PAX AUS 2022 Indie Showcase - Pixel Star: Frontier
The PAX AUS Indie Showcase is a chance to see some of the best new and upcoming titles from the ANZ development scene with past winners including celebrated games such as Unpacking, Hollow Knight, The Gardens Between, Hacknet, Wayward Strand and many more. The 2022 Indie Showcase is bursting at the seams, with 2021 winners invited back for the in-person experience they missed out on. Furthermore, the inclusion of Tabletop gaming means there is an even larger variety of experiences on offer on the show floor. Player2 encourages anyone visiting PAX AUS to make their way to the PAX Rising area and check out the following title as well as the many other excellent indies on display.
Pixel Star: Frontier is space themed dice selection game for 2-4 players from Mauii Makes Games designer/artist Lyndon Cullen-Reid. Designed to play in 30 minutes and capture the essence of much larger skirmish titles like X-Wing, a convention seems the perfect place to show off its strengths. Having won a prestigious spot in the 2022 PAX AUS Indie Showcase, Player2 contacted Lyndon to find out more about his development process and Pixel Star: Frontier.
Player 2: As a tabletop gaming fan myself, I was very excited to see the category opened up to the Indie Showcase. How did it feel to find out Pixel Star: Frontier had been chosen as a winner?
Lyndon Cullen-Reid: Humbled, stressed, ecstatic, terrified. It has already been a great experience, with very little sleep. Have you seen the calibre of other winners though?? Impostor syndrome is in full swing already and I can’t wait to see the amazing talent on nearby tables. It’s an honour to be part of the inaugural batch of games chosen for the showcase, doubly so as the winners from last year’s online event have been given a physical space this year as well, it’s going to be a great area to hang out in all weekend.
P2: What have been some of the challenges during development? Especially as it seems you’ve forgone the crowdfunding route to this point and are juggling both art and design, have you sought out a developer or other help with playtesting?
LCR: It has been a long road for sure. It can be frustrating having a vision for a project and not having the capacity or talents to realise it, so this game in particular has been a huge learning experience. I’ve learnt more about design, and laser cutting, and printing, and postage, and file compression, and things I didn’t know were things. I’ve spent hours and days and weeks learning pixel art and developing that skill for this and future games. The greatest and most important lesson I have learned though, is to ask for help. I’m still working on that one, but there are amazing people out there that are willing to lend a hand or expertise. Playtest groups have been amazing with their time and passion and I have friends that have gone above and beyond with their support.
That said, if a developer takes an interest at PAX this year, I’m all ears.
P2: Dice action selection is a fun mechanism seen in many classic euro and “amerithrash” board games – are there any that influenced you specifically?
LCR: I think, and hope, that the particular use of dice in Pixel Star is one of the things that sets it apart from other games, but there are absolutely certain games that inspired me outside of that.
X-Wing is a big one. I love the game, it’s wonderfully thematic and strategic. The minis are stunning pre-painted pieces that I still have in my collection, despite not having played the game in years. It’s just… a lot. A lot of minis that need to travel carefully, a lot of tokens, a lot of dice, and a lot of time for each game. I wanted an X-Wing experience without all those things that were holding me back from playing. That desire was the birth of Pixel Star.
I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention Wizkid’s old Pirates Constructible Strategy Game. I never played it competitively because it was fiddly as all get out, but my goodness it was lovely, and such a brilliant idea. While implemented quite differently, I have no doubt my idea of having ships pop out of their stat cards did subconsciously come from this.
P2: What are some of your favourite tabletop games?
LCR: My go to answer for this question is either Battlestar Galactica or Project: Elite. Which is frustrating as neither are in print, but you can at least get an experience similar to Battlestar from Resistance or Resistance: Avalon. Project: Elite is the greatest real time game I’ve ever played, and Battlestar is an engrossing, if lengthy, semi-cooperative where one or more players is secretly working against the others.
Ironically, or not, I have never attempted making similar games. I think every design I’ve worked on has stemmed from the desire to play a game or have a particular experience that didn’t yet exist. I want to play game “X” but haven’t found that experience anywhere yet, so I had to go make it myself. These two games so perfectly distilled their experiences for me that I have no desire to compete with them.
I should also mention my complete obsession with collectable card games and that it would be a dream job to work on one someday. Magic, World of Warcraft, Spoils, Star Wars Destiny, Lord of the Rings, most of FFG’s Living Card Games, and basically any card game I could get my hands on (doesn’t even have to be cards, Dice Masters is pretty great too).
P2: What can visitors to the Pixel Star: Frontiers booth at PAX AUS look forward to?
LCR: Me! I’ll be there all weekend, please bring snacks.
That and Pixel Star: Frontier. My space skirmish game setup to play with a few different pre-constructed fleets, so anyone can jump in and experience the game nice and quick. The plan is to have a couple games ready to go all the time so if you’re flying solo you can play against me, or if your group is 2, 3, or 4 players, I’ve got you covered. Once you’ve tried out the game you’re more than welcome to come back to have another game and build your own fleet from all the available ships.
I will also have some feedback forms that are certainly not mandatory but will help me greatly in doing those last little tweaks before release. I might also have some cute little promos to hand out each day if you did need some enticing.
P2: How many other designs are you working on right now – can we expect to see any of these teased in the future?
LCR: Too many arguably. For those that stop by the booth, please have a look through the little booklet I have put together. It has a tease of future plans for Pixel Star, as well as a few other games I’ve been working on. While the booth itself will solely be Pixel Star play all weekend, I will have a couple other sneaky games with me that are earlier in their prototype stage. Hit me up if you’re keen for a game once the booths close up for the day. Friday and Saturday nights always go late in the tabletop area!