Drawing on the laws of nature and the stories of creation myth, Fabulous Beasts is a digital / physical hybrid world building game for two players, where every game is different and every world unique.
Players take turns to stack objects into a balancing tower. Through the sensing platform the tower becomes the foundation of the digital ecosystem, which plays out wirelessly on a nearby tablet. Every piece alters the digital world. Beast pieces introduce creatures. Action pieces allow creatures to breed, to devour or to migrate. Event pieces introduce global effects such as natural disasters or population growth. Care must be taken when choosing which piece to add, as only a stable tower will ensure a sustainable world.
Fabulous Beasts is created by Sensible Object, a new game studio based in central London. The studio consists of Hide&Seek founder Alex Fleetwood, game designer George Buckenham, product designer Tim Burrell-Saward, artist Lyall McCarthy, and engineer Chris Shaw.
At Sensible Object we are obsessed with exploring a new territory for games in which the latest technology enables us to blend the physical and the digital into new fun and social experiences.
We design our own hardware and create beautiful objects; each of our team members comes from a different field of expertise that reflects the breadth of our playground, whether graphic design, electronics, sculpture, or game design.
The game was inspired by indigenous creation myths and the insight that 'god games' have always taken the position of having a single, omnipotent being familiar from Abrahamic religions. Our game starts from the question - what if there were two gods, that had to work together to create a world? The game also frames ideas about balance and sustainability - players can play pieces in any order, but only through co-operation can they build a world that lasts.
FB is designed for long-term social and competitive play, with depth in both physical and digital aspects of the game. Many interactions between blocks are possible: such as unusual placements; hinging blocks; creating instability for your opponent to deal with. Similarly, the pieces played have effects which can form powerful combos if the strategy is understood deeply enough - mastering the economic curve of the game is essential to succeed at a high level. Both of these sides are interesting in their own right, and come into their own when players must evaluate both simultaneously.
As we developed the game, we tested with younger players and were struck about how natural they found it. Not only do they manage to learn to play the game more successfully than adults, but they also combine it with imaginative play (my shark-mice ate your flying squids!). It seems like an important lesson that children draw no distinction between physical, digital and imaginative forms of play.
Stacking is a universal activity and makes a great meeting point for players of different ages and abilities. The game balances co-operation (players must work together to create a large tower) with competition (players try to create and sustain the best array of creatures) - players find this tension an interesting one to work out through playing together.
IndieCade Festival 2015 - Technology Award