When Mark Hurst read David McCullouch’s history tome, 1776, which chronicles the early days of the American Revolution, it was the section detailing the events of the Battle of Brooklyn that really stuck out. Considered the first major battle of the war, it didn’t exactly end well for the George Washington-led American rebels — overwhelmed by British forces, they were forced to beat a hasty retreat across the East River.
As he read McCullough’s telling, Hurst, an avid gamer, tells the Voice he, “immediately imagined it taking place on the board of a game.” So he set about creating Brooklyn 1776, described as a “light, tactical war game,” all centered around the most famous battle ever to have occurred in our backyard.
“The American Revolution almost ended that day,” Hurst explains of August 27, 1776. “The odds were heavily in favor of the British. And the only way that the Americans could survive was if they figured out the approach of the British in time to escape intact, or mostly intact, back to Manhattan. That was the only way out.”
Since the battle — also known as the Battle of Long Island — played out in such a way that there was really only one viable option, to flee Brooklyn. In that sense, there was only one solution, one way to win.
Since there is only one correct answer, Hurst says, that pivotal skirmish leant itself well to a video game. “You can try different strategies but the game will beat you every time,” he says.
Hurst, who has run Manhattan-based technology consulting firm Creative Good since founding it in 1997, saw a chance to make a game that would be educational in a kind of backhanded way; one that wouldn’t be pedantic and overly instructive, but would nonetheless force players to make the same decisions Washington had in order to succeed.
The game will be released on Oct. 22 on OS devices – for $0.99 — after an intense development period over the summer led mostly by developer Max Kolbowski-Frampton. Hurst says he asked a lot of him team with the accelerated development schedule.
“Max and the initial programmers came on in early to mid-June, so I was not very fair to those guys. I said you’ve got about four months to get it done, which is a breakneck pace for a game of this quality,” Hurst says.
The battle turned heavily on topography, with forces maneuvering around the Guan Heights, a ridge that runs across much of Brooklyn, and provided a natural obstacle for troop movements. After spending so much time thinking about the lay of the land as it was then, Kolbowsk-Frampton, a recent graduate of NYU’s Game Center design program, says he was struck by how much of Brooklyn’s topography remains the same. The Guan Heights, for example, are mostly intact – helping form the slope of Park Slope and the Heights of Prospect Heights.
“It was really interesting to consider, what was the original shape of Red Hook? Well, it was mostly marsh…but there are some landmarks that remain the same. Flatbush Avenue is really close to where it was then, for example,” Kolbowski-Frampton says.
Though he calls it a “bold comparison,” Hurst and the designers wanted the game to appeal to all ages and skill levels, similar to the gaming juggernaut Mine Craft. It’s not a challenging game to play from a technical standpoint, he says, and believes it should be able to keep both children and adults happily busy — and interested.
Check out a preview of game play below.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 20, 2015