Biodiversity and genetic mutation are brought to life in epic battles as players take control of a leafcutter ant colony
Amplify is a US-focused educational publisher reimagining the way teachers teach and students learn. At the heart of this ambition is a groundbreaking digital curriculum for 4th and 5th grade pupils. We’ve been working with Amplify on a series of Maths, English Language, Arts and Science games for a variety of platforms.
As part of their focus on Science subjects, our challenge was to playfully introduce students to biodiversity, genetic mutation and natural selection.
TyrAnt is an ant-based Real Time Strategy game that teaches players how ants eat, communicate and reproduce within a diverse and delicately balanced ecosystem. Now in its third major iteration, the game is sticking to its nature documentary roots. A voiceover adds drama and depth by narrating the story of the colony’s struggle, while rich and detailed environments provide a range of challenges. Resources are plentiful in the damp and leafy park but out on the desert road, competition is fierce for the limited supply.
Players decide how best to develop their colony, choosing the balance of Foragers, who collect valuable food resource, and Soldiers, who defend territory. Mastering the game means mastering the true-to-life dynamics of ant life. For example, as ants navigate between leaves, they lay a pheromone trail so other ants travel more efficiently along the same route. Soldier ants from competing colonies threaten the player’s chance of reaching the all-important nuptial flight and the chance to reproduce. Through genetic mutation the player’s colony becomes increasingly specialised, improving their chance of completing the toughest difficulty setting.
Given the educational context and target age range of 12 and 13 year olds, we focused on intuitive touch controls, high production values and a simple mechanic that can be played again and again. We soon saw the potential of multiplayer battles and now students can play live against friends across different seasons and terrain maps. The Mushroom level is a warren of tight alleyways while the Dog Bowl level throws it wide open, requiring quick thinking and smart use of resources.
TyrAnt touches a broad range of themes from the US Life Sciences curriculum and was developed in close collaboration with Amplify’s curriculum team and the Myrmecologist, Ms Antonia Forster (BSc, MSc). The game has been rolled out to a number of US schools as part of the Amplify pilot programme.