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WIP Night #4: Pride Edition Roundup

We ran our 4th WIP night on the 1st of March, at the tail end of Mardi Gras Sydney! To celebrate, we invited 3 queer game developers to talk about their work-in-progress games, in addition to sharing them with the public for playtesting. Here’s a brief lowdown on what happened!

A group photo of all the speakers and the Noble Steed Games team!

Your Holy & Virtuous Heretic by Kurt Tikoft

We kicked off WIP Night with Kurt’s stylish game, a short first-person, turn-based JRPG/dungeon crawler inspired by Shin Megami Tensei, Arx Fatalis, and Morrowind. As a 19th-century demonologist, undertake alchemic rituals, talk to creatures from the Lemegeton, and fight near-death battles in a world where time and space break apart.

A photo of Kurt talking about Your Holy & Virtuous Heretic to a crowd.

Sharing his sources of visual inspiration for the game— a mix of DOS PC games, PS1 games and even modern games evoking the aesthetics of the mid-90s, Kurt explained how the technical limitations of the time gave rise to this unique look. By crushing down pre-rendered 3D models, real-life photo or film footage, and traditional handmade sprites into pixel art, developers achieved a stylistic space Kurt described as ‘uncanny valley’. Whilst considered stylistic failures in broader gaming culture, Kurt thought this was an artistic opportunity, especially in a game featuring the abstract and surreal.

A screenshot of the demonologist Aleister's Sprites, from photos to editing for harsh lighting, to crushing it into pixels.
A peek into the process of converting photographs into sprites in Your Holy & Virtuous Heretic

Delving into mixing media to achieve that effect, Kurt shared several behind-the-scenes looks into his process, showing off how he used a mashup of public domain images, 3D models and physical objects for NPCs. Sprites for Aleister, the demonologist you play as, for example, were made from Kurt performing then filming himself, edited to dramatise directional light, and then finally converted into 1-bit colour. It was a fascinating look into his process of creating strange and whimsical imagery, in addition to hearing his thoughts about finding joy in mixing mediums and embracing variety in game development!

Janet DeMornay Is A Slumlord (and a witch) by Fuzzy Ghost

Next, Pete from the Fuzzy Ghost duo shared Janet DeMornay is a Slumlord (and a witch), an escape room, horror-comedy about the anxieties and horrors of what it is to be a renter in the 2020s. (And your landlord is a witch). Inspired by 80s horror-comedy classics Beetlejuice and Poltergeist, JDM is a ridiculous but horrifyingly relevant story about found-family, queer lives, and landlord overreach.

A photo of Scott talking about the camera controls in Janet DeMornay Is A Slumlord (and a witch)

For WIP Night, he introduced the game and shared what they’ve been up to and why they shifted from first to third person. At SXSW, they shared a demo of the game with a first-person camera, but upon reflection and feedback, decided to change the perspective to show queer bodies and allow players to control and experience a queer character’s story instead. 

This led to the exploration of what type of third-person controls to use with a set camera that changed according to the player’s movement into other rooms. Sharing the differences between tank controls, joystick controls, and how different holds (referencing the Resident Evil Remake) could affect experiences, it was cool to hear how artistic and narrative decisions led to such considerations in the technical!

Screenshot of Scott's slides, showing images of the demo shown at SXSW last year, with the player controlling the character in first-person.
The Janet DeMornay Is A Slumlord (and a witch) demo was shown at SXSW last year, with the player controlling the character in first-person.

Heartlog by Edison Chen

Lastly, Edison introduced his body of work and upcoming social frog app where players can read and share personal thoughts in a safe and wholesome environment. Heartlog is an exploration of how play and interactivity may help create moments of connection, insight, empathy and community.

Edison talking about Heartlog to a crowd.

During the night, Edison shared about his artistic process, goals and early days working on Heartlog. From sketches to mockups to working prototypes, he spoke about the challenges he currently faced after testing with friends, needing interactive elements to encourage continuous usage and non-shallow messages. We got some lovely looks into the game’s day and night environments, as well as new spaces for the frogs to hang out.

Various scenes within Heartlog, showing the day time and night time mood/atmosphere.
Variations in colour range to suggest day and time shifts in Heartlog.

Finally, Edison spoke about his next steps and a bit about his mental process whilst developing an indie game as an artist. He shared about finding a lot of setbacks and intense moments of defeatism especially from being rejected from a grant, a relatable aspect of game development, emphasising that we should all recognise the hard work it takes to overcome these challenges. Good luck Edison!

The rest of the night was spent play-testing the games, and having some nice food and drinks! We’d like to quickly shout out to Heaps Normal, for sponsoring a few of their non-alcoholic beers to make WIP Night a bit more special. 

Thanks once again for dropping by WIP Night and helping us make it such a warm and friendly event for devs and game enthusiasts! If you’d like to apply for future WIP Nights, submit your game here.

Photos of people at WIP Night, playtesting some games.
Photos of people at WIP Night, playtesting some games.
Photos of people at WIP Night, playtesting some games.
The very horse filled Feedback Wall at WIP Night.
A group photo of all the speakers and the Noble Steed Games team!
Photos of the food at WIP Night

We hope you enjoyed reading this! Have a question or want to chat more about game development? Reach out to us!

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