Independent game development in Australia consistently produces some of the most compelling experiences to be found in gaming, standing toe-to-toe with larger entities on the global development stage. The PAX AUS Indie Showcase serves to highlight some of the fantastic work being put out by local developers. Player2.net.au has spoken with developers awarded a spot in the PAX AUS 2018 Indie Showcase to get a sneak peek at what attendees can look forward to.
PAX AUS 2018 Indie Showcase – TeleBlast
Some projects come a long way in a short amount of time; Perth based developer Tim Veletta’s TeleBlast is one of them. Going from its GameJam conception in January this year to winning a coveted position in the Indie Showcase at PAX AUS 2018, even a major visual overhaul hasn’t slowed Tim in pushing forward with this project. Player2 writer Hope Corrigan interviewed Tim to discuss his successful Indie Showcase placement and his experiences developing TeleBlast.
Hope Corrigan: First of all – congratulations getting in the indie showcase for PAX AUS. What do you think attracted the judges to your game?
Tim Veletta: Thank you very much! I feel like TeleBlast suits the convention setting since it is fairly simple to pick up and play in a short amount of time and is very tense and exciting. Someone playing the game for the first time really only needs to learn 2 mechanics, teleporting and dashing, and then you really see people get excited as they try and outplay their friends. Even though the game was in a fairly early state when I submitted it, I think the judges saw that potential and where the game was going which prompted them to include it in the Indie Showcase.
HC: I understand it was originally a game jam project? I always love hearing game jam stories and how games have changed since. What was the original vision and how has it changed? What made you decide this project was worth taking beyond the jam?
TV: So I started TeleBlast at Global Game Jam in January of this year where it was originally called Major League TeleBlast which was a bit of a mouthful. The game originally had much more of a sporty feel and it wasn’t until I seriously looked at marketing the game where I had to decide whether it was going to be primarily a sports game or more of a retro arcade game, I went with the latter.
Aside from a major visual overhaul, the “Quick Play” game mode is 90% true to the original game jam game with the only additions being dashing and shields to balance the game from one round to the next.
At the game jam showcase, I was so nervous to show what I had done that I almost didn’t but my amazing partner was there to support me and the reception was fantastic. The following evening I had my friends over to play some board games but instead we played TeleBlast all night and threw around ideas around how to improve the game and it was then that I realised that I had to see this through to the very end.
HC: What are you expecting to achieve from PAX AUS? You’re launching your game at the same time, correct?
TV: Honestly, I have no expectations for PAX but nothing would make me happier than TeleBlast being the catalyst for a group of friends to get together to share the experience that I have been able to share with my friends. I also really hope to get someone from Nintendo on board to be able to publish TeleBlast for the Switch since I think the portability of the platform really suits TeleBlast and their push for party games.
I also decided to launch TeleBlast at PAX for two reasons; so that people who enjoy the game can go home and share it with their friends and also in the past I’ve seen some great games at PAX be forgotten because they weren’t available until much further down the track. The game will originally go into Early Access because there are some things missing from the game that I would expect from other games in the local multiplayer genre such as additional maps, game modes and game variations.
HC: As an indie developer, how do you think the level of freedom from working on your own project versus the support and expertise of a larger studio weigh out? Do you think there’s more pressure when it’s your own project?
TV: It is a bit hard to say since I started developing games as a hobby, I’m a web developer by day, however I can certainly see some parallels particularly when everyone has their own inputs on the direction of a piece of software. It can be difficult to manage the expectations of everyone involved within a project and coming to an agreement on what the user experience should be and I can’t imagine it would be that different working for a larger studio since at the end of the day, whether its a game or a website, its all just software.
There certainly is more pressure working on my own project because I’m responsible for everything from marketing to graphics and sound, if anything doesn’t live up to expectations thats on me. Thats also part of the reason I didn’t want to come up with some sort of studio name to almost hide behind; I wanted to be able to provide a human face behind what I had made.
HC: What is the best bug/challenge you’ve encountered while making TeleBlast?
TV: There was a bug we found in playtesting where under certain conditions explosions persisted on the map and weren’t removed at the end of a round. Although it created some frustrating moments where if you spawned in an explosion you would die immediately it also provided some interesting moments because it became a race to fill up the map in explosions of your own colour giving it a very Splatoon feel. I eventually added this as another game variation since it was really intense and enjoyable and completely changed how everyone played the game.
HC: Is it difficult for you to test a game that seems built for multiplayer fun – is it hard to know if these things will be fun in a vs environment?
TV: It can be quite difficult however my friends were more than happy to put up with things going wrong every step of the way. There are often bugs that only were discovered once everyone got together to play and there have certainly been features that sounded great conceptually but once implemented were not enjoyable at all.
I think what has been really important for me throughout the whole process is constantly having quick turn-around times between conceptualisation and testing the features. There’s no real point in me spending a week working on a new game mode only for people to not enjoy it so most of the time I’ll implement and test a new feature on the same day. For instance, during the FIFA World Cup I decided to prototype a soccer game mode in about 2 hours and although it was initially enjoyable it quickly became apparent that it didn’t suit the rest of the game and wouldn’t work well as a 4 player game mode. Since it was only 2 hours of work, it was easy to ditch the idea and work on something else.
HC: What’s the best experience you’ve had developing TeleBlast?
TV: Being told that TeleBlast was going to be part of the PAX Australia Indie Showcase. I still vividly remember reading the email and being in a state of excitement and shock that I still don’t think will fully hit me until the doors to PAX open and we have our first few players.
HC: Do you think living in Perth has made this project more difficult than it might have been if you had lived in another city?
TV: Absolutely, living in Perth there isn’t a whole lot of funding for games so I haven’t really been able to take as much time off from my day job to prepare the game for PAX; most of my work has been done commuting to and from work, at night and on weekends. Having said that, the not-for-profit association Lets Make Games is doing a fantastic job of supporting the games industry here in Perth and without them, TeleBlast wouldn’t be where it is today.
HC: Aside from showing everyone your game, what are you most looking forward to seeing at PAX AUS?
TV: I come from quite a sporting family, my dad played professional sport and both my siblings played a lot of sport growing up; I was always into computers. When my parents found out that I was going to be showcasing at PAX they equated it to “playing at the MCG of gaming” and so they are also coming to Melbourne and will be at PAX on Saturday.
I’m really just looking forward to showing them the impact of what I do, the games that helped shape me and also hopefully playing a few tabletop games with them.
HC: What’s next – launching TeleBlast obviously, but any plans for expansions or is it on to another project?
TV: TeleBlast will be launched into Early Access so my next priority is adding more levels, game modes and variations to the game until I run out of quality ideas for it. From there I’ll probably turn my attention back to web development, learn about all the things that have changed in the past 9 months and doing whatever I can to support the games industry here in Perth.