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The state of the Australian Game Industry.

Posted by mochumbo on Wed, 08/01/03 - 7:51 PM

On the outside it looks as though all is great, the power hitters of the Australian game industry are all working on projects and there are a few jobs laying around for those with enough ambition and skill to nab them.

However is all as good as it seems? Australian developers are forced by American publishers to design and develop their titles so that they can be squarely aimed at the American audience. An understandable move since the vast majority of people who purchase their games will in fact be American themselves.

This I feel is very bad for the health and state of the game industy in our country. How are we going to distinguish ourselves as a nation of great game developers if we are forced by those who control the purse strings to make stuff that looks and feels like all the rest of the American stuff on the market?

Developers get feed the lines, ?you will alienate the American market? or ?they won't go for it? which I rekon is a load of crap. Some aspect or another of ?Australian? culture (its always a bit distorted) is popular in the United States, take for example the crocodile hunter. Love it or Hate it and no matter how it distorts the image of the Average Aussie it is a show that has a Australian flavor and is HUGE in America. Then if you take a look at our ?motherland? (the Brits) they have always been avid fans of our soaps.

We CAN push whats left of our culture onto other nations in the form of Electronic Entertainment, cept don't do it like a crappy T.V. show. Aussie Developers are a pretty clever bunch of people we know you CAN make games with fresh and FUN gameplay, just don't be afraid to give it an Australian setting and storyline.

But how mochumbo? Our publisher laughed at us and told us that they could never sell a game with Bunyip in the title. Well i'm not sure of an immediate solution, what I do know is that a government funded firm similar to the Australian Film Finance Commision is required to help make this happen. Don't the government realise that film is a rusting artform and games are the way of the future?

Anyways nothing like a morning rant to kickstart the day.

Submitted by Maitrek on Thu, 20/03/03 - 1:32 AM Permalink

Tripitaka :

quote:I don't think you quite got my point Maitrek - what I'm emphasising is that if you want to enter the Australian games industry, don't do it for the money. Do it for the love. There are enough passionate and talented people out there to make it a great industry, but you can't enter it wearing rose coloured glasses on.

quote:The idea that anyone would go out and make a game in the Australian industry solely in the pursuit of profit is absolutely laughable, I'm afraid. It just doesn't work that way. That's not what Australian developers are after, and even if they were, it's not in their reach.

Maybe you are missing my point as well. You are saying that the Australian games industry can't turn a good profit, or any real profit for that matter, NO industry in the world is going to survive no matter how much love goes in to it - there is CERTAINLY a profit in the industry, and also I'm sure there is alot of sacrifice that goes into making that profit, I'm more-or-less saying that you are exaggerating the state of the industry.

I'm also saying in the previous post of mine, that I think the Australian industry *could* make different/innovative/"whatever you want to call them" games, they do have a choice, but obviously the only way they can motivate a large enough group of people to get involved is to minimise the risk inherent in the products design, and maximise the security of the paycheque...

There's obviously no way I can convince you that this could happen until it does, so I guess I'm going to leave it there.

quote:There are enough passionate and talented people out there to make it a great industry

Perhaps you can help me out with this one, because obviously I have no idea what a great "industry" is, do you mean enough talented passionate people to make the "industry" turn a profit, or to actually make different/unique/innovative products and dare I say, games that aren't ridiculously safe/bland in their design.

What I want to clear up, is that I'm not passionate about the games "industry" -> I'm passionate about making games, and I mean *good games*, not boring dull designs that I've played before. If someone were to offer me a job at 15000-20000 a year making a game that I could believe was a good/great product, then I would, but someone would have to pay me five times that amount if they wanted me to work on some craptastic boring project - because I personally believe, *as a gamer*, that the industry is flooded with same-old products as it is and there's only so much as a gamer that I can take.


quote:Maitrek : I know the rest of the world doesn't think like this and it's unrealistic to imagine people ever will...but they probably should :) At least, in my opinion....I'm sure the rest of the world thinks that I should think differently, but I'm as stubborn as they are in terms of changing my thinking.

That's my way of saying I'm aware of the fact that no one actually acts like this, and that from a purely non-philosophical/grounded point of view, I too should buy Australian products. But unfortunately I'm just not wired that way and I'll always buy whatever product happens to fulfil criteria like price vs performance of function etc etc and not pay attention to loyalty to a "certain group of people who have no affect on the product itself".

I'm not saying that you are going to kill the American export market, let's put this in a fictitious setting to explain my thinking, cause that's purely what this is, idealogy bs that just isn't practical in any way because no one cares about this crap anyway.

Let's imagine you had slaved your guts growing apples, and they were very nice apples, and you were selling them at a inter-national marketplace - a sort of apple selling market where consumers run around buying whatever apples they like. How would you feel if some person went off and bought an average apple from another vendor over your really fine apples, at the same price no less, just because that consumer came from the same nation as the competitor?

Obviously you'd think that consumer was a dickhead, and most likely a fool as well.

I'm not saying you are a fool or a dickhead, that example is extremely narrow-minded and misses a whole bunch of factors surrounding international marketing, but from my purely dreamer point of view, that's why I work the way I do. The problem is, from my point of view, is that your way of thinking is a self-fulfilling idealogy - ie everyone wants to think that way - ie look out for your own country - so that becomes the reality of the situation. America looks out for itself, Australia looks out for itself etc etc, until everyone is looking out for themselves and it becomes a survival of the fittest game, and let's face it, Australia ain't that fit - we are small! That's why I think that way of thinking is slightly flawed, because it leads to a downward spiral of non-cooperation between countries over the well being of the worlds population.

There will always be people on your side of the fence, and there will always be people on my side of the fence, that's what stops the whole situation from going too far either way and screwing everything up, it's called equillibrium.

Submitted by fuzzmeister on Thu, 20/03/03 - 8:05 AM Permalink

On the topic of Australiana in games, awhile back i made an australian themed map for Counter-Strike entitled de_outback. The story i used was fabricated from the current news at the time (with prehaps little reality), that the terrorists were very angry escaped 'boat people'... anyway i had to put something in for a story!.

I too wanted to see more australian themed games and i crammed as much as i could into this level.

check it out, you can read a review and download it @

also when i heard of Ty, i wondered why no Joey? (a concept i had i mind before i discovered Ty), any thoughts on this?

Submitted by Daemin on Thu, 20/03/03 - 8:47 AM Permalink

fuzzmeister: So you're responsible for that outback map in cs... Now we know who to kill... (j/k)

Submitted by Maitrek on Thu, 20/03/03 - 9:42 AM Permalink

Maybe because someone got to Ty first and hence kinda killed the "originality" of the Joey concept? I think in some ways it can be hard to get a product produced if such a similar product is already out there and released recently, marketing-wise you'd probably want to leave at least a bit of a gap chronologically speaking so that you don't get too closely associated with the other "Australiana" game.

Aside from that, it's obviously just as "strong" a concept as a Tassie Tiger.

Submitted by fuzzmeister on Thu, 20/03/03 - 2:38 PM Permalink

that download unfortunatley is not the final release of the map.. no online links to it though as the last update (final) was on my site only which disappeared with my host.

As for Ty, i had to wonder why they didn't use the biggest aussie icon - the roo (Hollywood even made a movie about one).

perhaps Ty was more original an idea than the roo and made it succeed so well.

Submitted by Maitrek on Thu, 20/03/03 - 9:41 PM Permalink

I think they chose not to do a kangaroo, or a koala, or platypus or whatever possibly because they wanted to avoid being stereotyped into a strictly Australian product, although it is a very Australian product, and I guess to an extent the Tazzi Tiger does have representation in "world culture" (a certain cartoon character comes to mind), surely we have some people in the know roaming these forums?

Submitted by mochumbo on Fri, 21/03/03 - 6:26 AM Permalink

I miss a couple of days and this thread explodes again, I love it, great work everyone.

Tripitaka : I agree with most/all the things you say, and get the feeling that you understand the core of the problems that I'm suggesting and have some ideas as to where the solutions may lay.

Maitrek: Ok you make some valid points, yes the Australian Industry CAN make money, but only by appealing to the American market. (since we all know that is the dominating force) This DOES violate your everybody is equal theory, since we aren't considering everybody equal... We have to consider the American market to a greater extent and thus try to appeal to that market to a greater extent. However if we stick by our guns and endure our "labour of love" and make a game that revolves around a culture that the American audience may not understand, it won't be a raging success financially. But you WILL have created something different/original and creative.

Again look at the movie industry, and often its not always the big blockbuster movie that is the best. (generally again will appeal and be aimed at an American audience) Take for example Lock Stock and Two Smoking barrels, its a great film. (will I think so anyway) It was massive with UK and AUS/NZ audiences. Yet didn't do all that well at the American box office and hence its overall box office collections where down considerably against I dunno, Pulp Fiction. But why? Because it wasn't aimed at the Americans, they didn't understand the language or the humor. The lack of appeal to this very large and dominating market reduced its profitability but yet its still a good film.

The same can be said about stand-up comedy, UK Comedians are still funny, they get laughs in the UK and Australia. But not America, again because the humor is generally lost on the American audience. Yet American comedians, who are also very funny may not be accepted by the UK audience. But always, the American comedian will generally make more money. Why? America has the larger market.

Yes you can make money in the game industry (while I'm not saying its easy) it makes it a LOT easier if you are able to pitch an idea that is going to appeal to an American publisher and hence the large American audience. But if you want to create something that YOU personally are interested in and start exploring cultures foreign to American Pop, you won't make as much money but you will find your work more personally rewarding.

Finally Maitrek, while some of my posts may come across as suggesting that we the Australian market should make Australian themed games. Its not entirely right. They are the sort of games I personally would like to make, but I just want the Australian Game industry to stop considering the Australian market as secondary behind the larger American market. I want as you suggest to consider all markets equal (possibly with a hint of Australian Bias), for studios to pitch a game that might not have Americans as the primary target.

Oh yeah Fuz, nice work with the level (from the screenies I have seen) keep up the good work.

Submitted by Maitrek on Fri, 21/03/03 - 12:01 PM Permalink

Now that's a balanced opinion if I ever saw one, my left wing stuff probably drives most people nuts :)

But to add to that, I just want to clear up one tiny detail

"However if we stick by our guns and endure our "labour of love" and make a game that revolves around a culture that the American audience may not understand, it won't be a raging success financially. But you WILL have created something different/original and creative"

I think it's not so much basing the game around a culture the American market won't understand, it's about basing the game around a market the American publishers don't understand. There is a market in America for lots of different styles of games - including original ones - alot of "new/different" ideas nowadays are cleverly guised old ideas (Half Life being one example) and those old ideas did reasonably well in America.

Just thought I'd clear up that I'm not entirely convinced that culture changes the heart of a game, but it definitely does change it's face a little.

Submitted by aki on Wed, 26/03/03 - 2:43 AM Permalink

I think mochumbo's comparison with movies make some great points. Previous discussion on "Australian theme" based games, and targeting the australian market have pointed to ideas such as Ty, kangaroos, etc which as Maitrek pointed out, does not necessarily guarantee a good game, nor really make a game that much more worthwhile or attractive.

I think that's where the distinction lies, in that games with 'classic Australian icons' (and themes) are usually just a game targeted at America and the rest of the world. The attraction for them, are in the novelty and foreign aspect of the culture - like a tourist spot. But how much do these icons and themes attract local gamers? A game targeted to Australian audiences however, would not necessarily rely on specific themes (or characters) that are unique to Australia, but focus on the different tastes in comedy, drama, and of course, gameplay.

Now the question on my mind is whether the Australian consumer market is big enough to justify locally-targeted games. As the film examples suggests, local movies are usually neglected at an international level - and the scope, as such, is restricted (financially and otherwise). Is this something that we can only expect when our market grows to a more significant size?

Submitted by rezn0r on Wed, 26/03/03 - 1:10 PM Permalink

Does anyone else wonder if the guys at Krome came up with the name Ty while they were coding templates?

Submitted by shiptu shaboo on Wed, 26/03/03 - 1:22 PM Permalink

So how do you make a game for an overseas market when you live in another country and are totally immersed in its culture?

I can understand with what aki is saying and I believe that Australia?s local market is not large enough to support independent releases, but I do believe if we produce something that is not trying to appeal to everyone and recognizes the culture its created from it will be unique to the overseas audience,
And from what I have seen and read Australia is hitting a popular peak not seen since crocodile Dundee in the 80's.

We don?t need to continue to pump out ty ausrtraliana type games and I think we would be foolish to try.
Im not sure if anyone has seen the preview for the horrendous rapping kangaroo movie, (I must have blocked the title of the film out)
That is a prime example of an overseas market using overseas icons and making a monster box office failure.

Australia has a very diverse population similar to America and I think we can relate in many ways to their cultural buying trends, our economy is so closely tied to America that we can also sense what is going to flop and what is not.
Our Asian niehbours create their games in my opinion without the same worries of overseas success in mind, this is because they have a population that can support their industry and due to this they create unique and ground breaking original successes.

So what do we do?
Take a risk and produce something original or produce another mediocre mid selling sell out intended for an audience we know nothing about?

nannoo nannoo

Submitted by Tripitaka on Wed, 02/04/03 - 2:28 AM Permalink

It is interesting to note that the most successful Australian films don't tend to play on Aussie stereotypes - more on Aussie truths. I don't mean that Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Muriel's Wedding necessarily have more to do with reality; just that they are much truthful about the Australian psyche and character than something like Crocodile Dundee. To be consistently successful in any field of entertainment (and discounting things like Crocodile Dundee and the Crocodile Hunter - there isn't room in the market for more than one of them), I think we have to concentrate more on the emotions and experiences that we Australians specialise in that are also universal. Australian films tend to be about misfits and fishes out of water. Not everyone in the world is an overweight girl with low self esteem who lives on the Gold Coast and escapes from reality by dreaming of being married and listening to ABBA, but everyone knows what it feels like to be different and alone. Whether a story about being different and alone on the Gold Coast, in Antarctica or a French village, it's something universal which we all respond to.

In the same way - why would anyone give a damn where a game came from? If it's good, it's good. I'm sure most people who played Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel didn't realise it wasn't developed by Black Isle and didn't care. If I picked up a game and found out it had been developed in Latvia and was based around Latvia's most famous folk tale I wouldn't give a damn; I'd only play it if it was a decent game. But the fact is that large countries such as America (and it's not only America ... Ubi Soft is enormous, and it's French) have more marketing power than Latvia, which means that even if the Latvian game is far superior, I might never even hear about it.

When I lived in New York I visited one of those godawful Aussie Steakhouses with a group of other Aussies. I ordered a Canberra Steak and the waitress kept pronouncing it `Can-Berra'. I tried to teach her that locals pronounce it `Can-Bra' not `Can-Berra' and she just looked at me like I was crazy. It was some time before it even occured to me: she doesn't even know we're Australians. And she doesn't care. Forget all the `Australia, isn't that just near Germany?', there are plenty of people more ignorant than that. I'm still pretty sure my landlady had never heard of a place called Australia in all her life. Whenever I talked about it (ESPECIALLY the concept of the seasons being different - she never quite believed me on that) she'd look at me as if I was having her on.

Heck, even I didn't work out for some time that Crash Bandicoot was supposed to be Australian ... (must have been those authentic depictions of the Aboriginals, not!) ;)

Submitted by shiptu shaboo on Sat, 05/04/03 - 12:24 PM Permalink

Those were aboriginals? I thought they were Hindi?s.
Shows you how much attention I paid.
Yes I totally agree with you, could you imagine the glut in the market if each country started releasing games based on the stereotypes of there cultures. Australia all kangaroos an evil drop bears??.china shoalin masters and panda?s with a taste of human blood???..India with kali and ganesh chasing down the local villages and devouring their souls??.
Bad example it sounds kinda sounds cool.
Our market would be saturated with the tourist trappings that we all see yet do not identify with; most of our population lives in cities yet overseas we are portrayed as Bushmen and explorers.
But I personally I look at the developer before I buy my games, I can gauge by there previous successors and misses at what to expect.
It?s no different than knowing a movie will be good or bad by who directs it.
As game designers and programmers its part of our curriculum to pay attention to where a game is made, it?s sensible to know where you next meal is coming from.

nannoo nannoo

Submitted by mochumbo on Sat, 05/04/03 - 8:32 PM Permalink

Tripitaka: Thats exactly my point! We are missing the Australian games that aren't hyped up tourist gloated crap! We are missing our games that are like "real" Australian movies. We are missing games that have the same caliber of quality and story like our "chopper", "Malcom" and "Two Hands" Hrmmm, there is another post in here about why Australians love their anti-hero's, the poor honest crooks down on there luck.

We are missing Australian games that are developed and aimed at an Australian audience. Not Australian games that have been aimed and marketed at living up to the Australian stereotype.

Submitted by rezn0r on Tue, 08/04/03 - 4:28 PM Permalink

I don't know, I think a Crocodile Hunter game with physics similar to "the gods must be crazy" would be an instant hit!


Submitted by fuzzmeister on Sun, 20/04/03 - 2:33 AM Permalink

Firstly Jana, there have been afew games based on Mad Max, as i discovered thru google (as you do) it was for the Genesis and was called Outlander, i've never played it but the box cover looks like the Mad Max 2. I myself was interested in the concept of mad max, a battlefield1942 styled MMORPG would be sweet. The concept is one i am working on but is in the very early stages. My Site has a small write on up on 'Wastelander' and it's progress... perhaps a BF1942 MadMax mod would do the trick anyone?

Secondly You can also check out de_outback the final version and get a copy from my new site if anyone here still plays counter-strike.

As for culturally based games and/or levels i must mention NOLF2, it takes you to China with ninjas, india with funny indian accents, and there are also french mimes, and of course the main Spy HQ is English... i loved the various stereotypes which have a music track to accompany them making it a rather sweet and humourous game im my opinion.

Another thing about de-outback was my web host at the time of it's creation was in New York and he ran a cs server, he told me it got alot of play and i've also seen it on an iprimus game server (well their FTP directory sometime ago anyways). But no it wasn't a 10/10 map i guess but was fun to make, i just had to do it after all the desert maps and snow maps around, but no 'red earth' aussie outback to be seen anywhere.

Stereotypes and icons are here for our benefit if you ask me, milk them for what they are worth.

Submitted by RMIT University on Fri, 25/04/03 - 8:11 PM Permalink

A Certain UK Publisher Was seriously looking into this concept/licence a couple of years back, but gave up on it. I don't think they would have executed it well anyway...

Submitted by Tripitaka on Fri, 25/04/03 - 8:58 PM Permalink

I've even heard rumblings of the Mad Max franchise being turned into an MMORPG. (I wonder if they'll have to buy the concept back off Interplay and change the name back from `Fallout' ;) )

Although it's not specific to the Australian industry (though it is written from an Australian perspective), there's an excellent editorial up on BigKid at the moment on the topic of the publisher/developer relationship, which I went into a little bit before (See - and yes, Bigkid is back :) ).

As I said before, Australia does tend to get an even rawer end of this particular deal because communication between overseas publishers and Aussie developers is so much more difficult, and the fact that they can make us work for half of what they'd need to pay in America makes us eminently exploitable.

Submitted by Daemin on Sat, 26/04/03 - 12:24 AM Permalink

If someone's into Half Life Mods, there's a great post-apocalyptic one out there (although American Post-Apocalyptic) that's called Wasteland (I think)...

It has decent maps, decent cahracters, decent weapons, although it runs far too slowly on my machine (as everything else).

Submitted by Bite Me on Sat, 26/04/03 - 8:50 AM Permalink

A good ol' ozzie game would be sittin' round the barbie takin' pot shots at the dingos with a 45 whilst guzzlin the amber nectar, and spewin' crap about the feckin' sheilas - happy Anzac day mates!

Submitted by Maitrek on Mon, 28/04/03 - 4:52 AM Permalink

That kinda reminds me of redneck that's one screwed game.

Submitted by rezn0r on Mon, 28/04/03 - 6:47 AM Permalink

Redneck Rampage was CHAMPION!

I'm gonna getcha boy, I'm gonna getcha!