Kids Eat Whatever They’re Being Marketed

Our new iPad game, Yum Num’s Galaxy, was mentioned in this roundup of healthy eating games for kids. If you’re a parent, you need to see this AMA article it referenced: Use of Advergames to Promote Consumption of Nutritious Foods and Beverages by Low-Income African American Children. In the study, researchers from Georgetown University used multiple variations of Pac-Man in which the yellow dots were replaced by either nutritious snacks or unhealthy snacks. After the kids got to play, they then had them make snack choices. Here’s their eye-popping result:

With only 10 minutes of exposure, our results revealed that children selected and ate whatever snacks were being marketed by the advergame, healthy or not. In other words, if the game promoted less healthy foods and beverages, snacks of poor nutritional quality were chosen and eaten. By contrast, if the game promoted healthier foods and beverages, snacks of better nutritional quality were chosen and eaten. Our findings advance the current knowledge base about advergames by expanding the literature from a preference for a product marketed by an advergame to actual selections and consumption of foods and beverages marketed in the advergame.

The fast-food industry knows that when they make their own food fun, exciting, and addicting in their ads, kids will naturally want it. This study shows that we can use that tendency to drive kids towards healthier options! “However, as demonstrated by this study, advergames may be used just as easily to promote healthier snacks, an approach recommended by the Institute of Medicine report as a way to help curb the obesity epidemic in the United States.” In your daily decisions as a parent, this study shows that you may be able to use advergames to your advantage, as long as you consider their content and select the right games that guide kids towards good decisions.

With Yum Num’s Galaxy, our goal was to create a fun game with content themed around food that you can prepare out of common ingredients at home. Seen in this context, it’s an advergame for healthy eating! We hope to compete against the presence of fast-food advertising in almost every form of mass-media. We had a hunch that if we made a game that included snacks like celery with peanut butter and raisins (“Ants on a Log”), we’d give kids some healthier options to consider. Seeing studies like this one makes me feel like we made the right choice! Please check out our Yum Num’s Galaxy trailer if you’d like to see it in action!

Hello New Website! Goodbye “Responsive” Design!

One of the biggest struggles I’ve faced as a backend web developer heading into game design was spending time on our website. Most backend web devs I know dabble just a tiny bit with web design, and we usually prefer to stay as minimalist as possible. As we had more and more stuff to share, though, the minimal approach to our website just wasn’t working all that well. With the Beast Boxing Turbo launch approaching, it just didn’t feel right to do direct sales from a site that felt kind of sparse and bland!

The last revision used Twitter Bootstrap, but in the process it became my opinion that responsive design is simply the “new fluid” design, requiring custom CSS to handle a variety of form factors. Getting reflowing to look “right” on every platform (and through browser resizing) means you still have to test and correct for differences on every platform. I’d much rather be spending time on my games, so seeya in my copious free time, Responsive Design!

In addition, because the previous website was all custom code with WordPress tacked onto /blog, I really felt it was time to take advantage of a modern CMS. My friend Tim Ganter at Studio Ten Four has been a Drupal advocate for quite some time. My first few attempts with Drupal theming (around version 5) were way too overwhelming. This time around, however, I locked myself in at home and went through the Drupal 7 – the Essentials guide to really see how Drupal wants you to use their system. 

Nearly everything in this new website was built without custom code, using combinations of Panels, Views, Content Types, and Blocks. The theme is a subtheme of the default Bartik theme with lots of custom CSS and Adobe’s excellent Source Sans Pro, their first open-source font, from Google Web Fonts. I’m simultaneously impressed and horrified at Drupal 7 – not only is it the most module-driven architecture I’ve ever had the pleasure/pain to work with, but it also seems to have evolved surprisingly well, with the more general-purpose functionality being pushed ever further into core. In any case, it worked for me, allowing me to rapidly develop panels-based layouts, barely touching CSS to get column widths right. 

The main advantage of working with something like Drupal is the ability to define content that fits your application, then reassemble the output into reusable chunks across the site. In our case, being able to define Games and Platforms separately, then link them to article content is important, and something that just wouldn’t feel right in a blog-oriented system such as WordPress. 

You’ll notice that our Games have a standard page format, with important facts and latest news displayed side-by-side, and new lightboxes for displaying image galleries. We’ve also got a new frontpage layout, and articles about a game link directly there. It’s not going to win any graphic design awards, but it gets the content across clearly and makes it easier to check out different games. Adding in some custom colors, backgrounds, and patterns lent the theme its own look, and I hope our visitors will enjoy poking around to see what we have to offer! 

Dev Diary: Sea Life Game

We’re so excited to announce that we’ve teamed up with the amazing Kaori Takagi for our new kids’ game! She’s currently on her last year as a student at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. You can find out more about her here, here and here! Check out the work in progress!

Stay tuned for more sneak peeks!

Work in Progress: Sea Life-themed Game for kids

While we’re getting ready to release our first kids game (Yum Num’s Galaxy), we’re very excited to share some new prototype screenshots of our new Sea Life-themed app for kids! Features: 12 marine animals, animal sounds and multilingual names in both speaking and reading format. Stay tuned to see the progress of making the game! Follow us: @wellhustled Like us: http://www.facebook.com/GoodhustleStudios

Holiday Sale, and 1.2 Update Coming Soon!

Beast Boxing 3D is on sale for $1.99, or 33% off, for the holidays! It’s holiday season, and we’re celebrating and giving thanks for an awesome month and a half since we launched the game. We’ve been hard at work the entire time building more content and addressing customer feedback and suggestions for the game. Last week, I had to sneak a little time away from my beautiful honeymoon in Hawaii to get in some last-minute content and upload version 1.2 for review.

 

The 1.2 update has several awesome improvements in store for you Beast Boxers out there. First off, to give people some more stuff to do aside from the story mode, there’s a new Endless mode. We added two holiday-themed beastly fighters and a brand new fighting arena that will be available in Rematch mode and Endless mode. We tightened up the responsiveness of the controls – it doesn’t read your mind yet, but it does improve on the speed you’re able to chain attacks and blocks together, and it feels great! Oh, and we’ve got four brand new music tracks from multi-talented developer Shadi Muklashy! The update’s in review now and should be available as a free update in a matter of days. We can’t wait to share it with you!

Beast Boxing 3D Version 1.1 is out!

Apple just approved our first update to Beast Boxing 3D this morning. Here’s what’s Included:

  • Improved performance
  • Reduced memory footprint that should help address some of the crash issues that users have been reporting
  • Streamlined savegame UI
  • Fixed tap-to-select problems on scrolling menus.
  • A new icon!

Beast Boxing 3D\’s new logo!

Download it and enjoy! Next up is a new character and also the first challenge mode for players who finish the career story…

6 Steps to Creating an Effective Unity Game Trailer

So you’re all done with your game (or nearly done!) and it’s time to show off all of your hard work! Just like with creating games, spending the time on making a polished trailer can be a great use of your time, but it can also feel like flailing about in the dark if you don’t know what you’re doing!

Luckily, I just went through this experience so you don’t have to! In this post, I’ll describe a general process that you can apply to make trailers of your game that communicate well and look semi-professional. You can also refer to my earlier post about creating Unity iPhone Trailers on a Budget to see the technical how-to that will let you capture your game with clarity for Youtube or other distribution methods.

Step 1. Understand your Appeal

This might seem obvious, but it’s easy to get mired in the technical details of trailer creation without considering what you want to communicate in the first place! So start with the basics. Open your text editor and answer the following questions:

  • What are the 2 or 3 coolest short/quick visual features of my game?
  • What sets my game apart from other look-alikes?
  • What is the most common action that occurs in the game?
  • What are the things that occur at the boundaries of levels in the game? (like story dialogue or intro/outro scenes)
  • What is the most interesting special effect in my game?
  • List 10-15 places/levels/characters in the game that exhibit one of the above characteristics, but are audiovisually distinct (or as distinct as possible). This is your scene list.

Step 2: Create a crude storyboard

From the scene list, order each of those listed “scenes” in a way that avoids direct repetition of things that look similar to one another. Don’t worry about exact composition – this is your time to try and mentally visualize the color or tone of your trailer so that it doesn’t feel repetitive.

Try your best to use some of these rules of thumb:

  • Take the 2 most visually interesting things in your list and place them 1/3 and 2/3 of the way through your trailer. This creates space and provides peak excitement spread out.
  • If you were able to find things that occur at the boundaries of levels, place them at the front and back of each third (or each half) of the trailer.
  • If you have 2 scenes that share the same art or audio content, put them at least 2 scenes apart from one another.

Step 4. Start recording content

This part is easy – take your scene list, and use your vidcap software of choice to record LOTS of video of each of those scenes. Make sure to demonstrate a good amount of your functionality, and try to have action sequences that flow smoothly instead of taking actions slowly. For the most visually interesting things, record 4 instances (preferably with variety) for later use.

Step 5. Editing

Now you’ve got to fire up your video editor of choice. I use iMovie because it’s very affordable! Now, for each of the types of scenes I listed, you can try some of these approaches and see how they work for you:

  • Start with a company / publisher logo, and end with the title of the game and the URL of your website.
  • For really visually interesting scenes, cut up your 4 instances so that they hop between visually distinct styles and repetitively show the same thing. Your cuts should be really short for these – play with the start and end points and don’t use any transitions to get a punchy, rhythmic feel.
  • In between those, use your more common scenes. These can last 3-4 seconds in length, which gives a break in the rhythm for your viewers.
  • Use transitions only between action scenes and buffer scenes. Use cross and fade transitions but stay away from Wipe or other fancy transitions unless the scene you’re going to is scrolling, as it looks kind of home video-ish. When cutting between action scenes, just cut directly without a transition.
  • If your character has actions that they go through, try placing the start of your clip at the first or second frame of the action taking place. Leaving space beforehand leads to a jerky feel when transitioning, and going with the first or second frame can feel more natural and give the sensation of action.
  • Make sure you include unique or special features – if you can’t find a good place for them, try putting them at the end right before the final scene.

If you get lost, a great way to get restarted is to watch a trailer in the same game genre that gets you excited and try to discern its structure, then use it as a template.

Step 6: Publish!

The last step is just to publish! If you use Youtube, make sure to take advantage of linking to your promo website in your description, and use Annotations accordingly to have your viewers subscribe for future videos. If you followed this far, you obviously care about providing a good experience for your users, and that’s the most important thing! Keep on working hard, and good luck!