Inside the Indie Games Room at AVCon

A sneak peek into some new and upcoming games that appeared at AVCon.


Now in its eighth year, the Indie Games Room (IGR) is the prime area to check out new and upcoming games by local developers at the Adelaide Anime and Video Game Convention (AVCon). In previous years IGR has hosted many great local titles, including the popular 2D platformer Hollow Knight. Here are some standout games that on display in the IGR this year.

Cardboard Carnage by Cardboard Kids

Making its debut in 2019, Cardboard Carnage is a game developed by Cardboard Kids, a development team made of TAFE SA students. The game was made using Unreal Engine and is inspired by games like Psychonauts and similar games from the original Xbox – early Xbox 360 era (2003-2007). There is currently no release date for Cardboard Carnage.

Homeowner by Birdrun

Developed by William Newman and Ashleigh Hanson, Homeowner is a 2D top down survival game developed during a Global Game Jam. The premise of the game is trying to survive the daily life of being a homeowner. This is explored through maintaining your character through basic needs, like income, sleep, food and entertainment, similar to a Sim. Its pixel art style and colour palette are inspired by games created for the Commodore 64 in the 1980s. While Homeowner made its AVCon debut in 2019, Newman and Hanson have previously made appearances in IGR before. The game can be downloaded for free here.

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The team at Manatech in IGR.

Little Reaper by Little Reaper Games

Little Reaper is a 2.5D platformer that follows Ollie, the assistant to the Grim Reaper. Other titles like Ducktales and Hollow Knight have been listed as inspirations for this title. The game has been developed in the Unity game engine alongside C# coding. Little Reaper Games’ debuted at AVCon this year, but Little Reaper has appeared at Australian PAX, bar one, during its six-year development. Developer Adam Robertson says they hope to release the game on PC later in 2019. There are plans to port the game for Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4. Check out their website here.

Manatech by Drunk Galah

Manatech is a top down fantasy twin stick shooter for PC. The game has players selecting characters to pit against each other in an arena during a time limit. Developer Peter Cowen said its art style was inspired by World of Warcraft (circa 2010) and Battlerite. Developed in Unreal Engine and this is the third time Manatech has been featured in the IGR at AVCon. While there is no release date so far, the developers plan on releasing to Steam Early Access within the next year with console ports coming later on. Check out Drunk Galah’s website here.

Rooftop Renegade by Melonhead Games

Returning for their second AVCon, Rooftop Renegade is a 2D side scrolling platformer set in a futuristic city. The game was developed using Unreal Engine and its art style is described by the developers as “Pixar meets sci-fi”. Melonhead Games held several competitions over the weekend around the game and were selling stickers of the game, which were designed by local artist Kayla Woods. They are hoping to sell Rooftop Renegade at the next AVCon.  For more information on Melonhead Games, check out our Spotlight feature here and their website here.

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Rooftop Renegade on display.

Tinker & Spell by Anthony Robinson

Developed in Unity, Tinker & Spell is a 2D Metroidvania side scrolling platformer made its AVCon debut in 2019. The game has been worked on by its developers for the last six months and has an anime-inspired art style. Its primary narrative focus is around a collapsed civilisation and magic working alongside robot tech. There is currently no release date for this game, but you can check out their The Rookies page here.

 


These are only some of the games on display in the IGR during AVCon in 2019. For a full list of the games present check out the link to the IGR website here.

Words and images by Cameron Lowe

 

An Overview of AVCon 2019

The weekend where Anime and Video Games rule Adelaide’s CBD.

The Adelaide Anime and Video Game Convention (AVCon) has been uniting a community of pop culture fans for sixteen years. It has also become the prime convention to try out upcoming local games and sample the latest anime series. There was a little bit of everything for everyone there, from gaming and anime, to indie art and cosplay.

Gaming Goodness

Gamers were spoiled for choice throughout the event. Nintendo were back again, giving the wider public a chance to try out their latest and greatest first-party games for the Nintendo Switch. StreetGeek returned, offering an old-fashioned LAN (Local Area Network) experience with games like CounterStrike: Global Offensive and StarCraft. Retrospekt offered a free chance to experience classic consoles like the Commodore 64 and Super Nintendo, as well as gaming magazines from the late 1990s-early 2000s. Numerous speed-runners and tournaments also took place for some extra fun. Games that could be played in tournaments included old favourites like Super Smash Bros. and League of Legends. Tabletop gamers were covered too, with a number of roleplaying and board games on offer to play, like Call of Cthulhu and Settlers of Catan.

 

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The Nintendo Switch stand

Anime Galore

Anime lovers were spoilt for choice as well. Madman’s stall was full of manga, anime and J-Pop artists. Some interesting things on sale at this stall were artbooks from the Studio Ghibli films. Animeworks sold a variety of Japanese anime figurines and toys. If shopping isn’t your thing, there are always plenty of screenings by Madman and Hannabee. Special guests this year included Paul St. Peter, the voice actor for Punch in Cowboy BeBop: The Movie and Kurama in Naruto, and a livestreaming event with Spike Spencer (Shinji Ikari in Neon Genesis Evangelion).

Indies Assemble

Indie artists has become one of the fastest growing areas of AVCon. Artist’s Alley is the place to go for fan made art to pick up something unique. One standout stall was The Bee’s Knees, where one could purchase a Splatoon heat-pack or select stickers and badges*. Conventions like AVCon are one of the few places where you can check out these artists with their work on display. The Indie Games Room (IGR) was the other main indie zone at the event. It is where Australian game developer’s community came to show off their latest projects. Games like Melonhead GamesRooftop Renegade and Drunk Galah’s Manatech were available to try out and offer feedback to the developers.

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Artist’s Alley

Cosplayer Paradise

The AVCon experience would not be complete without the almost endless number of cosplayers. All over the event, people came dressed as their favourite anime or video game characters. A personal favourite was a cosplayer dressed as Malon from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. The places to check out the best of the best were in the Cosplay Competition and parades which occurred throughout the event. Anyone interested in Lolita also had a chance to learn more about the fashion or participate in a Lolita parade.

Verdict

AVCon is one of the prime pop culture conventions in Adelaide. With many great games to try out and pop culture goods to pick up, AVCon proved once again to be a success. If you haven’t been but love games and anime, definitely check it out when it returns next year. It is one of the many friendly places where you can check out pop culture in Adelaide.

 


Words by Cameron Lowe

 

* Connect with The Bees Knees through facebook, instagram, or etsy.

Spotlight: Melonhead Games

Three years ago, game developers Patrick Webb and Sam Frost were classmates in TAFE SA. They had just finished a student project for AVCon and were exhausted but eager begin another project. This was the beginning of Melonhead Games, an Adelaide-based independent game developer. Now, three years later, they are in the process of creating Rooftop Renegade in their office at Gameplus, a sharespace for game developers on Pirie Street.

Melonhead Games’ name originates from “quit your daydreaming melonhead”, a quote by Abraham Simpson from The Simpsons. Once a team of nine, it currently has four members: Webb (Designer and Producer), Frost (Character and Technical Artist), George Martin (Blueprint Scripter), and Alex Ferrabetta (Environmental and Graphic Artist). Their game, Rooftop Renegade, is a fast-paced side-scrolling action platformer. Developed in Unreal Engine 4, it is heavily inspired from game series like Trials and Sonic the Hedgehog, while its Pixar meet Stars Wars aesthetics are drawn from Ferrabetta’s love of sci-fi.

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The team at Melonhead Games. Alex Ferrabetta, Sam Frost, George Martin, and Patrick Webb.

Since beginning development, Melonhead Games have done a number of public playtests of Rooftop Renegade at AVCon in the past. Their most recent being during April at Greenlight Comics. Webb has said the feedback from the public has been generally very positive and has inspired them to create new features for Rooftop Renegade, allowing the player experience to improve with each playtest they do.

“Being your own boss” is what Webb considers both a benefit and a challenge being an independent game developer. “It’s a great feeling to have the exact job you’ve always wanted, but there is a ton of responsibility attached with no safety net, and it’s very easy to ignore your own deadlines. Like any start-up, it’s a tough ride but incredibly rewarding.”

Melonhead Games are hoping to release Rooftop Renegade on both PC and console. While they don’t have a set release date as of writing this, they have a number of playtests coming up. Adelaide gamers can check them out at a second playtest at Greenlight Comics on June 8 and AVCon in July. For fans outside of Adelaide, they are hoping to make PAX AUS in Melbourne later in 2019.


Words by Cameron Lowe

National Young Writers Festival 2018

 

The National Young Writer’s Festival (NYWF) has been a go-to for young writers across Australia for over twenty years. Held in Newcastle, NSW, over four days, NYWF is part of the This is Not Art (TiNA) Festival. This year it was held between September 27-30 and it was my first visit to both the festival and Newcastle. My time there has left my mind teeming with new ideas and a better understanding of what it’s like to be a young writer in Australia.

There was something for essentially every writer possible at NYWF. There were panels and workshops on fiction, journalism, and gaming to name just a few. I attended a variety of different topics, from community journalism to getting work as a writer.

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I found there were two particularly memorable panels. The first was ‘Write Off the Page’, where four panellists gathered and discussed games and digital poetry. The panellists included: Andrew Gleeson, Karen Lowry, Chad Toprak, and Cecile Richard. Lowry spoke of her digital poetry and electronic literature, which includes a detective game with poetry (check it out here). Toprak mentioned a game (Cart-Load-of-Fun) he made for the trams in Melbourne to try and bring games into a public sphere. One of his successes of this game was convincing a sceptical stranger and making them smile. Read more about Toprak here. Twine, a game engine, was mentioned and recommended for writers wanting to explore game development.

Another memorable panel was ‘Narrative Prosthesis’, which was panelled by Robin M. Eames and Alistair Baldwin. I went into this panel at random and discovered it was about disability in the arts. Being someone with a disability, I found this panel extremely empowering. It made me feel equal to other issues discussed over the weekend and raised some interesting points about disability in the arts. One fact I discovered is how it’s cheaper to hire a non-disabled person to play a disabled role on television than someone with that disability. I was surprised to hear this and it’s got me asking two questions: why does this happen and how can they get away with it? I wish to explore this further in future.

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As I travelled to NYWF with Empire Times (which I currently edit), I attended and participated in the ‘Student Media Symposium’. Held by the editors from Farrago (Melbourne University student magazine), the Symposium was mainly a discussion about student media, which included topics like what is expected of student media and how we address student politics. We also discussed issues in student media, coming back to common contemporary issues, such as budget, diversity and university politics.

Beyond the panels, discussions and workshops were plenty of other free events to attend across both NYWF and TiNA. Countless readings were on across Newcastle on a variety of different topics. One reading I sat in was called The Best Book I (N)ever Read. It was fascinating to listen to the stories on what other people thought about what are often referred to as the ‘best’ books and why they didn’t read them. Other readings included By the Sea (held at Newcastle Beach), Why I Write, and Late-Night Readings.

Zine Collection

 

Another event that took place was the NYWF Zine Fair. Held on the Sunday at Newcastle Library, the Zine Fair was where attendees could pick up zines from writers from Newcastle and across Australia. It’s here that I picked up copies of The Line (a free Newcastle zine) and a graphic novel called Ghost Beach by Ben Mitchell.

NewsXpress, a newspaper for TiNA, was also present throughout the festival. NewsXpress ran over the four days in different locations of the festival and was created by editor Danni McGrath through screen printing. The newspaper printed a new issue every day of the festival, typically discussing news and what’s happening around Newcastle. I watched McGrath create a copy of the Sunday issue when I picked my copy up (also on Sunday), fascinated by how it was done. It has now left me with the intention to try it out at smaller conventions here in Adelaide in future.

Overall, the 2018 NYWF overall was a lot of fun and full of useful information for every kind of writer. I enjoyed my visit and the addition of panels about gaming and podcasts make it the most contemporary and advanced literary festival I have attended yet. All the panels and workshops were free and the Zine Fair is a fantastic place to pick up a literary souvenir and support local writers and zine-makers. If I have the opportunity, I would love to go back next year, and if you do too, I highly recommend you visit it too.


 

Words and photography by Cameron Lowe

Meet-the-Team-Cameron2

Cameron Lowe is a horror and sci-fi writer, editor and student. He’s had fiction and articles featured in Speakeasy Zine and Empire Times. He loves to read, play video games, and drink green tea. He’s one of the 2018 editors at Empire Times. He tweets at @cloweshadowking.

Twine: A Game Engine For Writers

Throughout my creative writing degree, I wanted to learn how to write and make video games. However, I found out it was a topic not mentioned much by my tutors, due to it possibly being seen as digital media rather than literary. It was even more difficult finding an engine that uses literary skills rather than digital skills. However, writers rejoice, there is a game engine we can use. This engine allows the use of literary skills to create video games, allowing us to get in on the popularity of games. This engine is called Twine.

First released in 2009, Twine is an open source game engine that allows users to create interactive fiction. This interactive fiction is primarily text-based, much like PC games from the early 1980s like Zork, but can contain images, music and video. The program is free to download and from the time of writing is currently in Twine 2.0 (version 2.2.1). Twine uses three different computer codes to work: JavaScript, CSS, and HTML5. For those writers unfamiliar with coding terms, these are the most basic codes used in computer programming. They are typically used in creating web pages and their functions.

You can create many different narratives with Twine. My personal favourite (and recommended for beginners) is the “Choose Your Own Adventure” narrative. This allows you to create a narrative with multiple endings and make the players think carefully before they making a choice. This was the first story style I created when I started with the engine back in 2016, hence why I recommend it for beginners. The narrative style is simple to create and requires little coding knowledge.

If you are looking to create a more complex game like a survival horror or RPG, then you will need to learn coding. Thankfully, it is very easy to create code in Twine. The internet contains many tips and shares source code on how to develop functions like keys, playback video, and health points. For those interested, check out this example from Twine Wiki about creating a key using code. A word of warning: some codes were written a few years ago and may be incompatible with newer versions of Twine. It will also take time to learn this, but it will let you create more complex stories.

One piece of advice before creating anything in Twine: plan your narrative. You need to know what happens on each panel before you begin in the engine. You have to make sure your story makes sense before constructing it, or you will find it to be very difficult and tedious going back and fixing everything later on. I know this because I have made the same mistake. I am usually someone who never plans when writing, which is fine for short stories or novels, but not for video games.

You can also use Twine as a basis for developing a game further in another engine like Unity. Due to its basic coding script, you can develop a game completely within the engine and give it to a friend or colleague who knows game programming. The narrative aspect of the engine also allows your programming friend to get a feel for your game which they can replicate in another engine.

If you are looking into writing for video games, Twine is a great starting point. It allows literary writers to transfer their skills to digital media with ease. Check out some examples of what people have made here. You can download the engine from the link to their site here.


Words by Cameron Lowe 

camCameron Lowe is a horror and sci-fi writer, editor and student. He’s had fiction and articles featured in Speakeasy Zine and Empire Times. He loves to read, play video games, and drink green tea. He’s one of the 2018 editors at Empire Times. He tweets at @cloweshadowking.