Games industry set to hit new heights

Games industry set to hit new heights

The games industry has long played second fiddle to larger entertainment industries like films and music, but it hasn’t looked back since drastically outpacing both of them in growth in 2007.

[media-credit id=63 align=”aligncenter” width=”590″]A games designer works feverishly against the clock at the 48-hour challenge[/media-credit]

A games designer working feverishly at the 48-hour challenge

Rockin’ Moses triumphs in game making challenge

For some, game programmers and designers are the little elves that hole up in dinky basements and keep vampire-esque work hours. In reality, they are the ones behind the products that make up what is set to be the largest entertainment industry in the world.

Earlier this year, up-and-coming Brisbane-based indie games developer Rockin’ Moses emerged overall indie champions in the 48-hour Game Making Challenge, winning themselves a mug of jellybeans with The Fifth Suit. The trophy was proof that their previous win for Cloud 9, a steam punk racer game, was not merely a fluke.

Cloud 9, developed as Rockin’ Moses’s final project at Queensland University of Technology, won the prestigious Most Commercially Viable award from Halfbrick Studios in 2010. It marked the maiden success of the six-man team that adamantly refused to credit any individual effort for their wins, putting it down to the cohesive team dynamics that helped them produce what they deemed as ‘magic’.

Fourth time was the charm for designer Rocco Loria, who admits to a strange fondness of having his ideas shot down. “It gives me boundaries to work within,” he said. “Although there were many talented individuals at the competition, the other teams didn’t have the same chemistry that we had, and that is what ultimately gave us the edge.”

Ask Rockin’ Moses about the state of the games industry in Australia, and the resounding groans speak volumes. Mr Loria believes that AAA titles – financially backed console games by large corporations – are seeing indie games on the rise as competition. “In the past we have been hired by large American studios for a bit of work, but our dollar has since become strong so we’re no longer cheap labour,” he said. “Universities are telling you that there are no jobs out there, and that you need to go out and create one for yourself.”

The hard won mug of jellybeans was mere symbolism as at stake was the chance to impress the industry professionals that were at the event, and hopefully use that as a stepping-stone to break into the games industry in Brisbane. “This second win has definitely pepped me for getting into the games industry,” said designer Ashley Niland-Rowe. “I didn’t think it was quite possible previously, but this has definitely changed my perspectives.”

The team unanimously agrees on their personal outlook on game making. As with many indie developers, they strive for the most “pure and innocent” form of game making. “There are a few companies I like on principle, such as Ubisoft, because they don’t just repackage and rerelease the games, you get a whole new experience even though they are a large franchise,” says programmer Jason Varlet.

Fellow programmer Tim Holman concurs. “They see the inherent value of supporting their fans and how much money they get just from doing that,” he said. “It should be everyone’s goal. Every hour that your consumer spends playing your game, it’s an hour that they don’t spend playing your competitor’s product.”

Mr Loria, for one, believes that this dip was a necessary to facilitate a change in the industry direction. “We’re in a transitional period now but it will get better,” he said. “We are hopefully an example of the start of this change, hopefully the people to bring it back up to a thriving industry in Australia.”

As recent graduates, they have yet to obtain a full-time job making games – ‘a big deal’ in their own words. Mr Niland-Rowe, however, remains unworried. “There’s no harm in developing games in our own time as we need to prove ourselves first,” he said. “If something took off, then we’d be more than happy to quit our day jobs.”

For Rockin’ Moses, whose collaborative synergy look set to bring them places, that day just might come very soon indeed.

Trailer for The Fifth Suit courtesy of Rockin’ Moses