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

STEAMing Ahead

South Australia is quickly becoming the prime location for those looking for employment in the STEM fields. For those who are uncertain, STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths. These fields currently offer diverse career opportunities, from medical advancements to the Australian Space Agency. However, there is one a vital component to STEM fields: Arts.

Arts and STEM have been inspiring each other for years, from Isaac Asimov’s three laws of robotics to the hard-scientific facts which make Andy Weir’s The Martian more realistic. This combination of STEM and the Arts is better known by professionals as STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics). STEAM has already been making itself known in South Australia, appearing at arts festivals and used to show off new locally developed technology.

In the 2017/2018 budget, the state government invested $250 million into Education to deliver more STEM topics to primary and secondary schools. Flinders University’s Tonsley Campus and its Innovation Hub, alongside the Medical Research and Science Centre (the cheese grater on North Terrace) are some STEM-focused buildings which now make up part of the Adelaide skyline.

It is expected STEM funding will increase with the new budget due in September. In 2018 the Adelaide Fringe generated $16.6 million at the box office and added $29.5 million to the state economy, as set out in their annual report. It is also the highest earning arts festival in Australia, generating a total of 39% of all multi-category ticket sales in the country. These figures show there is money in both STEM and the Arts in South Australia. Combined, they will make a far bigger impact on the local culture and economy than they do separately. Including Arts in STEM education will learning more interactive and fun while STEM in festivals like the Fringe more engaging and interactive.

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Beautiful night for the Fringe!

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Modern technology has been heavily influenced by the arts. Many hardware and software engineers/programmers have long been inspired by technology in science fiction. One example of this is the Adelaide based company Voxon Photonics. Their technology, the Voxon VX1, is a 3D volumetric engine that was inspired by science fiction, more specifically Dejarik in Star Wars: A New Hope. For it to work, they required the aid of the STEM fields, especially engineering and mathematics (key components in hardware and software design). They create games to demonstrate their technology’s power. The VX1 was showcased in the Indie Games Room at AVCon 2018, allowing the public to interact with their exciting new technology. While the VX1 can do other things like medical imaging, art shows its power off in a more engaging way. Voxon Photonics has advertised pushing to get more local games developed for the VX1, showing it off at Game Plus (a co-working digital games space on Pirie Street) in June 2018.

Recent advances in science and technology have influenced the Adelaide arts scene. One example is the University of South Australia’s Museum of Discovery (MOD). Opened in 2018, MOD on North Terrace is where visitors can engage with science and technology through art (STEAM). Their current displays are a showcase on the future STEAM can bring. One example being the genetic modification of children, if they’re to survive on Earth from choices made today. This allows visitors to witness these changes first hand. For more on MOD, check out our review here.

In terms of festivals, 2017’s OzAsia Festival saw an international example of STEAM. This was Keiichiro Shibuya’s The End, starring Japanese vocaloid Hatsune Miku. Unlike a traditional opera, The End is entirely virtual, containing only Miku and showcases the relationship between art and technology. This also is a reflection on the term vocaloid itself, as Miku is actually nothing more than computer software herself. Another example of STEAM is coming to 2018’s OzAsia. Called War Sum Up, it is a 21st-century electronic opera that is summed up in three words “Music. Manga. Machines.” This unique blend will be showcasing technology working alongside Japanese Noh theatre.

The South Australian Government should be pushing STEAM rather than just STEM. It is already happening around Adelaide, and if given that extra boost, can help make Adelaide stand out against other Australian cities. STEAM can help bring more young people to Adelaide and benefit other fields like tourism and education. A STEAM revolution has the potential to completely reinvent Adelaide, making it a younger, more vibrant city.

What are your thoughts? Should South Australia be aiming towards a STEAM future rather than a STEM one? Leave your comments below.


Words by Cameron Lowe

Meet-the-Team-Cameron2Cameron 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.

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash.