Posted by Radek on April 13th, 2010.
Categories: announcements, contract work, videos.
Kelvin’s Space Ranch is a time management title developed for Science Alberta. The game revolves around running a futuristic farm and a processing facility, both of which require close care. The animals on the farm must be regularly fed, watered and cleaned, while their produce must be properly treated using various machines at the processing facility.
Here’s a trailer of how it looks in action:
In order to document some of the details of its development, we decided to post a short case study on the project:
After doing some consulting work for Science Alberta, we were approached with an offer to create a full title. The game was to be developed using Unity and would need to focus on educating the player on a variety of topics. Its timeline was set at roughly 3 months, and its budget at under 1ook CAD (about 25% of which we earmarked for the art assets).
The project itself came together roughly a year before we came on board, but there was no concrete design for it. It was up to us to create a game based on the desires of the sponsors — Alberta Egg, Alberta Milk, and, to a lesser extent, the space industry — and tie them closely to the province’s grade school curriculum.
The base game needed to be available online via Unity, and we were also instructed to make it as portable and scalable as possible for potential iPhone and PC stand-alone ports.
Finally, the title needed to be visually stimulating and engaging, and seamlessly integrate gameplay elements alongside various educational topics.
The development began with a relatively lengthy, 5 week pre-production period. The parallels between the needs of Alberta Egg and Alberta Milk led us to propose a time management game that required the player to take care of multiple animals on a farm.
In order to showcase more aspects of the school curriculum, we extended the gameplay to include produce and the science behind the machinery that processes it. Finally, we chose a futuristic space ranch for the setting in order to give ourselves a bit of creative leeway while opening the door for concepts important to the space industry.
As we continued to discuss the game’s design with the all parties involved, we also scheduled a few rounds of concept art creation. These allowed us to carefully weigh our options and eventually settle on a whimsical and eye-catching style.
Due to Unity’s limited 2D support, a big part of our development process was creating a custom 2D graphics layer. This wrapper allowed us to quickly design numerous minigames while providing the ability to painlessly change the resolution and aspect ratio for porting purposes.
During our design phase, we also made sure that all the gameplay elements were based on the desired educational information. This created a system where the player absorbed the subject matter by gradually learning how to play the game itself.
Additional educational tid-bits that didn’t fit into the core gameplay were presented in a bonus round that appeared after each level. This bonus round was completely optional and took on the shape of a simple board game. Completing a level rewarded the player with a single key, and these could be used to open any of the doors on the board. Each door revealed either a “secret” piece of knowledge, or a certain number of free keys.
A completion percentage accompanied this bonus game, encouraging the player to beat every level and open every door. The board game not only gave us the ability to squeeze in specific bits of information that the sponsors desired, but also allowed us to present them as something of a reward rather than a forced text dump.
Kelvin’s Space Ranch was successfully completed with all its features fully implemented. Immediately following the last deliverable, Science Alberta hired us to do an iPhone port of the game and offered us a third contract for a brand new project.