Who would have thought feeding Llamas would be so relaxing.
It seems like a strange premise for a game at first: riding a trolly, picnic basket full of food while you are surrounded by hungry Llamas colored brown, red, yellow and even rainbow-striped. Each with a fluffy coat of wool that wiggles as they run side by side with you, desperately baying for more plates of sausages and big round beets.
You would think such an experience would be a bit silly in the grand scheme of things. After all, what appeal does a game about feeding Llamas have in the end? Yet, the premise works, and it is in no small part due to the passionate work of the developers behind the title.
The Llama Express was the name of that game, and it was a fairly standout little title by Alpaca Games, a two-person developer team that showcased their coding talents at Play NYC as invited developers for their "Graffiti Games" installation.
The concept of Graffiti Games was simple this year: showcase developers who are first-generation immigrants to talk about their experiences. In this case, developers Pilar Aranda and Saúl Peña Gamero both brought their experience to the table with three key ideas: something to honor their cultural roots, something to play with a VR headset, and something simple but fun that all ages can enjoy.
Both developers already have a breadth of experience on their own. Aranda, originally from Spain, has done a ton of work with mixed reality and VR before, being a recent graduate of the new VR Game Design Program at the New York Film Academy. Gamero, who was born in Peru, is a VR developer who has worked with The Glimpse Group. Their experience together shows; while The Llama Express was clearly in development still, its functionality was accessible, especially in a VR headset.
Many of the developers brought in with Graffiti Games wanted to showcase part of their own stories and struggles as immigrants, but Alpaca Games instead focused on culture and creativity. Aspects of its design were tailor-made to showcase this, from selecting the llamas as the primary theme, to the use of traditional Spanish music in the game's soundtrack.
Touches like this made The Llama Express so endearing, but the relative simplicity of the game's mechanics is what made it enjoyable. Alpaca Games was running a contest with their game over the weekend to see who can rack up the most points feeding Llamas in the short demo they had. For my efforts, I could only muster up 2nd place overall for the day, which I guess is an accomplishment considering it was a nice after-effect of a good time.
Both Aranda and Gamero expressed interest in possibly bringing The Llama Express to a fully developed state, although it is a long-term goal at best for the duo. Still, you see the passion and talent of the developers in full force, creating an effective game that serves a simple purpose: to dare to be fun in your own way.
After all, who knew feeding Llamas would be so much fun?
What are your thoughts on The Llama Express? Feel like feeding some Llamas in VR? Check out what else we saw at Play NYC by going to our Play NYC 2018 Coverage Hub.