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Battlefield 3 is beautiful. But THIS is nature's finest.

Opinion: If you want innovation, move away from the millions says Tom Pakinkis...

Sand is a bitch.

It gets absolutely everywhere; in your shorts, between your toes, under your tongue, round the back of your eyeball - no place is sacred as far as the golden grain is concerned.

I don't know about you, but that first bite of a gritty ham sandwich on the beach is enough to make me throw my knotted hankie from my head, roll up the windbreaker and head for the car.

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Sand is an even more frustrating enemy when you're using it to make life for a lonely little tribe a bit more tolerable against the elements. I know this, because I've been fannying about in Another World creator Eric Chahi's amazing upcoming God game, From Dust.

The elemental RTS sees you balling up blobs of sand, water, magma and more in an attempt to re-jig a beautiful - but consistently threatening - world. You have to help your little men set up camp or navigate the terrain and all its obstacles.

Turns out if I was God, I'd be all fingers and thumbs; quick to panic and foul-mouthed enough to warrant a parental advisory sticker being slapped on The Bible.

That's because the world of From Dust is based on real-world physics. Actually, scratch that, the engine isn't based on anything - it recreates the movement of matter as perfectly as I'm qualified to judge.

If you need to redirect a river to prevent your tribe from getting their feet wet, you can build a dam of sand - but this isn't some quick-fix, map editor-style system. After you pour you sand into a realistic heap, it will start to spread slowly outwards as the grains at the top roll to the bottom.

Careful distribution is the least of your worries. The sand erodes quicker than morals in a brothel, and it isn't long before water starts trickling down valleys that you've inadvertently created with your fiddling, opening up potential for new catastrophes.

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The result is something akin to all-powerful plate-spinning; a non-stop dosey doe with Mother Nature which is frantic, frustrating and fountain-loads of fun. It is a never-ending headache, in the most brilliant way.

Indie games are often lauded for showing 'charm', 'imagination' and 'inventiveness'; with Braid, Minecraft and Limbo recent shining examples.

But From Dust takes things to the next natural step. Chahi's tiny team have combined a rip-it-up-and-start-again indie mindset with access to Ubisoft's technology - and applause is due to both publisher and auteur for the combination.

Like Minecraft, From Dust offers a rare, sophisticated gameplay balance that's left me dumbfounded - but it's wrapped in a dazzling engine and graphical sheen that nudges towards Triple-A quality. Conversely, its beauty is made all the more conspicuous by it clearly being shielded from the formulaic necessities that could easily cloud a bigger release. It acts in accordance with nature's law, rather than gaming law - and it's all the more exciting for it.

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A couple of weeks ago I talked up my unashamed love of the box-office smash, the Triple A game, with a passing reference to the virtues of smaller, artsy indie titles providing enough ammunition against those who berate video games as mindless violence.

But more than anything else, 2011 may be the year that brave blockbuster publishers like Ubisoft finally began throwing their indie-minded creators serious resource, in the hope of nurturing the next Minecraft - with a whole lot more polish.

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