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The state of Australian game development at Gametech 2011

Laura Parker from Gamespot AU has covered one of the panels from the two day Gametech 2011 conference which ended yesterday. The panel consisted of Tony Lawrence (general manager at 2K Marin and president of the Game Developers Association of Australia), Tom Crago (CEO at Tantalus Interactive), and Cari Callewaert (lead unity evangelist at Unity Technologies).

The panelists discussed the current state of the Australian games industry and acknowledged the hardships it has been experiencing in recent times. It's going through a lot of change and Lawrence says that it must find its direction and focus internationally. The new studios that are popping up are representing the future of the local industry, and these start-ups are embracing digital distribution and new models. Special mention was given to Halfbrick Studios and Firemint in helping the industry get to where it is now.

In relation to Firemint, Tom Crago, sees publisher acquisition as a beneficial thing for the industry. From Gamespot AU...

(Tom Crago) Of course, it's preferable when local studios create their own intellectual property and manage to stay independent," he said. "The industry should be proud of its history of making games in this country; we've been doing it for more than 30 years."

Other important issues raised include the new research and development tax credit, which Crago believes is a positive step forward and will encourage further investment in the games industry. Further support is needed for the nurturing of students in the game education sector with a wider range of game related courses, internship opportunities, and cadetship schemes required. Students should be encouraged on entrepreneurship and informed on what works and what doesn't.

In a discussion on independent games development, the panelists say that the big challenge facing new developers is Game Design. They cite the lack of experience as being a real disadvantage, and while indie developers can produce quality game titles, most don't know the difference between good and bad game design and the know-how of experienced game designers. It's of a similar sentiment from Nick Haggar, Project Director at Blue Tongue Entertainment, expressed in a Kotaku AU interview a few months ago...

(Nick) "If you look at those guys who are successful in the iOS space, they are seasoned developers. They did not start by creating iOS games – they moved here because they have the experience and they know how to make games.....

I'm not sure if we’re seeing the right fragmentation with seeds breaking off from larger groups and being the genesis for experienced developers."

All in all, an interesting insight on the state of the local games industry by notable industry heads. Read all about it at Gamespot AU!

Submitted by Glenn Watson (not verified) on Thu, 23/06/11 - 6:55 PM Permalink

In regards to more games development courses, I think the game development courses should be reduced, instead I think more traditional courses like computer science should take over with electives in games being offered. This gives you better options once you finish your degree.

In terms of internships, when companies aren't even hiring seasoned professional it'd be hard for them to offer internships.

Submitted by NathanRunge on Thu, 23/06/11 - 8:15 PM Permalink

I still agree with Glenn. We have an extremely large number of game related courses in Australia, relative to the number of potential jobs that are going to be created. Basically, the rate of graduation far exceeds the rate of industry recovery. For the industry, short-term, this could be a good thing. If you're running a reasonably sized studio having hundreds/thousands of potential employees will drive down wages and increase the possible quality of new employees.

If you're a student, however, this is a particularly bad situation. This is especially true when you consider the wide-ranging quality standards between courses. Some deliver well generally, others only in key areas. Some are completely disconnected from reality. What is needed, I feel, is more honesty in the education sector. Some truths about the industry, best practice on getting a job or starting an indie studio, etc. Nevertheless, the situation isn't great and is also potential a destabalising influence.

I did find one quote interesting:
"looking to capitalise on the new wave of success in the local market. "

What exactly does that even mean? I also took some exception to the assertion that experience is equivalent to good game design. Certainly, experience is a positive factor, but I feel that game design is a healthy combination of inate/nurtured ability, in combination with an education and understanding of the subject. With experience we hone our skills, but it is often a lack of understanding, planning or appreciation that leads to failure in the independent market. Of course, when it comes to effective team-work, documentation and specific technical skills, experience is paramount.