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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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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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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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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?