In the economic and political system under which we live in today’s world, there is an incentive to produce goods rapidly to keep up with consumer demand. Animals play a central role in this production-consumption loop. Humans source many of their raw materials from animals. The mass-poaching of elephants serves as a prime example of the exploitation of animals for economic advancement. We wanted to spotlight this current issue by creating this simulation centered around poaching elephants and the expansion of this industry.

What it does

Poached is a POV simulation where players step into the role of an elephant poacher in Africa. They start with a simple rifle and kill elephants for their tusks. Our code accurately models the elephant population according to real life population models, so the more elephants you kill the slower the population will reproduce (until the elephants cannot reproduce fast enough to stay alive). As you kill more elephants and pollute the environment with your industrialization of the habitat, the background changes to reflect the increase of smog and factories. Over time, players can accumulate ivory which they can use to purchase additional upgrades such as hiring additional poachers, a radar system to locate elephants, and improvements to their weaponry. This allows players to automatically kill elephants without shooting them individually. At the end of the game, the seemingly infinite population of elephants drops to 0, reflecting the human attitude that our resources are infinite and we can take whatever we want from the planet. At this point, the game transitions into a motion graphic cutscene that depicts the tragic effects that poaching has on the elephant population. The game ends by encouraging players to end this mass killing of elephants by boycotting ivory and protecting elephant habitats.

How we built it

Lawson made the population simulation using numpy. It takes in the current elephant population, their food supply, the percent co2 being emitted into the atmosphere, and the number of elephants killed within a certain time frame.

Then Andrew made the main application and wrote the graphics and elements for the game using pygame. The main application takes in textures and puts them onto buttons and other ui elements. The UI elements work together and communicate in order to display the statistics generated by the population simulation, as well as the end cutscene once the population reaches 0.

The upgrade pricing was carefully calculated such that the speed of the game increases faster as the game is played. This was done by multiplying the price by the 1.5th root of the ivory per second, allowing the player to feel like they’re accelerating until it all abruptly stops at the end of the game.

We then created hand drawn characters and animals which we put on top of a photorealistic background to achieve a unique artistic style for the end cutscene. Next we added some motion and camera movement to the sequences and added moving skies, birds, and smoke animation to further enhance the viewing experience and improve our storytelling with this sequence.

Challenges we ran into

We ran into frame rate issues because our images were constantly rewriting themselves which slowed the game down. We fixed this issue by locking the background until the file name changes, not when the frame changes. We also had an issue with the video audio where the audio would not play with the video. We solved this by separately rendering the audio and using a separate line of code to play the music.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We are proud that we can make a real impact in the world through this simulation. If we can show even one player that poaching of elephants is incredibly harmful and painful for the elephants, then the game has accomplished its purpose.

What we learned

We learned about using PyGame and OpenCV. These new programs were really fun to work with and allowed us to implement new components such as backgrounds, videos, music, etc.

What's next for Poached

We’re quite proud of Poached and the awareness that it aims to spread. Going forward, there is a lot that we have planned for Poached. We want to share our game with as many people as possible to help educate people on the effects that we have on our environments. The issue that our game hopes to address is not limited to merely elephants: extinction due to similar circumstances faces many species all over the planet. We hope that this game helps people realize the effect they have on their environment and promotes discussion on how we can save our natural environments.

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