My inspiration for creating Sea Party largely stems from my success with a previous skill I designed called the Crabby Dance. The game has proven quite popular among kids, and even (to my amazement) elementary school teachers. Back in April, one teacher in particular had her entire first grade class write reviews about why they liked playing the Crabby Dance. Obviously, I was beaming when I got that email. While excited about the positive feedback, I knew the Crabby Dance wasn't reaching it's fullest potential. It was severely lacking in interactivity and vaguely focused on learning. I started working on this newer version back in Spring, which includes a higher level of interactivity, more animals, and far more learning.
Growing up in Southern California, I've become quite passionate about ocean conservation and wild/marine life protection, which I know is from my exposure to the beaches, harbors, Seaworld, etc. I'm hoping to bring that same type of exposure to kids who may not have access to these places, and instill that same type of passion for the Sea in our youngest generation.
What it does
The game is narrated by Shelldon, the Dancing King Crab, as he guides users along an ocean exploration. Kids will discover a variety of interesting sea creatures... some are well known, like dolphins and sea turtles; while others may be more obscure, like anglerfish and sea cucumber. Kids (and parents) will learn new and interesting facts, and are encouraged to act and dance as these various animals. To keep kids coming back (with fresh content), I added a mechanism that awards badges to kids that play frequently.
The game currently offers one product, called the Arctic Animal Expansion Pack (one-time purchase), which allows users to unlock over a dozen arctic animals, such as Polar Bears, Narwhals, Reindeer, etc. There are two primary upsells within the game.
Upsell #1: Direct - This upsell occurs once during gameplay on every third session (provided the product hasn't been purchased). And to better enhance the user experience, this upsell will only occur after the user has played through 8 free animals first, which is a point where users have a higher chance of saying "yes" to the upsell.
Upsell #2: Organic - This occurs when a user chooses an animal that is part of the premium expansion pack. For example, if a user asks for a Polar Bear, they will be told that the animal is premium content, and that they must unlock the expansion pack to play with that particular creature.
*Note: Neither upsell will occur on the very first session. The goal is have users become familiar with the game and content first, and (ultimately) develop a deeper level of trust over time as they play more.
How I built it
Sea Party was built in VoiceFlow. I used Adobe XD for managing scripts and additional assets.
Challenges I ran into
I had two big challenges, and both occurred late in the design process. The first issue was I didn't initially design the game to accommodate the extra layers of parental permissions, for example, if a parent requires ISP approval. Thankfully that was an easy fix once I realized I needed to add that.
The second issue, however, was a bit more frustrating. I wanted to have a pager that autopaged through the opening sequence to the subsequent animals, however, I learned that the pager wouldn't automatically trigger until ALL the speaking was finished. I tried making tweaks, but I wasn't happy with how it changed my overall design flow, so I scrapped the idea altogether (but I'm still testing new and creative ideas for the future which I'm excited about!).
Accomplishments that I'm proud of
I'm proud of creating a skill that can be played in a classroom setting. Overall, I'm quite pleased with the soundscape (really love the music and sound effects), and (although I'm biased) the game seems like a pretty fun and interactive exploration for kids. My main goal from the beginning was to make sure the free experience was high quality first and foremost, and I feel like I achieved that.
What I learned
While kind of obvious, I learned a lot about ISP and best design practices, especially for kids skills. There are a lot of excellent guides explaining what to do and what not to do, which I really appreciate! Properly adding ISP definitely requires time and strategic planning, but if designed correctly it can make for a pretty great experience.
What's next for Sea Party!
I'm planning on adding more free content (more animals based on requests and suggestions) and adding more expansion packs, such as a Deep Sea Creature Pack, Coral Reef Pack, Freshwater Creatures Pack, etc.
I'm also planning on enhancing the visuals. While playing with a screen, I want kids to see a graphic of each individual sea creature. Overall, I'm excited about the possibilities with Sea Party!