Last night I released Happy Shapes – a free Android game for kids.
Here is how it all came about.
Originally, I had the desire to create a software product. After months of wrangling with complex wireframes, I realised the development was going to cost $$$.
I’m not a fan of apps. I prefer web-based solutions. But my preschool kids, who steal my phone at every opportunity, like apps. Especially games. However:
- My kids unwittingly click on ads that took them away from the game
- Many kids learning games seem to use peculiar words (“trapezoid”) or unfamiliar colloquialisms (“Good Job!”)
Goals and Design Constraints
I set about trying to design a game app that was intuitive for preschool children, regardless of what language they speak, or whether they speak at all.
- The goal of Happy Shapes is for preschool children to learn basic shapes
- I avoided ‘advanced’ conventions such as scores, limited player lives, etc.
- I designed for the mobile phone ‘short-burst’ playing pattern, whereby the playing time lasts only a few minutes
I began wireframing. Within a few days, a had a good early mockup of the game screens.
The Plan Changed
My plan was to outsource the development, since I am not a programmer. This changed when I discovered the amazing Construct by Scirra.
Construct 2 allowed me to develop HTML5 games without directly writing any code. I have a grasp of programming concepts like variables, loops, arrays, etc. so Construct 2, with its visual interface, was just the right tool for me.
Developing and Testing the Game
- Working mainly in my spare time, I developed the game in 6 months
- The development took about 40% more effort than I anticipated
- Much of my time was spent learning Construct 2 and CocoonJS — an application that converts HTML5 games into Android apps
- I was lucky enough to have two eager testers — my 2 year old and 4 year old girls 🙂
- Finally, I put the game live on the Android market on January 9th 2013.
Integrating the Artwork
I got some great artwork from Jaya at Rumah Designs.
The launcher icon is slick and, using the master vectors, I was easily able to create promotional graphics on Google Play, etc.
A couple of years after writing this article, I removed Happy Shapes from the App Store. To keep it working on newer versions of Android needed more maintenance and updating than I had time for. But it’s still a project I remember fondly. I learned a lot.