What it’s like to make games in a small team, says Australian developer

This article is sponsored by JMC Academy.

We tend to know a bit more about the big developers. Due to their size and prowess, there is a wealth of information floating around the internet about huge players like Square Enix Where Activision, through interviews, press articles, press releases, documentaries, blogs, tweets, fleets, stories, etc.

This fairly rich tapestry of data combines to form a fairly comprehensive mosaic of what the big studios do and at least gives a glimpse of what goes on behind their sacred walls. But what about the smaller developers? They rarely get the same level of lighting. So we reached out to Australian game developer Gemma Fitzgerald to help dispel some of the haze.

Gemma grew up in the Victoria area playing video games and dreaming of making her own. After spending two years completing his bachelor’s degree in design at JMC Academy, that’s exactly what she does now, while continuing her studies as part of JMC’s Master of Creative Industries.

Through her masters program, which specializes in games, she creates an episodic story-driven thriller / horror in which players take control of both a non-binary sleuth and an ambiguous murderer. Let’s find out more.

Kotaku: Hey Gemma, tell us about the game you’re working on

Gem: Our game is an episodic story-driven thriller in which players take control of both the protagonist and the antagonist. The protagonist of the game is a non-binary sleuth who tries to uncover the identity of the game’s antagonist, a mysterious murderer who always seems to stay out of reach.

It will be a single player game and will take place in the third person. The main mechanic will be point-and-click as players will have to explore the scenes to uncover clues and other hidden interactions, these clues will unlock various choices, dialogue options and even some non-playable character interactions that will help determine one. end of the game.

What do you hope to accomplish by launching this game?

My vision is to inspire people so that they can be who they are meant to be without fear. Fear is something that holds many people back in life, it prevents people from reaching their full potential and expressing who they really are. This is something that I had to learn to overcome as a bisexual woman that is both creative and fluid.

I am very passionate about my vision, and I want to help others realize that they can live their truth without fear and in doing so, I want to use my various skills to tell inspiring and compelling stories about LGBTQI + characters by representing them. in my game so that people who’ve never had a character to identify with can finally have one.

It looks very cool. How many people make up the team?

Currently only two people are on the team, but as we move into the production phase of the game we will be looking to bring more people on board.

What are the advantages of playing in such a small team?

One of the biggest advantages is that we have full creative control over the game. We can create anything we want and that something can be an idea or a story that we want to share with others, or it can be something that we wish we could play but that doesn’t exist – so why not make it exist. The freedom of creative control also gives us the freedom to choose a niche target audience such as LGBTQI + gamers, or even more specifically the transgender and non-binary community.

Another amazing benefit is the friendship you develop with your team. Being in a small team allows you to form better and more personal friendships, which allows for more open and honest feedback, as well as easier and more relaxed brainstorming sessions. The same can be said for connecting with your community – when you are a small team and you only have a small community, it is easier to talk and interact with that community, which allows them to to feel seen and heard. It also allows us as a team to hear their feedback and what they like or dislike about something, or even things that they would like to see in future projects.

What do you find most difficult about making games?

There are a lot of challenges when it comes to making games with a small team. In my case, because I am still studying, it can be difficult to learn new skills on the spot! Many of us are just starting out and still have a lot to learn, which is both an intimidating but fun part of the learning experience. It also means that many projects will take much longer to develop as we are also developing our skills and trying to get funding which is not always easy to find, especially for small developers of brand new games. . This is why the JMC Masters course aims not only to give us the skills to bring our projects to life, but also the knowledge to market, secure funding and sell our finished projects upon completion of the program.

While it’s easier to connect with your community, it’s not that easy to start one. While social media gives us many different platforms, we still have to learn how to navigate the different algorithms to reach our target audience and stay relevant once we do. Due to how far we have come over the years, the expectations for them have increased dramatically, forcing us to create high quality games at a speed similar to that of the big game studios. With a small team, quality takes time.

What made you want to get started in making games?

I have always loved games; I’ve been playing them for as long as I can remember and never grew up. My favorite types have always been scripted games, platform games, and open world adventure games. Being able to escape to a new reality, even if only for a moment, has always been something that I have always cherished in games.

My love of games is not my only inspiration for wanting to make games, as a queer woman I grew up playing games and never knew characters who were like me which made me feel like an outcast or like I’m not normal. Representation has become something that fascinates me enormously; I want to increase the representation of the LGBTQI + community in the gaming world so that it can not only be normalized in society, but also current and future generations can feel seen and heard, rather than ignored.

How did your course prepare you for life as a game developer?

The master’s I am currently taking allows me to start a creative project by partnering with a mentor to bring my project to life while teaching me about the creative industries as a whole. So far, the course has helped me realize what I want to do as a career, as I was still not sure when I started twelve months ago. I have acquired more in-depth business skills and am learning how to create a brand that represents my values ​​and my vision.

I am surrounded by incredibly creative people in this course. Hearing about their plans and passions is very inspiring, and collaborating with them and exchanging feedback at brains-trust meetings has been one of the best experiences. I have the chance to discover creative fields in which I have never set foot, which is very beneficial for networking. I can also present my ideas to my peers and hear their arguments, which gives me the chance to improve my skills with the way I present things through their feedback.

What do you think is the most important thing you have learned so far?

My time at JMC taught me that it is never too late to follow your dreams and that you should not let them be dreams when you can make them come true.

What advice would you give to other aspiring game developers?

If you really believe in something, do it and make sure you believe in yourself as much as you believe in your project, whatever it is. Another tip: if you want there to be a play on something and it doesn’t exist, then make it exist. You never know who else might want to play a game like the one you want.

Are you excited about the future of the Australian games industry?

I am delighted to see an increase in LGBTQI + representation within the Australian and international scene at large. I think it would be so exciting to see the Australian gaming industry help pave the way for equal representation for the LGBTQI + community and other minority groups who are currently not getting the representation they deserve.

Given that indie games make up the majority of the Australian gaming industry, I am excited to see what the increased funding and advertising will bring to all of the small creators, and I hope they continue to create. amazing fun games that will inspire the next wave of creators.

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