Recognition, in any medium, is not something every one can achieve. In terms of video games, it is true that large companies capable of creating large budget AAA titles hold a monopoly over the attention of the average consumer. Indie developers often have to claw their way onto the radars of large audiences by doing something truly groundbreaking or genre redefining. While not impossible, mass-market success is usually limited to games making use of mainstream marketing channels, however, seismic shifts are occurring in the ways games are marketed and distributed. These shifts allow developers worldwide to gain the traction needed in an ever evolving market making indie development more exciting than ever.
At the Forefront of Fun.
The game itself is encouraging in that it plays off current technological trends successfully, indicating the talent and creativity present within South Africa. More interestingly, the sort of platform being offered to Augmenters and its developer shows that there are those out there willing to nature the talents of developers, talents which give birth to truly heartfelt creations. The nurturing of talent has allowed products to improve in quality, which in turn radically impacts the community of producers and consumers. Emerging talents, tools and communities all work hand-in-hand to excel growth, creating a true renaissance in indie development.
One such community is the Make Games SA forum, which serves as a hub for indie developers seeking to promote their own games or seek talent for games in development. This serves a similar function to Sea Monster games, but provides a more intimate way of community development. Skilled individuals are constantly engaging with each other while trading off each other's ideas and embracing new techniques and technologies all contributing to what can only be described an a renaissance in indie development.
Communities such as these allow the talents and ideas of developers to improve, and in conjunction with improving technology and the genuine heart and passion local devs have, account for the explosion of interest in the industry., as well broadening the scope of the talents required in the industry. With artists, programmers, story writers all contributing to a growing community, you have an overall improvement of the quality of the games produced, which draws more attention to gaming. Design tools such as the Unity Engine have become more easily available to smaller devs and the level at which some devs can utilise this engine is truly awe-inspiring, as we see in the screenshots from Knife Media's RTS, Super Regency Deluxe.
This is an example of the ways South Africans have benefited from a global interest in games and the markets they seize. The game is designed as a tribute to classic RTS, a design philosophy that can be seen in it's charming character designs as well as the game mechanics themselves. Gameplay revolves around sending units to invade an conquer castles in order to generate wealth and units in order to grow ones power further. The game also makes use of the Vive gestures in order to issue commands during battle, showing how well local devs embrace emerging tech.
The character design is also rather charming, with models consisting of simple cylindrical soldiers, filling various roles such as archers and knights, this is makes everything seem all the more heartfelt, cementing the game as a love letter to earlier RTS. The game uses its charming design and gameplay, in order to bring across their love for the materials which inspired them, while expanding on aspects with the talents and technologies that are so rapidly emerging here.
The most noteworthy of these being the rAge expo, held in both Cape Town and Johannesburg. Attending one of these expos gives one an idea of just how far the industry has come within South Africa. The event manages to reel in massive AAA devs, with highlights from the 2016 expo being playable demos of Injustice 2 and Gears of War 4 months before release. It is clear that the larger companies take an interest, drawing larger crowds each year (2016's expo had around 40 000) which is a great achievement on its own, however whats more exciting is the way this trickles down to local developers. Since larger crowds have been drawn each year, indie devs are able to present their work to larger audiences, generating more interest from locals, for the indie market.
One notable game from last year's expo is Echo Plex (featured photo), a challenging puzzle game involving the use of a clone, who repeats your actions, to solve puzzles. The game is stylistically interesting, taking on a minimalist, neon aesthetic, achieving horror in a very unique way; rather than use dark, dingy environments to unsettle the player, the devs have gone for a sterile, futuristic approach which makes one feel as if the world is completely unfamiliar and inorganic. This is coupled with the stress the puzzle solving places on the player to create a surreal experience, that can be brain twisting at times. It's an encouraging example of creative and artistic as we see subtle touches and nuance to a game and concept that could end up mundane in unskilled hands.
Events like rAge are exciting as they represent the embracing of gaming and technology and its more niche aspects by the general public.The growth of the industry is seemingly unstoppable as it is in a constant state of improvement, on both a large and small scale. Gaming has become an entirely self sustaining ecosystem with its own set of politics, laws and histories and encompasses more and more aspects of life as it grows. The indie scene is able to produce new and interesting art, allowing people to carve out a comfortable living, which was not the case a decade ago. With growing interest from abroad and local platforms, talents and projects emerging constantly, the South African Developer is in prime position to conquer the industry and make it their own.
The games and websites mentioned can be visited at the following addresses: