The Australian Centre for the Moving Image was host yesterday to the Melbourne leg of the public forum for the Interactive Games Fund. It was the first of many to be organised by Screen Australia in a nation-wide open discussion on how to best utilise the new $20 million Interactive Games Fund so that it has a meaningful impact for the local games industry.
Registrations were completely filled for a packed out Melbourne audience at ACMI, and from the numerous topics that were brought up yesterday, the most prominent of them turned out to be the issue of "prototype funding". Two opposing camps clashed on the idea of allocating funds towards prototype funding, where funding goes into the early stages of a games project, from a proof of concept to the more complete vertical slice. Those who were for prototype funding were games students and smaller companies, and the idea gained additional support for the benefit of helping up-skill film/tv industry in their foray into games development...
(Jazrozz) More meanderings. The prototype funding concept was more favoured amongst the students and smaller companies. #gamesfund
(Alex Farrar) Love the idea if using prototype funding to up-skill creatives from the film/tv industry in games devt #gamesfund
However, prototype funding was staunchly opposed by Grant Davies from Endgame Studios, as well as Trent Kusters (previously from Torus Games and now heading up his own indie studio, League of Geeks). Both developers with decades of experience in the games industry had some strong words on Twitter against prototype funding...
(GrantTheAnt) Can we call prototyping funding what it actually is? Black hole expenditure. #gamesfund
Trent followed the same sentiment with a tweet which gained support from other experienced games developers, Tony Albrecht (previously from Ratbag Games, Pandemic Studios etc), and Paul Turbett (Interzone Games, Spinfast, and his indie studio Black Lab Games)
(Trent) Re; prototype funding. Complete waste of money/time. Do it yourself. Really, is there any instance where it should be gov funded? #GamesFund
Tony Albrecht @TonyAlbrecht
@TrentKusters I agree. If you are not willing to invest your own time and money into a prototype, then why should anyone else?
Paul Turbett @blacklabgames
@TrentKusters agreed.funding should help cre8 finished products, not experiment with ideas.If an idea is not worth yr resources don't do it
Due to the limitations of twitter, the issue on prototype funding has prompted both Grant and Trent to expand on their thoughts against it through their blogs. A highly informative post from Grant explained the different types of prototype funding (proof of concept, vertical slice, enterprise funding, production funding), and explains why most of these types do not warrant being funded by the games fund. Production funding, however, is where Grant believes we have the best chance of success. From Grant's post...
(Grant) Finally, there’s production funding, or funding a good game idea to completion from whatever stage it’s currently in. I think this is a great idea, and in my view where most if not all the money should go. The only thing that will drive the recovery of our local industry is strong original IP, Australian manufactured and Australian owned. It creates jobs, it trains workers, it brings in export revenue.
Grant also provides some compelling arguments against projects that target specific game platforms which he believes the Interactive Games Fund should not be supporting, and I think many would be inclined to agree with him. Considering the intense competition in markets such as the smartphones, tablets, and Social/Facebook, it makes much more sense to support projects that are multi-sku and aim for many platforms and markets...
(Grant) One caveat to the production funding is that I strongly believe smartphone/tablet/Facebook-only games should be prohibited. The reason is that these markets are far too fickle and hit-driven. I’m not saying iOS should be prohibited entirely, but that any project with iOS should be a multi-sku project, also targeting PC/eShop/XBLA/PSN, to mitigate the risks involved in smartphone.
It's hard to argue with Grant's points, and with the public forum kicking off in Adelaide today and then Brisbane, Sydney, and the Webinar next week, we are most definitely looking forward to further discussions that expand on this particular topic. Keep your eye out on the #GamesFund hashtag on twitter, follow the public discussions on the Australian Interactive Games Fund options paper, or RSVP to the public forum in your state or the online Webinar.