Our team members met each other at the Facebook hackathon earlier this year. After the hackathon, we were eager to work together again and build something for the social good.

One of our team members went to an exhibition on global climate change. She shared her thoughts and feelings about that experience, and thats is what inspired us to create a game that would remind people about the issues related to climate change. Under the "Social Good” category, we decided to focus on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14.1, which is preventing and reducing marine pollution.

The increase in plastic production has led to a larger risk of marine organisms consuming it. Studies show that by 2050 nearly every species of seabird will be accidentally eating plastic debris — and that includes penguins. Eating plastic causes major problems for penguins and other marine animals. If a bird swallows enough plastic, for example, the indigestible scraps can build up in its gut and prevent it from digesting real food.

This sort of information is very worrying, which is why we decided to use this opportunity to create awareness of this situation for penguins. The game is about a penguin called “Aki”. During the annual penguin migration from the Antarctic, Aki is separated from his family when the melting iceberg they were living on suddenly breaks and carries Aki away. He finds himself washed up on the Mar Del Plata beach in Argentina. As he tries to navigate the beach, Aki is shocked to find large amounts of trash on the beach. Your mission is to help Aki avoid the debris and try and find his way back into the ocean.

What we learned

This was our first time creating a game in Spark AR. We learnt how we can create a running game using this interactive platform. We have learnt how to create movable backgrounds, to add different textures to a material, to create animations, to add texts to a plane, to add sound effects, and more.

How we built it

First, we added the background we wished to use and made a transition of the background and put it in a loop so that it appears as though the character on the screen was moving. We then added the character animations and changed the character’s position in the y coordinate when ‘a blink’ is registered from the user using the effect. This is what makes the character jump. We then added in colliders which were disposal wastes, such as, plastic bottles, plastic bags, and created an animation for that so that they changed over the time. There is logic that then compares if the x and y coordinates of the character and colliders are the same. If they are, then it results to game over. If there is no collision, then the score is incremented by one. We also got a lot of help from the many talented creators in the Spark AR Facebook group community.

Challenges we ran into

Learning the different features of Spark AR was a bit of a challenge, particularly the patch editor. When creating a game with complex logic, it could become confusing to organize the logic, and to keep track of what each block is doing. Another challenge that we encountered was that we originally had our game at the bottom of the screen, but when publishing the effect, we noticed that the camera app button options are also located at the bottom of the screen. So we had to raise the position of the game to about half of the screen height, which might not have been the best solution. Another challenge was finding the appropriate textures for the background, the character and colliders. We would have loved to have a much bigger background, with more interactive objects.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

Even though we live in different continents and time-zones (Wilfred lives in Africa and Yujin lives in Asia), we still managed to work cohesively. We collaborated without any barriers, using Facebook Messenger to communicate most of the time.

The cute part of the game is the movement of Aki. To make it more dynamic, we worked hard on the ability of the penguins’ arms to rotate to many different positions. Also, to maximize the enjoyment of playing the game, we wrote background music for it, and added a specific sound effect for when Aki the penguin jumps.

What's next for Penguin Saver

One of the areas we want to improve upon is the background and landscape of the game. We would like to create a background that is larger and with a richer design. We would like to have more levels in the game, and to add an ending where Aki finally reunites with his family.

We would like to find a way to help the penguins and many other animals affected by plastic pollution through this game. We would like to add a feature that directly connect the Facebook Fundraisers, so that people could donate to help organizations working towards protecting animals.

What it does

Penguin Saver is a running game in a camera effect where you play as a penguin moving on a beach. The objective is to avoid the trailing plastic debris by jumping. To start the game, the user has to use the front-camera and tap on the screen. During the game play, the user can make the penguin jump by blinking eyes. The score at the top of the screen keeps track of the number of plastic debris Aki avoids. The user loses if Aki collides with the plastic debris.

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