Show And Tell: Black Lab Games

Welcome to Show and Tell, our regular feature where we check in with indie devs to see what they're working on or what they've recently finished. Speaking in front of the class about his tactical battle game today is Paul Turbett, the founder, programmer, designer, manager, and everything else of Black Lab Games.

Can you introduce yourself and tell me a little bit about your studio? I’m Paul Turbett, founder of Black Lab Games. Black Lab is an independent developer based in Perth. I handle the programming, game design, project management, and all of the business-related stuff. I often work solo, but also involve awesome people along the way to help out as needed, such as artists, musicians and writers.

What game are you working on at the moment?

The current project (which has been on-going for a while) is called Star Hammer Tactics. It’s a sci-fi themed tactical battle game. Players control a small strike group of military space ships and battle against an alien invading force known as the Nautilids. There is a single player campaign, a “skirmish” mode, and a local multiplayer option.

I always wanted to make a strategy game that could be played in short bursts, so battles are usually fairly quick, like five to ten minutes. As a result the game is really kind of “stripped back” to just the basics of tactical battles. It’s not complex, so it’s quick to learn and get into, and suits portable platforms really well.

It was originally developed for the Xbox 360 for Xbox Live Indie Games, was later ported to the PSP as a PlayStation mini, and is now getting it’s 3rd edition on the iPad.

There is website with more info at Where and when can we play?

If you have a PSP, you can play it now! It’s been in the PlayStation Store in the “minis” section since July last year.

The iPad version should be available in October. It’s getting a major overhaul for the iPad. Whereas the PSP version was strictly 2D, the iPad version is 3D, so I’m doing a lot more with camera angles and adding more action and improved visuals to it. The gameplay is faster and smoother, the graphics are all HD, and the touch interface suits the game perfectly. I’m really excited about it!

I post updates on the Black Lab Games Facebook page at for anybody interested in knowing when the game hits the AppStore.

What’s next for your studio – any big plans?

I’m interested in growing Black Lab Games. Once the iPad version of Star Hammer Tactics is complete, I plan to look into a possible Android release, and also a PC/Mac version that will include online multiplayer options. I think that game will be a bit more in-depth though, with slightly longer battles and more options, such as upgrades and more ships, etc.

I’ve also got a design for another online-only game brewing the the back of my mind that I think will appeal to anybody who is into tabletop wargames and the like. Time will tell when that gets unleashed though. Any words of advice for those who want to get into the games industry?

I believe in setting goals. I set goals for each project I start — whether it be gameplay objectives or how many people I want to download the game. If you don’t think about and state your objective, how will you know you’ve reached it? So it’s worthwhile thinking about what you’d specifically like to achieve in the industry, then work at developing your skills, knowledge and experience to go in that direction. Then be focused on getting where you want to go.

Also, never stop developing new skills, even ones that aren’t part of your “core” job. A programmer who knows how to use Photoshop or a 3D package is in a much better place to talk with artists when helping to solve problems, and that makes them more valuable to any potential employer. An artist that knows at least the basics of programming and computer hardware is the same. I think everybody that wants to be in the industry can benefit from knowing something of how the business side of the games business works.

Finally, don’t bother writing your own tech these days, unless you are trying to understand how it works at the lowest level. There are so many tools around (such as Unity and UDK) that it’s just not worth the time to write your own. Just focus on making games.


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