Pizza and Pixels – March 2015

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The collective working space, Entry 29’s ‘Pizza and Pixels’ event continues to go from strength to strength. As an avenue for exhibiting the works of the Capital’s game developers, the event has an ever increasing pool of talent to draw upon. In previous articles covering prior ‘Pizza and Pixels’ events we have detailed the purpose and worth of these events, being to showcase Canberra’s game development community and foster innovation. The purpose of the events seems to have been realised, or at least the first step on the intended plan of development has been achieved. In the most recent ‘Pizza and Pixels’ event, Canberra’s game developers showcased a wealth of recent developments, including games which have been in development for some time. The games presented and the developer’s efforts in creating them represent an agglomeration of resources and culture, brought about by the collective working space Entry 29 and the efforts of its manager, Matt Stimson. These efforts to foster a sense of community in Canberra’s game development community seemed to have paid off.  The works exhibited showcased not just the developer’s competence but a commercial awareness, an awareness that can be absent in other similar environments, in which the combining of resources and culture is engendered.

photo - submergedThe main showcase of the most recent ‘Pizza and Pixels’ event was ‘Submerged’ a game with something of a frustrating difference to other popular games, being incredulously, you don’t shoot anything. Yes, a locally produced game of superior graphics quality features an interesting concept – the goal is simply to explore. Unlike similar games such as Portal, I didn’t feel like throwing the controller against the screen when playing ‘Submerged’. The game features stunning graphics, made even more impressive through the use of Entry 29’s projector. In exploring a dystopian world flooded by the world’s oceans, the main character searches for supplies in a world which has suffered the effects of a global catastrophe. The events which have brought about the catastrophe are not explored, the world is simply a wasteland in which resources must be scavenged. The experience of playing the game is something akin to watch a movie, the graphics are amazing and fate of the main characters weighs heavy.

photo - submerged - 2Seven full-time employees and external contractors involved in creating the game’s concept art and music helped make ‘Submerged’ a reality, with BAFTA award winning video game music composer Jeff Van Dyck creating the game’s music. The developers of ‘Submerged’ are planning to make the game available for the following formats: PC, Xbox One, PS4 and mobile devices. Ed Orman, part of the game’s development group describes the game’s plot as follows: “Submerged is an exploration adventure, where you struggle to save the life of your brother after escaping from a terrible past. Trapped in an ancient, half-submerged city and desperate for supplies, you must explore the flooded streets in your simple fishing boat, and scale the ruined buildings that hold the promise of salvation. There is a seductive serenity to this vast city, and even a beauty to its decay. But with every passing day, your brother grows weaker, and the memories of the events that drove you here continue to resurface.”

photo - submerged - 3Submerged has been in development for over a year, the total development time when the game ships, is expected to be around eighteen months. The marketing strategy of the game is refreshingly simple. The game’s developers prefer to use existing and established marketing methods and means to ensure their game reaches the masses. “We don’t spend money on marketing our games beyond the occasional Facebook promotion. Instead, we mostly rely making good connections with our partners (Apple, Microsoft, Sony) and using their services to promote our games. Other than that, we just put in the hard yards reaching out to the press and trying to make our case for why they should be interested in our game.”

Another game showcased at the most Pizza and Pixels event was ‘Bean Farmer Pinball’ with work continuing on a variant called ‘Raster Blaster Revived’. The game is the work of Wayne Johnson, Mike Watkins wrote the music and Wayne’s son helped test the gameplay. The game makes use of Orx Portable Game Engine, a 2.5D engine. ‘Bean Farmer Pinball’ is built to run on Windows XP, Windows 7, Linux and Mac OSX based computers. The game also supports touch controls and runs on Android. An iOS port for Apple based smartphones and tablets could be developed in the future. As with most pinball based games the plot is straight forward, the goal being to keep the ball or balls afloat. The player can gain ‘extras’ through keeping the balls afloat – by keeping the balls afloat the player illuminates groups of lights, increasing the multiplier. The higher the multiplier, the higher the player’s score and the longer the game’s traps stay closed. Up to six balls can be in play at one time. The game took Wayne six months overall to develop. “The basic gameplay (sic) was developed within one month, but two redesigns of all the graphics took up most of the time at around two months. Final bug fixing and testing and features took two months. Finally, exporting and testing on all the different platforms took a final month.” The game won’t be marketed commercially, Wayne describes the game as a labour of love and a way in which to integrate himself back into Canberra’s game development community.

The games presented at the second Pizza and Pixels event of the year point to a bright future for Canberra’s game developers. A future Entry 29 and manager Matt Stimson are working to ensure is not only bright but one developed to the scale of other capital cities.

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