Finalist 2022


Bin Chicken Studios

Trash is a multiplayer online action-adventure game, set in a beautiful post-human world where strange and wondrous trash-based life thrives.

Trash is a lovingly crafted adventure game by Bin Chicken Studios. Set on an island formerly owned by a greedy energy provider named E-Corp, human life has been wiped away. In its place a new life force has emerged: Resin. Our entry contains Trash's free multiplayer demo, which, through its design, focusses on communicating a strong artistic vision and multiplayer framework, along with meaningful environmental messaging. Throughout development, the team received praise for Trash's ambitious aesthetic, messaging, and playful core design. Through Trash, we want to create an innovative vehicle for change that appeals to multiple demographics.

Design Brief:

There is an expansive divide between between games designed to be commercial and/or entertaining and 'edutainment' created purely for education purposes. We find that commercial games often lack meaningful messaging, whilst 'edutainment' games can feel too dry and didactic. In our eyes, games must come with an engaging gameplay loop that is able to be entertaining, economical in its design, and captivating to its player base.

For Trash, we set out to design an entirely unique and innovative game that is able to both engage players, while simultaneously providing playfully thought-provoking environmental messaging. By implementing features to do with resources, and making players explicitly reflect on how to use and recycle material, we wanted to articulate a player experience that is enjoyable, while also making players reflect on real-world consequences of climate change. By doing this, we're hoping to create a collaborative environment facilitating meaningful dialogue about sustainability among friends.

This project was developed by:

Design Process

Trash's Public Alpha is a result of two years of research, design and development. We began by defining a design brief that would help us create a distinctive product that can help establish our studio & develop something with meaning and the power to make a positive difference in the world. Next we identified the studios core values to understand what meaning and messaging we are trying to bring to our players. We then engaged in a lengthy research period to ascertain the technical, aesthetic and moral aspects of design we have the ability to achieve.

Finally, we contrasted this with market research based off sales for various genres of games, analysing our potential markets. This allowed us to strike a goldilocks ration between; what we want to make (our core values & likes), what we can make (our technical abilities) & what we should make (our market research). We then started developing a series of 6 prototypes that explored various aspects of the games design: Aesthetic, Gameplay, Character, Multiplayer Functionality & Procedural Generation.

After analys & feedback of the prototypes, we were able to make informed decisions on the games overall and specific design and began development the game itself. This development period culminated in the creation of our Alpha, a truly remarkable technical and creative achievement. It highlightings the core aspects of the game with fully functional multiplayer gameplay created by 2 programmers without networking experience.

The demo have an extremely high level of polish and depth of content, not regularly seen in an early stage alpha created by a small team. It champions our unique procedurally generated challenge zone mechanic and boasts an aesthetic not seen in any other game. It also gracefully entwines strong environment messaging in its environmental design. It is a monumental building block in the greater games development.

Design Excellence

The demo not only has functioning peer to peer multiplayer experience with minimal latency, it pushes the limits of what a small team can achieve. Accessibility & diversity are major considerations of the demos design. The game includes; colour blindness considerations in its puzzle and environmental design, scalable difficulty levels, and importantly gender neutral and customisable characters inclusive to all despite their gender, race, or individual circumstances.

Release of a free public demo to make the game accessible to all despite financial circumstances, Sensitive and respectful character portrayals The game's aesthetic is not only truly unique, but built around the concepts of sustainability and circular living. The demo shows the scale and the creativity a small and new team is capable of achieving. If showcases a high level of polish for a demo and can stand as an example of what aspiring game designers can achieve with hard work and dedication.

Design Innovation

Trash implements a number of features that are groundbreaking, including procedurally generated challenge zones. These zones are set up like puzzles, and can be solved by using different character skills. In this sense, this feature enables that allow multiple ways to solve dynamic puzzles together with other players. The use of a mechanic in combination with procedurally generated in-game environments, is rarely seen in an open world game. The uniqueness of this gameplay loop is also reflected in the feedback the team has received from players, who are drawn to the ever-changing and collaborative nature of Trash's core gameplay.

On top of this, Trash comes with a character customisation system that sees players use collected resources (in the shape of discarded trash littered around the environment) to upgrade the appearance of their player character. Trash can be upgraded into attachments that both visually change the appearance of the character and grant them new abilities. Abilities can include upgrades like turning into a ball, smashing through walls or gliding across great distances.

The more the player cleans up the world, the healthier the environment around them will become as well. In this sense, there is a strong connection between the players' chosen upgrades, actions, and the consequences of those actions. What is central to the core design of Trash, is that it is centred around the player and their desire for self-expression. Trash's procedural generation features, combined with the character customisation system, allow players to solve problems in their own way, while also expressing themselves in any way they see fit. Through this, we're aiming to make players feel empowered enough to change the environment around them for the better.

Design Impact

Trash is already making a positive impact from a social and environmental perspective. We've partnered with organisations like Circular Economy Victoria to explore ways in which we can use Trash to help these organisations reach younger demographics, and further inspire lasting societal change. Through these partnerships we've found that, when using Trash as a tool to engage youth, they are engaged on a deeper level compared to teaching methods like seminars or presentations.

The game itself explores the principles of Circular Economy through its in-game design and aesthetic; the game's core features are centered around the usage and retrieval of waste, the characterisation a new lifeforce (resin), as well as a regenerating natural systems that promote having a positive environmental impact. Through our testing and an iterative design process, we've noticed a consistent strong engagement from younger demographics with these in-game features and are confident Trash can be a powerful educative tool for good. More broadly, Trash is a meaningful addition to Victoria's ever growing games sector and adds unique Victorian IP to the landscape.

It demonstrates the creativity of victorian gamemakers and thus serves to enhance the status of Victoria’s design and creative culture. On top of this, we've received interest from several international publishers, environmentally focussed festivals, and climate change organisations. Because of this, we believe trash has the potential to elevate Victoria's creative games sector to a global stage, and with it, its unique perspective on positive global change.

Circular Design and Sustainability Features

Trash's design and ethos as a game is essentially an allegory for Circular Design & Sustainability. The game was formed as a innovative vehicle of change that can be used to educate players about circular & sustainability principles. These concepts are baked into the games aesthetic, gameplay and its story. It shows players the devastating effects of humans are having on our environment, and forces them to exist in the consequences of our actions. Not only this, it presents the players with some of the solutions, letting them begin life as a new lifeforce that utilizes and incorporates everything humans have left behind.

Players travel around the world uncovering negative manmade hazards, quelling them to allow their circular lifeforce to continue to thrive and utilise the world. As a company we believe it is essential to live these values ourselves and the creatives working on the project committed to living Trash's values. We did this in different and individual ways, including but not limited to; opting to use public transport & bicycles for transportation, going paperless and using digital design and documentation tools, using electricity generated from solar panels, adopting veganism, limiting their waste output, composting, recycling, limiting food wastage and more.

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