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Five video game studios making South Africa proud


It's become easier than ever to make video games, what with companies like Epic and Unity making their development tools freely available and services like Kickstarter making funding more accessible. It shouldn't be a surprise then that South Africans are also taking advantage and sometimes hitting big.

Yes, that's right. South Africa is most definitely a part of the global video game making community and we're part of it in force. Its not just a few guys hovering around a beige PC making demos. No. South Africans are making full on games that are being sold to the international market and getting featured and reviewed by the biggest media outlets.

But as is so often the case, the success of local companies in 'niche' industries can be overlooked, so its very possible that you don't even know about many of the South Africans that are making their mark as video game developers. Here's a small sampling of the 30+ locally based games studios that you need to know about who are flying the South Africa flag high.

Free Lives - Broforce

Given the Super-America theme of Broforce, you may be surprised to learn that the game is a wholly South African conceived concept. I mean there is so much democracy and cholesterol coursing through this game's veins that it unbelievable to think it didn't hatch from the the egg of a bald eagle that was impregnated by Uncle Sam himself. Awesome as that would be, it's not the case.

Broforce's origin is sadly much more mundane than that. It's really just the product of the imagination of a group of local developers who wanted to make an awesome shooter and then did. The game has become a phenom piece and received masses of critical and commercial acclaim with sites like Eurogamer, Kotaku and PC Gamer waxing lyrical about its great design and gameplay.

Find out more about Broforce at Free Lives.

The Brotherhood - Stasis



Where Broforce is all bombast, explosions and 'MERICA, Stasis is a much more measured pursuit. While it might be a more careful, slow burn and more thoughtful kind of game Stasis ratchets the tension meter pretty high nonetheless. The game is a love letter to the sci-fi horror movies of the early 80s, as well as the isometric RPGs like Baldur's Gate and Planescape: Torment.

It's produced by The Brotherhood, which is ironically a one-man operation comprised of Christopher Bischoff. The Brotherhood part comes in in that Chris' brother handles a lot the work not actually related to creating the game, but as far as art, programming, design, etc. is concerned, it's all Chris. Stasis first came to the world's attention thanks to a ridiculously successful Kickstarter that saw the game raise in excess of a $132 000. That's more than R1.5 million.

So far Chris has been diligently hammering away at getting the game ready for release and we hope to play it soon. Find out more about Stasis here.

Thoopid - Snailboy


Thoopid might make smaller games, but that doesn't mean they make bad games. Case in point their title Snailboy, was major hit on iPhone and related platforms. The game is a throughly well designed puzzler that has you throwing around the titular Snailboy in an visual environment that is breathtakingly well produced.

Unlike the other developers featured here, the Thoopid team has a mobile focus, a move they justified by saying, "Mobile gaming is taking off around the globe and fast becoming more inclusive and accessible to a wider global community of new gamers. Since Snailboy is a fun game envisioned for men, women and kids of all ages, mobile platforms provide the broader audience Snailboy is aiming for." 

Find out more about Snailboy at Thoopid.

Runestorm - Viscera Cleanup Detail


What Runestorm demonstrates with Viscera Cleanup Detail is that South African developers aren't following the herd as far as game making is concerned. Instead local devs are creating original concepts both thematically and in terms of gameplay. It would have been easy to just create another First-Person Shooter or action game, but with Viscera Cleanup Detail Runestorm made a game that looks familiar, but total isn't. The trailer speaks for itself, you are a janitor cleaning up the worst mess there ever was: The aftermath of an alien invasion where the hero has already done his thing and all that's left to do is clean up bodies, blood and gore. It's a surprisingly entertaining and fascinating game that pushes boundaries in the most unusual of directions. 

The Runestorm team began life as a modders for Doom and Quake and are the creators of the "Ballistic Weapons" mod for Unreal Tournament 2004 which proved to be quite popular. The team has won a number of prizes for their modding work and have since graduated to full independent game developer status.

Learn more about RuneStorm here.

QCF Design - Desktop Dungeons

QCF Design are arguably the team that put South Africa as a game development hub on the map. While not the first locals to launch a game they were among the first to get popular recognition and in so doing lead the way for the local scene. These are all accolades they would deny though, as they pretty humble about their achievements.

The game that brought them to the fore is Desktop Dungeons and won the award for Excellence in Design at the 2011 Independent Games Festival, beating out that other indie sensation, MineCraft. It's a really tough game to describe, which is why we've embedded Total Biscuits Lets Play, instead of a trailer. But here's the three things to remember: 

  1. It's simple to get into, but tough to master
  2. You will die more often than you will in Bloodborne
  3. It's immense addictive fun

The problem with Desktop Dungeons, is that it appears to be a simpler game than it actually it is, which may put you off, but you absolutely have to try it. 

Go to QCF Design  to find out more.

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Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not MWEB Connect (Pty) Ltd



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