N3V Games is one of Australia’s oldest independent game developers, starting life as Auran in 1991.
Auran’s first really big hit was Dark Reign, a 1997 RTS competing directly with the likes of the original Total Annihilation game. Off the back of its success, Auran would go on to make a number of other titles, once again striking it big with Trainz Simulator in 2001, itself a direct competitor for the Microsoft Train Simulator series.
By 2006, the Trainz series was continuing to capture its niche, so N3V Games was created on Queensland’s Gold Coast to act as a publishing arm for Auran’s games, but all activities of the latter were quickly subsumed into the larger N3V umbrella.
"There are still a couple of us around from the old Auran days," explains Paul Olsen, Director and Studio Head for N3V, "But the game has changed quite a bit over the years! Over the past few years we having been developing a lot more mobile games (like most game companies) but we’re still true to our core franchises."
The team focuses on Trainz primarily, with branches of the franchise now extending out to almost every platform, with several spinoffs for different subsets of the train enthusiast market. But, they also work on new IP, working closely with NVIDIA to develop their multiplayer zombie shooter Dead on Arrival 2, a million-seller of which the 20-strong team is clearly very proud.
"As we are one of the oldest established game development studios in Australia, we’ve had the time to put solid foundations in place to support ourselves and not have to rely on contract work or additional funding to keep doing what we love," Olsen continues.
He points to N3V’s lasting and successful relationships with overseas companies as the major reason why the company is still standing, having had the position to be able to learn well from his contemporaries’ lessons overseas. But the need to travel is key, he says, to grow a videogame business, and that’s where being in Australia can be tricky.
"I’ve learnt to sleep on planes much more effectively than when I first started doing the overseas trips," he says. "But anyone who wants to get into this business really needs to be going to the three major conferences each year: GDC, E3 and Gamescom."
"The relationships that are made and grown from attending these events are critical to growing our business."
N3V’s partnership with NVIDIA, for example, is about to yield fruit by adding new content to the Trainz in-house engine, although Olsen remains tight-lipped about just what that is.
Meanwhile, the company continues to branch into new spaces, with Simulator Central being one of its many innovations, acting as a one-stop digital shop for simulator games which span the spectrum.