For Earth Day, I wanted to share my web game B.U.D.D.I.! Decontaminate the ocean and combat coral bleaching by cleaning trash and installing biometric monitors as you near the BIG jellyfish.
This game was made possible by a commission from a Columbia University education researcher working on an after school program for elementary school students with funding from National Geographic. The first iteration of the program ran a few years ago, and the next will include B.U.D.D.I. in the coral lesson. This was the lesson I chose because I thought the coral reef would be a great setting for a game.
I talked to a marine biologist who told me the most important thing students can learn about coral is that bleaching is caused by pollution, so I focused on that for the main mechanic. The goal of each level is to collect all the trash and guide the clownfish to the sea anemone that regrows in the freshly cleaned habitat. The group I playtested with liked the game and seemed to understand the message. They can probably beat it faster than you!
One of the unique qualities of this project is its funding. Although the commission it received wasn't enough to sustain full time game development, non-profit grants are a revenue source with a lot of potential for game developers. Imagine having an audience and funds before you even start making a game and still having as much freedom as you would in a game jam.
The funding also provided an opportunity to work on game engine and web export code. Most elementary school classrooms use Chromebooks, making them pretty unfriendly to downloadable games. In my case, I've been wanting to work on exporting to web anyway, so I decided to grind away on low-level C++ code in SDL and OpenGL to port my Pygame prototype to the web.
This makes B.U.D.D.I. the first game to use my custom, 3D, open source game engine [SPACE BOX] that exports to web, Android, Raspberry Pi, PC, Mac, and Linux. I'm hoping to add Switch too. It is one of the few engines compatible with the MIT/zlib license, meaning it has no restrictions on use.
By extension, B.U.D.D.I. is free to be copied, modified, and redistributed in any form because I'm licensing the art and music as Creative Commons, and the researcher wants to share the game outside of the context of the program. It's an open source miracle!
Most importantly, the game is fun and everyone I've playtested with seems to like it and find it intuitive. Making a game for kids at school is not difficult because they'll be so glad to take a break that they'll be engaged no matter how boring the game is. However, I wanted to make the kind of game kids would pull up on the computer when the teacher wasn't looking, and I got permission to do it, so here you go gamer.
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