Philippine video game developers are using virtual reality technology to create experiences that inspire hope and love.
Today, we look at two such games: one that explores a little-known issue affecting many Filipino schoolchildren, and another that reminds us about the true meaning of home.
1. The Yellow Boat Reimagined
Here is an action-adventure platformer based on the challenging reality of many schoolchildren in the Philippines’ outlying regions.
You assume the role of a young girl whose daily journey to school involves traversing numerous hazards. As such, you’ll be swimming across rivers, climbing steep slopes, crossing ramshackle bridges, and more.
“The game is divided into several levels with increasing difficulty,” said Game Producer/Designer Patrice Adela. “First, the player will be taught the basic mechanics of the game by allowing them to explore a bahay kubo and gather things needed for the long journey. The areas in the game were designed to recreate a provincial setting surrounded by bodies of water and uphill trails.”
Created by S4LT-V4LT group, the game aims to spread awareness about the plight of such schoolchildren and bring about positive change in their circumstances.
“[W]e are passionate about utilizing our platform to help shed light on this issue many people are not aware of,” said Adela. “Through the use of the innovative technology of virtual reality, we gamify this experience to put our players in the shoes of these children who face such challenges on a daily basis.”
Committed to their cause, S4LT-V4LT is collaborating with Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation, a non-governmental organization that donates boats, school supplies, and infrastructures to many communities across the country.
“Through this project, we aim to help the foundation reach out to more people and encourage them to take action,” said Adela.
“The Yellow Boat Reimagined” is a remaster of 2018’s “The Yellow Boat,” which was originally a thesis project for their Game Design and Development (GDD) course in De La Salle – College of St. Benilde.
“We weren’t exposed to the VR platform beforehand, so we had to learn along the way as we developed our thesis project,” said Adela and Game Programmer Anton Arcega.
S4LT-V4LT also “had to come up with mechanics that would deliver full immersion and realism,” said Adela and Arcega. “We had to balance the fun and the realism within our game to make it playable and enjoyable for our players.”
“The Yellow Boat” won Game of the Year at GDAP’s Game On 2018, going on to win two Game On 2019 School Track awards: Best VR Game, and Best Narrative and Story.
“The Yellow Boat Reimagined” has also been exhibited at many public gaming events, including ESGS, GameCon, Reality Expo, and ToyCon.
For now, attending such events is the only way to play it, so stay tuned to the game’s Facebook page for special announcements.
S4LT-V4LT hopes to commercially release “The Yellow Boat Reimagined” soon.
S4LT-V4LT is Patrice Adela (Game Producer, Game Designer), Anton Arcega (Game Programmer), Kristine Ong (3D Artist), Trixie Ylanan (2D Artist), David Pacheco (Game Designer), Nathaniel Gonzales (Game Programmer, Sound Designer), Shellina Magarzo (Game Programmer), Josh Villena (Game Programmer), and Cyrus Tuico (3D Artist).
2. Mama Mo
A short film doubling as a collection of mini-games, The Power of Love’s “Mama Mo” explores the deep bond between mother and child.
Playing as a child, the game puts you in various situations that have you interacting with your virtual mother and environment.
Each mini-game represents a different stage in your life. In the first game, for example, you’re a baby who has to crawl towards your mother as quickly as you can. In the third game, you’re an older child who has somehow angered your mom; your goal is to score the highest score possible by dodging the slippers she throws at you.
You can either replay each game for better scores, or move forward to grow up and continue the story to its conclusion.
“Mama Mo” was developed for Global Game Jam VR 2019, whose theme was “What Home Means to You.”
To The Power of Love, “Home is Where Mother Is,” which explains “Mama Mo’s” focus on the mother-child relationship.
Creating the game wasn’t easy.
“One of the biggest challenges was the limited access to a VR set, so getting the game going without having a VR set on the spot to test it out was a challenge,” said Game Concept/3D Technical Artist Zaid Al-Shaheed.
“Having no VR equipment is the hardest obstacle in making a VR game,” agreed Game Programmer/Designer Alex E. Valdez. “We were lucky VR Philippines was around to lend us the equipment. And I’m lucky my game design and storytelling style were very minimal.”
Despite its challenging development, “Mama Mo” has been positively received, winning the Professional Track Best VR Game award at Game On 2019.
At ESGS 2019, where the game was part of the local games exhibit Indie Fiesta, “Mama Mo” both entertained and drove players to tears.
“[T]he amount of positive feedback was astonishing,” said Al-Shaheed. adding that “people had fun, laughed, and even cried. It was very interesting to see that kind of feedback happening again; it means the game concept hit home.”
“There were players who were left speechless,” said Valdez. One woman couldn’t speak to him after playing because she was crying uncontrollably. She eventually told him her mom was all she had in her life.
Online reactions are similar, with one comment left on the “Mama Mo” trailer saying “Thank you for this. Gonna tightly hug my mom later.”
At present, there’s no way to play the game outside of gaming conventions.
“This is why the ‘Mama Mo’ players really think they were lucky to play the rare game,” said Valdez.
You can visit the “Good Knight” Facebook page for updates on events featuring “Mama Mo.”
The Power of Love is Alex E. Valdez (Game Programmer, Game Designer), Berlin Almanon (Concept and 3D Artist), Zaid Al-Shaheed (Concept and 3D Technical Artist), and Jorge Juan Bautista Wieneke V (Music Composer). — LA, GMA News