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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?