My first official appointment at PAX Aus this year was to sit down with Nico King, the Creative Director behind the upcoming mobile title, Rainbow Reef. Once again, a title I had no experience with and yet I was totally drawn in by the trailer for the game about building a reef and looking after it so you attracted new and rare species to the reef. Being a Queenslander now and spending some of my time in North Queensland I know the importance of the reef to the future of our that area and any game that would be based on this import issue was a winner in my eyes.
Josh and I sat down for a lengthy discussion about the game with Nico and the company behind Rainbow Reef. Turns out, the main three behind Chaos Theory Games, Nico, James and Will, have been doing their thing since the crazy age of twelve years old. In fact, these three childhood friends founded the company the day after the youngest one turned eighteen. Since then the team has grown to five and worked on numerous projects, be it games or other innovative projects which helped them partner into a project with AFK Agency. From here Nico pitched the idea for Rainbow Reef and the rest is history.
The game loop for this free to play mobile game is simple, build a reef, look after the reef, attract new things to the reef and then grow the reef some more. This is the basis of any building simulation game and you can see from the start that the design is good and it can easily get its hooks into you. Rainbow Reef will always have you coming back to the game to check in with your reef and cleaning it up so it doesn’t get overrun with Crown of Thorns starfish or algae blooms from dead coral or even coral bleaching. Also, as you progress through the game you will collect light to spend on building your reef even bigger. The game really does have a great gameplay loop.
Quickly into the development of Rainbow Reef, Chaos Theory games and AFK Agency both realised that this could be so much more than just a simple free to play game on the app store and the educational and awareness aspect of the game was not being utilised. As both teams researched the project they both became very obsessed with the reef and what is happening to these delicate ecosystems around the world. It was at this stage that the team decided to aim a bit bigger and is currently looking for a charity organisation from the reef protection field to partner with them to help make Rainbow Reef into a tool to educate people about the dangers the reef is facing around the world and how we can help save it.
This is no advertising ploy either, the partnership they are looking for would potentially see things like real-world data brought into the game. For example, let’s say there was a coral bleaching event in the Great Barrier reef then a similar event would be generated in-game and players would have to work together around the world to fix the bleaching event in game and then a percentage of profits would be donated to help fix that bleaching event in real life. This is really big picture things and something they would need outside help in bringing to the game. It will not stop the game from coming out and being a fun game but it is just an example of how Nico and his team want so much more from this project.
The best value I see from the game would be one step even further. Chaos Theory Games has a title that is high quality, made about such an important issue and can help educate players the way it can, then it has even more potential. Now imagine if it was able to get into our school systems, to kids at a young age, we could potentially educate a whole generation through fun gameplay the importance and fragile nature of reefs around the world. Nico agreed that he would love to see Rainbow Reef be given to kids for a week or two and let them grow and look after a reef and report back to the class what challenges they ran into over that period and let the class discuss the findings. Education through fun gameplay is a real underrated art in classrooms today.
Nico went into PAX Aus wanting one thing answered, however, was the game actually fun. From what I played, from the reaction of others on the show floor and the feedback from Nico himself whenever I dropped by the booth to check in on him I believe the answer was yes it is fun. This is the big thing for Indie developers at PAX Aus, it is their biggest chance to really test their game and get good feedback from people outside the project. With the PAX Rising area being so popular this year everyone did a great job helping these developers out, so thank you to everyone that dropped in and tried out a game like Rainbow Reef and let them know what you thought.