On Friday, Kenyan augmented reality game developer Internet of Elephants launched its latest game in collaboration with conservation experts from the Borneo Nature Foundation, the Goualougo Triangle Ape Foundation, the Atlanta Zoo and the Chester Zoo.
The new game called "Wildeverse" uses AR to create a virtual forest that players can explore to find specific animals – or to get clues about an animal's location.
Although the game was supposed to be played outdoors, the COVID-19 crisis forced the team to pan and created an option that allowed players to virtually move around the game or walk around in confined spaces using controls.
The game begins with a chat-based segment that introduces players to the gameplay and creates context for the virtual environment that players will explore. The graphics don't focus on restoring a completely immersive jungle environment, but rather create an abstract forest and tree tops for players to explore. A timer keeps track of how long it takes a player to complete a mission. Certain animals are identified or traces of their presence in the forest created by AR are searched.
Once a mission is complete, the player interacts with an actual conservationist who helped the Internet of the Elephants Game developers developed the concept for the game and provided research support and support for the animals actually represented in the gameplay.
The game can be played on any iOS or Android Device that supports ARKit or ARCore.
The challenges range from finding the animals themselves or their footprints, leftover food or feces to finding illegal human activities and threats to the habitat of four real orangutans, chimpanzees, gorillas and gibbons.
To develop the game, the developers of Internet of Elephants, headed by company founder Gautam Shah, actually went to the jungles of Borneo and Congo to talk to conservationists about their work and look for wildlife that can be used in the game, the company said in a statement. The game developers chased several families of monkeys
“Ape populations are decimated worldwide. The protection of wild animals will only become a global priority if enough people are interested in it. Local conservationists are fighting a tough fight with the support of just a handful of people, ”Shah said in a statement. "We are on a mission to make the 2 billion people who play games today nature lovers and supporters of conservation efforts."
For Shah, the latest launch of Internet of Elephants continues the company's mission that began in 2015 when the American-born Shah gave up a consulting career to found his AR-based gaming company. Other members of the Internet of Elephants team also have interesting stories, including product manager Jake Manion, who spent six years as creative director for Aardman Animations, the Oscar-winning studio behind Wallace & Gromit and Shaun the Sheep.
Shah sees three main protective elements for the Wildeverse game. First, he says, it creates a link between the actors and the conservation organizations with which the company works, and gives people a better sense of what conservation organizations are actually doing. The game also forces players to face issues such as forest fires, illegal logging, poaching, and conservation-related challenges that are exacerbated by development and human consumption and change the composition of the jungle that these animals call home . Finally, there is an educational element in the game.
"You really learn a lot of juicy stuff and we are not afraid to become technical," says Shah. "All in all, it's about connecting you in St. Louis to someone in Borneo trying to study orangutans."
Originally, the game was supposed to be played outdoors with a radius of 30 meters in order to get a full overview of the gameplay. However, given the changes previously made by the team, it may work in a small studio apartment in Los Angeles to start the game.
The text component of the game is informative and gives players the opportunity to learn more about the food orangutans eat, their habitat and their life in the jungle. The script is a bit chunky, but not annoying and is based on conversations with the conservationists who work in these different forests.
Ultimately, Shah hopes to expand the number of habitats and the breadth of the game so that players can explore different regions and learn about endangered species on every continent.
There is no monetization in the game yet and it will still be free to play, but Shah hopes to add some revenue-generating elements if development continues along with the multi-player features, he said.
Ultimately, the game is about connecting and educating a new generation through the latest technical tools and gameplay with the wonders of nature conservation.
“We want to make wild animals a positive, exciting topic of daily conversation for millions of people who are not currently involved in nature conservation. We want Fio, Buka, Chilli and Aida to be celebrities, just like Kim Kardashian. Messi and Donald Trump, ”says Shah. "People's attention is so much more important than they think."