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A Weather Eye

A Weather Eye is a single player game, designed to be playable both in a simple online format (such as flash) or as an app for mobile phone. The goal of the game is simple. Commander Keen must escape the planet Limaticus, but Mortimer has thrown the planet’s weather into flux with four diabolical machines. The machines are causing the planet to become warmer. Keen must disable the machines with his internal combustication discombobulator. But once Keen returns to his ship, he finds that the damage to the weather patterns has changed his liftoff algorithm. Keen must accurately tell the computer how much Mortimer’s machines affected the weather before he can leave the planet.

Each of the four levels has four parts (seasons), and in each part, the background color varies with the season, and the color saturation varies with the temperature. In order to lift off, Keen must destroy all four machines and then tell his computer by what percentage the average saturation increased from level one to level four.

The colors for each season are green (spring), yellow (summer), orange (fall), and blue (winter). The saturation varies from a value of 75 (dark, very cold for the season) to 175 (very hot for the season and close to a white background). The changes will be relatively gradual, but will not be perfectly smooth. The average will be based on the saturation at the start of each second over the course of the time the player plays the game.

Keen may use his pogo stick to avoid obstacles and his internal combustication discombobulator to destroy Mortimer’s lesser intelligence destruction machines. Keen only has a few shots, so he must be careful to save enough for the four diabolical machines!

Analysis: 

This seeks to make a point about a complex problem in a simple way and as with any such simplification, some nuance is lost. Limaticus is an almost pig-latin rearranging of Climate, which is the subject of the game.

The season is approximated by changing colors in the background, and the varying temperature via changing hues. By asking the player to gauge the overall change over four levels, and by making that difficult, the game encourages the player to extrapolate this to the real world. The game makes it hard to gauge the temperature, as while changing color can be easily seen, it is hard to think of numerically.

This is both a strength and a weakness. One might argue that this accurately maps how easy it is to forget what the weather was like last week or one might argue that this is a poor representation of actual temperature, which is easy to associate with a number thanks to thermometers.

The game may also be criticised because the variation of color by season is difficult to judge. Because it is the saturation which one must judge, not the color difference, the character must judge saturation variation of 100 points across four colors, a variation range which does not necessarily map to the seasons very well.

By forcing the character to dodge enemies and navigate levels while the colors change in the background, the game does encourage more realistic difficulty for remembering the weather over time. Making that difficulty clear is the focus of the game.

The game thus has a simple thesis. Gauging the effect or presence of global warming by paying attention to the weather is difficult and uncertain at best. But the game provides little else apart from this point by means of commentary. The player seeks to stop Mortimer from causing Limaticus from overheating. This does imply that global warming is on the same plane as an evil villain who desires the destruction of the universe. The game provides the player with little constructive advice, however, as most can not afford to turn an internal combustication discombobulator on their carbon producing appliances and machines.

What the game lacks in constructive suggestions, it seeks to make up by raising awareness. Because it is simple enough to be played on a mobile phone or in a browser window, the game should be easily promoted and distributed.

The changing colors in the background are hard to gauge, and it is easy to be distracted by the game in the foreground, but Mortimer’s plot is dangerous, and it takes all of Keen’s abilities to save Limaticus. The changes in the weather are hard to gauge from year to year, and it is easy to be distracted by daily life, but climate change is a real problem, and it will take a lot of effort on the part of everyone to stop it.

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