Design We Are The Caretakers is available on Xbox this week

Hi, I’m Scott, Design Director at Heart Shaped Games, and I’ve had the opportunity to share a little about the unique design process behind our new sci-fi grand strategy RPG. We are guardians. A lot went into creating the game over its 4+ years of development, but I’d like to focus on how our design team discovered a fun and innovative new strategy game mechanic from a very unlikely source: the poaching of endangered animals and the real world. animal protection work.

Inspirations and ideas

I always wanted to make a grand strategy game, similar to the games, with a large roster of characters to organize and upgrade xcom, the darkest dungeonor an all-time favorite classic Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen. I had been working on concepts and prototypes in the grand strategy genre for many years, but I finally found the right time to revisit these designs when we approached our team to create a game about hunting and managing wildlife poachers.


At first it seemed like a strange topic to make a game, but after spending time with real researchers and conservationists working in the field to protect endangered animals, we came away inspired. Their incredible work has led us to uncover the realities of human-animal conflict and animal conservation. Rangers work in small teams with limited resources, tracking wild animals and poachers in massive spaces. This unique management challenge resulted in some interesting gameplay decisions and fit perfectly into the team building and large roster management RPGs we love. We quickly realized that we had something innovative and special on our hands and got to work.

Subvert genres and create a new game

Our solution to turn this research into a game was to mix different game genres, each simulating an important aspect of wildlife conservation. We’ve developed a Guardian Headquarters where you organize your hundreds of recruited characters into squads, deal with detained poachers and upgrade your technology before heading out into the field. We’ve built a real-time map reconnaissance system with a break, where you deploy your squads to look for poaching activity. And we’ve created a turn-based combat system to resolve encounters between your gangs and poaching groups, giving you diplomatic options in addition to traditional JRPG-like skills.


By giving players action on both a macro and micro level during our 30+ mission campaign, they experience what it’s like to reassemble an organization and who can stand up for themselves.

world building

Although game design is a long process of discovery, we put a lot of effort into creating an interesting world and style that matches the game. Art director Anthony “robotpencil” Jones found inspiration in Afrofuturist works. Black Panther for environment and character design; Composer Jon Parra created a stunning orchestral score with rap beat inspirations; and narrative designer Xalavier Nelson, Jr. elevated the real-world stories by adding close encounters with aliens and a post-apocalyptic planetary rescue story.


Lessons learned

Biggest lesson learned We are guardians Looking beyond traditional genres and game tropes is the way to new and original ideas. By bringing in collaborators from outside the gaming industry and building a diverse development team, we’ve made sure we have diverse perspectives that can find the right fit and create something exciting and new for our players. Work with the Heart Shaped Games team We are guardians was one of my greatest professional joys, and I hope it shows in the final game you’ll be able to play.


We hope you enjoy We are guardians as much as us. It’s available for pre-order today and will be available Friday, January 6th! Your purchase also supports the people who inspired the game, with 10% of net game proceeds going to the Wildlife Conservation Network’s Rhino Recovery Fund.

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