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Lighthouse Games Interview - The challenges South African devs face

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Lighthouse Games Studio is a South African Indie game development company founded in 2009. Since then, they have published 25 titles on multiple platforms, many of which have reached the top of various indie charts; including great success with mobile platforms. They are a two-man team consisting of Edward Dennekamp and Neil Jones.

The Lighthouse Games Studio office overlooks the Lighthouse in Umhlanga, Durban. The developers have their first game on Steam’s Early Access program, Shark Attack Deathmatch 2, which is the follow-up to their successful Xbox 360 Indie title, hark Attack Deathmatch.

I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Mr Jones, the 3D artist and Co-Founder of Lighthouse Games Studio. Join us as we chat about challenges local game developers face, what it means to be an Indie dev, and what Shark Attack Deathmatch 2 players can expect in the future.

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Neil Jones sitting by a tree, safely away from the shark invested waters of Durban

How did Lighthouse Games Studio start?

"Edward Dennekamp (co - founder) and I met while in high school and we both learned we had a passion for making games. We created a few demos shortly after leaving school and really enjoyed the process. It was only 2009 did we really start taking it seriously.

We worked on 2 titles that we completed while we were still employed and because of the success we were able to quit and do this full time. We now have over 25 titles under our belts and have a great studio overlooking the Lighthouse in Umhlanga Durban, very fitting considering our company name."

What are the challenges you face as a South African game developer?

"There are a few unique challenges that we face living and developing a game in South Africa. Load Shedding immediately springs to mind, we lost a lot of time because of it and the crunch time we were doing in the evenings were largely to catch up on time we lost during the day.

We are also pretty far away from some of the big game development conferences ( unite, GDC and various other workshops ) as well as the big game/trade shows E3. It becomes very expensive if we were to attend these once you include flights etc."

Can SA developers even compete with international studios?

"It’s a very tough challenge, but at the moment there is tremendous support for indie games and lots of channels and market places to get on. I think the bigger challenge funny enough is, competing with other indie studios. Getting exposure can be very tricky especially when new titles are released every day.

A lot of things have to line up. Having a great game at a great price with interesting concept or unique features goes a long way, but even with that in place if you don’t end up on a popular selling list it is an uphill battle."

What is next for Shark Attack Deathmatch 2?

"Shark Attack Deathmatch 2 is our latest title and the first game we are launching on Steam. We have a long and exciting road ahead for Shark Attack Deathmatch as we are still in Early Access. Co-op will be unlocked this weekend along with new map called Atlantis.

Following that it will be a case of adding new maps, game modes, new sharks and weapons to keep up with the demands from players. The most exciting milestone on the horizon will be porting the game to PS4 and Xbox ONE. Shark Attack Deathmatch 1 was launched exclusively on Xbox 360 and was one of the top Selling Indie Games on that platform."

Are there any tips you can give aspiring local game developers?

"Definitely. The most important tip that I can give over and above anything else is start off small and easy. Find the simplest game concept you can think of and run with it to completion. Developing a game is always easy to start but even the simplest of title can be hard to finish.

There are so many valuable lessons you will going through the process and more importantly how the marketplaces work (Steam, App Store, etc). Once you complete your first title you can always move onto bigger and better ideas' and games."

Shark Attack Deathmatch 2 details

Shark Attack Deathmatch 2 is the follow up to the successful Xbox 360 indie title Shark Attack Deathmatch. It was one of the top selling Indie games on the platform and is now on Steam Early Access for the low price of $7,99 or you can purchase a 4-pack for $24,99.

Although the game is still in Early Access, it is not a bite-sized experience. The developer constantly updates the game, with the latest update coming this weekend. It is one of the few early access game you can’t purchase early enough. Shark Attack Deathmatch 2 captures the thrill of underwater multi-player mayhem like no other game.

The game offers savage and brutal combat, where you hunt opponents down in various game modes and maps, all with the constant fear of sharks who want to devour you.  It is a “heart pounding” experience that will keep you on the edge of your seat. The game features both single and multiplayer modes.

Singleplayer:

Survival is a single player experience where players take on a constant onslaught of some of the most terrifying beasts in the ocean. Every encounter you survive could have you climbing the global leaderboard for prestige and world domination. Each combat zone is breathtaking and each offers a unique experience. Whether it be hunting down the Ragged Tooth Sharks in The Boneyard, Surviving brutal attacks in the flooded New York City map in Tsunami or fighting amongst the carnage of Wrecks and Reefs. New maps will be released constantly during the early access process.

Multi-player:  

Combat in Shark Attack Deathmatch 2 is intense. Up to 8 Online Players battle it out against each other with the added threat of terrifying sharks joining in on the mayhem.”  

The sharks:  

Great Whites, Ragged-Tooth's, Bull Sharks and Black Tip Reef Sharks when provoked will hunt you down and become your worst nightmare.”    

Player customization and future updates:  

Players have complete control of all their gear. Personalize Wetsuits, flippers, goggles, tanks, snorkels and more. Create your own signature look that other players recognize will soon grow to fear. Shark Attack Deathmatch 2 is still in early access but we have a fantastic roadmap of exciting game modes. Included in this is a shark game mode where players will have the opportunity to play as one of these terrifying beasts and rip on-line players to shreds.

Closing Thoughts

Loadshedding is clearly a big issue for South African game developers, especially Indie developers or first time developers who might not have the resources for high quality generators. It puts a lot of added pressure on deadlines and makes it even harder to compete with international developers.If you would like to get into game development, visit MakeGamesSA to see which likeminded individuals are in your area and follow them on Twitter for the latest in South African game development.

Thank you to Neil Jones from Lighthouse Games Studio for taking the time out of your busy schedule to do the interview.

Neil Jones Twitter / Lighthouse Games Studio Twitter / Website / Facebook

Have you played Shark Attack Deathmatch 2? What do you think about the challenges South African Indie developers face and do you want to create your own game in the future? Let us know in the comment section below.

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