The game is developed by a team of youths and allows players to live a second life online.
Singapore as a whole rarely sees representation in video games. There is the occasional mention of Singapore and perhaps a level or two in some games, but even those instances are few and far between.
So it may come as a surprise to some that there is a Singapore-based social simulation game nearing its soft launch in December.
First developed by 18-year-old Winston Ng and 16-year-old Zachary Lim, Vanda Bay is a life simulator that allows players to live a second life in a fictional area based on Marina Bay along with other players.
In the game, the players can buy houses, own cars, take the MRT to work and even set up their own player-run businesses. Apart from interacting with Non-Playable Characters (NPCs), player-to-player interaction is also a core part of the game and serves as a way to help build an in-game community.
Set in a realistic 3D open-world version of Singapore, players can explore popular landmarks in third-person and can even interact with places of interest such as the Singapore Flyer, Marina Bay Sands and the Merlion.
In a time where travel between countries is extremely limited, Winston hopes this game might pilot a form of virtual tourism where people who wish to visit Singapore can first explore it through the game.
“During COVID-19, cross border travel is prohibited, so why not just play a game on your phone, where you can go to famous food courts, hawker centers, and take photos with the Merlion with your virtual avatar? Hopefully, that inspires you to come to Singapore in real life after COVID-19 ends,” said Winston, who developed his first game at the age of 11.
The game also has an educational side to it and aims to teach its players about financial literacy. Due to the game’s economic system, players will have to learn how to manage their finances as well. After all, it’s not much of a life simulator if money is never an issue.
That said, there are still numerous ways to earn income in the game such as working in player-run businesses or even starting your own. You can also take on jobs such as being a bus driver to ferry around other players.
With the game’s open-world concept and level of interactivity, the possibilities are only limited by your imagination.
Winston, who has developed multiple other small games before Vanda Bay, said: “As long as you have a dream or a vision, you can do it in the game.”
While development initially started with just Winston and Zachary, the team has slowly grown into a pool of 13 talented youths working together on the game.
Their pitch for Vanda Bay emerged the winner at the Prudential Young Trailblazers 2020 competition, and they began working with partners like Prudential to bring the game to life.
Soon after, development began in earnest and they were faced with the challenging task of juggling both their studies and game development in the face of national exams. At the time, Winston was preparing to take his A-level examinations while Zachary was preparing for his O-level examinations. To make matters worse, their prototype was unable to run on mobile and the team had to start again from scratch.
Another struggle they faced was the daunting task of coding for an open-world multiplayer game which meant that many scenarios had to be accounted for.
This was especially difficult as they had just picked up a new game development engine specifically for Vanda Bay and struggled to find developers who were within their budget as they were only students.
However, Winston and Zachary pushed through those challenges and encouraged other young developers not to be discouraged by failures.
Winston said: “Don’t be afraid of setbacks and just follow your dreams. Just because you’re young doesn’t mean you can’t accomplish a lot of things.
“If you have the drive and passion you will be able to accomplish things that you never imagined yourself doing. Just believe in yourself.”
Vanda Bay is set for a soft launch in early December and aims for an official launch in March 2021. The game will be free to play on mobile before being ported to PC, console and finally virtual reality.
For more updates on the game, you can check out their website here.
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