Epic Games’ annual UDK challenge is down to its final four teams of European students, all of whom would like to win a commercial Unreal Engine 4 license very much. Now they must iterate furiously on their genetics-themed prototypes in the runup to their final judging this Sunday. All aim to wear the code-crown previously donned by the nascent teams of Tripwire and Coffee Stain Studios, including Static Games – makers of warped management game Mendel’s Farm.
Old man Mendel had a farm, and ran it in a manner befitting the founder of classical genetics – very badly. That’s the premise of Mendel’s Farm, which sees the player step in to put the good friar’s financial affairs back in order. Thankfully, they’ll have a distinct advantage down the market – a working knowledge of the dominant and recessive genes of their livestock, and the likely effects of inter-breeding.
“This allows players to pick what they want, because they may want a fire-breathing chicken,” explain the Farm’s creators. “You never know.”
Still, Bournemouth University’s Static Games intend to introduce enough “interesting” genetic diseases and mutations to surprise the player with the odd case of spontaneous combustion in their poultry. Runs in the family, you know.
You won’t be surprised to learn that one of Static Games’ two creative touch points for Mendel’s Farm is Theme Hospital. The other is Farmville, though the couple of Facebook features the team have planned go beyond the simple Friend-leaching of Zynga’s heyday. Expect market trading, and regular breeding competitions with rewards for the largest chicken, cow, llama and so forth.
There’s lots of talk of intent and planning. Though Static say that “the types of mutations are only limited by our imagination at this point”, it’s clear the team’s ambitions extend far beyond their current reach. The competition version of the game is a vertical slice featuring building placement, a currency and accompanying shop, and features enough potential for random mutation that the game already constitutes a “good display of science”. What’s more, the team are working to model, animate and integrate mutate-able pigs into the game over the next few days, just to show their public how easily it can be done. But Static evidently have far more to offer down the line should the judges’ votes go their way during this weekend’s finale.
I caught up with project lead Ryan Pinfield to talk the finer points of chicken feather pigmentation: