Well the summer is over. Back to work!
First things first, Metaio is dead. Unfortunately Apple decided that Metaio was a sweet piece of software and gobbled it right up. The locked the licensing and basically made it impossible for us to continue development legally.
So that sucked…We spend the entire summer building new technology to make our game play better and now…. unfortunately we lost a bunch of ground with the metaio loss. We were pretty lost about what to do. We had a few options:
1. Remake our game by refactoring all of our code into a new AR engine.
2. Pivot our game.
3. Dissolve our team.
In the end we chose to pivot our game. Along with throwing out metaio, We decided that throwing out the other problems with our game. these problems were namely:
1. lack of vision
2. lack of cultural backing despite being a culture game.
3. overall tired art theme which was too complicated and too bland.
Our Solution to the project caught me a little by surprise. While we were lamenting the death of our current systems and considering our options, I brought up the idea about making a game about Hawaii expecting fully to be denied. I had mentioned Hawaii before and the general opinion was that we would be better suited by local native american cultures. However, Once I started talking about Hawaiian culture, people were interested and after less than an hour of design boxing, we had a compelling idea for a game that everyone could agree with. As a native Hawaiian and a teacher of the Hawaiian culture for 4+ years in my life, I felt confident that we could make a better game than before with new direction.
In order to give you a better idea about our game I will tell you about some of the design decisions we have made. The game will be set in a timeless ancient Hawaiian ahupua’a (strip of land from the ocean to the mountain- pre western influence). The game is 3d isometric view, like popular games such as Spiral Knights, Pokemon(3ds), or like Zelda. The gameplay include an open world with quests to accomplish and basic collection and combat systems. So basically when the player starts the game, the will be given a quest to talk to someone, collect something or fight, etc. As the player completes the quest, they progress through the story.
The mechanics of the game were created from key cultural words/phrases that became systems in the game that help to convey the feelings or underlying meaning of each word respectively. Our main mechanic is linked to the Hawaiian idea of pule or prayer. At any time in the game, a player can choose to pray to one of the four main male gods in Hawaiian culture namely, Kane, Ku, Kanaloa or Lono. By doing so the player gets a bonus stat that is related to the god they have prayed to. Other systems include “aloha aku, aloha mai” or “give and take” where the player can use taro fields to replenish health, but if they don’t replant the taro, it will no longer yield any health. Reversely, if they do give back, next time it will replenish more health than before. Other systems include kapu(basic rules and regulations), halau(system for learning more about Hawaiian culture), ‘Aumakua(narrator and game guide), and others.
Our aesthetics are all Hawaiian themed. Our artists are spending a lot of time learning about Hawaiian plants, structures and design. We embrace all things Hawaiian which is an advantage of a timeless Hawaiian village, we can pursue an aesthetic that feels right culturally without being too bogged down by historical details. We are also going with a stylized art style rather than ultra realistic art style. This allows for more vibrant color schemes, and a symbolic representation of complex cultural ideas.
Our narrative is still being formed and will likely be near the last thing we add to the game to tie it all together. It will be based on real Hawaiian legends. We are tentatively leaning towards the legend of Naupaka and Kaui. As stated before, the narrative will be revealed as the character completes quests, meaning that the quests should be related to the narrative in a meaningful way. The goal of our narrative will be to draw in the user into the legend and let them have a meaningful experience with the culture. Possible story lines could be the telling the story with the main character as Kaui or Naupaka, it could be a riff off the story where you try to reverse the curse on them, etc.
So you might be thinking, What about the AR stuff? well it took us 8 months to implement so I think we need more time. IGF is coming in 2 months so we really need something we can confidently finish in time. We decided to use the AR stuff as a subsystem to complete boss battles themed around the four main male gods(Kane, Kanaloa, Ku, and Lono). We still like the AR stuff and will use MAXstAR to complete levels. We think that the AR style matches the aesthetic and highlights the difference between interacting with the real world vs. the divine world. It is still under development and may not be completely implemented in early versions of the game.
In the end we hope that our game is more than just a fun experience but we hope to contribute to the positive momentum in recent Hawaiian movements. Recently with all of the changes in Hawaii including the ‘Aole TMT movement, The Aloha Aina March, and the ongoing effort towards Hawaiian sovereignty, I feel like Hawaiians are waking up to take more interest in our aina. For the first time in my life I am seeing Hawaiians have more interest in our own kuleana and I want to participate in helping our people. By making this game I hope that I can help everyone gain more interest in Hawaiian culture, and that we can help people understand the underlying principles behind the real world problems Hawaii is facing now. As such, I plan to contact groups in the Hawaiian movement for direction and support in making this game successful.