One of the early prototypes of our app.

Stories are good. Stories + apps are better.

Jun Loayza
Jul 18, 2017 · 4 min read

During the last week of school we visited some 2nd and 3rd grade classrooms to test our story. Because kids were celebrating the end of year, the teacher had her students visit another classroom to watch a Disney movie. The kids were incredibly excited!

But she pulled out 5 kids to stay so that we could test our story with them. These kids were incredibly disappointed. They clearly wanted to watch a movie instead of listen to a story read to them by strangers.

Wilbur and I interviewing 3rd graders

To our great surprise and delight, the kids loved our story! They were engaged, asked questions, and gave us some great feedback.

When we finished reading the story, one of the kids asked, “Can we go watch the movie now?”

“Yea! We want to watch the movie.” replied all of the other kids.

The kids loved the story, but clearly the appeal of a movie during school time was too good for them to ignore.

“Sure, you guys can go watch the movie.” I replied. “Or, you can stay here and play the game about the story.”

I kid you not. Their little eyes opened wide and all of them shouted with glee, “I want to play first!!!”

The kids playing one of our early prototypes for the app

Each kid anxiously waited for their turn to play. None of them said a word about the movie after that.

Most importantly, the app served its purpose to deepen the kids’ curiosity about the hero of the story. After playing the game, the kids were interested in learning more about Neil deGrasse Tyson.

The concept of the app

The original concept of the app

The hero of our story is the popular astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson who has a big question: “How many stars are in the sky?”

Neil goes on an epic journey to discover the answer to his question.

In the app, the child gets to play as Neil as he goes on his journey to count the stars in the sky.

The first version of our app. Yea, the stock character we found looked nothing like Neil. Haha.
Here is the app in Unity. Whoa that’s a lot of stars!

The first version of our app was a side-scrolling infinite runner where the kid needed to tap the stars to count them. Once the sunrise appeared, the game would be over (time ran out).

Although kids seemed to love the game, we identified several challenges:

  1. Having the stars travel from right-to-left makes it hard to use two hands to tap on the stars.
  2. The stars felt too real. We should make it more fun and whimsical.
Looking a bit better now.

In the second version of the app, we changed the gameplay to portrait mode, allowing the kid to use two fingers to tap on the stars.

We also made the stars cartoony and whimsical, which made the game feel more fun.

Now that’s more like it!
Here is the gameplay in action.

The app has clearly come a long way. We’ve incorporated several game mechanics to make the game more fun:

  1. The player is able to travel to different stages to count stars (which represent different locations in the story)
  2. Stars turn blue when a kid gets a streak of 10 or more.
  3. Some stars are behind clouds, requiring a double tap to count.

This is just the beginning. We’re continuously testing the app and improving the game mechanics to improve gameplay.

In addition, we’re focusing on ways to incorporate educational elements in the app so that kids learn about the universe while playing the game.

Huge shout out to Bobby and Leo for building a fantastic app! We truly appreciate your hard work and attention to detail.

If you would like to support us, then you can help us in three ways:

  1. Follow this publication on Medium, Twitter, or Facebook to get notified when our story publishes
  2. If you know Neil deGrasse Tyson, then we’d really appreciate an intro
  3. Get ready for the launch of our Kickstarter on Tuesday, August 1st!

Dream on!

Humble Bee

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