Independent development in Australia has been going from strength to strength over the past few years and the PAXAUS Indie Showcase serves to highlight some of the fantastic work being put out by local developers. Player2.net.au caught up with each of the developers awarded a spot in this year’s Indie Showcase and give a sneak peek at what PAXAUS attendees can look forward to.
PAXAUS 2015 Indie Showcase – Lupinball
Lupinball has one strange elevator pitch – An arena shooter featuring dodgeballs and werewolves. It’s the maiden title for developer Craftven, the brainchild of programmer Michael Ventnor. We spoke to Michael about his beginnings as a developer, how Lupinball came into being and what to expect at his PAXAUS 2015 booth.
Stephen del Prado: Hi Michael, thanks speaking to us, I imagine it’s quite a busy time for you right now!
Michael Ventnor: It is a busy time, but I appreciate you reaching out to me and will be happy to give you some of it!
Can you tell me a bit about the genesis of Craftven?
A few years ago, I was making Xbox Live Indie Games using XNA as a hobbyist. After that died, I switched to Unity. I started the company after the positive reaction to Lupinball‘s prototype. I run it almost-solo from my apartment, with my friend Christopher Stritch contributing sprites and art. Everything is on the budget of a pack of Aldi chips. So yeah, we’re pretty close to the idea of a bedroom coder startup! Just replace “bedroom” with “kitchenette”.
Where did the inspiration for Lupinball come from? It’s been quite a while since a dedicated dodgeball title has been made, but it seems like a great idea for an area shooter akin to Splatoon in that it can have a much broader appeal.
Dodgeball is the closest match to an existing game that I know of, but we’ve heard all sorts of descriptions from people: “Bomberman meets Towerfall“, “A bullet hell”, “This fucking cheating game!”
It started at PAXAUS 2014. I was in a bit of a rut as I was teaching myself Unity, and made a 2D platforming engine but had trouble coming up with ideas for level designs. At that PAX, there were a lot of fantastic multiplayer games on offer, and I was so invigorated by them that I wanted to make my own. A design came to my head as I was playing a SNES game called Firestriker, which had a great concept but didn’t become very popular. Unfortunately, my friends informed me that I had pretty much reinvented Lethal League, which I didn’t know of at the time. Bugger! So I junked it and worked on a new, hopefully more unique design. A few more tweaks from months of playtesting made Lupinball as it is today.
What can PAXAUS attendees look forward to from Craftven?
A tall janky programmer in a black shirt saying “Hey kid, wanna visit my booth?”
A booth which may or may not be displaying a game called Lupinball.
How does it feel to have been selected for the Indie Showcase?
Fantastic. Let me tell you the story of when I found out… The email arrived on my phone while I was sitting on the toilet in a toilet cubicle. There was a guy in the cubicle next to me. When I read what the email said I instinctively let out a loud “OH MY GOD!” that the other guy probably heard. I’m terrible at hiding my excitement for something, so after he came out, he saw me exit my toilet cubicle with a big smile on my face. I was still smiling as I washed my hands, and could see he was curious, but he also wasn’t a gamer, so I just told him “Something wonderful just happened to me.”
I could’ve handled that differently. But I’ll never get sick of telling that story!
Do you have any plans in place once Lupinball is complete?
I’ll definitely make more games (that’s what we’re here for after all!). What I’ll make depends on what I can afford, which in turn depends on the reception of Lupinball. I’d love to dabble in other genres I enjoy, such as JRPG.
Obviously you’ll be busy manning the Craftven booth, but if you get a chance will you be checking out other things on offer at PAXAUS 2015?
As much as I can, but I’m particularly interested in PAX Rising this year, given it’s a new format for indies which gives them more prominence and more space. In previous years I also hung around the retro gaming area like a bad smell. I loved playing the Commodore and the NES and other beautiful old systems. Although I must say I did a double take when I saw a Gamecube last year! Is this what getting old feels like? But I can’t wait to return there.
PAXAUS 2015 – HANDS-ON BONUS ROUND
I managed to get some hands-on time with Craftven’s Lupinball to share my impressions with Player2 readers.
As evidenced by the screenshots, Lupinball’s graphics are reminiscent of a SNES title, with colourful pixel art for both characters and environments. Speaking of the environments, they are fairly contained to ensure that each round doesn’t last too long – the action takes place entirely on one screen. You’re going to need at least two players, although Lupinball is definitely at it’s best with four players when the game is at it’s most chaotic.
The objective is straightforward – hit other players with your projectiles and don’t get hit yourself. There are randomised power-ups found in crates that spawn occasionally, although it can sometimes be a risk to spend a shot to open a crate rather than attacking other players.
The controls are super simple – one button to shoot, another to shield. This accessibility makes it a great pick up and play title when friends come over. You’re going to want to use a controller rather than a keyboard, as the design means the former feels much more natural.
If you’re heading to PAXAUS 2015, head over to the Craftven booth with a few friends and give Lupinball a go. You can also support Lupinball through Steam Greenlight here.
Lupinball was played on PC using a preview build supplied by the developer.
Stephen del Prado
It was whilst toiling away in the bowels of the now mythical Australian Gamer forums that Stephen del Prados attempts at writing were recognised by then up-and-coming Matt ‘Hewso’ Hewson as “not terrible”. Since then Stephen has contributed to such sites as The Age’s now defunct Screen Play, the recently retired Black Panel and currently serves under Editor-in-Chief Hewso for Player2.net.au, at least until the pattern of decline obvious in his previous engagements is picked up by Hewso and he is exiled from games journalism forever