Sanam: The Jordanian platformer inspired by Rabbids, Babylonia and the search for peaceBy TRACEY LIEN
A once peaceful world is in turmoil after the gods awaken and wage war on each other. As they fight for dominance, tearing each other apart, it is not they who suffer but those in their path.Seeing the relentless destruction at the hands of careless idols, a radish armed with a broccoli sword sets out to put an end to the violence.The game is Sanam, an Arabic word for "idol". Its mechanics include platforming, slicing, dicing and a game of hide, seek and destroy with opponents. Its message goes beyond the power of armed vegetables."Today we see loads of nations hating each other because of religion, and religion is affecting almost everything," says one of the Jordanian developers behind Sanam, Ibrahim Yasir. "So we asked ourselves: What if there were no religions or gods to fight?"To the west of Jordan is Israel and Palestine. To its north, Syria and Lebanon. And to its east, Iraq. While Jordan itself has remained peaceful in times when its neighbors have gone through wars, Yasir believes the theme of humans waging wars in the name of gods is a theme worth exploring."We saw that since the dawn of time man waged war against man in the name of religion," he says. "[It is a theme we wanted to put in front of] people through the game, but not in a direct way. But when you think about it and then watch the trailer, you will see it."
THE ARABIAN FLAVOR
Sanam isn't intended to be political, at least, not in any direct or pushy way. It's not a war on religion or the religious. Rather, it takes a narrative that is so familar to people around the world and uses it at a backdrop for a game. At its core is a theme that resonates with so many other video games: The search for peace.The four developers who make up Team FoodFighter, the indie studio behind Sanam, Mohammed Idrel, Wajd Adil Azar, Ibrahim Yasir and the team's 3D and concept artist who goes by the nickname DurDur Draw Man, are exploring this theme through a 3D platformer with wacky vegetable characters inspired by Ubisoft's Rabbids, level design inspired by Contra and Viewtiful Joe and combat inspired by the likes of Assassin's Creed and Prince of Persia. They want to create a layered game that is full of urban myths, funny and fun characters and set to a backdrop that is meaningful to anyone who wishes to think deeper about the game.
It's an ambitious project that Yasir calculates will take the team two years to complete. The project is currently on crowd funding website IndieGoGo and the developers are asking for $200,000 to help them finish the game. Yasir says game development in the Middle East can be difficult because of rampant piracy and copyright issues, but the team of four is determined to make their game happen."[There are] game developers and designers still willing to find a way to make games and we are one of them," he says. "It's a hard thing to do because people [in the Middle East] still don't know that making games can be a profession and an income source, a way of life. They still think that it's easy and it's stupid, but the truth is getting clearer to them day by day."Yasir also takes pride in Sanam being a game being made by an all-Arab team that contains an "Arabian flavor.""IT'S A HARD THING TO DO BECAUSE PEOPLE [IN THE MIDDLE EAST] STILL DON'T KNOW THAT MAKING GAMES CAN BE A PROFESSION.""We can't deny that we are well influenced by the Western and Japanese style in games and animation, but our aim is to add some Arabian flavor to it, or the oriental touch by mixing old oriental art with modern art," Yasir says, noting that Sanam has Babylonian influences and borrows from Babylonian myths, stories and the statues that were once used for worship."It won't be easy," he says. "[But] we have a solid team that is committed to what they are doing and it's our first independent game as well. We want to show the world who we are."Sanam is currently in development for Windows PC and Mac. Its IndieGoGo campaign has 59 days to go.