I've always gotta laugh when I see 'gurus' cooing about social media integration. Inevitably, these self-styled experts are of the mind that you can just slap some widgets on it and call it integration. There's a lot more to it than that, as I should hope most of you are already aware.
To truly integrate a product with social networks, the network has to naturally exert some kind of influence over how the product evolves. The consumer has to feel as though they've an active role in the experience. The development community seems to be coming to an understanding of this, if the crop of social-integrated games like #Dungeons is any indication.
Seadelphica is the latest entry in this long list; a story-driven runner which puts player in the shoes of "Jengu" the Black Dolphin. Jengu is the product of an experiment designed to establish inter-species communication. Players will control him as he sets out on his quest for "cosmic love," fighting their way through eight bosses and twenty-four levels spread out over seven different environments.
Sounds like a sort of vanilla, "Echo The Dolphin"-esque experience so far, no?
That's where Tumblr comes in. According to the developers, Seadelphica includes a feature that integrates newsfeeds and pictures to in-game "soul screens." These screens will have a direct bearing on the game, most notably on Jengu's personal development. According to the game's description, "through these pictures, that can influence the outcome of the game, 'Jengu' the dolphin can learn the inner world, feelings, and emotions of people whose avatar is in the real world."
That's an...incredibly interesting idea, if it's even a workable one. But how'd they come up with a concept like this? More importantly, how does it actually work?
"As game developers we are big fans of Tumblr," explains the title's Kickstarter page. "A couple years ago being among friends we were dreaming how cool it could be to play a game that would allow to view your newsfeed in Tumblr, as well as to "like" and "re-blog" the pictures you like. Approximately at that time the first sketches of the story about the black dolphin were made."
"In time the stories crossed paths and eventually converged into the game SEADELPHICA," it continues. "The pictures from Tumblr in the game will be translated to the special "soul screens" translating the echo of people's souls who chose to transfer their consciousness into the network. Through these pictures the black dolphin can learn the inner world, feelings and emotions of people whose avatar is in the real world."
So...at the moment, it's not entirely clear how Tumblr will influence Jengu - whether the dolphin will actually 'learn' from what it sees on Tumblr, or if you'll just be able to browse your newsfeed while playing. If it's the former, it's actually downright incredible. If it's the latter...I suppose that's still pretty cool, if it's integrated correctly.
Let's just hope there's some sort of censoring system implemented into the game if Jengu really does change based on what he sees. There's some pretty dark stuff on Tumblr, after all; dark corners and abyssal pits from which there's no escape once you've seen them. In other words, it's not exactly rated G.
Seadelphica is currently in the first few days of its Kickstarter Campaign, which launched with a $50,000 goal. You can donate here.