From the cartoony mascots of the '90s to your canine companion in the most recent entry in the Call of Duty franchise, developers have found a myriad of fanciful ways to incorporate animals into their games. However, games that attempt to realistically (or even semi-realistically) portray what it's like to be a particular species of animal are fairly sparse.
For Game Career Guide's latest Game Design Challenge, our readers designed video games about the daily lives of animals. Here are our top picks.
Allan Cudicio, Game Design Student at the Games Academy in Berlin, Germany, Alkasan - Story of a Fennec (see page 2)
Juan Belón Pérez, Leopard in the Wild (see page 3)
Renato Araujo Lima Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Paraná, Brazil Prey - Project Abyss (see page 4)
Mitar Stjepčević, Student at University of Novi Sad, The Sunflower Patches (see page 5)
Joshua Gleason & Andrew Hanawalt, Toro Tempest (see page 6)
Allan Cudicio, Game Design Student at the Games Academy in Berlin, Germany, Alkasan - Story of a Fennec
In this game you explore the world of a fennec - the small Saharan fox - and fight for its survival while its life is disrupted by nefarious events.
The young desert fox is the only protagonist of the story and survival is the main aim on the game. As the player will be busy dealing with the realistic challenges of an animal who lives in such a hostile environment, she or he will be gradually introduced to some events happening to the surrounding humans: in this game, though, roles are reversed; humans and their struggles are on the background whereas the animal and its point of view are protagonists.
- The Gameplay
Alkasan - Story of a Fennec - starts with the young fox learning the basics of survival together with its family in the desert (this could easily be a tutorial) In this part the main mechanics will be explained:
There will be no "hit points" bar as the game does not focus on battle but on survival, if something bites or hits Alkasan he will just start limping and will slow down. Additional accidents will just further slow the fennec making the search for food and water increasingly challenging (and therefore indirectly leading to death).
Early in the game the fennec´s family´s life is disrupted by poachers who capture the foxes: only the protagonist manages to get away.
The game continues as Alkasan follows the poachers´car tracks through the desert, fetching food and water and avoiding its natural predators (Eagle-owls, caracals, jackals, hyenas).
An exhausted Alkasan reaches a human city (Timbuktu) and manages to survive through the help of a little girl. The fennec then discovers that in order to free its family he needs to involve her.
In the last and most difficult part of the game the player has to use everything he or she learned to make Alkasar survive in the hostile urban environment of the poor desert city. To make things worse the city is in the midst of a violent islamist insurgency.
In a bittersweet ending the player can finally try to save its pack and the life of the human girl...
- Themes and feel
The beauty of the desert such as seen in "Journey", the harshness of animal life as both hunted and predator, the damage brought by humans to both the animal and their own world, daily survival struggle(such as in Don´t Starve), friendship and the world through the eyes (and ears) of an animal.
Juan Belón Pérez, Leopard in the Wild
Monitor the leopard stats and control the animal.
* Energy/Thirsty-Hungry Use the nearest river or water holes, avoiding crocodiles when you are drinking.
Keep the animal well fed, depending on the hunger level, you can go hunt small animals - rabbits,...-, or bigger ones like boars or monkeys; if hunger is great, go for antelopes, bisons,etc.
Using surprise is the key to your success, there are few opportunities for a kill and we need to be smart and fast -game mode changes and the hud too-. To do so, we can run 36 miles/h(58km/h),leap 20 feet(6m) forward in a single bound, and jump ten feet (3m) straight up, use these skills will drain the energy bar but if you succeed you will be rewarded.
* Affection/Joy A real achievement is to make a friend of a lone lion and use this friendship to hunt animals that we can't hunt by ourselves, like a rhino. This implies a lot of playing with the lion, bars show current progresses. Once you have a partner, try to know the best moment to hunt together. If you try to use the friendship too soon to get boars but the other animal has no experience with them -because boars are faster,and so on-, the hunting will fail and they will evade you. If the lion is in joy-mode you will have to play games until the bar changes to another state. To improve this situation faster, find a member of the opposite sex and establish a relationship. Making a friend of your own kind is difficult, leopards are lonesome; try to use games and contact. If you have a pal,this animal will eat from your catch too.
* Safety/Stealth Danger is specially important, if another lion shows up near you or your friend, it is a danger, your lions friends are temporary. There are many other things to avoid: elephants,packs of hyenas or wild dogs can kill leopards too. Use the smell of the sand to hide your scent by wallowing in it. Leopards are usually nocturnal, resting by day and hunting at night -game vision changes with camera filters and glow elements, like Alien vs Predator games-, they mix stealth and speed; they can use a group of rocks to stealth from a group of boars and attack one as he passes.
You can also bury the remains to prevent other animals from eating it, or use the trees with small prey like a baby antelope by climbing to the branches with it -balance game-: they can climb as high as 50feet(15m) up while holding a fresh kill in their mouth.
* Experience/performance: integration with the environment Depending on the level (scene), sometimes the place is perfectly safe (natural reserve with temples in India) others are not. We need to capture our territory by marking our scent with urine.
GFX+SFX: STATUS BARS(*) are minimalistic.
Environment is a sandbox based on different ambient themes: abandoned city, distant island, harmonious jungle. Cool sunsets, red sky, green land,night vision...
I also made a prototype: http://gamejolt.com/games/strategy-sim/leopard-in-the-wild/36375/
Renato Araujo Lima Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Paraná, Brazil Prey - Project Abyss
Deep in the oceans there are inhospital zones where life barely exist, and when it does they are totally different from what we know. Darkness is it's home and appearances can deceive you, the only thing that matters is to hunt and survive to those who hunt you.
Dive in this thrilling virtual reality game about the mysteries of the abyssal zone, you are in control of the daily life of a snailfish, a very resilient fish who lives in the depths of the ocean. Your main objective is to survive exploring the underworld searching for food as small crustaceans and mollusks, breeding, carrying your eggs for protection and fleeing from larger terrifying predators such as Anglerfishes, Viperfishes, Jellyfishes and more mysterious animals.
As you dive deeper in the abyss, you'll find unexplored fields where there is more food, however the enemies are more violent and lethal. You will barely "sense" things that are surrounding you. With a limited enlighted range of view it's even more important to listen to the environment noises and predict if it's safe or not to face the unknown.
You get rewards for reproducing and taking care of your precious eggs. At this stage, the snailfish puts the eggs in the mouth and stay without food until the eggs hatch. Without much food, your senses will be getting low and your sight becomes limited, perfect for the attack of an enemy, one single misjudment could cost your life in the game. Be cautious, be instinctive, be brave, don't be a Prey.
Mitar Stjepčević, Student at University of Novi Sad, The Sunflower Patches
Every time you see a hamster he is doing one of two things, trying to escape, or planning his escape. This is a game about a hamster whose dream is to see the fabled sunflower patches. His journey starts out by him planning his escape from the pet store in pursuit of his dream. The pet store serves as a way for the players to get acquainted with the controls and gameplay. You are soon scooped up by a new owner, looking to buy his first hamster. It is your goal to escape from every cage that stands in your way, by all means necessary.
Along the way you will meet new friends. Each of the hamsters you join up with have their own specialties. The Syrian Hamster is the biggest of the bunch and is great for pushing heavy objects out of the way. The Roborovski is the smallest, best for getting through tight spaces. Depending on their size a hamster can carry more or less items in his cheek pouches. Items such as food can be used to bait other animals out of their usual patrol path or it can be consumed to heal your party. Their cheek pouches also have other uses such as allowing them to breathe underwater or carry key items.
Chapters start out by letting you and your party scout the area and learn the daily schedule of your owner. You need to plan an escape route and get everyone out of the cage without being spotted. The emphasis is on teamwork, as you can order your party, letting each one do another thing. For example the Syrian hamster may chew on the bars distracting the owner, while the Roborovski hamster sneaks out among the havoc. To escape you must escape by using the items in your cage to climb out and open it from the other side. In another escape you need to empty the water bottle, in order to push it out of the way and reveal an opening in the cage.
Once you do finally escape the cage you need to escape the building. This area has a focus on stealth, as you have to evade various other animals such as dogs, cats and giant bugs. Here you must use your resources and team to get everyone out of the house and to freedom.
At the end of the chapter you and your party are captured by another person and brought to an even more secured hamster cage. The levels will be varied, starting off at the pet store, proceeding to a kind new owner, after which there will be a research laboratory and finally ending at a hamster breeder's ranch. As the game progresses owners will be more and more vary of your escape attempts. The final stage will feature a huge hamster cage with interlinking tubes, where you can see the sunflower patch through the window showing that you are finally close to your dream.
Joshua Gleason & Andrew Hanawalt, Toro Tempest
An action heavy combat racer, in the vein of Burnout or Road Rash, that revolves around the Running of the Bulls. A ongoing tradition that involves unleashing dozens of wild bulls that flood the streets of Pamplona, Spain every year. In this game you take on the role of one of the most ruthless Bulls to ever grace the bloody streets of Spain. Using your massive horns to gore and maul the panicked runners you compete against other bulls to rack up the most points before you reach the end of the run. Points are accumulated by attacking runners and taking down other bulls. Enough successful attacks coupled back-to-back will build into a combo, that will in effect multiply your points' value. Points function as one of the gauges of success but also help build up your boost meter, that can in turn be used to increase your speed for limited periods of time or to engage in special attacks. Although you play as a powerful killing machine you are vulnerable to take-downs yourself. If your eyes are bigger than your horns and you hit too many runners without enough momentum you will lose your traction and go flying off the "course". You are also vulnerable to attacks from other bulls who will try to beat you to the finish by any means necessary. Get to the end of the track in one piece with most points and you will win the game. Each successful win will give you a certain amount of in game currency that you will use to upgrade and pimp out your bull(s) and even unlock new ones.