Without A Trace

Without A Trace is set in a dystopian future ravaged by ecological disaster. You play as one of the few remaining survivors.

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Problem Statement

The United States currently faces a recycling crisis. China has recently restricted the import of certain recyclable material, such as mixed paper and most plastics. Consequently, the market for recyclable material has dramatically shrunk. Recycling facilities across the country have been unable to sell the material they collect and sort. If these facilities cannot find a buyer for their recycling, the material will simply be sent to a landfill. In Santa Cruz county, the Santa Cruz Resource Recovery Facility is no longer accepting recycling from UC Santa Cruz. Not only has it been more expensive for the recovery facility to operate due to lower demand for recyclables, but the material that is coming from UC Santa Cruz is polluted with waste. The campus population has been unable to distinguish between recyclable and non-recyclable items. As a whole, it has also improperly sorted trash into the respective waste bin. These problems have manifested in our recycling streams becoming contaminated with non-recyclable material. It has become so costly for them to deal with the material we deem as recyclable that the resource recovery facility is better off not taking our recyclables in the first place.

What We Are Doing About It

In order to raise awareness and clean up our recycling streams, an interdisciplinary team of computer science, sustainability studies, and art students is designing and building an interactive and educational mobile game to raise awareness and influence detrimental consumption and disposal habits practiced by many members of the UCSC campus community. Adopting an enigmatic “dungeon crawler” strategy set in a post-apocalyptic landscape, the development team is committed to keeping the gameplay dynamic and fun while depicting a strict allegiance to current recycling policies and standards. Adopting sentiments represented by the larger “serious gaming” movement the team expects prospective players to experience more than entertainment when they download this free mobile app. Game mechanics introduce players to concepts like “pre-cycling” as they roam through different places on the hunt to collect and stockpile discarded materials. A triage incentive, integrated into the character’s “backpack” inventory, teaches players the value of sorting materials before trading them in. The game is being assembled on a Unity platform and will be playable on IOS and Android.

The Intersection of Sustainability Education and Gamified Fun

Precycle items found around each level.

Gameplay Perspective

Each item has different properties, some make an item more sustainable than other. Meaningful decisions on which items to pick up makes for engaging gameplay.

Sustainability Perspective

Precycling is the practice of reducing waste by choosing to consume products that can be used more than once.

Sort collected items in your inventory.

Gameplay Perspective

Since inventory space is limited, properly sorting items by material can effectively double the number of items you can pick up.

Sustainability Perspective

Recycling items can sometimes be confusing as it can be unclear what type of recycling it is or whether an item is recyclable in the first place. The sorting mechanic gives a detailed breakdown of which items fall into which recycling category.

Traverse through challenging levels.

Gameplay Perspective

Moving through levels encourages exploration as finding valuable items greatly improves your settlement. Dangerous traps and puzzles keep the environment from getting stale and add an extra challenge for the player.

Sustainability Perspective

The post-apocalyptic setting gives a perspective into the future if we don’t change our consumption habits. The landscape is filled with trash and the remnants of a civilization that completed destroyed its environment.