Category Archives: Games

‘Burning Things’ gameplay trailer video

Here’s our new trailer for ‘Burning Things’ – our upcoming game for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.

The gameplay trailer takes you through the intro flick, then the level selection screen.
Later on, you can watch real gameplay with lots of fire and water splashes. And finally, the end party, ending with a kiss.

[youtube id=”F3qyNFkre6E” width=”600″ height=”900″]

Creating playable content for children

What could be easier than creating playable content for kids? The truth is that the task isn’t as straightforward as people may believe. While games are naturally the realm of the young, younger children tend to understand rules, goals and fun rather differently. True, children learn quite quickly about the basic concepts of life, however they understand them in a different way. Visiting the doctor, for example, is not a routine chore, but an adventure of its own. And things we may think as being exciting, such as going to the movies, can be seen as a tedious and way too long experience for toddlers.

So what is the key for a satisfying experience for young kids?

I believe there are few:

1. Gameplay has to be satisfying in short sessions, however there should be enough depth for further exploration. Levels, modes are good, but even better if each level or mode is playable as a shorter session or a longer one.

2. The gameplay has to revolve around something you can identify with – if not a character – even a concept can do. Creating a world of faeries is great, but remember there needs to be a specific faerie, such as the protagonist, that should be playable, so the experience is not detached.

3. There can a surprise element that can be explored and tested multiple times. For example, an egg which users knock on to see different objects hiding inside.

4. Interaction should happen in a limited number of ways. For example, touch and drag an apple to a basket, then touch and drag a sheep to the yard.

5. Consistency is key when a learning experience is sought after. There are lots of games where kids can touch many things and see what they do, but nothing is learned unless there is some overall theme and ruleset that’s causing things to act as they do.

Designing app menus for kids

Not everyone can read – and some level of illiteracy is especially common within our game’s focus group – 3 year olds. This means we need to make the menus as easy to navigate as possible with minimum frustration. Our main idea is to keep menu systems simple and have least amount of pre-game nonsense. No main menu, for example. Our players will jump right into the level select screen which is quite intuitive as it shows the levels in a visual way.

Children do tend to like the occasional mysterious icon, though – and we will be using these with care, for exploration of non-essential features and ‘power options’.

To sum up the basics, here’s a list:

1. Use as little text as possible.

2. Use icons and pictograms, but make them interesting and meaningful.

3. Avoid unnecessary menus, even if they are considered standard in the industry.

4. Jump quickly into the action.

5. Animation and button visual responsiveness can add fun and purpose when used carefully.

6. Some concepts, such as arrows or “i” buttons, don’t make much sense. Children do seem to pick up touch gestures easily (my 3 y.o. daughter really likes to pinch-zoom in and out to see how big letters can get in texts she wouldn’t be bothered reading…).

7. This has to do with in-app-purchases – make these list menus least abstract if you actually want kids to understand what they are buying (or trying to convince their parents to buy). Money is an abstract concept and while dominant in grown-ups lives I believe we could spare our kids another couple of years before they have to decide whether they would ask their mom to buy them 400 bonu-credits as in-game currency. Purchases such as tools, badges or furry animals are more kids-friendly and promote more satisfaction and less addiction-based buying.

‘Burning Things’ coming soon to iPad and iPhones and toddlers

Not everything is candies and watermelons in Can Town. A massive fire runs wild, and only Cat and Dog can save the animal citizens with their old but mighty red truck.

Burning Things was created in order to address the shortage in young children quality games and content. We chose to put the text aside, and let the game itself tech a bit about the world of firefighters.

More details as well as a final launch date soon.

Intuitive gameplay: 5 iPhone games

Our new game, Cavernous, is currently “In Review” in the app store so I have some spare time to write about other inspiringly intuitive games I play and admire.

1. Flight Control

At first run, I had my planes crash on one another before I touched anything. I thought this was still the intro playing. This is not necessarily a good thing, however, it took a few seconds to recover, rearrange my fingers together and start swiping and drawing curves on screen. The rest is dead-meat history – same as my first weekend with the game.

2. Angry birds

Famous for it’s addictive gameplay, however my 3 year old daughter kept firing the catapult backwards for some time. It’s not really the game makers’ fault that catapults work that way, however there isn’t much hope using the games for those who are not ready to grasp these physics.

3. Canabalt

Don’t we love them one-action games, where instead of picking the dual stick mechanism of some lifeless shooter you just have to tap your way to glory. In Canabalt, the critically-acclaimed depth-free side-scroller, you can really just meditate into your action however intense it is.

4. Tozzle

The best $2 I’ve spent in recent memory – this fantastic toddler’s puzzler is high on my 3 y.o. daughter’s iPod touch show-off routine as she presents her toys and stuff to friends and visitors. It is quite deep (over 30 different puzzles), and even taught her some basic English letters (not her mother tongue) . How does it do it? It really got the drag-and-drop puzzle mechanics spot-on, and when too hard, helps the user find its way to where the piece should drop by giving various visual and aural clues.

5. Colorful Aquarium (and Lite)

This was my 3 y.o. daughter’s first foray into the iOS games. Empowered by the intuitive controls of this app she gained enough courage to try many more later on. Your simply have to swipe your fingers to reveal menus, then add fish to the aquarium by swiping again. Positioning plants on the surface is a bit more advanced as it needs stabilizing the plants with a tap (as opposed to the swipe gestures needed for most actions).  Feeding the fish and seeing them fetch the food is enjoyable. There are far more detailed apps in the app store, however I found this one the cleanest and the less cluttered of the lot (and we tried a lot).