Australian Indie Games Market and PAX

PAX Australia’s Indie Showcase shows that Australia has a thriving indie games industry, despite having no large studios. While indie games have typically struggled at conventions, not being able to afford the floorspace of AAA studios, PAX had a section of the floor set up for indie companies to showcase their games. And it was hugely successful. I was at all three days of 2014 PAX, and I hardly got a look at the indie games there. Not through choice, but through the fact that it was so damn busy in there I couldn’t get in there to have a look.

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This is the map of the showroom floor at PAX 2014. That orangey/red bit in the bottom right is the Australian indie games. Just beating out Xbox and League of Legends, it had the biggest floorspace in the hall. Although Xbox had the advantage of not showcasing 50 or so games in a similar sized lot, the ANZ Indie Pavilion was a huge success. Even outside of the indie pavilion, littered around the floor you can see smaller Australian based gaming companies. With this in mind, here are a few games that I saw over my three days at PAX that really stuck out in my head.

Airscape: The Fall of Gravity: This is a game by a Wollongong local, who (at the time of PAX) was just finishing high school. This was one of the games I spent the longest playing, and I was absolutely mesmerised by it. The soundtrack is calming, the character is adorable, the gravity is unexplainable (just watch the trailer) and the gameplay is simple, but engaging.

Montas: Montas is one that I did not actually get to play myself (note the above where I said I couldn’t get in), but I did watch others playing it. It is a survival horror game that offers very little information, apart from this creepy sentence –The player is the audience, Montas is the play, and you are invited up on stage.” Montas was being showcased on the Oculus Rift (another reason it was so hard to get to). Below is a photo I took of an accurately dressed cosplayer playing Montas.

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Metal Dead: Of course I was going to waltz over to a booth that had METAL DEAD written in huge, blood dripping letters. Speaking to the developers, we traded favourite bands, and I was told that they created this point and click zombie adventure game due to a love of metal and a love of zombies. Seems logical. I wrote a preview for the upcoming sequel here.

Nippy Cats: “The goal is simple – just keep the catnip away from a horde of ravenous cats as long as you can. It is a noble mission… a proud one. You will fail. Kitty always wins.” The first sentence on the website just about sums it up. This is a frustratingly difficult game (one best played on an iPad rather than a phone), where you drag your finger around the screen to try and keep the cats from getting the catnip.

Wave Wave: This. Game. Was. Impossible. Impossible. Impossible. It sounds easy. Hold your finger on the screen to keep your line going straight. Lift it up to turn at a 90* angle and keep going straight. Continue like that. Except do it at a ridiculously fast pace, with a rotating screen and seizure inducing colours. Wave Wave would not be out of place at a chemically enhanced rave. Just watch this trailer. My record for this game? 4 seconds.

Cloud Popper: A nice, relaxing change of pace from Wave Wave. 60 seconds, pop the clouds, don’t pop the bombs. Nice. Lovely. Fun. Relaxing. A chat with the developer revealed that while creating educational childrens apps, he learned that with both adults and children alike, their favourite part was popping clouds.

Screencheat: Again, another I did not get to play, but watched other people play, and it seemed to be a whole lot of fun. Essentially, it is a first person shooter for between 2-8 players, but with a twist. All the characters are invisible, and you need to screencheat in order to find out where your opponents are.

Particulars: A particle physics based game, Particulars had a very morose and introspective feel. It is a puzzle game woven through the life stories and memories of a struggling physicist called Alison. Based in Sydney and being sponsered by ScreenNSW (which is interesting considering that McCrea’s article specifically states that Film Victoria is one of the only companies showing a culutral interest in video games). The playthrough available was short and only the first few levels, but it was a relaxing, moody sort of puzzler, without the general stress and fast pace of other puzzle games.

As I have said in previous posts, I am very much a console gamer, and I have been criticised in the past for sticking mainly within my comfort zone and playing AAA games. PAX changed this for me, and I hope that it will continue to do this. While writing this, I actually bought one of the games that I wrote about (note: It was Particulars). The countdown is on for PAX 2015, and I am excited to see what games I come out of it with.

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