SA game development approaching tipping point

South African game developer Celestial Games is back in action, having announced they have been working on Toxic Bunny HD – a remake of their popular 1996 platform game. SA’s Apex Interactive has been appointed exclusive distributor of Toxic Bunny HD in South Africa.

Celestial formed in 1994. The studio published two PC titles – platformer Toxic Bunny, and action-RPG The Tainted.

We caught up with one of the original designers of the game and Toxic Bunny HD project leader, Travis Bulford, to learn a bit more about what it’s like to be a small game developer in a very difficult economy for such a thing.

Of the original [Toxic Bunny] team of four, only two of us are still involved – Nick McKenzie and myself,” explained Bulford.

We asked how his approach to game development has changed over the years. “I think its changed in line with the industry’s changes. Before we had no choice but to write the game from start to finish. In fact, when we released Toxic Bunny the idea of an engine and game as two separate things was fairly limited to SCUM engine and the Sierra one. Today there are plenty of engines built by large teams. In a fashion the industry has matured. Toxic Bunny HD is of course our own engine. But we are more open to the idea of using engines where appropriate to build our games.”

We asked what Bulford thought of the game development scene and environment in South Africa, since he was involved in making games back in 1996.

“Things have certainly changed. We still don’t have a local market big enough to support a local team. But I think access to international publishers has become easier,” said Bulford.

“Internet makes access to knowledge considerably better. We haven’t quite reached the point were South Africa has a budding industry, but that point does seem more possible then it was in 1996. I would like to think that next year will see a change with more local teams stepping up to be counted. The main obstacle facing a local team remains funding.”

Apex Interactive will be releasing Toxic Bunny HD at the rAge 2012 expo, which takes place from 5 – 7 October 2012. The game will be playable and purchasable at the expo, available on Windows and Mac OS PC.

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