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

 

How To Make A Basic Twine Game

Are you new to Twine? Have you just opened up the program and don’t know where to begin? Well, fear no more! I have eight simple steps on creating your very first game with Twine. Today we will be making a basic game that requires very little programming.

1

Here is the opening menu of the engine. As you can see, I’ve made a couple of games on here already. You have three formats to choose from, which you can find in the “formats” tab. However, for this, we’ll stick with the default Twine 2.0 setting (Harlowe 1.2.2). Begin by clicking the green button that says “+Story”. Name your story and press “+Add”.

2

This is the storyboard blueprints. This is where you will create your game. This is zoomed in, but you can zoom out by clicking the boxes on the tab in the bottom right. You can click the green “+Passage” button to create a new passage, but this will be unconnected so don’t do that. Instead, double-click the “Untitled Passage” box in the middle of the screen.

3

What you have here now is the passage. It is here that you can write your story and build your game. As you can see, I have already begun writing. The [[Begin Learning]] is the most basic form of programming in the engine. This is your button function, which gets you from one passage to the next. Go ahead and write anything in and when done, click the close button in the “Untitled Passage” line. We will ignore the “+tags” function for now as that is for later reference when your game is more complex.

4

As you can see on your blueprints page, you now have a second passage that has appeared. You will also notice a line between them. This means you have successfully linked the two pages, meaning you can go from page one to two now. To continue, double-click this newly made passage.

5

Repeat the same process as you did in Step Three. You don’t have to enter the exact story I have but do a similar one as it will make this easier to follow. This time, add two button functions instead of one. Once you do so, exit the passage.

A note to remember: Twine is very sensitive when it comes to passage names. Always use unique names as a passage can always be linked with the wrong one. I’ve made this mistake many times in my time with the engine.

6

Do you see two passages extending off the one now? If so, you have successfully created a branching narrative. This is where you can make your story with multiple endings. Continue the repeat the processes you did in Step Three and Five.

7

Now we come up to an interesting part of this: linking back to previous pages. As you can see here, I have a vampire in front of the castle. You may want to give your players a choice, either approach them or return to the fork in the road. To return to the fork, simply make a passage called [[Return to the Fork]]. From there, go to this new passage and then simply type the title of the passage (mine is [[Begin Learning]]). It should automatically show up when you begin typing, making it easier.

8

If your storyboard looks like mine then you have successfully created a nonlinear story that gives players choice. If you are happy with this, click either the TEST or PLAY buttons on the bottom right hand corner. You have successfully created a game, congratulations!

*As you can see on your game you have the automatic choice to go back, rendering the [[RETURN TO THE FORK]] function useless. However, keep it in as this will not be present in formats like SugarCube (port of Twine 1 engine).

9

BONUS: Publish

You can share your creation with your friends and family by clicking on your story name below. Go to the PUBLISH TO FILE function. Select your save spot and name it whatever you want. Save it as a HTML document. From there, find your file and your game will appear up in your browser of choice. You now have a game up and running. Well done! You can now either decide to work on this story more or explore the program more and create more complex one once you have gotten the hang of it.


Words by Cameron Lowe

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.