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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
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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.

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. 

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Maria Montessori, the teacher ahead of her time

Maria Montessori surrounded by children at school

Doctor Maria Montessori. What a great woman. In the early twentieth century, she elaborated an innovative and controversial method of education, now simply called Montessori.

Each child is an individual 

Montessori is the premise that children are individuals and should be given the opportunity to be guided or coordinated through the environment instead of being instructed by a mentor. 

In lesser words. Figure it out. Do it yourself. 

With support though. Children develop at their own pace and instructors observes the children and adapt the activities and environments to meet their own needs. 

An environment to develop self-discipline and self-confidence 

The emphasis is placed on the use of specific equipment and other dedicated assets to capture interest and lead to creativity, initiative, independence, inner discipline and self-confidence. Help the children to reveal their personal attributes and interests. 

The environment is organised and free from clutter. Indoor or outdoor. 

The environment supports activities meaningful learning experiences. Initially focussing on perception of size, shape, volume, colour, pattern, odour, sound and texture. Later, in discoveries relating to mathematics, language and literacy, art, music, science, and social studies 

The first steps to learn how to write 

Montessori has five essential stages of observation. Practical life, sensorial education, language education, mathematics and the cultural area.  

Practical life experiences cover all daily routines and how to handle them. Like tying shoelaces or opening and closing drawers. Sensorial education covers the use of the five senses and especially how to feel and hold a pencil. A major step in the long learning curve of writing.

Maria Montessori memorable anecdote 

Let’s finish with this anecdote which marks the beginning of his research on his method of education 

“I was making my first essays in applying the principles and part of the material I had used for many years previously in the education of deficient children, to the normal children of the San Lorenzo quarter in Rome, when I happened to notice a little girl of about three years old deeply absorbed in a set of solid insets, removing the wooden cylinders from their respective holes and replacing them.  

The expression on the child’s face was one of such concentrated attention that it seemed to me an extraordinary manifestation; up to this time none of the children had ever shown such fixity of interest in an object; and my belief in the characteristic instability of attention in young children, who flit incessantly from one thing to another, made me peculiarly alive to the phenomenon. 
 
I watched the child intently without disturbing her at first, and began to count how many times she repeated the exercise; then, seeing that she was continuing for a long time, I picked up the little arm-chair in which she was seated, and placed chair and child upon the table; the little creature hastily caught up her case of insets, laid it across the arms of her chair, and gathering the cylinders into her lap, set to work again.  

Then I called upon all the children to sing; they sang, but the little girl continued undisturbed, repeating her exercise even after the short song had come to an end. I counted forty-four repetitions when at last she ceased, it was quite independently of any surrounding stimuli which might have distracted her, and she looked round with a satisfied air, almost as if awaking from a refreshing nap. 
 
I think my never-to-be-forgotten impression was that experienced by one who has made a discovery.” 

— Maria Montessori, Advanced Montessori Method, 1917 

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Uploading Your Creations to Instagram from a MacBook

Instagram is so great for sharing visual art, illustrations, pictures or even selfies (!!) But.. Instagram has been designed to work on smartphone .. mostly! At Sofielafée we can be a bit old school and like working on iMac and MacBook. There are so many incredible tools to create and process images.

So wait a minute, how?

Yes you can. Well you could suggest to send images to a mobile phone and do the rest over there. Fair enough, but there is a more simple option. Four clicks.

Open the web browser Chrome and click on the 3 vertical dots on the upper right, more tools, developer tools

Click Responsive on the top and select any iPhone or iPad you ever wanted!

Ta-da! Instagram is now displayed like an iPhone and offer more functions. You can now upload images by clicking the plus button at the bottom.

You enjoy the below original illustration from Sofielafée? Send your love here or on Facebook

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A journey in game design for preschoolers

Why not creating a game for preschoolers? I will scribble about the experience of creating a homemade educational game.

Learning theory, game design, software development, this all can sound complicated; we all imagine games being created by a pack of highly skilled designers and developers working altogether in big studios. Few of them. Believe it or not there are many passionate independent developers willing to experiment personal creative experience. And why not getting original ideas out there.

The inception of an idea

Let’s go back to the beginning of the story. 

It’s late 2017. Winter is coming. Sofie, artist, graphic designer, had a creative impulse and spent several days drawing cute characters, colourful flowers, funny statements. Sketches and illustrations made up of watercolour, coloured pencils, felt-tip pens, photography, Photoshop, Illustrator, digital drawing. 

This little mouse with a spiky hat, checkered rocket, large ears and big smile looked amazing. Sofie pulled out Rocket Mouse out of her hat. This cute and funny mouse would be a great companion for toddler’s eager to learn and go on an outer space adventure.

Rocket Mouse Original Watercolour
Rocket Mouse in Watercolour

Learn and learn again

There’s a lot to do, I’d put Peaky Blinders, Game of Thrones and other series on hold for now; so I spent evenings reading blogs and watching videos about game design and game development. How to make a game? An interesting game. How to animate characters? How to interact with characters and their environment? Now to brand and give an identity to a game? The game had to be mobile, touch-based, easy to use, guided by narrative voices, pleasing to the eye, personal and fun. Colossal business.

As a matter of fact, we can all learn, learn anything. It takes time and might appear insurmountable. It may fail, it may work, it may be boring or exciting, but why not trying? Have you ever thought of creating your own game or animation?