The ever-present Jeepneys, aka the King of the Road, are to the Philippines what black cabs are to London. Or yellow taxis to New York City.
Already a Filipino pop culture icon, these vibrant vehicles are a ubiquitous part of the urban landscape, serving as an affordable and accessible means of transportation.
So the question is, why only now it has become a game theme?
In a time when the gaming industry has often been criticized for producing titles that rehash the same themes and mechanics, Jeepney Simulator came as a breath of fresh air.
Jeepney Simulator by Spaczerointeractive is a unique offering that not only provides an engaging gaming experience but also serves as a cultural repository.
Developed by a small team of dedicated students, this game aims to encapsulate the essence of driving a jeepney in the Philippines. Led by Joshua Bicoy and Alvin Arapoc, Spacezero Interactive is helped by friends and generous donors.
“The main inspiration for Jeepney Simulator came when we were riding a jeep and started wondering about what it would be like to drive a jeepney for a living, with all the driving, math skills, and landmarks to keep in mind,” said Joshua, one of the game’s developers.
Jeepney Simulator stands out from its peers by putting players in the driver’s seat of these iconic vehicles, tasking them with navigating through Dabbo City, a fictional yet compelling representation of a Philippine city which totally is not Davao City.
In comparison to other transportation-based simulation games, the experience offered is starkly different. Joshua points out, “When it comes to Jeepney Simulator, it’s more of a challenge, tasking the player to get as many passengers as possible in order to feed their family and upgrade their vehicle, all while immersing them in the jeepney culture of the Philippines.”
It has woven several layers of gameplay that include upgrading the jeepney, maintaining a household, and even thwarting a corporation’s monopolistic endeavors.
Joshua elaborated on this, stating, “After every shift, the player has to go home and spend the rest of his time with his family by helping them with school, work, and improving their health and happiness.”
The game presents an ambitious attempt to include a narrative that reflects the cultural struggles that jeepney drivers often face.
The antagonist, a corporation named “Hiraya,” is hell-bent on replacing traditional jeepneys with AI-controlled vehicles, encroaching upon a market that has remained rooted in tradition for generations.
According to Joshua, the game “tells a story of one family’s legacy being overshadowed by a greedy corporation aiming to have a monopoly on the public transportation sector.”
Given the unique features and the complexity involved, one might think that Jeepney Simulator was an expensive endeavor. But Joshua clarifies that “game development nowadays is very low-cost.”
This made it possible for the team to develop the game on a shoestring budget, aided by the kindness of an anonymous donor and a well-wisher named Martin Turla.