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13 March, 2017

The 2008 Cory Barlog-led Mad Max Game that Never Happened

More details have emerged about the game that almost was when the director of God of War joined forces with Mad Max creator George Miller.

Indie developer Dan Graf is currently achieving great things with his mobile title Rodeo Stampede - which has now passed 50 million downloads - but his career stretches back over a decade. It includes time spent not only making games, but also teaching and making films. During a recent episode of the GameHugs podcast, Graf spoke in-depth about his origins as a game developer and some of the incredible places it has taken him. One of those places included Dr. D Studios, the company founded by Mad Max creator George Miller.

Graf was introduced to Miller by a fellow staff member while working at the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS) in 2008. Following the blockbuster success of his film Happy Feet, Miller had just founded Dr. D Studios, a digital animation house. During the podcast, Graf detailed how he came to work for Miller, and their initial meetings prototyping a Mad Max game. Here is what he had to say:

How did you meet George Miller?

I was very lucky to get an introduction through one of the staff members at AFTRS. George wanted to meet me partially because of my background making games, but more because I was sitting in this space between games and film. And what I did for George was I showed him Shadow of the Colossus (PS2 – Team Ico). I said, “I didn’t make this, it was made by someone way cooler than me, but I hope you can see the potential here for the way film and games can converge.”

[I showed it to him] because it is pure cinema, but it is interactive. It’s David and Goliath; it’s Godzilla; it’s King Kong - yet it is interactive. It has all the nuance in camera direction, score and emotional impact. So I said to him, “this is the future of games, you should do this with Mad Max.” And George said, “stay awhile, let’s have lunch.” Which then turned into dinner and at the end of it all he shook my hand and asked, “when do you finish film school?” To which I answered, “whenever you want George!”

So that was a wonderful opportunity as he offered me a job. But I forgot about games after I immediately started as I was so sure he was going to make a Mad Max game. And he invited me to some meetings where I met Cory Barlog, the God of War director, and I thought, “this is really going to happen, they are going to make this game and it’s going to be massive.” But none of that eventuated while I was there. None of it eventuated in Australia. It all happened overseas and it happened a long time after I left [in 2011].

So this was Dr. D Studios right, part of KMM?

KMM [an Australian film production company] existed when I joined the company and was about 30 people. Dr. D was formed shortly afterwards, and I was shifted across to that like most other people. Then Dr. D grew from 30 people to 600 people, and that was an interesting shift to be part of.

It was always difficult for me to establish the difference between KMM and Dr. D; was Dr. D a game studio?

Dr. D was exclusively a film production company part owned by George Miller, part owned by a tech company called Omnilab. It was set up with a lot of ex-Animal Logic people, and I think a lot of the baggage and negative head space of people who wanted to leave behind something they didn’t like came to Dr. D and it festered. Founding a company on peoples’ disenchantment and displeasure in a different company is not going to create a good foundation.

Where to Next?

Looking for a great read? Author Nicholas Abdilla has just released his new sci-fi novel Adam Exitus through Amazon and iTunes today, and it’s one for sci-fi fans. The first entry in what will be a 10-part series, it’s based on the author’s own original comic strip, and it’s reminiscent of the work of Philip K. Dick and Timothy Zahn. Filled with imaginative alien technology, strange creatures from far-off galaxies and one of the greatest vessels in sci-fi history, Adam Exitus is worth checking out.

10 March, 2017

RiME up to $30 more Expensive on Switch than Other Formats

The Australian pricing for exciting, upcoming indie adventure puzzler RiME has thrown a surprise figure at Nintendo Switch owners. It's Double!

Update: The distributor just sent through revised pricing due to an error in the initial price release. New pricing is $79.95 on Switch, $59.95 on Xbox One and PS4, and $49.95 on PC. So the price gap is $20 to other consoles and $30 to PC. Still significant.

RiME is one of the more promising looking indie titles coming out in 2017 – one we highlighted in our sister site's Nintendo Switch Guide (see below). The game is like a cross between The Legend of Zelda, The Witness and Ico, mixing in puzzle-solving and adventure-like exploration with a more introspective tone and atmosphere. You play as a seemingly cursed young boy left shipwrecked and alone on a rugged, but beautiful island.

Your goal is to escape, which means discovering the secrets of this place. The action is less about combat and more about exploration and puzzle-solving, the latter using elements like light, sound, time and perspective. It’s all set in a large environment navigated to via an over-world, and it looks gorgeous - you can see the full trailer below.

09 March, 2017

Prideful Sloth’s Yonder brings Legend of Zelda experience to PS4 and PC

The oddly named Australian indie developer Prideful Sloth is cooking up an adventure game in Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles that’s very Zelda-esque.

Everyone is talking about The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild at the moment and for good reason. It’s getting rave reviews everywhere and it’s a launch title for Nintendo’s exciting new console the Switch. But that’s all kind of useless news if you own a PS4 or a PC, right? Well if you are suffering some Zelda-envy, listen up - there is an indie developer working on a game that’s not just in the genre, but has startling similarities to Link’s latest adventure.

The game in question is Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles from Australian developer Prideful Sloth - out on July 18. Yes, you read the studio’s name correctly. Don’t let the name fool you, however: the team is mostly made up of ex-Rocksteady (Batman Arkham series) staff, which is great pedigree.

03 March, 2017

Sci-Fi Author Singles Out Mass Effect as Major Influence

BioWare’s iconic RPG has done more than just entertain gamers, it’s inspiring a new wave of creators.


Author Nicholas Abdilla has just released his new sci-fi novel Adam Exitus through Amazon and iTunes today, and it’s one for the sci-fi buffs. The first entry in what will be a 10-part series, it’s based on the author’s own original comic strip, and it’s reminiscent of the work of Philip K. Dick and Timothy Zahn. Filled with imaginative alien technology, strange creatures from far-off galaxies and one of the greatest vessels in sci-fi history, Adam Exitus will hopefully find an audience.

Abdilla is a renowned gamer who also created the comic series Game Guy, as published in Game Informer Australia. So during a recent interview as part of the promotional lead-up to the book’s release, he was asked how gaming had impacted his novel. Here is how the conversation went:

03 March, 2017

Nintendo Switch Surprise Australian Launch Line-Up – 9 Unannounced Games

The Nintendo Switch launch games in Australia aren’t what the locals expected.

The Nintendo Switch launched at midnight in Australia, with lucky fans already well and truly deep into games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It is the big system seller of the launch window, and what we’ve played thus far has been truly incredible - a fantastic gaming experience and a must-own. You can read more about it in the Nintendo Switch Magazine. It is not alone at launch, of course. In all 12 games were set to launch alongside the Switch, the lowest in 21 years. However, when Australians opened up the eShop for the first time, they weren’t greeted with the list of titles they expected.

25 February, 2017

Indie Game Hellion Looks Dope

Indie developer Zero Gravity has released the space survival game Hellion on PC through Steam, and it looks amazing.

Hopefully you just watched watch the trailer above and have a good idea of the quality indie studio Zero Gravity is aiming for with Hellion. Far beyond what we would usually expect from an indie! In fact, it matches many AAA launch trailers we've seen. The game is out today on Steam, offering a space-set, first-person multiplayer survival experience. Kind of like Left 4 Dead meets Dead Space, perhaps. One of the interesting aspects of the game's design is the laws of the real world it obeys. Zero Gravity established that, "in the Hellion solar system, all in-game objects from planets and moons to ships and stations abide by Newtonian physics and full orbital mechanics." 

What that means for actual gameplay we'll have to find out.

Here is an overview of the premise for Hellion:

A solar system thousands of light-years from Earth, Hellion is the destination of the first interstellar colonization mission of the 23rd century. A million colonists, suspended in cryogenic hibernation, wake up a century later and find themselves trapped in a nightmare. Instead of grand habitats and planets waiting to receive new settlers, there is only evidence of devastation and conflict everywhere with ruins, debris fields and empty stations. With no trace of UN officials, corporate representatives, engineers, scientists or law enforcement troops, and a rescue operation over half a century away, colonists turn to scavenging, stealing and outright violence. Others try to live in a more civilized way and begin uncovering the truth behind the largest disaster in human history.

This is the first game from Zero Gravity, and the developer has aimed very high indeed. Hopefully we will get a review up shortly so we can see whether the game can live up the quality of the trailer. In other space game news, did you here Mass Effect Andromeda is still looking at the Nintendo Switch?

24 February, 2017

“Door certainly not closed” for Mass Effect Andromeda on Nintendo Switch

“Door certainly not closed” for Mass Effect Andromeda on Nintendo Switch

The Nintendo Switch and Mass Effect Andromeda are releasing within a few weeks of each other, but will they ever work together?

Last year, when the internet was ablaze with rumours around the Nintendo Switch, there was a fresh industry leak almost every week. One of the most consistent, often coming from sources with a track record of getting it right, was that Mass Effect Andromeda would be releasing on the Nintendo Switch. And when you looked at the release dates – the NX (as it was known then) was listed as March 2017, and Mass Effect Andromeda was March 23, 2017 – the planets looked aligned.

However, in January this year, BioWare’s Michael Gamble burst the bubble, claiming there were no plans to bring the game to the Switch. And sure enough, there isn’t an EA game anywhere in sight now we know the launch line-up for the Nintendo Switch - for more on that check out the hands-on guide to the Switch at the bottom of this article. But there remains hope.

This week I got a chance to interview Mass Effect Andromeda producer Fabrice Condominas about the game, and I asked him what happened to the rumoured Switch version. This was his response:

20 February, 2017

Ultimate Nintendo Switch Guide Out Now

If you're interested in the Nintendo Switch, this is your perfect companion book. Like a digital games magazine, it covers everything you need to know about the Nintendo Switch.

The Nintendo Switch is launching on March 3 and gamers are starting to get very excited. And for good reason. The console is launching alongside the next entry in The Legend of Zelda series after all. Then there is the whole ability to take your console with you when you leave home, switching it to a portable device with ease. The new Joy-Con controllers offer the same kind of promise we saw in Wii Sports, but now the technology is actually up to the pace of the gameplay we desire. All up, suddenly it's looking pretty good for Nintendo again.

Whether you are sitting on the fence deciding whether to get a Switch or not, or just need help choosing which accessories and games to spend your money on, then this book should be of interest. The Nintendo Switch Guide, which is available now on Amazon, or on iTunes, takes you through everything there is to know about the launch of the console.

The author has had early access to the Nintendo Switch, so has been able to play a number of the titles well in advance of release. Plus he has been able to run his hands over the device, feel the controllers in action and talk to the creators. The full analysis is available in this guide, along with information like the specifications, button layout and what is happening with the online service. You can read a tonne more information and get a chapter overview here.

It looks like the indie game scene is going to get plenty of love on Nintendo's new console. Of the 10 Switch launch games, four of them are downloadable indies and one is I Am Setsuna - an indie-like from Square Enix. There's plenty more announced for the console, too, with some 90 games now revealed as in production for the Nintendo Switch.

06 February, 2017

Rodeo Stampede Passes 50 Million Mark

The addictive and free iOS and Android mobile game Rodeo Stampede has just passed a major milestone.

Featherweight Games may want to go up a weight division. The little Australian two man indie team, alongside partner in crime and veteran local developer Dan Graf, have a heavyweight hit on their hands. While massive sales numbers are nothing particular new with free mobile games, passing the 50 million mark is still a huge win for such a small little team and one worth celebrating.

Yes it's true; you can make a little game in your home in Australia and go global.

In Rodeo Stampede – Sky Zoo Safari (which is the full name) your goal is to populate a zoo with wild animals, in order to attract more visitors and earn more money. This in turn can be used to upgrade your enclosures. However, capturing these wild animals involves riding your way through nature, leaping from one animal’s back to another in an attempt to tame them. All while trying to avoid obstacles and not fall off. Viewed from an isometric view and with a range of environments and animals to discover, it’s far from the world’s hardest game. However, by combining this addictive, arcade action with a Zoo Tycoon-like management layer has obviously proved to be a big winner for gamers.

In an interview on the GameHugs podcast, developer Dan Graf – who previously worked with other Australian global success stories Fruit Ninja and Jetpack Joyride developer Halfbrick – confirmed that the game has passed the milestone. It is also confirmed on his Linkedin profile. He didn’t confirm how many of those downloads were on iOS and how many were on Android, but he did suggest the game is seeing around 10 million downloads a month.

The game is seeing continuing free updates, too, with the most recent in January adding a new Tundra Zone, 50 more animals and Chinese New Year themed map, animals and hats. The team is also working on an update for Valentine's Day. If you want to see what Rodeo Stampede is all about, you can download it on iOS here.

If you are wondering who we are, we're primarily a digital magazine for the iPad focused on the coverage of indie video games. Run by the former editor of Game Informer, you'll find worldwide exclusives, but also an interactive media experience unlike any you have seen before. If you have an iPad, you should check out the free sample issue at the very least, or enjoy one of our other episodes as listed below.

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- Episode 1 - Includes The Making of République (*free sample issue*)
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29 January, 2017

Deep Rock Galactic Hands-On and Interview - "I can't think of another game that has fuelled my curiosity more"

Greed is the fuel that drives this multiplayer descent into the darkest parts of space. Can industry veterans Ghost Ship Games strike gold with this indie mining simulator?

It's dark, deep below the earth.

In the distance, I can hear little clawed feet skittering around the cavern walls and the faint sound of one of my partners crying out.

Maybe he found something, maybe he’s under attack. I ask if everything is okay over the comms, but there's no response. I’ll head back just after I check out the next room.

Rounding a corner the cavern opens up, and down a long stretch of blackened stone walls I can see a tiny glint of gold. I run towards it only to see another glint, and another. In fact, a whole wall of sparkling, glittering gold. It’s enough to pay for the whole expedition, and then some.

The skittering behind me pulls my attention away from the precious metal, and face-to-face with the swarm. A seething mass of teeth and beady eyes. I yell out to my team mates, but they're too far away. I was too greedy, too hungry for gold, and now I'm being eaten alive by ravenous monsters deep below the earth.

This is Deep Rock Galactic, a first-person mining simulator. But it's also much more than that. It has elements of Red Faction, Minecraft, and Left 4 Dead with class-based combat and platforming, all wrapped up in a stylish low-poly package.

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