Developers Cubed 19: Cars, Niche Games and Lock Picking

Gizmodo's Developers Cubed series offers a behind the scenes look into Australia’s up and coming dev scene. This week: A car company tycoon game from two Melbourne indie developers, and the down side of Apple's App Store.

Developers! Developers! Developers! It's not just Steve Ballmer’s favourite sweat-laden catchcry! If you'd like to be featured in Developers Cubed, shoot a note to danny.allen at gizmodo.com.au. We'd love to hear from you.

Who are you and where do you work? Caswal Parker, co-founder of Camshaft software. We are a 2 man group (with support from others) of one programmer (myself) and one 3D Artist (Andrew Lamb). We're based in Melbourne working out of our homes every moment we can spare outside of our day jobs.

Why do we know you? What have you created? Our life and soul has gone into our first project that is still under development. Back in January we participated in the awesome Global Game Jam run by IGDA Melbourne at La Trobe. We produced a little game in 48 hours called Ant Antagonizer.

What platforms do you develop for? Windows XP, Vista and 7. We have no plans for any mobile platforms, to us they are as saturated as any other platform. Also as we are producing a niche product (and our future plans are also niche products), we feel that there would be no way for us to be profitable on casual gaming platforms such as phones.

What are you working on right now? Automation -- a car company tycoon game. Players will be able to design engines and cars much like the Spore Creature Creator. Players will have to design their cars for various target markets and target demographics around the world. They'll compete against other car firms towards various goals, such as being the most profitable.

We want to make the game open ended enough that you can run any kind of car firm, from a small exotic super car manufacturer up to a giant multinational corporation. And of course design almost any car from a small Japanese Kei Car to large American SUV's and everything in between.

How did you get into development? Andrew and I both studied at the Academy of Interactive Entertainment. I now teach at the Melbourne campus part time and work on Automation the rest of my waking life! We got started on Automation almost 2 years ago, and have been seriously working on it for about 15 months. It literally started on a whim after chatting about the idea of making a car company tycoon game for car nerds, and that the previous games hadn't done it justice.

During the chat there was a moment of "Wait a minute... why don't we make it, we have the skills." But what really started to drive us was that someone found our website, which at the time only had the scantiest of details and emailed us asking when will it be out, and where could he buy it. That really shocked us into realising we were not the only ones who wanted this kind of game.

What do you think about the rise of App Stores? How has it influenced your titles? I think that being a self-published developer has always been possible on the PC, but stores like Steam, Impulse and Desura have helped to homogenate the market and make a focused point to purchase from.

I see the Apple App Store and Android Market as a blessing and a curse. The iPhone has become a hit driven market place, much like the consoles. Unless you have the ability to really push some PR ahead of your game release, you will just fade into the noise of the other 425,000 apps and only push a few hundred or maybe even a couple of thousand sales. If you manage to make it into a top 10 list then you're made, but it's getting harder and harder for an indie to do that. And only the lucky few will make something that goes viral.

What's your favourite app that you didn't create? Majesty, it is just such a nice implementation of the game. It plays really well and is naturally suited to mobile/touch devices.

What phone do you use? Why? I have an HTC Desire running the Villian-AU mod from the great guys over at roms-au. Really quick and great on the battery life. Andrew has a senile iPhone 3GS: he has somehow managed to score the most unreliable 3GS ever made.

What advice do you have for budding Aussie developers out there? Get a hobby outside of game development. Everyone who knows me in the Melbourne scene will expect me to rant about lock picking here and I will. If you Google up lock picking forum, you find a forum of 55,000 members but there are no lock picking games. Even though it's not a big market, it's a market unserved and as an indie you don't need a big market. Just an audience large enough to make a living and cover costs. Both Andrew and I are fanatics about niche games and we both feel it is something that indie developers could get into, rather than just casual games. [Automation]