Played any Western Australian-made games lately?
You might imagine a studio in Japan or the United States, full of people you’ll never meet, toiling away on your next favourite game. Prepare to have your mind blown, at least a tiny bit.
You may actually know someone who worked on a game you’ve played.
WA is home to more than 800 people working in and around games, from part-time developers all the way up to full game studios.
WA creators are making nearly 10% of Australia’s games, and have released titles on PlayStation 4, iPad, Steam (the App store for computer games) and even the brand new virtual reality (VR) platform Oculus Rift.
Fans of the sci-fi series Battlestar Galactica (the 2004 reboot, of course) will be thrilled to hear that the recently announced Battlestar Galactica: Deadlock is being made here right in WA by Black Lab Games. The turn-based strategy game lets you control a fleet of spaceships fighting against the show’s cyborg villains, the cylons.
Paul Turbett, Black Lab founder, told me he’s a huge Battlestar fan.
About 2 years ago, he mentioned to his publisher Slitherine that the series was a franchise he’d love to work with.
He didn’t think anything more of it.
But then Slitherine showed Universal Television Black Lab’s previous game, Star Hammer: The Vanguard Prophecy, which also involved giant spaceships. Yes, that Universal Television, the same folks behind Saturday Night Live and Law & Order.
The rest is, as they say, history.
While the game won’t be available until later this year, it has already featured on one of the top video game sites, Polygon.
Paul is in good company in WA, which is also home to Stirfire Studios. Back in 2013, Stirfire won the first ever WA Screen Award given to a game for its platformer Freedom Fall.
According to Vee Pendergrast, the studio’s CEO, Freedom Fall was (as far as she knows) the first Western Australian game on Steam.
“And this was back when Steam was hard to get on,” she adds with a laugh.
Stirfire also just released the critically acclaimed VR title Symphony of the Machine.
Following Stirfire and Black Lab’s trailblazing footprints is Oscar Brittain.
Hailing from Fremantle, Oscar has just returned from the prestigious IndieCade @ E3 in Los Angeles, California, where his new game, Desert Child, was featured.
Oscar describes the game as a “cowboy bebop-style” desert racing, “where your only friends are a vintage hoverbike and a packet of instant noodles”.
While we have a lot to be proud of here in WA, Paul, like a lot of local game developers, still feels there is a lot more we could be doing to nurture the fledging industry.
“There’s a lot of potential that’s not being realised,” he told me.
Victoria, which has strong state government support for its games industry, produces nearly 50% of Australia’s games and is readily tapping into the global US$100 billion games market.
Imagine what we could accomplish here in WA if we had the same type of support from our government.