The crafting and building game TownCraft was one of the stand-out new iPad apps at July’s Pax Australia (the gamers show that kicked off in the US in 2004 and has grown in both stature and reach ever since, hitting Melbourne for the first time this year).
Originally spruiked as a kind of genial lovechild of Minecraft and SimCity, TownCraft is the labour of love of two Sydney brothers, Rohan and Leigh Harris, and their fledgling start-up Flat Earth Games (where the duo are ably abetted by a small and dedicated crew of local artists, and a mutually beneficial relationship with Epiphany Games and its CEO Morgan Lean).
Reviewing the game just after Pax, The Sydney Morning Herald‘s James ‘DexX’ Dominguez professed that he was “so impressed by it at Pax that I immediately bought it”. He noted how he had “been reading the fascinating blog posts from its lead designer discussing the various design challenges he has faced” but “had never picked up that it was a local project”.
Dominguez went on to describe the game as “fun and addictive” and applauded the fact that it contains not a single in-app purchase, while indicating his disappointment at some of its teething bugs.
Clearly, he was not the only one impressed. The app shot to number 2 on the App Store and on Monday 30 September, the Harris brothers received even better news. Some serious funding.
Announcing a pot of $2.6 million to be divided between 21 different independent game developers, Screen Australia’s chief operating officer, Fiona Cameron, noted how the funds can be life-changing for developers working hand-to-mouth in small start-ups like Flat Earth Games.
“This support for the independent Australian games sector will help grow creative businesses, develop original ideas and retain a skilled workforce in Australia. In this way we facilitate a shift from a reliance on work-for-hire to developing original projects,” said Cameron.
She also emphasised the depth of local talent, and the ability of these games to compete on a world stage.
“The sheer volume and quality of applications showed that there is no shortage of talent or great ideas in Australian game development,” said Cameron. “The projects in this round demonstrate Australia’s unique point of difference in creative game design, and our world-class technical ability.”
The other 20 titles receiving funding were: Animal Dash (Shark Jump Studios), Animus (Playcorp Studios), Assault Android Cactus (Witch Beam Games), Big Baby (Big Ice Cream), Blight of the Immortals (Iron Helmet), Bonza (MiniMega), Burden (Pixelpickle Games), Defect: Spaceship Destruction Kit (Three Phase Interactive), Feng Shui Master (Many Monkeys), Framed (Loveshack Entertainment), Gems of War (Infinity Plus Two), Knowledge Quest Mobile (Media Saints), Locomotivation (Garoo Games), Muse (Current Circus), Ninja Pizza Girl (Disparity Games), Oscura: Adventures in the Driftlands (Chocolate Liberation Front), Rotorhead (Trickstar Games), Siegecraft Commander (Blowfish Studios), Snow Spin (Ezone) and Zombie Outbreak Simulator (Binary Space).
Understandably, the Harris brothers are delighted at the funding announcement, with Leigh blogging on the TownCraft website, “Well, this is amazing news… The investment is being split (not evenly) amongst 21 Australian developers. One of which is us! The help will be used to fund development of that all-important iPhone version, get us started on other future platforms and help us get the game translated into multiple languages!”
TownCraft is currently available on iPad only, but as indicated by Leigh Harris should be coming to the iPhone soon. It can be downloaded from the Apple app store for $5.49.
Macworld Australia has conducted an in-depth interview with Leigh and Rohan Harris, which will be published shortly.