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The South African Game Development Scene: Past, Present, and Future
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The South African Game Development Scene: Past, Present, and Future

August 3, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 5 Next

Dan Wagner, meanwhile, found an opportunity to use his development skills and contacts as the Marketing Director at MI Digital, a distribution company responsible for bringing the Xbox 360, and awareness surrounding the console, to South Africa, while continuing to keep the I-Imagine embers burning.

The fact that such experienced local developers could find further opportunities in the field of games in their own back yard was surely a good sign that the game development scene in South Africa has room to grow -- despite setbacks.

Back in 2006, however, and encouraged by the apparent growth of the local development community, the online enthusiast developer website, SAGameDev, changed hands, leading to a renewal and reinvigoration under its new owner and long-time community member, Jacques "Korax" Krige.

Another self-taught programmer, level designer and game developer, Krige worked as a business applications programmer by day, and began working with level creation mod tools, as well as programming a mod for Hexen II called NewHexen, by night:

"I was more into the art side of game development in the early years than the technical side," says Krige. "Coming from a rural area where I grew up, I had little to no opportunity to meet people that shared my passion for aspiring to make games... no books, no money, no courses, no internet."

"Most of the time between 1993 and 1998 was spent working on levels for various games, most of them coming from id Software and Raven Software. During this time I authored close to 40 levels. I also dabbled with programming, but not on a large scale - only to satisfy my hunger for 'making things' related to games, like game cheat listing programs using Turbo Pascal 6."

During his time working on levels and mods, Krige began thinking about setting up a game development company of his own, but encountered difficulties while trying to drum up financial support:

"We tried to formally establish a game development company during 2002/2003 with the help of VC companies. We had a complete original demo game that matched [id Software's] id Tech 3 technology at the time, with a complete and sound business plan, and sadly, we still got shot-down at various VC companies because of the lack of such game development companies locally."

More recently, Krige quit his day job to set up an internet technology company, Business Gateway, with the aim of funding a future game development studio, Excentrax Games, instead of relying on venture capital to get started, and is currently developing his own engine for future game development:

"This technology will be used in Excentrax Games' own classic-styled, original FPS title," Krige enthuses. "I think the capabilities of [this engine] should match pretty well with the current skill level and the availability of skills in South Africa. It's a good starting point none-the-less."

While Krige toiled away at bringing SAGameDev up to speed in 2006 and 2007, Luma Arcade, the new kid on the local game development block -- now imbued with the talent and experience of ex-I-Imagine staffer -- Luke Lamothe, began work on its first game project, a licensed Mini racing game:

"Luma Arcade was established by the guys at Luma Animation / Luma Design, and was spearheaded by Dale Best," explains Lamothe. "What enabled it to actually materialize and not just be a dream for Dale was when he obtained the contract from BMW South Africa to create Mini #37 for them."

Luma Arcade's Mini #37 (2007)

"Once he had that, he assembled a team of five people, myself included, to create Mini #37 in about nine months from start to finish... Since Mini #37 was completed, we have also worked on and completed five cell phone titles, an online PC racing game called Blur for GarageGames, and an XNA-based 3D rendering engine for a joint-venture project with another South African company."

At the end of 2007, and after I-Imagine's decent into inactivity, the closure of Celestial/Twilyt years before and the continued loss of game development talent to studios overseas, it finally seemed as though South Africa's game development scene was starting to stabilize with a new, professional studio in Luma Arcade, as well as the persistent growth of the enthusiast developer community... and that assumption would be correct, for the most part.

Moving to the Present

From 2008 to 2009, work continued apace to grow the South African game development scene into a legitimate industry. While Luma Arcade worked on a variety of online and mobile games, Danny Day established Quarter Circle Forward Design to handle freelance game development consultation work. However, the company moved into development itself, releasing its first game, MathsterMind: Nautical Numerals, an education cell phone title that grew out of one of Game.Dev's development competitions.

QCF also had some success in Microsoft's 2008 DreamBuildPlay XNA competition, ranking in the top 20 best games with its SpaceHack entry, while another South African team, comprising an artist named Jarred Lunt and a programmer named Roger Miller, also placed in the top 20 with its entry, Save Jack.

The online communities SAGameDev and Game.Dev continued to grow, while Travis Bulford made public his intentions to port Toxic Bunny, the 1996 game from his company Celestial, to Java for free. Rumors also abounded about regarding the possibility that I-Imagine was in fact working on a new game to be released on the Xbox 360, despite the failure of the studio's prior game, Final Armada, on the PS2 and PSP.

QCF Design's SpaceHack (2008)

Article Start Previous Page 4 of 5 Next

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