Aussie Indie Insights: Black Lab

This week, we talk to Paul Turbett from Black Lab about Star Hammer Tactics.


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While most of Australia's well-known indie developers come from the east coast, there are small operations going on all over the country. For this week's Aussie Indie Insights, we headed west to Perth and looked at Black Lab. The one-man studio currently has one game under its belt, Star Hammer Tactics, which was originally released on Xbox Live Arcade in 2010. Since then, the game has been ported over to the PlayStation Network as a PSP Mini title and was today released on the iOS. GameSpot AU caught up with Black Lab's founder and sole employee, Paul Turbett, to find out a little bit about Star Hammer Tactics.

Founded: 2008
Location: Perth, Western Australia
Team members: One full-time employee and several freelancers contributing as required.
Current projects: Star Hammer Tactics for the iPad.

Combat takes place from a bird's-eye view in Star Hammer Tactics.
Combat takes place from a bird's-eye view in Star Hammer Tactics.

If you had to talk to someone about your game who has never heard of it before, how would you describe it in one paragraph?

Star Hammer Tactics is a game of tactical space battles. Players control a fleet of heavily armed spaceships in a fight to the death. There is a story-driven campaign, in which you play the part of a newly graduated commander named Fredan Dyce and take on an alien force called the Nautilids that have recently invaded mankind's new homeworld, Novus. There is also a skirmish mode, in which one or two players can design their own fleet and go to battle. Gameplay is all about strategic positioning of ships, careful use of a limited supply of long-range missiles, and close range ship-to-ship combat. It's designed to cater well for short-play sessions, so most battles take less than 15 minutes. Of course, you can play as many battles as you like if you have plenty of time! Oh, and there are big explosions.

What challenges did you face while developing the game?

Actually, it was pretty straightforward. Balancing a game like this is always a challenge, and some of the systems, such as the repairs system, had to be redeveloped a few times. Though all in all, it was a joy to develop. I think having a really good idea of the game you want to write, which was the case with Star Hammer Tactics, makes all the difference.

Bite-sized games are a great way for developers to experiment and try something new. Describe to us something that's unique to your game?

Most strategy games are pretty complex and take a while to learn how to play. I suspect many people don't bother with the genre because the games are too complex or take too long to play. I think Star Hammer Tactics is unique in that it's a true strategy game--you need to think about what you are doing to win--but it's quite an easy game to learn to play, and there is still plenty of depth.

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