SA’s indie game scene grows with Last Minute Entertainment

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By Kaia Wallis

Adelaide’s gaming industry is one of the state’s most humble achievers; quietly boasting the likes of Mighty Kingdom – whose workforce has recently skyrocketed to 50 people – and Team Cherry – who have sold more than 2.8 million copies of their debut release Hollow Knight.

At the heart of the industry is the quickly expanding indie game scene – which has been bolstered by the opening of co-working hub Game Plus and industry educators such as the Academy of Interactive Entertainment (AIE).

Last Minute Entertainment, a modest team of four – James Buttfield, Jess Kempf, Stefan Scuteri and Stephen Gregory – released its debut title Tiki Trials just two days ago on Steam (April 30), a distribution platform for PC games.

Tiki Trials sees the player undertake a number of challenges in the hopes of appeasing the Tiki gods and progressing to the next stage; the Last Minute team describes it as, “easy to learn but hard to master,”.

The Last Minute Entertainment team celebrating the launch of Tiki Trials with AIE.

The team met studying at AIE – with many of their classes taking place in Game Plus – and went on to enrol in the school’s incubator program, which provided them with a free work-space at Game Plus and hardware to help develop the game.

“Being able to work in a collaborative co-working space like Game Plus is great and it meant we weren’t forced to go remote after we finished studying,” director and game designer at Last Minute Entertainment James Buttfield says.

Tiki Trials spent around 60 weeks – on and off – in development, with the team working out of Game Plus as both students and developers throughout that time.

“While the industry here is small, we are very compact, we’re all sort of in this one place (Game Plus) which is quite helpful in a sense. You can just turn around to the person behind you for some advice,” James says.

Tiki Trials being played on launch day at Game Plus.

Head of Adelaide’s AIE school Ann-Maree Davies – who was recently appointed to represent the state’s gaming industry on the SA Film Corporation board – says the indie game scene is bursting with potential.

“It’s really solid and it’s growing, there are a lot of indie developers that we don’t know about and even here at AIE I’m still finding out about more,” she says.

“The incubator program has been going on for the past six years interstate, but this is the first time we’ve run it in SA and Last Minute is just one of six SA teams who are all set to release a game this year, it’s phenomenal. I’m very proud.

“You speak to the team and they are so passionate, they have been committed for so long and you can just see they are going to make it.”

James Buttfield in the Game Plus work space.

This year AIE came on board as an industry partner for the State Government’s Skilling South Australia initiative, the partnership will see 20 students supported through an apprenticeship-like model in the creative industries.

Participants of the Digital Directions Project will take part in work placements for up to three days per week, with the first batch of students currently honing their skills in the classroom before heading out into the workforce.

“We’ll be sending a few to Mighty Kingdom and SA Power Networks (SAPN) are going to take a few as well, we’re in talks with quite a few different industries,” Ann-Maree says.

“It’s not just games either, we have a lot of simulation as well – organisations like SAPN can use the 3D (modelling) and the virtual reality skills.

“These skills are transferrable and really important; we have some students on work placement right now in so many different areas like engineering and architecture.”

Ann-Maree says around 100 students make their way through AIE each year, studying courses including game design, production, programming and animation.

Tiki Trials themed cupcakes to celebrate the launch.

For the team at Last Minute Entertainment, education providers like AIE are just one part of the equation – Adelaide’s tightly-knit gaming community is the other, and the team is sure of the state’s future in the industry.

“I strongly believe that SA has the potential to be a key contributor to the Australian game industry, especially with how rapidly we have been growing and I would love for us at Last Minute to be a contributor to that success,” James says.

“We’d love to one day hire on a bunch of people and there are so many grads coming out of AIE that have the skills and are ready to jump into the industry.

“But if it’s not us – then it’s another team here. There is room for growth, absolutely.”

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