When It Rains
The concept for “When It Rains” began with a discussion we had during the Chezo Game Jam about the best way to invoke the experience of an African society suffering from the effects of a stifling drought, with a civil conflict as the backdrop for smaller, more personal stories of individual refugees. So the first iteration we presented at the conclusion of the Game Jam was built around the idea of managing the resources of a small community of refugees fleeing a conflict-zone. And with technology equivalent to a rural village in Sub-saharan Africa, the macroeconomic considerations integral to the game were limited to crops, livestock and water rations.
Our main challenges were twofold: narrowing the scope of our game while keeping the core concepts interesting enough to engage with an international audience; and finding a sustainable business model for “Hull Games” to fund the lengthy process of game development.
At first we believed it prudent to finish a working demonstration of our flagship game before seeking out other avenues of revenue for Hull Games because we were yet to develop a reputation that we could use to invite sponsors to partner with us during the development phase.
We also realized that in order to court clients interested in gamified products we would need at least one flagship product or a small selection of mini-games to illustrate our game-making abilities. Our initial focus therefore was to continue iterating on our flagship project “When It Rains” until we had a working demo that we could publicly showcase.
There were few opportunities to interact with the local game developer community, so we decided to start an online group on Facebook called Kenya Game Developers (KGD) with over ninety developers showcasing their work, soliciting feedback and discussing industry challenges. We also look forward to launching the “Monthly Nairobi Game Dev” meetup.
Developing a Working Demo - “Project Aquarius”
We demoed an early Alpha version of “When It Rains”, nicknamed “Project Aquarius” from which we received initial feedback from our mentors at the Barn ltd. Based on the Barn’s advice, our next major iteration better emphasized the role of technology, specially highlighting the need to develop better water catchment & filtration techniques, as well as the need for a constant supply of medicine, as refugee camps (even when mobile) tend to be fraught with outbreaks of disease.
Once the technology system was revamped, and the concept of medicine as a resource, was introduced, we tested out a newer demo of “Project Aquarius” with friends, family and a few fellow developers drawn from the Kenya Game Developers (KGD) group.
Playtesting with a random selection of people and game developers not familiar with our game’s development process, revealed that there was a disconnect between the intended experience and the gameplay systems currently implemented. We decided to return to the core themes we discussed during the Chezo Game Jam: African history and postcolonial culture; resource management; war and drought.
And we realized that in order to make a “visceral experience” that is true to the life of a refugee, we needed to make dynamic storytelling a key component of the gameplay experience. So, to bring the storytelling aspect to the fore, we got rid of the community management component and replaced it with a similar experience of managing a handful of refugees that we later dubbed as “Party Management”.
Party Management thrusts upon the player the role of a leader, emphasizing the direct relationship between player choice and consequentialism. That is, the idea that every decision the player makes has a drastic effect on the characters and communities that make up the fictional world of When It Rains. In this way the player would be confronted with the daily hardships and morally ambiguous choices facing refugees fleeing conflict.
Game Development Outlook
We used a portion of the funds we received from the Chezo Game Jam to contract a concept artist and a writer, which has helped us push development significantly forward. We have also set aside a portion of the funds already received to contract a 3D artist to make the character and object models for Project Aquarius. Further development is still required for both the demo which will be the free online version - Project Aquarius - and the final version meant for sale on digital platforms - When It Rains.
Project Aquarius, essentially a standalone demo of When It Rains, will be made publicly available online as a form of product showcase. Our website will be launched shortly and we will continue to showcase Hull Game’s products and ingenuity at game conventions, innovation exhibitions and startup events.
In addition to monthly meetups, we also look forward to organizing workshops and game jams to promote local game development towards serious and commercial games.
While more time and funding is required to bring When It Rains to completion, we plan on using the experience learned and the project demo - Project Aquarius - to source for additional sponsors and to promote gamification as a service.
The major challenge we face now is building a sustainable business model for Hull Games that incorporates other revenue streams like gamified products, design workshops and esports tournaments. We are confident however, thanks to the support and training we received from the Chezo Game Consortium that as we near completion of Project Aquarius, we will be able to branch out into diverse revenue models to help sustain and eventually complete the development of When It Rains