There are a number of Perth developers attending PAX Aus 2014, including several old friends of GameCloud that we caught up with to talk more about the games being showcased this year. Last night, I hit The Old Bar in Fitzroy where SK Games kicked off their Interstate Arcade tour – the very first of it’s kind! Anywhere! I spoke with Louis Roots, who heads up the studio, to pick his brains and find out what this Interstate Arcade gaff is all about. (Here’s a hint: It’s pretty neat.)
What has been the biggest challenge of this tour so far?
Louis: So far? Oh man, we’ve only just gotten started. So far’s been nothing, I think we’ll have a lot more challenges than we’ve had so far. But right now, it’s just been organising everything – it’s been incredibly stressful, I didn’t make it to any of the GCAP talks. Instead I had a nap – to be honest, there was nothing else I could do. I didn’t have a choice, I was so tired and had to be out that night and… Networking sounds a bit wanky, but really it’s about Networking the whole brand around Australia. Every night there’s an event, someone new to hang out with. We had some really nice family nights, like SK family nights, sat around out the back and had beers and barbeque. That was a really nice weekend before it all started up. Now it’s hectic.
What was it like trying to get the hardware over here for your games?
Louis: We originally planned on freighting things over, but towards the end it was a bit of a pain in the ass. We realised we’d have to hire a van to get over here anyway and my dad stepped in and said “I’ll drive it.” So we packed the van in Perth and sent it across the Nullabor with my dad at the wheel. He made it – that was nice. On one hand I felt really responsible and would’ve loved to have gone with him if I wasn’t so busy, on the other I was incredible relieved and it’s amazing that he did that. The Nullabor obviously seems like the biggest thing, but the biggest thing is packing and unpacking at each of the venues. Melbourne’s been pretty stressful so far, but it’s a good kind of stress.
Do you guys feel like, at least with tonight, you’re accomplishing what you set out to achieve?
Louis: Tonight has been nice, but with all of our events in Melbourne we’ve had no idea of numbers. People will ask “How many do you expect?” and I have to say “I don’t know.. at all.” I think tonight has been really chilled, I’m kind of glad it’s a little quiet. It’s a very chilled, very awesome venue – I love watching the bands and people beating my staff at Cog and Balls.
Have you had a personal hand in the development of any of the games here tonight?
Louis: Yeah, we’ve done Cog and Balls – an old favorite. We honestly weren’t even going to bring it on the tour, but we had room in the van so we chucked it in. We had it in the other night and Rami Ismail [of Vlambeer] played it and he liked it, so suddenly I was like “Let’s put this in everywhere.” We’ve got Blitz Bandits and that was Blake’s game from before I picked him up [for SK]. He made an arcade version for the tour that we can use. We’ve also got Push Me Pull You upstairs and people have been playing it and loving it, and when I tell them it was made in Melbourne everyone just says “WOOOOAAAAHH!” It’s why we do these events, to show people who don’t know much about these games – or don’t know anything about games at all – that stuff like this is being made in their own backyard.
Is that what you want to achieve with Interstate Arcade, to showcase Australian Indie talent?
Louis: Definitely. It’s one of the key reasons we didn’t put the call out internationally. It’s awesome to meet people at these events while they’re playing these games and say “This was made in Melbourne.” Or Sydney, or Perth, or Adelaide and so far people have been amazed. They’re blown away that stuff like this is made by just a bunch of dudes doing it in their spare time. Everyone understands that there’s local bands and you can show someone a CD and say “Look, this was made by someone in your neighborhood,” and they don’t bat an eyelid. If you do the same with a videogame, suddenly you’ve turned their whole world upside down.
Would you say Indie devs are the new “rockstars” of the gaming world?
Louis: That would be amazing, haha, but I think.. It’s a great analogy, but it falls down in a few places I’ve found. Like, I’ve been asked to do a few talks – I don’t know why, I don’t feel qualified – but that’s been great and surreal. But it made me think like, why don’t we have these ‘small bands’ of game developers? Why aren’t there school programs where kids can hang out and learn how to make video games? Why isn’t there a venue where people can come and show off their games in a style like battle of the bands? Hopefully one day I’ll be able to point to an SK Bar in Perth and say “This is a venue where kids, people, anyone can come and show the games they’ve made.” But.. that’s one of many possible paths, haha.
So what are some of the other games you guys are going to be showcasing when you start to go around the coast?
Louis: We’ve got a lot of our own games, we’ve been making them as we make the hardware. There’s a couple of cabinets which only have one game to them because the cabinets are hard to design for. We threw it out as a bit of a challenge and it was a hard challenge to pick up, so I’m not disappointed or anything. I just think next time.. oh, wait, I don’t want to think about next time. One day it’ll be nice to throw out a cabinet and have people from all around the world jump out and say “I can design for that!”
So there’s Drop, which is a musical, procedural game, and Astral, which is a asymmetrical, 2v1 SHMUP type game. Those cabinets were quite difficult to design for, so we’ve only got SK games for those. All the other cabinets have games available – we’ve got games from Melbourne, like Push Me Pull You. I’ve got a friend that I basically badgered into making a game for the tour, which he gave me a build for last night, which is call “Under The Sun.” Developers’ games from Brisbane, Canberra – even some places that we couldn’t make on the tour but still wanted to represent. It’s all Australian and I think that works very well because this is our first tour, well, the first tour of it’s kind in the world, so we’re testing a lot of waters here.
What’s been your favorite part of this whole event so far?
Louis: Last year I went to GCAP and trying to tell people what I do was incredibly difficult. This year we put our games in at the Old School Party – the GCAP delegates party last Tuesday – I could talk to anyone there and when they asked “What do you do?” and I could just point to our games and say “This is what we do.” Just being able to show people what we do and tell them that we’re from Perth, and when they say “I’m from Sydney” or “I’m from Brisbane” I could say “Cool, we’ll be there in a couple of weeks. Come say hi and have a beer.” That was really, really fun . I’m sure there’ll be higher highs and lower lows, but that was good for me.
Finally, what’s your favorite game and recommendation from what’s here tonight?
Louis: My surprise favorite is actually “Cog and Balls” Considering it was our first and that we weren’t even thinking of bringing it originally, it’s great to see it out there and still going strong. The setup we have at the moment, we made it for our last event at The Bakery and I was accosted by someone as I was sanding the corners of it, saying “You shouldn’t be doing this, you know, this is someone’s installation” and I was like “Yeah, I know.. it’s mine.. I’m just trying to make the corners a little nicer for people,” haha. They thought I was attacking it, it was pretty funny.
If you’d like to stay up to date with SK’s goings-on, you can follow them on Twitter, https://www.facebook.com/SKGamesPerth?fref=ts, or you can check out their site http://www.skgames.com.au/. SK’s Interstate Arcade has kicked off in Melbourne (check their site for when they’ll be arriving in other states!) and they’ll be showcasing at The Common Man on the PAXAus Promenade.