Greetings from sunny Dundee! Sitting in the lovely McManus Museum café, I’m having a bit of a break from the frenetic and fabulous Dare to be Digital Protoplay Festival. Hosted annually by Abertay University, the festival is a hub for new and aspiring gamers, including our Games Designer in residence, Sophia George.
The tent in the foreground is home to an array of student groups from the University, all competing against each other with their newly created games to win the votes of festival-goers. Visitors place their wristband in a box when they leave the tent to vote for their favourite, which is announced at the end of the festival on Sunday. My vote goes to the amazingly polished, not to mention fun, Pug Pug Pirates from Team Pugstar, where you steer Captain Pugbeard around the seven seas, plundering treasure along the way.
In the background is Caird Hall, which is home to young and upcoming game companies previewing their creations. High Steaks from Future Fossil is my favourite – not least for the excellent pun – where a one-eyed monster (currently un-named, although Sir Loin was mentioned as a potential epithet) chases a steak through a cityscape, trying to gobble up more food on the way and avoid the obstacles.
Alongside all of this, is a small corner of calm; Sophia and her beautifully designed Strawberry Thief game, which is being previewed here, to be launched later on this year.
The game is a world away from the fast-paced, punchy graphics of the other games on display. Put simply, you control the bird with your finger and the aim is to fly around a canvas, building up the Strawberry Thief pattern as you go, firstly the sketch, then the colour, then the texture. You catch flowers along the way to replenish your energy, and avoid bees and beetles who take away your energy. It’s a treat for the senses; Sophia’s team, made up of students and graduates from Abertay University, have created beautiful imagery and animation, and the sound has been designed especially by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. To see a little of the game in action, check out this video that BBC Scotland filmed a few days ago.
As you may remember, Sophia spent six months at the V&A Museum developing the Strawberry Thief idea and as you’ll see from this old blog post, Sophia’s first attempt at the game looked almost completely different! It’s been wonderful to see how far it’s come along. There are a few tweaks still left to do but I’m looking forward to its official launch in the not so distant future, when we can finally share it with you all.
I’ve very much enjoyed my trip to Dundee. As you’ll know, apart from being a town steeped in gaming history – the power houses of the Lemmings and Grand Theft Auto were created here – it’s also where we will be building a new V&A Museum for Design. There’s already a brilliant V&A Dundee team here who are earnestly planning and spreading the good V&A word, which makes me even more excited for its opening in 2017.
I’ll finish on a shot of the site as it currently stands. Not much to look at right now, but I’m looking forward to posting a majestic photo from the same spot in a few years’ time.