point to B point" game? How would a horse fight? I had many doubts about this pitch. But then I read further documentation, like the game concept PDF and a few forum posts, and understood what the lead is going for, and clearly he already had an answer for most of the possible limitations I was thinking about. His gameplay ideas sound quite fun, and this pitch it's probably the one that better screams "This is a Double Fine game" to me. With Mnemonic, and Dear Leader, I think this is one of the better realized pitches.
It's a testament to Double Fine, and the people working there (or with them, since some of these pitches come from people working at 2 Player Productions) that selecting among these 29 entries seems such a hard thing to do.
I really don't envy Tim's job. Here I am, sitting on my computer saying yes or no to some of these pitches. He has to do that constantly, and right to their faces. :down:
Honestly, Pendleton Ward's ideas are easily the low-point of this Amnesia Fortnight, and I would love to be able to pass my vote to another of DF's pitches.
I'm really hopping that, like with Amnesia Fortnight 2012, they end up working on an extra pitch or two, because there's some really great ideas this year.