Following C4 Education's announcement of 2011 projects (as reported in Wired, RPS, Develop, The Guardian) we thought we'd provide a bit more information about one of the two games we're producing for them - 'The End'.
Almost a year ago we started talking about a game which would explore the relationship teens have with death and religion. According to research, the majority of UK teens are now non-religious. Given that a person's understanding of death is guided by their religion, the absence of one suggests that the majority of teens are largely unsupported when trying make sense of it.
(An early concept scamp - 'The Daily Death')
'The End' is a game of self-discovery which aims to surprise and delight teens with a variety of commonly (or less commonly) held views about mortality and death. The ambition is to help them answer the same questions humans have always asked: Why are we here? What’s it all about? What happens when I die?
Talking about death
Death is a pretty big subject to tackle in a game. It's also hugely emotive and something which we've approached with a certain degree of trepidation.
To help us understand the issues better we visited three schools, each with very different beliefs and opinions about death. The results from these sessions have been overwhelmingly positive and we already have a heap of anecdotal and qualitative feedback which has really helped to refine the shape of the project.
The most telling aspect of our research is how thoughtful and engaged they where in all aspects of the subject of death. It was clear that most of the teens we spoke to have had first hand experience of death in their lives and are keen to actively engage with the subject to find out more in both a practical and metaphysical sense.
Here are some of the quotes we recorded during our visits:
- "It's [a good idea] because these are things you think about but never talk about!"
- "‘I’m interested in religion but I’m not religious"
- "Dying in your sleep would be nice, but I don’t really want to go to the afterlife and tell everybody I died in my sleep. It’d sound boring"
- "The questions are great - other games are afraid to ask questions like this and it makes you think about life instead of just shooting things"
- "If I was reincarnated into a daffodil I’d be upset. You just stand there"
A massive thank you to Battersea Arts Centre (and Coney), Southfields Community College, Wilmington Grammar School For Girls and Thomas Tallis School for letting us come and visit. We're hoping we can repay the favour in the future!
In the last few weeks we got sign off on the concept, marking the end of three months of planning and testing. As it stands, the game is made up from three core components:
1. The 'Thinker Profile'
The whole project is built out of a very simple idea of self-discovery - the profiler records the player's in-game interactions and then visualises these in the context of their friends and other famous thinkers.
(The 'Philisophical profile' interactive prototype)
2. The platform game
Players will spend most of their time in the platform game. It's built using our soon-to-be open source Box2D platform game engine and features a totally unique shadow and light system. We don't want to say anymore at this stage, apart from it's very, VERY cool!
(An early sketch of a level)
3. 'Death cards'
'Death cards' is a hex-based strategy game we've designed as the battle mechanic for end of level encounters as well as multi-player challenges outside of the game world.
(Playing pieces for the 'Death Cards' paper prototype)
The project is allowing us to refine our approach to publishing a 'portable game'. The proposed implementation builds on our previous experience but this time puts even more emphasis on incentivising play on an 'official site'. A lot more to come on this soon.
The team is looking pretty hot too - As well as running our biggest ever project team (core team of 6), we've got the intimidatingly bright Tom Chatfield on board for content and game design and the supremely talented Luke Pearson for illustration. Suffice to say, it's going to be super smart and ultra-beautiful!
We’re at day 80 and have another 220 (ish) to go. Over the coming months we'll be sharing progress but if you fancy joining the beta testing list drop us an email at 'theendbeta[at]preloaded[dot]com'.