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Math it Right, the main game mechanic of treasure hunting for times tables

For the past few days I’ve worked on the main game loop and mechanics of Math it Right 3D Adventure. The treasure hunting for times tables.

First the generation of math equations. Depending on the type of operation chosen by the player, addition, subtraction, or multiplication the system generates a set of operations. Basically for each operation, we have two operands, an operator and a result. 

Then the system spawns the world with integers corresponding to the results of the generated equations. The world is divided into 81 areas, a 9 x 9 grid, where numbers are dropped evenly. 

The last part of the game loop is to assign an objective and runs a timer based on the distance between the player and the target. 

The user interface now includes a mini map and big map to support the orientation of the player in the world. 

In this build there are also few cosmetics changes to simplify the colour palette; and added extra props in the world such as a temple, a farm and a little city. 

This is the video of this build

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Math it Right 3D Aventure, our new 3D treasure hunter game to learn arithmetic and times tables

Of the challenging aspects of building a game there is especially, one, finding what is actually entertaining and pushes you to play more, and two complete a game development project as a finished product. With these 2 goals in mind, I’ve started a new prototype with the intention of completing it this time around. 

This new project is Math it Right 3D Adventure a fun educational game for little ones, roughly 5 to 8 years old, around math and especially arithmetic with a 3d treasure hunter twist. 

While some say math is fun, getting attention from kids to learn arithmetic and times tables is a steep challenge. So the intention here is to ease the learning task such as memorizing times tables, basic additions, or subtractions of integers as a fun experience. Let’s gamify arithmetic and times tables. 

Thanks to the Unity Asset Store there are several solutions that helped to kick start the project with impressive outputs in a short period of time. This is not an exhaustive list but includes the main tools

Gaia 2 – Terrain & Scene Generator by Procedural Worlds: a system that generates terrain with terra-forming and texturing functions. The stamping tool helped me to define the overall shape of the island. The solution includes additional tools and scripts such as a character controller 

Kinematic Character Controller by Philippe St-Amand, a set of low-level scripts to help to build a precise and responsive character controller. This requires you to get your hands on the code but get impressive results with smooth and tight control of a third-person character. 

The new Input System from Unity helped to build versatile controls between gamepads,  touchscreen, keyboard, or mouse. This makes the game a truly multi-platform solution. 

Flat Kit: Toon Shading and Water by Dustyroom, the very customizable solution for cel-shading. It gives a nice cartoonish look with great controls on the rendering. 

See some video and pictures of the early preview. More to come soon! 

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What is the meaning of Shrot, the name Shrot means, Shrot stands for

The name of the game Shrot Bubble Blaster Adventure, designed by our little one, 5 years old one came out of nowhere. After we’ve built a first prototype of a platform game inspired by Super Mario and Rayman it was time to name the project and the game. Otto came up with Shrot, the game and the character will be named Shrot. Full stop.

Interesting and unusual name; it was his decision as lead designer of the project so fair enough. Now I did a bit of research to find out whether it’s meaningful and it is indeed.

First this is a Hindu name and boy/male gender. It means Light; Listener. Person with name Shrot are trustworthy towards their colleagues. People with the influence of this name are likely to have cooperative friends at their place of job.

I’m Shrot and I’m not short!

Good choice, this is unusual and interesting name and so is the name of Otto’s project Shrot Bubble Blaster Adventure

Shrot Bubble Blaster Adventure, the Jungle level, climbing on a giraffe's neck
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Home-schooling game design with a 5 years old

There’s only a certain amount of home-schooling and exercises to do at home, especially for little ones. They become exhausted and lose their attention rapidly. A continuous battle to find more and new exciting things to do.

Earlier this month, after half an hour of phonics reading and struggling to get the basics of multiplication we paused these topics for a completely different one. Game design.

Surprisingly as soon as I mentioned we’re going to make our own game I had all the attention and focus in the world. Flows of millions of ideas followed.

A great opportunity to learn by playing, as long as the perception of making a game is considered playing. It was, it is still, even after three weeks, a few hours a week.

Just to name a few there is a plethora of skills and knowledge required to develop and build a game. I obviously picked the technical and advanced topics like software development and integration and assisted him in all the rest.

Project management

Project and game name: Shrot – straight and definite answer from the little one. I’ve tried to discuss and explore alternative options; this was definitive, as the lead designer he made his choice.

The name of the game is Shrot

Next major item and similarly for grown-up projects: managing expectations. We need to set goals, which are achievable in a relatively short term with the time and skills we have. Million of ideas is great but let’s start simple and think big. And so we agreed to base the game on a simple mechanic, a 2-dimensional platformer with a target of 10 levels, playable with a gamepad and on-screen buttons.

We’ve also started to gather and classify workable ideas into a Kanban board using Trello. Trello helps to organise ideas in cards where they can be reordered, prioritized and mark as complete. This is trivial but the core of project management.

Graphic Design

The obvious start is to work on visuals. So we gathered all sorts of arts and crafts and materials we could use. In the current version of the game, there are elements designed with paint, felt pens, gritty pastels, pencils, glitters, wiggly colourful bits, pompoms, cotton, squashed paper, digital media, real-life pictures,  glue and various sorted of crafted items.

The graphical theme is quite broad and organised by theme, especially picked by the little one; jungle, snow, lava, cloud worlds and others.

Game and Level Design

Designing the game and levels is actually one of the most challenging parts. It needs a lot of thinking for the game to flow. We approached it by testing and playing. An interesting game needs to introduce new mechanics and slightly raise the challenge over and over to make it fun and not repetitive. As of now the first level, the jungle, is complete in a sense that it contains all the elements and progression we wanted.

Audio and Music Design

Some of the audio is recorded with a microphone, the main bulk comes from sound libraries where we spent time browsing and exploring sound ideas.

The main tune is actually am acapella recording from Otto from start to finish without and preparation. I told him do you want to sing the music of the game and just did it straight away. First cut. A few days later we layered in synthetic instruments while playing with Garage Band and the result is actually quite fun.

So this is our home-schooling game design experience. Here is the video of the first level, hope you enjoy, and we, especially Otto, 5, can’t wait to get your feedback.

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Storytelling, the storyteller experience and how to engage your kids into writing a story

This was a completely unprepared activity – storytelling. The little one was watching me attentively working on my computer. I told him to give a try. He was delighted because he started to barely read and write and never used a  laptop or a computer before. 

I was using my professional laptop with the classic office suite etc, so rather than focusing on a plain text I showed him how to use the touchpad and drag graphic elements and text in a page. At this point, I’ve seen a spark in his eyes. Creative possibilities are infinite with this new toy! 

While I was I guiding him through the basic technical aspects he already starting to suggest many ideas. Characters playing together but did not want to share, expressing their opinions and ideas, defying their friendship, etc. 

This is how he started to write his own children’s book. There were no limits, I was actually surprised he came up with constructed sorry arc, dramatic structure and plot devices. With a bit of help especially in typing words, he came up with the below few pages.

The exposition. First, he set up the scene, 2 colourful heart-shaped characters. One cooking, the other one playing.

The inciting incident. The 2 characters express their wishes and upset the status quo, starting the story movement. One actually wants to cook and the other one wants to play at the playground. 

I want to cook 
I want to play 
at the 
playground

Rising Action. The story moves toward a climax, the characters express doubts and raise a problem; they don’t intend to share their activities.

Here I’ve helped him to draw suitcases it became a bit too sophisticated.

Resolution or denouement. The outcome of the story is revealed, these 2 shaped hearts are actually best friends and want to share their experience. Great happy ending!

Can I cook with 
you? 
Yes! 
Can I play at the 
playground with 
you?

Surprising storytelling experience for both the little writer and myself who was actually impressed with the level of inherent knowledge the little one acquired as a devout spectator of bedtime stories. Since then he’s been a contributor in writing the story of our educational game Ready Veggie Fruity Go with excellent ideas! 

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The LEGO brick brainteasers: escape the maze

The LEGO brick maze activity for kids

Bricks and constructions are always a good option to get your little one busy for a moment. Not only kids need to focus, observe and model spatially; it also encourages them to develop problem-solving. This activity is ideal for 4 to 6 years old and it’s likely fun for any age group since you can add several levels of complexity and challenges.

So let’s build a maze and guide a ball through the twists and traps and dead ends. Let’s find our way out of the labyrinth! For this fun learning activity we need

  • A large LEGO baseplate; it should be 32 studs by 32 studs or more
  • A few dozens of bricks with various combinations; a lot of classic bricks are required and few quirky bricks can add some fun and challenges, for instance, arches, bridges and slopes
  • A marble ball or any small ball about 1cm or half a inch
  • A bit of time to build and time for fun!

Build the walls at least one standard brick high and make sure passages are large enough for the ball, so depending on the ball at least 2 to 3 studs. Create an open space for the entrance and an open space for the exit. Tilt the game board to get the ball rolling through the maze passaged from the entrance to the exit. You can also add a countdown to level up the difficulty and the competition. But remember the most important is to have fun!

For extra fun we’ve added: a chest to collect treasures, some monsters and cogs to avoid, a spinning gate and a few bumps. The little one also enjoys having his characters browsing the maze to explore and find treasures. Enjoy and share your experience!

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The new version of Rocket Mouse Educational Game has additional levels to discover

Our new release of Rocket Mouse Educational Game for Android, iPhone and iPad is exciting! I’ve introduced a couple of new scenes. 

I wanted to have extra learning challenges to develop the player memory capacity and encourage creativity, and like the rest of the game, I’ve searched for simple ideas that would be fun to play. 

Matching pairs of cards did not really fit with the settings so I’ve gone with the concept of a puzzle where a sequence needs to be memorized. 

In the scene “memorize the planets” the child needs to memorise the colours and the order of the planets. 

The scene starts with a series of planets displayed on the screen and a narrative voice highlights one by one each planet and names their colour. After introducing the sequence the planets are greyed out. A new set of coloured planets is available for the player to pick up and can drag and drop into the planet slot in the ordered previously announced. 

This is simple and fun; you can also switch the language to learn your colour names in French or English. 

Now the second game is more of the fun side,  Red Mouse is going to the big party and needs to jump from planet to planet to reach his destination. The planets spin and the Red Mouse gravitates around them; it makes the movements interesting and fun. This also introduces kids to orbitational gravitation, a bit of rocket science for littles ones! 

Discover these new levels in Rocket Mouse and stay tuned for further updates!

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The tomato skier game

Game design is fun actually much complex than imagined. Many people aspire becoming game designers assuming it’s super fun and easy when you play a lot of game. It probably helps, but it’s not enough. Let’s go through the example of designing the tomato surfer game. The tomato surfer game is the first level designed for our educational game Ready Veggie Fruity Go.

 I don’t pretend to be a professional game designer and provide an academic process. This entry is from my own experience as a curious game designer and developer. Which is made up of a long succession of hit and miss of various trials and experiments. A while ago, I was looking at the process of making cell animation.  Cell animation is the old school way of animation by drawing movements frame by frame; think of the old Disney films from the ’50s. This requires an awful lot of talent and time, and I still wanted to give a shot.

So I draw a running carrot, nine drawings of a running carrot to be precise; each picture showing body and limbs in a specific position that would flow naturally with the rest of the animation. I had a vegan theme game in mind and was in a phase of experimenting all sorts of carrot meals – hence the carrot choice. So here we are, a few hours later I had a carrot running.

cel animation of a hand drawn running carrot

I’ve put in on a game scene and started moving it on flat ground. First, I realised cell animation is not the way to go since the animation stutter, are very difficult to generate and flow naturally and takes a lot of time to produce.

Secondly, flat ground is.. well, flat and a bit boring. Having hills and obstacles would make it a bit more exciting. This is where I did some research on generating hills and bumps, with a hint of randomness to get a realistic rendering.

And so I started to generated hills and playing with physics properties until I had the idea of using slippery surface. This led to change the initial concept. I was changing the running carrot to a surfing tomato. I’ve picked up an quick example of a tomato on the net to play with while asking Sofie was elaborating her own a surfing tomato concept.

One of the first prototypes of the tomato surfer, with a 3d snowy slope

So I eventually had a surfing tomato sliding on a snowy slope in the breathy mountains to play with. Thanks to Sofie’s artist talents the concepts became beautiful and visually pleasant. The hand-drawn character and background started to come to like with lovey pastel colours and lively brushstrokes. Additional gears and features allow the character to come to life.

The tomato skier artistic concept

Now was the time to more fun and educational ingredients into the recipe. The idea of the game Ready Veggie Fruity Go is to play a fun game while learning words and letters. This concept was incorporated as a goal and incentive to play with the surfer.

This level is now is beta testing and includes the main features. Here’s a video of the end results.

Ready Veggie Fruity Go by Sofielafée – The Tomato Skier

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Learning through Play. Play is Learning. Learning is Playing.

It’s not just common knowledge, research confirmed this as well: play is essential for learning. And actually play is the best method of learning! Why spending time learning when you could actually play (and learn)? Play involves creativity. Play involved imagination. In the eyes of a young child, running, pretending, building are all fun activities and way of expression yourself. An more academic definition from Beverlie Dietze and Diane Kashin in Playing and Learning in Early Childhood Education is Play is active, child-initiated, process oriented, intrinsic, episodic, rule-governed, and symbolic.

Play is a fundamental right of every child. This was actually recognised by the United Nations in 1989. Children need the freedom to explore and play. Play also contributes to brain development. There is a false mainstream sense that playing and learning are two clear-cut concepts. Unfortunately the pressure of modern society on delivering results, filling assessments, tests preparations affects the amount of time children spend playing, and consequently learning. This is counter-intuitive and counterproductive. See this research article from David Elki, The Power of Play, Learning that Comes Naturally, 2008, University of Illinois.

Play means pleasure; and learning can be pleasure. Play is intrinsically motivated, there is no goal to fulfil, only a sense of freewill. Play is spontaneous and voluntary and void of any external pressure to deliver results. This is why flashcards and educational toys are artifice. They mislead and push children in a learning activity while giving a false sense of play. Childhood play develops all soft skills strongly needed later on during adult life such as problem solving, language acquisition, literacy, numeracy and social, physical, and emotional intelligence.

It reminds me of a great quote from O. Fred Donaldson, author of “Playing by Heart”

“Children learn as they play. Most importantly, in play children learn how to learn.”

“Children learn as they play. Most importantly, in play children learn how to learn.” - O. Fred Donaldson

Let your little one learn as they play by trying our fun educational games.

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The maze, the puzzle and the riddle

You are probably ending up on this page looking for a solution of the maze posted our Instagram account @SofielafeeStudio. Congratulations this is the right place.  Here is the maze, the puzzle and the riddle. While you’re here, have a look at our original educational games for kids Rocket Mouse and Ready Veggie Fruity Go and play with your little on your iPhone, iPad or Android devices and our beautiful artworks.

Now back to the puzzle, so what? Why? How? Well I like maze. I like puzzles. I like riddles. 

And so I wanted to combine the three. That may create something interesting. 

The maze 

First let’s build a maze. There are so many different forms of mazes. I would stick to a simple design. 

There will be one entry, one exit or one goal, a series of passages and junctions; and only one successful path and no loop. This is what is called a standard or perfect maze. 

There are many approaches for creating a maze; and especially algorithms can generate layouts of perfect maze. This is brilliant and a quick way to experiment. 

Thanks to this Maze Generator website I could easily try out different shapes like rectangular, triangular, hexagonal or circular. And changes settings to play with the size and patterns.  

I’ve opted for the round maze. It looks pleasant and well balanced. So I’ve generated the below maze as template and layered some paint on top. 

The Maze layout only from Maze Generator
The Maze layout only from Maze Generator

The puzzle 

This is a simple puzzle really, I wanted to experiment with a grid layout on Instagram. The puzzle is a series of nine images displayed consecutively. They appear as a larger image when scrolling the account. 

I like the collage from wild bloom creative and I may try a similar one someday. See the grid-

The maze, the puzzle and the riddle on Instagram
The maze, the puzzle and the riddle on Instagram

The riddle 

The riddle has two aspects, first the quotes. They are all from animated films, mainly Pixar. This studio has so many inspiring stories, characters and graphics. 

Your mind is like water. When it is agitated it becomes difficult to see, but when you let it settle; the answer becomes clear.  – Oogway, Kung Fu Panda 

There is a whole lot more to racing than just winning. – Tex, Cars 

Nobody is entitled to anything. Anyone can become an artist; you just have to make a choice.  – Anton Ego, Ratatouille 

The only thing predictable about life is it’s unpredictability. – Ratatouille 

To infinity and beyond! -Lightbuzz, Toy Story 

As long as we are together; it doesn’t matter to me. – Marty, Madagascar 

‘Greater good?’ I am your wife! I’m the greatest good you’re ever gonna get! – Honey, Incredibles 

I never look back, darling. It distracts from the now – Edna Mode, Incredibles 

Thanks for the adventure. Now go have a new one. -Ellie, Up 

The second aspect is the solution that leads to the main quote.

The maze, the puzzle, the riddle and the quote

See this the full picture of the maze, painted and post-processed including the solution. 

The maze painted and post-processed including the solution - You were born an original, don't die a copy.

Now if you follow the trail of the puzzle, you can read this famous quote from John Mason. 

You were born an original, don’t die a copy. 

This encompasses the quotes above from Pixar, inspiring and spark self-reflection. Tada! The maze, the puzzle and the riddle.

l will experiment with other concepts. Stay tuned on Instagram @SofielafeeStudio and Facebook

If you know any interesting experiments with a maze, riddles, puzzles in social media I would be really excited if you could share them – use the comment section below.