Cult of the Lamb: another big winner for Victorian games

Cult of the Lamb. Image: Devolver Digital
Melbourne-based developer Massive Monster’s new game was one of the hits at GamesCom this month. This action game, published by Devolver Digital, was one of many to get a starter boost with state government funding. Mitchell Glynne reports

As game developers continue to push the boundaries with imaginative new concepts, Massive Monster’s upcoming game Cult of the Lamb takes it to the next level, following a possessed lamb as they build a demonic cult.

The Melbourne-based developers announced the action game at Gamescom’s virtual opening night to much fanfare, putting another local indie game in the spotlight for a global audience.

Players control a lamb spared from execution by a demonic power as they build up their cult and power and destroy false prophets.

To hear more about the announcements coming out of Gamescom, tune in to Episode 12 of our pop culture podcast Switched On.

The game blends cutesy, Animal Crossing-esque characters with a much darker and nefarious plot to almost comedic effect.

Cult of the Lamb joins games from other local Australian talent, including Necrobarista and Untitled Goose Game that have gained the international spotlight.

Cult of the Lamb: another big winner for Victorian games
Cult of the Lamb. Image: Devolver Digital

Funding the local games industry

Massive Monster’s project is one of many Australian games funded by Film Victoria and Victorian Government initiatives, which encourage further growth in the relatively small local games industry. 

It is part of a number of government initiatives aimed at improving Australia’s place within the global industry and putting Australia on the map when it comes to innovative games.

Film Victoria external assessor Laura Crawford, who is also a lecturer in games at Swinburne University, says funding is generally distributed among various games projects that are in their infancy.

Ms Crawford is a member of the panel that decides on which projects to grant funding to, and says the money available for local projects is “substantial”.

Cult of the Lamb: another big winner for Victorian games
Laura Crawford checks many candidates to identify those worthy of funding. Picture supplied.

Many local studios are vying for the funding at any given time, which can make a major difference as to whether a game is able to be completed and launched. 

Ms Crawford says many factors, including those external to the game’s content, come into consideration for those who apply, such as the diversity of the team and the value to the industry.

“Is it an up-and-coming studio? Will the funding provide training for [new] game designers?”

She says the panel considers the game’s value for newcomers to the industry as well as the possibility for success.

“The game itself may not necessarily be a huge success, but [it could] provide training for people who could create successes in the future.”

The new wave of innovative game concepts

Funding initiatives aren’t the only way indie titles like Cult of the Lamb get off the ground.

Games jams – 48-hour game development competitions – are an indie game community mainstay in which contestants must create a concept and prototype of a game within the given time frame.

Aspiring game developer Jake Whitfield, who participates in Games Jams, says a major part of the events is, “just showing the game working”.

Compromises are often made in favour of a stronger final product.

“It’s a lot of trying to keep our ambition in check,” Mr Whitfield says.

Despite focusing on creating a working prototype, he says one key thing he has learned is to also test out “outlandish ideas … because if you make just another generic platformer, it’s not going to stick out.”

Cult of the Lamb: another big winner for Victorian games
Aspiring games developer Jake Whitfield hopes to one day be able to fully create his visions. Picture by Mitchell Glynne

Many Australian indie games like Cult of the Lamb play with interesting and unique concepts, which Mr Whitfield says can be key to getting a project noticed.

“This isn’t [always] top of the line stuff, so you want to make sure that [it’s] unique, stands out, grabs your attention and makes you want to play it.”

Other unique local games include Necrobarista, which is likened to an interactive novel that takes place in a cafe for the dead, and Frog Detective, whichfollows a frog comedically solving mysteries.

Indie games fans will have to wait for Massive Monster to release Cult of the Lamb in 2022, but it’s safe to say for now that their possessed lamb and his flock have left an impression on global games audiences.