Let’s Build a Zoo Developer James Barnard talks about dark humor and the untapped potential of systems of moral choice

Healthy gaming has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years, providing players with pleasant titles like Stardew Valley and Slime Breeders. Let’s build a zoo appears to be cut from a similar canvas with its playful pixel art graphics. However, James Barnard, a former AAA developer turned on-indie team leader, is coming up with something a little different: a game with weird and macabre moral choices informed by real-world anecdotes about zoos. The captivating and powerful title invites the player to swoon or twist as you like.

The strict moral choice system between good and evil is nothing new and has been deprecated in recent years because of its reduced zero-sum games compared to more modern games, morally conflicting protagonists. Barnard told Game Rant that he believes developers can and should do more with ethics in games. Unlike the binary spectrum in Red Dead Redemption 2 and the black and white morality of BioShock, Let’s build a zoo allows players to switch between diabolical and holy actions, allowing them to create more distinctive – and more enjoyable moral paths.


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Fake lions for entertainment and profit

Barnard didn’t hope to beat the players who went head-to-head with a healthy work program, or even convey a specific message through the game. That said, he confessed that he didn’t like zoos at the start of the project, as he opposed environments where unethical things can happen to animals. During the game’s development, he discovered more positive aspects of the zoo, along with a series of strange anecdotes and hilarious stories about things that happened in the zoo.

“At the beginning of the game, you get a dog. Or rather, someone lost their dog. You have the right to return it to the person who lost it because the collar has their number on it. Or, you can put a little costume on it, dress it up like a lion, and take it into your zoo.”

Barnard said the story was inspired by a zoo in China, which actually dressed up a labrador with a fake mane and put it on display as a lion. When faced with these strange situations, Barnard tries to incorporate them into Let’s build a zoo. Use strange stories as fuel games with interesting content in a steady stream and turn the typical ethical choice dilemma over its head, while drawing attention to the kind of ethics involved in the display of animals.

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Dog meat and other matters of opinion

Let's build a zoo menu

Barnard feels there is a “clinical separation” between people’s affection for animals and animal consumption, especially where zoos are concerned. He hopes to tear down those mental barriers with provocative humor and accessible gameplay, given that ethics remains a relatively untapped vein in terms of game development. Our ethics regarding animals is often rooted in regional cultural biases, he said.

“I went to Vietnam, and they were selling dog meat by the roadside. And I was thinking, I should eat dog meat. Even though I’m 90% vegetarian – I rarely eat meat – I have to try it. Because I love it. the idea that if I was raised in Vietnam, I wouldn’t be offended by it. It’s a product of my upbringing that I’m offended by.”

Indie games are particularly well positioned to explore other aspects of morality. During the development of AAA, Barnard said there was no place for “stupid humor” in a product. But these strange and potentially upsetting situations, such as using dead animals as food for other animals (or even ingredients to make concession stands) somehow feel more logical, ambiguous, and realistic than the typical moral choice systems players have to make choose between ruthless villain or messianic heroism.

Spliced ​​Menageries

Let's build a 3 . zoo landscape

Connected animals are one of the Let’s build a zooIts novel system, which allows players to gradually map an animal’s genome, and then combine it with other completed genomes to create adorable, creepy, or bizarre fusions like elephant/giraffe or capybarra/duck. These weird additions add a fun, “must catch all” element to the game, and while the genome isn’t easy to complete, these chimeras will draw visitors to the player’s zoo in waves.

The system is also a perfect microcosm for Let’s build a zoo approach with humor and morality. Mechanism itself is an oversimplification of gene editing, similar to other titles have creature mix and match mechanics. Let’s build a zooThe system boasts more than 300,000 potential combinations, according to Barnard. Like labrador lions and roadside dogs, the pairing simultaneously encourages players to embrace their inner Dr. Frankenstein while hinting at deeper ethical questions regarding farming and herding. raise animals.

However, Barnard said he did not want to lecture about the players. First and foremost, Let’s build a zoo Aim for fun fun for animal lovers. However, gamers with a sense of humor will understand the title as much as those who don’t want to go wrong.

Let’s build a zoo now available for PC.

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https://gamerant.com/lets-build-a-zoo-interview-dark-humor-moral-choice-systems-anecdotes/ | Let’s Build a Zoo Developer James Barnard talks about dark humor and the untapped potential of systems of moral choice


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