General Washington Needs You! History And Technology Blend To Create Brooklyn 1776
When was the last time you heard about a gaming app being developed by reading historical criticism and exploring the topography of Kings County?
In comes Brooklyn 1776 — the newest project developed by New York-based Creative Good.
“I founded Creative Good in 1997. We’re one of the oldest and continuously operating and still independent internet companies, ” says Mark Hurst, founder and CEO. “And we’re a native New York company.”
The collaboration of the assembled team has created an app that you’ll want to download on your phone soon. According to the website, the app will be launched on Thursday, October 22.
The premise is simple enough — the British have landed in New York Harbor and General George Washington is trying to defend New York with an inexperienced and untrained American army. Your job is to help defend your beloved borough in the Battle of Brooklyn.
Game and visual designer Maxim Kolbowski-Frampton received his Master’s of Game Design at the NYU Game Center. He tells us that the project started with maps, historical research, and a bike.
“Most of our research came through books. Our main source text was 1776 by David McCoullough,” says Kolbowski-Frampton.
Hurst also believes that the book was one of the organizing principles of the game. “It’s an important story in American history. We thought the way in which the battle took place within the terrain of Brooklyn would lend itself to a game.”
In addition to reading, the team spent time learning about the specifics of the war through historical maps. “Max and I talked a lot about the maps. I latched on to the map. It’s the backbone of this game,” says Hurst. “Brooklyn 1776 isn’t just a battle of running blue guys into red guys. I can imagine these troops running up the hills, running to the Old Stone House, fighting, and dying in these specific places in Brooklyn.”
As opposed to sitting in front of his computer, Kolbowski-Frampton took to his bike for more research and inspiration. “The topography of the game is the most accurate part. We created an abstraction by creating a grid to try and get the best approximation of navigating the space.”
And navigate the space he did. Kolbowski-Frampton traversed the borough on bike — from Bay Ridge to Greenwood Heights, Park Slope, Gowanus, Bed-Stuy, Flatbush, and Fort Greene.
Of course, things have changed a bit. “I think the location that really stood out to me was Gowanus – it has massively changed. I worked hard at trying to pin down landmarks based on historical maps. And Prospect Park and Green-Wood Cemetery did not exist at the time.”
The team wanted to create a game that is for 8- to 10-years-olds, but also their parents, explains Kolbowski-Frampton. “We are aiming more for the casual market. It takes around 30 minutes to play. We want a game that doesn’t force you to learn too many rules.”
The team also wants to make sure the game provides an understanding of the battle that cannot be found in a regular history book. “George Washington’s challenge of this battle is to defend New York. But that’s somewhat impossible, and eventually it’s partly a compromise.”
In playing a beta version of the game, the interface felt comfortably retro. If you’re not a war buff or tactical war gamer, you’ll still be able to easily navigate through the game. And it’s not flashy either — akin to Minecraft before its marketing exploded.
As Kolbowski-Frampton pointed out, the game really is about topography. Those of you who know the hills of the Slope and Greenwood Heights will especially enjoy the experience due to that added familiarity.
So what’s next for the team? “I’d like to work on the Battle of Harlem Heights,” says Kolbowski-Frampton. “The British are better trained, better fed, and they have a longer range of fire.”
Looks like the team will get back to the maps, books, and bike soon enough.
The app will be available for the iPhone, but not for Android products at this time.
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