Screen Australia has revealed the two studios selected to receiving a total of $600,000 in funding through the First Nations Game Studio Fund, which it revealed back in May with applications kicking off in June. The studios, which will each receive a boost of $150,000 per year for two years to support their teams and projects, are GUCK and Awesome Black.
GUCK is currently working on Future Folklore, an inverse and subversive Care of Country sim for mobile platforms with a futuristic fantasy setting inspired by the Australian bush, native flora and fauna and Aboriginal culture, which we chatted to creators Hayley and Kati about last year. Awesome Black is a multi-medium creative enterprise that aims to build best practice programs and pathways for First Nations creators to be authentically compensated, represented and financially secure.
On top of announcing the recipients for the First Nations Game Studio Fund, Screen Australia also revealed a list of 21 local game projects sharing in a further $2.4 million of funding through the Games: Expansion Pack Fund, including some of the country’s most exciting talent and developments like darkwebSTREAMER from We Have Always Lived In The Forest, The Godfeather: A Mafia Pigeon Saga from Hojo Studio and Tempopo from Witch Beam Games.
Take a look at all of the games and studios receiving support from this latest round of funding:
FIRST NATIONS GAMES STUDIO FUND ARE:
GUCK (VIC): Based in Victoria and led by company directors Hayley Percy (Wiradjuri) and Kati Elizabeth, GUCK have spent the past four years heavily investing into professional development, pre-production, community collaboration and consultation. They are currently working on an Aboriginal-led mobile game Future Folklore where all positions of leadership on the game are held by First Peoples and is governed by the Blak Cloud advisory board. GUCK currently employs eight First Nations on-going staff and a wide range of additional First Nations casual staff and contractors, and are committed to supporting people from diverse backgrounds and underrepresented groups. GUCK are excited to share more details about their new game over the coming 12 months.
Awesome Black (NSW): Awesome Black is a creative social enterprise developing original First Nations talent and unique storytelling content across a variety of mediums including podcasting, literature, video gaming and XR, music, photography and digital art. Awesome Black is dedicated to building pathways towards equitable access to authentically represented, resourced and compensated First Nations participation in all creative industries. Awesome Black is committed to developing best practice programs, networks, skills and tools within First Nations communities to provide current and future generations with sustainable avenues for employment, creative expression, financial security and storytelling.
THE PROJECTS FUNDED THROUGH THE GAMES: EXPANSION PACK ARE:
Ailuri (NSW): A 2D, hand-drawn cooperative exploration platformer where players take on the role of the titular Ailuri, a red panda who rescues endangered animals. In order to protect this fantastical world from environmental destruction, players will need to take control of the small but mighty hero to complete vast levels, rescue adorable animals and defeat massive bosses. The team consists of creative director Liezl Ronquillo, composer Thomas Connell, lead programmer Tyrone Sobb, quality assurance tester Austin Blakemore and 2D Artist Lily Anderson. This project has previously received assistance as part of the Incubator Program from the Academy of Interactive Entertainment.
Covert Crew (WA): This role-playing, story-driven game is created by solo developer Daniel Pratt and combines the flashy, action-packed world of superheroes with the methodical play of a turn-based strategy game. Set in a near-future fantasy world, the Covert Crew is a team of unconventional heroes, motivated by good rather than fame and greed. In this game, players recruit a diverse cast of characters from different backgrounds who possess unique superpowers. Together, they must learn to co-exist as a team while working in the shadows in order to stop a villainous syndicate aiming to upset the balance of power.
darkwebSTREAMER (SA): From We Have Always Lived In The Forest, darkwebSTREAMER is a horror RPG streaming simulator and a spooky love letter to the old internet. Players take on the role of an occult streamer on the dark web, whose mission is to find the weirdest, creepiest stuff on the internet, bring it back to their stream and impress their viewers enough to make it to the #1 ranked streamer on the internet. However, the supernatural is real – the more players engage with the darkness of the web, the more they will find their apartment stalked by demons, spirits, crazed fans and online enemies as they strive to become the #1 streamer. Fully procedurally generated, the game creates a brand new and unique story and experience – every time. darkwebSTREAMER is led by Chantal Ryan and has been financed with support from the South Australia Department of Trade & Investment and the Adelaide Economic Development Agency.
Delphinium (SA): This is a narrative-driven farming simulator with unique, dialogue-based mechanics driving an emotional story from producer Heidi Borge of CinnaDev. Delphinium follows the character of Haiyan as she returns to her home village in the aftermath of a life-changing event. There, Haiyan finds other people with struggles both similar and entirely different to her own, and takes it upon herself to meddle with her fellow villager’s interpersonal lives and relationships in the name of helping them out.
Dr?cule?ti (VIC): From new studio Fine Feathered Fiends led by creative director Mads Mackenzie, Dr?cule?ti is a horror-romance visual novel adaptation of the classic novel, Dracula. Set in the frozen mountains of Romania, players take on the role of exiled English solicitor Roger M Renfield as he visits Castle Dracula to meet an eccentric new client. But this is no ordinary place, and no ordinary assignment. Along the way, players will meet four tantalising and terrifying companions, and either struggle through madness and despair to earn Renfield a happy ending, or let him succumb to his fate.
Dryft City Kyngs (VIC): From Nonsense Machine, this story-driven adventure game combines role-playing and racing elements to create a unique open world where the player can progress and explore at their own pace.Set in the eponymous Melbourne-inspired Dryft City during the late 2020s, a lifelong office worker yearns to break out from their mundane life to fulfil their true calling: to become the best drift racer the city has ever seen. The team consists of project lead Nicholas Greber, graphic artist Samuel Wright and UX and narrative designer Ruimin Guo. It has been developed with the assistance of VicScreen.
Feed the Deep (QLD): Created by solo developer Luke Muscat who brought Fruit Ninja to screens across the globe, Feed the Deep is an underwater exploration roguelike survival game, where players can dive into the darkness in search of resources, upgrade equipment and discover the strange mysteries and secrets below – waiting to be found and understood. Feed the Deep has been developed with support from Screen Queensland.
The Godfeather: A Mafia Pigeon Saga (NSW): From Hojo Studio, The Godfeather is a mafia pigeon roguelike comedy game where players take on the role of a humble associate in the pigeon underworld tasked with taking back the Old Neighbourhood from its enemies. Combining elements of stealth, open world exploration and poop (lots of poop), the player’s feathered legend grows as their pigeon uncovers the dark secret at the core of the Pigeon Mafia. The team includes CEO/MD/founders Richard Salter and Jola Szymanska, executive producer Stephanie Salter and community manager Shoshana Lewis.
Incolatus (WA): After crash landing on a strange and alien world now overrun by a despicable corporate entity, players must work their way through the planet and retrieve the parts needed to repair their ship. The faster players move, the stronger they’ll become. Just. Don’t. Stop. Moving. Incolatus is being developed by Funny Fintan Softworks, with the team consisting of creative director Jane Kennington and lead developer Zia Daud.
Letters to Arralla (VIC): Created by Little Pink Clouds, Letters to Arralla is an exploration role-playing game where players take on the role of a newly recruited mail-turnip responsible for delivering letters, parcels and packages to the island’s charming residents. As players soak up the sunny views and meet the interesting townsfolk, they begin to inadvertently help and heal the town through the process of kindness, friendship and express delivery. The team consists of creative director Chantel Jasmine Eagle, lead programmer Rhiannon Ross, narrative designer Alex Minenna, consultant Phoebe Watson, composer Danna Yun, sound designer Ben Houghton, technical director Michael Krekelberg, 3D artist Bailey Mogensen, marketing illustrator Monica Keeler and tech support Nat Bott. It has been developed with the assistance of VicScreen.
Memory’s Reach (VIC): An exploration-based puzzle adventure game from lead developer Ben Droste of 100 Stones Interactive. After a cryptic signal reaches out through the void, players are beckoned to a world of ancient alien megastructures – a beautiful, awe-inspiring sight devoid of even a single sign of life. From there, players can explore labyrinthian megastructures, brave perilous alien technology and solve mind-bending puzzles in this cosmic sci-fi adventure to discover the fate of a doomed civilization.
Mouse Game (working title) (SA): From creative director Daniel Freer of Pond Games, Mouse Game is a 2D action-adventure platformer starring a tiny mouse who explores a strange, interconnected world. Players can uncover the truth of this landscape and their place in it through exploration, discovery, combat and platforming challenges.
Neyyah (WA):Neyyah is a first-person point-and-click adventure game, set within a mysterious puzzle-laden archipelago. Through unique storytelling, puzzle-solving and world-building, the game offers players hours of non-linear gameplay as they grapple with the ambiguous ethics of truth and illusion. Created by Defy Reality Entertainment, the team includes lead developer Aaron Gwynaire, creative director Nanci Nott, business/artistic consultant Xanthe Turner and consultant Azalia Turner.
Outpost (ACT): Set in the spine-chilling tendrils of a desolate Antarctic base, Outpost is a psychological thriller game that follows Indian Australian Pete who is running away from a family health diagnosis. As he uncovers the mystery of why this base has gone silent, Pete must learn that he can’t run away from his problems – finding out whether he will repeat his mistakes when presented with the choice of self-preservation or helping those in need. The Outpost team includes creative director Peter Menhennitt, lead programmer Calum Spring, lead narrative Asheesh Saxena, sound designer Nic Dullow, game designer Jarrod Farquhar-Nicol and voice artist Emilie Martin. It is financed with support from Arts ACT.
RPG Game (working title) (SA): An open-world fantasy RPG created by Killerfish Games. The team includes executive producer and lead designer/developer Paul Sincock, COO/designer Fiona Sincock, art producer Justin Wight and art director Troy Bellchambers.
Shrine House Keepers (WA): From Hungry Sky and Milktooth Arts, this is a rogue-lite, deck-building game where players take on a role as a member of a diverse “found family” of Shrine House Keepers led by The Parriarch. Together, they are tasked with maintaining the Shrinelight network, a spiritual energy that flows through sacred sites, special places and shrine houses. By traveling to different locations, gathering resources and completing errands, the player helps restore balance and harmony to the network. Shrine House Keepers is by design director Nick Lowe, technical director Jack Casey, creative director Campbell Whyte, art director Elizabeth Marruffo and production director Minh Tran.
Spiritwell (VIC): A role-playing, story-driven adventure-comedy exploration game from solo developer David Chen where players play as a meek child who runs away from home and falls down a mysterious well into the spirit world. Along the way, players will meet a vibrant and humorous cast of characters while playing through tailor-made gameplay sequences and uncover an inviting world filled with strange and dark secrets. Spiritwell is developed with the assistance of VicScreen.
Sundown (NSW): This story-driven, exploration adventure game invites players to play as Mary, a would-be astronaut who was never able to go to space. Mary is 93 years old and living with dementia when players pull on her slippers to traverse memories and hallucinations in a last-ditch effort to get to space. Sundown is being developed by experience design studio S1T2 (Story 1st, Technology 2nd) with a team including creative directors Christopher Panzetta and Mike Daly, technical director Liam Stephens, art director Oscar Berman, narrative lead Aiyana Merlo, lead producer Natalie Robinson, business lead Jananthan Kandasamy, technical artist Stephen O’Callaghan, motion lead Nicky Tunpitcha and real-developers Luna Joy, Ashley Sewell and Iris Li.
Taming Yore Dragon (SA): This educational adventure platformer from My Colourful Mind is set in the fantastical land of Yore, that was once full of colour and life and inhabited by fantastical creatures roaming the lands. But after the evil dragon Deimos took over the land, players will need to rescue allies in order to conquer and overcome Deimos – bringing light and laughter back to a world crushed by constant sadness and despair. Taming Yore Dragon is from lead developer April Benjamin and narrative designer Edward Korhonen-Bannister.
Tempopo (QLD): From Witch Beam Games, the studio behind Unpacking, comes the wholesome puzzle game Tempopo where players rescue musical flowers across sky islands. The team includes lead designer Sanatana Mishra, audio director Jeff van Dyck and lead artist Nicole Stark. It has been financed with support from Screen Queensland.
Tempus Rail(SA): This story-rich, first-person, roguelike deck builder set in the Wild West on a train travelling through a temporal rift. Trapped in this temporal loop, players must use strategies to fight their way to the front of the train and destroy the engine before the day resets. Tempus Rail is created by Joseph Roberts of Pixel Drip Games.