How Republic of Jungle started, and why we're building it

Back in 2016, when I made the first prototype that was the seed idea for Republic of Jungle, I had no idea that it will grow to a project I'd quit my job for. It became a more tangible goal a year later when I met my partner, Kasra, and today, we are committed to make it a reality. It's gonna be a long road, but after three years of prototypes and play tests, we've hit the ground running.

Social deduction games have always been a great source of entertainment for me, whenever I have large group of friends around. Back in 2016, we moved on from the classics of the genre e.g. Mafia, Werewolf to experiment with some of the newer games. One of the games that we played a lot with large groups, was One Night Ultimate Werewolf due to its quick and lightweight nature and accommodation of large groups. We often had fun, but we had times where it was so difficult getting a game started smoothly and get into the flow of gameplay. Whether it was difficulty for new players to learn, someone having their eyes closed or open at the wrong time, an accidental card flip, or a mistake by the moderator (which was needed for large groups), it was frustrating.

Having an automatic moderator, a shared screen, and a private screen for each player opens up a lot of possibilities for new ideas in mechanics and game design.

We had to restart many games, and some nights it would get cumbersome enough to ditch it altogether for another activity. Having played Jackbox Game recently at the time, I was amazed by how easily the game flow is managed by the game platform. We'd start the game on our Xbox and everybody would use their phone to go to their website and use their phone as a controller. For me, the gameplay was too softcore, as I prefer the intensity of social deduction to casual word games, but there were little to no technical issues that would ruin the experience. At that point, I had the idea of making a prototype to play One Night Ultimate Werewolf on a Jackbox-like platform. So, I hacked a game together running on a local Node.js server with a super minimalistic client for player input, and I invited our group over to have a go. The game went delightfully smooth. The game management was super easy and everybody switched from hang-out mode to play mode quickly without having to move.

At the time, I didn't think it'd ever go beyond a hack project that makes our game nights easier, but I gradually realized that the platform offers more than just convenience. In fact, because of the limitation of traditional setting for a party game, game designers had to make compromises to make the games manageable. Having an automatic moderator, a shared screen, and a private screen for each player opens up a lot of possibilities for new ideas in mechanics and game design. With no need for closing eyes or getting everyone’s attention to follow the instructions of the moderator, any secret information or action can be done at any time with minimal risk of impediment to the flow of the game. Not only the game flows smoother and faster, but it can also be deeper and more engaging. The idea of having a social deduction game running on a connected platform became more and more promising.

When I met Kasra (@KasraRahimiDev) about a year later, I was immediately impressed by his passion and experience in game development. We actually talked about game development the very first time we hung out. We started to brainstorm about the idea and realized that our combined expertise and passion makes it a very promising game and a very tangible goal. Not long after, so we started prototyping. We designed and implemented many games including novel ideas and spin-offs of existing board games and party games that we thought suited the platform. We explored the platform and discovered many strength and weak points through play tests. Over the course of the next three years and after many prototypes and play tests, we have a great understanding of the platform, how to quickly develop on it, and what works and doesn’t work on it. We have a game that we enjoy playing a lot, and has become a favorite of our friends. We play it in person and lately via online video chat due to the Coronavirus crisis, and it’s been great way to stay in touch and socialize and have fun. We're confident that it's a fun game with an existing audience. It should exist on the market, and we're confident to make it a reality.

We’ll go over more details of our project in the future, but that’s about it for the origin story. If you like to play test our improving prototype, join our Discord and say hi. We need your help and feedback and we are thrilled to have you in our community.

-- Moein (@moeinpy)