Making of Roxie's a-MAZE-ing Vacation Adventure
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Making of Roxie’s a-MAZE-ing Vacation Adventure

For years my children (ages 5 to 10 now) here in the Netherlands were reading Roxie Munro’s books and every time it was fun. They keep getting these books out – to look at, and to find and solve the mazes or finding hidden treasures. The language didn’t matter, because these books were self explanatory. (Check Amazon for all of her books.)

 

Making an interactive children’s maze would be a dream come true, so I contacted her in New York. Roxie luckily had the same feeling, and fortunately none of her publishers had any intention to make apps. We first looked at all her books, but to make an existing book interactive would be very difficult. The decision was made to start from scratch. This app must be perfect, no quick ebook app, but to use the interactive medium at its fullest, combined with magnificent drawings. All the ideas were put together and dozens of emails were sent between our office in the Netherlands and Roxie’s studio in New York;  an international co-operation was born.


It was going to be an a-MAZE-ing adventure working together, a real artist and an incredible digital team, working in perfect harmony. The first ideas were born. An immense vacation adventure, that would bring children of all ages through cities, villages, on boats, planes, balloons, rafting and skiing.

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The ideas were put on paper. Your mind starts to do wild things when you have so many possibilities, but luckily we all knew exactly what we wanted to make.

Was it going to be a linear story, or were we going to go wild and build the best interactive story we could think of? The latter it was. We decided on one big drawing (40”x60”) divided into 16 sections. These were going to be the 16 screens you could read or play. The maze started in screen 1 and would continue up to screen 16 and back. We also made a mockup in Flash, to show Roxie exactly what we wanted to do and how things would work.

Then we needed the exact measurements – this was difficult because different tablets have different screen sizes, with different resolutions. We decided to focus on the Ipad and see what other tablets come along during our work. Even now, it is still difficult to predict what all the other tablet manufacturers are going to do.

When we had decided all these things, Roxie could start drawing and we could start preparing development, select a team and select the tools.







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The beginning of November 2010 was an exciting time – the first pencil sketches from Roxie arrived by email. Very rough, but very nice and it showed us what we had been talking about over the last couple of weeks. Our team really could start developing now. We had a lot to learn and a lot to discover in those incredible drawings.


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Roxie arrived at our office on the 16th of November. We had 3 busy days ahead.

Big print-outs of the first sketches to doodle on. We decided on the gameplay, the route, the objects to find, and all the extra spots we needed to animate.

After 3 days Roxie headed back to New York to change the rough sketch and start inking the drawing.

Busy months ahead.






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Finally the the big maze is finished, including all the spots for us to animate. 800 mb on the mail, for us to divide into 16 screens and all the spots to cut out digitally.

In the picture you can see Roxy carrying the big original all the way through New York to a high-end scanning service. We finally can develop with the colored drawings and replace all the ink drawings.

 

 

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We just hired some extra people to help with the development and the marketing. We are constantly developing during the day and testing in the evening with our children. But after a while all of our children are somehow used to following the maze and are not really good test subjects anymore. In come all the friends of our children – every week different children are testing. They are really good testers.

 



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Along with the first press release, we have made a trailer of the almost finished app. Hopefully this will trigger people to follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and even better, to buy our app when it is available in the appstore in April. We hope this “Making of” will give people an insight into the process, and all the love and hard work that has gone into this app. We are absolutely certain that we are making a unique product that every parent and their children will love to play and read.

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Today we tested at an elementary school: 7 classes, 150 children, 7 hours of testing. We started at 9:00 am (6 people from OCG Studios, 15 ipads). We tested with children ranging from 5 to 12 years old. As expected, we found some bugs. We fixed them during testing – 2 people developing and 4 in the classroom. Constantly updating the ipads with improved versions. At the end of the day we had fixed all the issues and the kids gave us some very good feedback. Things we should improve; things that could be explained a little bit better. But, and this is the most important thing, it was fun – every child liked it a lot. Only the smallest needed a little bit of guidance, but this was expected. The smallest children and their parents should play it together. It’s fun for all ages. Every class had 45 minutes of playtime and 5 minutes of evaluation, and in every class we heard the same sounds when we asked them to stop … “can you come back soon” and “when can we have it?”

What also was surprising was that more than half of all the children in the class had already played on an ipad or had one at home.

Everything we designed in this app worked; every place Roxie has drawn was fun. It was a very very good day. We are totally convinced this app will be something special, and that children of all ages will have hours of fun.

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During development we always knew that music and sound should be a very important part of  “Roxie’s a-MAZE-ing Vacation Adventure.” In the beginning of the development we started looking for good sounds and music. The music was difficult because the stock music available wasn’t as good as we hoped it would be. 

Luckily our good friend Rijn Buve was willing to help us. He has an immense audio studio and plays every instrument you can think of. But just as important is the fact that he is a developer too. He has a lot of knowledge about coding and how audio can be added to a game. He has designed a system, whereby we can mix and match various tracks of audio, without getting repetition in the music.

Since our interactive app has several areas where different audio would enhance the gameplay (a ski area, a theme park, cities and villages, and river rafting), it would be great fun to have music that fit. All the music is made on the same base and speed, but with various tunes and instruments, so it never gets boring.

Contact Rijn Buve if you need very good music for games or movies.

Here you can listen to some samples of the music we are going to use:  

Click here for the music

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Last Friday we submitted “Roxie’s a-MAZE-ing Vacation Adventure” to the appstore.

 

It was an intense week. We really want to have the app available in the appstore in March. To be on the safe side we had to finish it this week. Six months of development finally done. The development and all the steps we need to take were set months ago, with our big test last week we were sort of finished but somehow millions of small things made this an 80-hour week. A little adjustment here and extra sound there; we have added some extra search spots; changed some animations. We added a tutorial section. We decided to add big fireworks when you reach the highest mountain, etc. But in the end, it became a more complete app than we thought it would be.

 

Friday the 18th was the big submission day. We were already well prepared – a lot of reading, and images prepared, but it still took a couple of hours to get everything sent to Apple.  And now……. we wait.

The final chapter of this making of will be when it is available. Thank you all for reading.

 

Final testing

Last day of development
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Finally after a long week of waiting, today our iPad app “Roxie’s a-MAZE-ing Vacation Adventure” was approved. In one hour, it went from “Waiting for Review” to “Ready for Sale.”

So, today 6 months of planning, designing, drawing and developing ends and the serious business of marketing really starts. For the last 6 weeks we have been planning and preparing for this moment so we can tell everybody that our app is the most a-MAZE-ing app available worldwide.

Get it while it’s hot 🙂 Thanks to all you people reading the “Making of” and please let us know if you want to follow the marketing part too.


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“Roxie’s a-MAZE-ing Vacation Adventure” for the iPad was ready in April. We quickly sold in more than 70 countries and was awarded with “New and Noteworthy,” “What’s Hot,” and “Staff Favorite” in many itunes stores around the globe.

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We always had the iphone in the back of our minds but a-MAZE-ing was developed for the big screen ipad, so in August we decided to give the iphone version a try. A lot of people have asked us for it. So we first had to figure out how we could translate this huge maze onto a much smaller screen. We knew we couldn’t keep the same screen size as the ipad – the details would be much too small. Our gameplay requires that you move from one to page to another, but each page was much too big.

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The first thing we tried was to keep the car centered and move the maze. The car would be the correct size for a “small” finger. This would define the size of the maze behind the car. On the original ipad we have 16 different screens where you have to drive, fly, ski and raft your way around the maze and find a lot of things during your trip. On the iphone we divided each screen in 4 pieces – the iphone has a different screen resolution and a different aspect ratio than the ipad.

Here the first real big difference started to appear: the iphone 4 has almost the same screen resolution as the ipad but much smaller screen, called the Retina screen. Our iphone app requires double the resolution from the ipad because we are zoomed in much more. There is the iphone 4(s) with the Retina screen, but there is also the iphone 3G and 3GS.

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The older iphone has only 25% of iPhone 4 screen resolution, but you need to support this iphone to because a lot of people are still using the iPhone 3GS. So internally the iphone version has different screens for the different phones. Another big problem for us was the difference of internal memory on the different iphones – the iphone 4 has 512 mb, the 3GS 256 mb and the 3G 128mb, so we had to change a lot to compensate for these differences.

Since the screen size is limited, we also had to figure out what to do with the menu on our screens. This menu shows the things you have to find, and some buttons. It took us a while to figure out the best size for the menu and keep the search items recognizable.

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Still the menu took a lot of screen space, so we decided that you could hide the menu and keep the maze full screen. This way we could also add a zoom-in and zoom-out, a much requested feature from the ipad version. On the iphone you drive around, but you can also pan around because a lot of the things you have to find are away from the main roads. This generated another problem, how to get back to your car. When you move around looking for hidden items you will find a small car icon on the top-left corner which brings you directly back to your car. This also gives you an excellent way to always find your car quickly.

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So it took us a couple of months, together with a dozen other projects, to finish the iphone version. I hope you enjoyed reading our making of and our apps.

 

 

 

 

 

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Finally the iPhone version of our a-Maze-ing app is available in the Appstore. After months of hard work we have translated the app from big screen to small screen, without any compromises.

It works on Iphone 3G and up, Ipod Touch 3rd gen and up, iOs 4.2 and up.

The iPhone version contains all iPad features and we added Game Center support for 16 extra achievements.

We even have a special introductory offer of $0,99 or € 0.79

Get it now and tell all your friends and family

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