The Market Space

iPad games for the pre-K to K demographic is a very competitive market space at the moment.  This means that there are a lot of examples for the team to look at, but moreover that the outstanding games in this space do what they do very well.

The team has looked at the following games:

Daniel Tiger

Elmo Loves ABC’s

Duck, Duck, Moose


Posted in Research

capital Games Newsletter #4 – 9/21/2012

This Week’s Highlights and Lowlights:

Albert got to visit with Sesame Workshop on his visit to New York for a conference, and had a unique opportunity to pick their minds and get some feedback on our work.

Back in Pittsburgh, the team was visited by Evan Hirsch. He loved the project and our approach, but felt we had missed one step: making sure that we could truly relate to our target demographic. We’ve been encouraged to and are interested in visiting lower-income communities.

Unfortunately, Anthony started the week with a bike accident, breaking a rib and fracturing a bone in his hand. Fortunately, he seems to be on the mend.

Read more ›

Posted in Newsletters

Marble Kids Museum

Today, one of our programmers, Michael, visited the Marble Kids Museum in Raleigh, NC to learn about our demographic.  The museum is aimed at young children, and is designed to facilitate learning through play and interaction.

The Museum had exhibits about the farm as well as the grocery store, which where next to each other, but not explicitly connected.  Overall, the museum was designed to let kids play first and learn second, learning through osmosis rather than through explicit lessons.

Susan Neuman is aware of this philosophy with teaching young children, and intends for our team to try a more directed and intentional approach.  She believes that kids are far more capable than what we give them credit for and that challenging-but-achievable activities will encourage them to excel.

Posted in Research

To Prototype or To Iterate

Up to this point, the question of whether or not the team would be prototyping multiple game designs or iterating on a single game design was up in the air.

Originally, the team came into the semester interested in the idea of rapid prototyping and the ability to try out different art styles, game mechanics, and general designs.

  • The original project description and original client that had attracted our team advertised prototyping.
  • Our client had changed to Susan since then, but given that Susan was interested in expanding her educational research into what would be a new space for her (iPad games), we figured that prototyping would allow us to research what would work best.
  • Our team has two members who are familiar with and worked previously with rapid prototyping.

However, the team has made a choice to iterate on a single design for the whole semester.

A couple of factors swayed us towards this decision:

  • The team’s idea for the first prototype had a lot of potential and instead of making a small part of it, the team became excited about building the whole thing.
  • Moreover, the idea for the first prototype, learning about where food came from, really resonated with Susan and our advisors, especially with the push to teach kids about healthy eating.
  • Most importantly though, after discussing with Susan today, she made it clear that she would like to have a single very polished project to demonstrate at the end of this semester.
Posted in Research

Sesame Street Smarts

Our producer, Albert, visited the Sesame Workshop in NYC today to get advice about design.

He asked them about such things as their own experiences with whether or not kids ages 4-6 prefer:

  • A world populated by adult or children characters
  • Human, animal, robot characters
  • Adult or child / male or female voices
  • Cartoony illustrations or real pictures

What did the folks at Sesame Workshop say?

CHARACTER DESIGN:  There may be a slight preferences for child characters over adults, but all distinctions are really trivial so long as characters feel friendly and funny.  The real test of character design, of course, is to put your characters in front of kids and ask them.

VOICE:   Voice-overs are similar: so long as the speaking is clear, it doesn’t matter too much what your actor sounds like.  Indeed, Sesame Workshop tests with scratch audio all the time and kids don’t complain when Elmo doesn’t sound “like Elmo.”

STORY:  Remind a child often where a story is going and why.  DON’T over-complicated.  Kids don’t find puns or irony funny; however, physical humor is good; things kids find funny also include unusual juxtapositions (e.g. small things with deep voices), as well as toes, baths, bubbles, and toilets (though avoid that last one).

USER INTERFACE:  Have a “back” and “home” button on-screen at the top always.  Don’t make important buttons hide.  Avoid putting anything interactive along the bottom because kids rest their wrists downs there.

INTERACTIONS:  Kids have no trouble with tapping, drawing, swiping, and dragging, but DO HAVE TROUBLE with pinching, tilting, multi-touch, flicking, flinging, double-tapping.

Posted in Research

capital Games Newsletter #3 – 9/14/2012

Starting Development:

This week was an exciting one, as we ran through our last major pre-production steps on the road to development. Our team now has all of our hardware and software setup for iPad development.
We had a great follow-up meeting with Susan and her team at UMich to further refine our educational goals and approach, as well as a productive session with Anthony Daniels where we ironed out some of our story and interaction ideas.

Read more ›

Posted in Newsletters

Everything’s a Fruit!

Content, while not the main focus of our team, is still important to have defined for the game we will be making, and the team has decided to make our game about:

Where does most food actually come from (a farm of one kind or another if you were wondering).

We’ll be taking kids to a grocery store filled with things they are familiar with (like eggs, apples, and bread), and then teaching them to ask the question of how it got there.  From a truck?  Where did the truck come from?  A farm?  What’s on the farm?  Chickens, trees, wheat?

The team has been doing research of what types of foods to address:

  • Produce?
  • Fruits?
  • Vegetables?
  • Dairy?
  • Processed foods?
  • Grains?

You’d think that these categories would be easy to teach, but, tell me, “What IS a fruit?”

Turns out there is the culinary definition that you are probably thinking about  (sweet plant products with seeds) as well as a botanical definition (parts of a flowering plant that spread its seeds), and as far as we can tell, that means a lot of things are technically fruits, scientifically speaking.

Almonds are the pit of fruit.  Fruits called “drupes” – a category that includes peaches.  Peaches and almonds are related.

Posted in Research

Why Pad?

The team has settled on developing games for the iPad.  How did we get to such a specific choice?

  • First, our target demographic (ages 4-6) cannot reliably use more complex interfaces like keyboards and mice; therefore we want to develop for a tablet to take advantage of the intuitiveness of physical tapping and dragging.

Now considering tablets, iOS and Android are the two biggest contenders in the market, why the former?

  1. iOS has fewer fragmentation issues than Android.
  2. iPads are the more popular, and are more often adopted by educational institutions looking to incorporate tablets into their curriculum.

So the team will be moving forward with developing for and testing with the iPad.

However, the engine that the team will be developing in is Unity3D, which means that it is possible to build for Android.  While the team will not have the resources to work with Android, we are not excluding it entirely.

Posted in Research


Capital Games is excited to announce that we had our first meeting with our client, Susan Neuman, on Friday, September 7, and that we have an official direction for our project:

Creating games that teach early literacy for children ages 4-6.

More updates soon as we begin to research this subject area!

Posted in News

capital Games Newsletter #2 – 9/07/2012

This Week

This week’s been a productive one, as we’ve been building the ship that will carry us through the semester. Susan Neuman and her team at the University of Michigan provided us with helpful resources to start tackling our major development goal: improving literacy in young children, ages 4-6.

Read more ›

Posted in Newsletters