I’ve always been a huge fan of simulation games—from the first generation of The Sims, all the way through to The Sims 4, and it seems I’m not the only one.
On Facebook alone countless simulation games are available – ones where you manage a farm, small fantasy villages, or even your own cafe. People love simulators, and the reason is obvious: they allow us to experience a different life, different culture, or a different world entirely.
That’s why, when I learned of Immersed Games‘ newest release, Tyto Ecosystem – a simulator where you build your own animal world – I simply needed to find out more. Initially, from the trailer alone, it seemed like something akin to The Sims meets Zoo Tycoon, another personal favorite of mine. I was able to sit down with the Founder and CEO of Immersed Games, Lindsey Tropf, for a quick interview about both her company and their debut title.
Tell us about Immersed Games. What brought you to starting a game development company, and why is your focus on educational interactivity?
When I was an undergraduate student, I was a huge World of Warcraft gamer. One day while playing, I realized the insane amount of information I had learned. Thousands of items, boss strategies, locations, lore – it’s just that not much of the actual content was useful outside of the game world. So I became pretty obsessed with this idea and wanted to delve into educational games.
I then later entered a doctoral program in school psychology at The College of Education. As I learned more about learning models, the more I began to conceptualize how perfect a game like World of Warcraft really could be for learning. As I looked more into what was available, the more I became driven to create a startup. And so I formed Immersed Games to go about making it myself – I didn’t see games out there taking advantage of the power of the medium in the way I wanted to see.
If you could liken Tyto Ecology: Build & Create Your Own Ecosystem to other games on the market, what would you choose, and why?
Think Sim City, but for ecosystems! You start from nothing then build out a biodome, keeping your animals fed (and other animals from going extinct), your plants pollinated and not over-eaten, and enough decomposers down on the ground.
Do you have any plans to move Tyto Ecology to the desktop? If not, what benefits are you utilizing in the tablet market that a PC or Mac wouldn’t allow?
Yes, we are working now on bringing Tyto Ecology to PC and Mac, which we should have ready in about 2-3 months time.
We started with tablets because Apple has a great distribution platform with many children using it, and because we love the natural touch interactions. For desktop, we’re working on updating the user interface, the controls to work without having multi-touch, and a few other design tweaks so that the game is optimized for longer play sessions.
You offer a handful of ecosystems for Tyto Ecology in the base product; do you anticipate offering bundles or expansions to unlock other ecosystems?
Tyto Ecology comes with the Desert biome, and we currently have the Rainforest and Grassland biomes available as expansion packs for $1.99 each. We would love to add more, and we have a few biomes in mind (the Himalayas with red pandas, anyone?). However, we’ll only be able to do this if we have a large enough community of users to break even on new expansion packs. People in our studio are hoping we’ll get enough users so they can get to their favorite biome types and animals!
How does Immersed Games and Tyto Ecology differ from other educational games on the market?
As I am sure you know, there are many, many educational games out there on the market. Most are developed for young students, up to about second grade, while we’ve tackled some complex content with middle school oriented ecosystems. Many educational games are also pretty direct in how they teach, giving information directly to the player rather than having them problem solve and use the content itself. Mastery of the game should be mastering the content, and that was our goal here.
Where do you see Immersed Games going next?
So if you reflect back to that original inspiration of World of Warcraft, it’s really the collaborative online learning models that intrigued me the most and made want to found Immersed Games. For a brand new studio with many first time developers, it’s definitely too much to jump right into an online multiplayer experience like that, although we didn’t realize that when we first ran our Kickstarter. A few months after the successful completion of our Kickstarter, we decided that we needed to launch something smaller, and took a portion of the gameplay we pitched – a biodome where you created your own ecosystem – and so decided to do that as its own game: Tyto Ecology.
Now that Tyto Ecology is live, some of our team have been able to get back to working on the online game, which is now looking much better than our initial attempt nearly two years ago. Some of our team members will continue to work on improvements for Tyto Ecology and the desktop version of the game, while many of our resources are also about getting back to the online game and delivering to our Kickstarter backers. We’re also looking for some funding to help us launch the online game next year.
I’m very excited to follow Tyto Ecology and Immersed Games on their journey, both with more expansions and PC/Mac availability. You can learn more about them on their website (including the moment of epiphany that caused Immersed Games’ inception), and they’re also looking for funding on their Kickstarter page. Check out the launch trailer below.