Canberra Game Makers Push Boundaries

In mid 2013, Canberra based ANU graduates Peter Castle, Tom Cox and Peter Simpson started on a colossal undertaking, determined to make their mark on the local (and perhaps international) gaming scene. With their passionate drive for gaming motivating them, this trio came up with a game which breaks the mould in more ways than one. Their creative flair, unique game play and intriguing storyline has led to a promising crowd-funding campaign, setting the gears in motion for what looks to be a tremendously successful venture. Woroni was fortunate enough to pick the brains of Tom Cox, Game Designer and Programmer, regarding his and his colleagues’ journey from passionate gamers to budding entrepreneurs.

  1.    What do you find most appealing in the genre and art style you have chosen for Tahira?

Our game is a turn-based tactics role-playing game. For the non-gamers reading, this means that combat takes the form of you controlling a group of characters on a grid, fighting against a group of enemies. This genre appeals to us as designers largely because it’s a genre that’s not well-explored by larger, established studios meaning there’s a whole lot of unexplored design space we can leverage.

The art style was largely chosen because it plays to our strengths. Before Tahira, Peter S was an accomplished 2D artist, so we were always going to be creating a 2D game. The choice to rotoscope our animations was based on wanting to capture that classic “Disney” animation feel. We feel it brings a great warmth and sense of humanity to the world of Tahira.

  1.    Tahira seems to be a very unique game in its game play and aesthetics. What games have contributed along the way?

Peter C and I spent a lot of time playing turn-based tactics games for the Game Boy Advance, in particular Fire Emblem and Final Fantasy: Tactics, so Tahira owes its existence to those games in a huge way. What I personally love about those games is the mesh of a compelling, character-driven story with nuances tactical game-play, and that’s something we’re really looking to create for our players.

Another of our biggest influences is The Banner Saga, which Stoic Studios released last year. We actually owe a lot to these guys, as their success has proven that this style of game can be successful, in terms of both game-play and art style. We’ve also used them as a reference for our own methods a couple of times.

  1.    How does a small game from Canberra compete with well-reputed multinational game developers?

Largely, we compete by not directly competing. As mentioned, turn-based tactics games are largely unexplored by bigger game studios. This means that there’s a lot of room for smaller independent studios to create successful titles in this genre, and we’ve seen that happen in the last couple of years with games like The Banner Saga and Shadowrun Returns.

  1.    To what extent has your liaison with industry professionals aided in the development of your project?

Our interaction with industry professionals has been overwhelmingly positive. At the end of last year, we went down to Melbourne for GCAP (Games Connect Asia-Pacific), and were overwhelmed by the generosity and positivity from everyone present: no-one was jealously guarding the secrets to their games and everyone was willing to offer advice on how to give ourselves the best chance of success. I really can’t say enough about how friendly the Australian game development industry is – everyone seems to have a genuine desire to see each other succeed.

  1.    How has social media aided in establishing and raising funds for your company?

Social media has been how we’ve built our audience so far – largely through Facebook, but also using Twitter and other services. We did an open Q and A on Reddit in recent weeks, which allowed us to engage with a new audience. Given that we have no marketing budget, this has been our primary means of getting people to engage with our product. Our Kickstarter campaign hasn’t gotten a great deal of press coverage, so it’s gotten to where it is almost entirely on word-of-mouth, and most of that stems from social media. So, at this stage, social media is of huge importance to us, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

  1.       What advice do you have for someone looking to enter not only your field but who wish to venture into unchartered entrepreneurial territory?

Don’t do it, unless you’re fully committed. I love my job, and getting to go to work every day and create something that’s truly ours is a wonderful feeling, but it’s an incredible amount of thankless work.

Finally, you need to be self-motivated. Once you start your own business, there is literally no-one but you telling you what to do, or when and how to work. It’s all too easy to let self-imposed deadlines slip, and give into the temptation to procrastinate, but if you don’t put the work in to make your business successful, no-one is.