Pizza and Pixels – May/June

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Pizza and Pixels, the monthly meet up of our local game developers is undergoing changes. Event co-organiser and host, Matt Stimson, is stepping down to focus on his newly formed company, HACT Pty. Ltd which recently held their inaugural awards night. Mr Stimson is also stepping down from his position as Manager of Entry 29, the co-working space in which the Pizza and Pixels events are held. Taking over Mr Stimson’s responsibilities in organising and hosting Pizza and Pixels events is the very capable, Jarrod Farquhar-Nicol. Mr Stimson has done a wonderful job, in creating a focal point for Canberra’s game development community, and pushing the community forward. Mr Farquhar-Nicol is set to expand upon the good work of Mr Stimson and to offer new opportunities to our game developers.

Mr Farquhar-Nicol has been a fixture at Pizza and Pixels events since shortly after the event’s inception, he kindly answered some questions about his involvement with Canberra’s game development community and his plans for future events.

How did it come about that you would run the event?

I’ve loved games all my life, so when I heard about Pizza & Pixels, shortly after it first started, I was keen to get involved. I’ve been attending since then and have gotten to know Matt and several local game developers. When Matt mentioned over lunch that he needed to step back due to some new commitments, I was happy to take the reins.

What direction do you intend to take the event in?

Pizza & Pixels is a fantastic opportunity to meet, network, spread the word about your games and get in some solid playtesting. Matt’s done a great job building it up to this. Now the event’s well established, my plan is to continue the Pizza & Pixels meetups – and spread the word about them – while talking to the game dev community to gauge what other opportunities they’re interested in looking into.

Can you detail your involvement in Canberra’s gaming community?

I’ve been involved in Pizza & Pixels since shortly after it started. I work as a business coach and a trade mark consultant, and these roles have come in handy for helping out Canberra’s game developers.

I try to get developers thinking about, say, their latest convention or crowdfunding campaign. What went well, what challenges they faced, how they can learn from that, and what they may need to differently in future. I’m always up for these talks and happy to be a sounding board for the developers.

My experience in trade marks, on the other hand, lets me to answer more technical questions from the developers, around issues like naming their games and steering clear of trade mark infringement.

Now that I’m heading up Pizza & Pixels, I’ll be even more involved in supporting Canberra’s growing game development community. Exciting times!

Have you developed any games yourself?

I’ve dabbled in game development, making a memory card-matching game in high school and working on story, dialogue, graphics and game design of a never-quite-completed game project for my local council during my Uni years. Though I haven’t focused so much on developing games myself, they’ve always been a big part of my life.

I started drawing characters, levels, weapons, monsters and power ups when I was very young. I drew entire games worth of these things, naming all the characters and levels, working out stories and making up little game manuals. 

I have a Bachelors of Computer Science and I have studied several programming languages, web, 3D modelling, animation and more.

During my studies I realised what I loved doing was more a leadership and support role, helping other people – like game developers – make the best use of their skills to see their creations come to life.

I still dabble from time to time, but right now I see the best use of my abilities being to support others in developing their games and helping grow Canberra’s game dev community.

Mr Farquhar-Nicol looks set to continue the objective, commercial view point and initiatives of his predecessor, Mr Stimson. A straw poll was taken during the Pizza and Pixels event for the month of June, about in which direction attendees wanted to take the event. Those in attendance voted to explore available opportunities to learn from one and another and others about making their games more commercially viable.

The Games

The Pizza and Pixels event consistently showcases outstanding works from our local game developers, works which rival those originating from Australia’s larger cities. One game which was showcased at the Pizza and Pixels event for the month of May, was ‘Warden: Melody of the Undergrowth’ – a game which has been detailed in previous articles covering the Pizza and Pixels events. For those unfamiliar with the game, the plot involves a forgotten young soldier in an ancient world who searches a forest for gold, discovering along the way the ability to shape-shift into other forgotten children. The game features an in-depth storyline, wonderful enemies, puzzles and an immersive landscape. The team is comprised of three core members, who occasionally enlist the help of others. The game is based on a Unity game engine, and makes use of SVN version control, Trello and Github programs. ‘Warden: Melody of the Undergrowth’ is set to be released this year over Steam and other outlets, potentially also being marketed towards the console market.

The game developers behind ‘Warden: Melody of the Undergrowth’ were kind enough to answer some questions about how the game is progressing.

How is work on ‘Warden: Melody of the Undergrowth’ progressing?

Fantastic, it is very near to beta and we are happily on schedule for our internal milestones. This month particularly we have seen many element of the game come together into a more cohesive enjoyable experience.

Have there been any major developments in making the game?

We recently redesigned the opening sequence of the game. Players enjoy having more to do sooner rather than the previous iteration which was a long cut scene. 

How far from completion is the game?

We are certainly meeting our expectations for how long it should take. I’m confident we will release this year.

What was the response from people who viewed the game at the Pizza and Pixel event – and any other events, at which you have showcased the game?  

We will be testing the latest version of Warden at GammaCon, a Canberra based convention. At previous Pizza and Pixels (and events before that) we were pleased at player’s incredibly positive reaction to our inclusion of a female playable character.

Also showcased at the Pizza and Pixels event for the month of May, was the immersive ‘All the King’s Men’. An engaging puzzle and strategy game, in which players must prevent an earnest, but idiotic king, from starting a riot. The king is torturing his domain, giving speeches in the various towns scattered through the land, players must insure he doesn’t anger too many people and prevent instigators from spreading their discontent. The game was showcased at the recent GammaCon event in Canberra and is set to be displayed at the upcoming Pax Australia event. The game developers are currently redesigning the game and rewriting its code ahead of the Pax Australia event.

How many people were involved in the creation of the game?

Four, two artists and two programmers.

Which platform or technologies does the game operate over/make use of?

The game runs on unity 5 personal edition, a game engine available to everybody for free.

How long did the game take to create?

The build we showed off at GammaCon, a local popular culture convention was in the works for about three months. We are far from what we would like the game to be and will be continuing to work on it into the future.

Are you considering marketing the game? If so in which fashion?

As far as marketing goes we’ll have a big push around the time of Pax Aus (October 30 November 1, 2015) as we will be showing off our game as a part of a collective AIE booth.

At Pax Australia the goal will be to draw attention to our ‘Steam Greenlight’ page that we’ll make in preparation of the convention. Steam Greenlight is a system where people vote for games they want to see on the massive online distribution platform ‘Steam’, passing that would give our game the best chance at being seen by the most people possible.

Other than that we have a Facebook page with updates on how the game is progressing. We also have a website in the works that should be up and ready soon.

Another game showcased at the Pizza and Pixels event for the month of May is the interesting and educational, ‘Dementia Adventure’. The game gives players an inside view in to the lives of those suffering from dementia. Players attempt to complete simple daily chores, while the game intimates the experiences of those living with the condition. The game’s four developers were kind enough to answer a series of questions about the game and its ongoing development.

Which platform or technologies does the game operate over or make use of?

All 3 PC platforms (Linux, Mac, and Windows).  It was developed in Unity.

Could you give a brief synopsis of the game’s plot?

Dementia is a very real and confronting issue which many of us must deal with at some point in our lives.  While humorous, our game tries to portray how dementia can make even the simplest tasks such as making a sandwich frustrating and confusing by “hiding” things when the player isn’t looking at them.

How long did the game take to create?

The prototype of the game was developed over a weekend during a 48 hour game jam.  I’ve been working on it for a few weeks since, developing some of the concepts we didn’t manage to include during the game jam.

Are you considering marketing the game? If so in which fashion?

At this stage the game is still just a prototype.  I’m definitely interested in continuing the game, but we haven’t yet discussed it as a team.

Stay tuned for more regular updates, local game developer profiles and news arising from the Pizza and Pixels events. Those interested in joining the community and attending events can do so by via the Canberra Gamedevs’ page over MeetUp.com.

You can check out our coverage of previous Pizza and Pixel events, and the promising games they showcased, here.

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