SA open source game developers' quest for glory
A group of South African game developers will meet in Johannesburg tomorrow to hammer out plans for the development of an open source adventure role-playing game that they hope will reinvigorate South Africa’s game development industry.
Project leader, Henti Smith, says the group is aiming to create a game in the spirit of the early-’90s Sierra classic, Quest for Glory, which was “a graphical text-based adventure game, but with some role-playing aspects to it”. The game is likely to be themed on African folklore and mythology.
On Saturday, the group is holding its first face-to-face meeting to decide on the direction of the project. Smith says the core development group already has some talented programmers and a good artist team, but more people are needed. “Probably the biggest area where we need people is to help with the storyline,” he says. “We’re definitely looking for scriptwriters.”
Smith says they haven’t decided on a gaming engine. “We have quite a few talented programmers who have been in the South African gaming industry for quite a while,” says Smith. “So the possibility of us using our own engine from scratch is definitely there.” The team may use an open source game development framework such as Ogre or Crystal Space to “avoid reinventing the wheel”, he adds.
The production of the game is part of a larger strategy to get local and international investors to take SA game development seriously. “There is lots of talent in SA. We have fantastic programmers; we have phenomenal artists; we have adequate commercial infrastructure. The biggest problem is finding investment,” says Smith.
He says investors are wary of game development because they see it as a “dotcom” investment. “The more you try to convince them that computer games is a five billion dollar worldwide industry that is not linked to the dotcom at all, they say, ‘No, it’s computers, it’s dotcom; we’re not looking to invest in that sector.’”
Formerly a game developer for companies such as Electronic Arts and Celestial (remember Toxic Bunny?), Smith is now a “normal Unix system administrator â€¦ doing boring work”. By developing a hopefully popular open source game, he hopes investors will take South African game development more seriously. “We’re not in it for the profit; we just want to make a living out of it.”
Those interested in the project can visit www.illuminate.co.za for more details.