The main objective for our team was to create a game that would serve as an introduction to financial literacy for its players.
Of course our first thought was to completely and utterly reject the idea of creating a literal money managing game. Instead, we chose to focus on creating an addictive gameplay experience that would encourage players to manage their funds by encouraging certain behaviours.
Concept phase – Sprint 1
In the first 2 weeks of the program, we spent a lot of it thinking about what kind of gameplay mechanic would be really fun to play. We knew that we would be developing for the mobile, and we knew that we wanted to create a game that was anything but run of the mill.
By the end of the two weeks, we came up with three vastly different ideas. (There were more than three actually, but I’ll just talk about the main ones.)
Game 1: Office Apocalypse
While we thought the game was a sure win initially, as we sat on it and thought about it some more, we realized that balancing the meta game and coming up with detailed mechanics for the game was too tedious and in the end, the idea became stale and didn’t sound very fun after a while.
Also, after talking it through with our Product Advisors, we realized that the game did not particularly fit with the FRANK brand.
So, moving on.
Game 2: Carpenter
The core of the game was to allow the players to plan for the dangers ahead. However, the game lacked a long term plan, because the players are just going to do the same thing over and over again, the idea started to become stale after a while as well. We initially planned for the night cycle to be the big draw for the game. It was designed to be a turn based, rpg style sequence where waves of enemies will appear.
The Product Advisors enjoyed this idea and thought it had some potential, but again, we lacked the long term planning for this idea and the gameplay seemed slow-paced and lacklustre.
Game 3: Time Traveller
We started out disliking this idea and thought that it was the most boring of the three ideas we went with. But after we sat on it for a while, and talked about it for an extended period of time, we realize that the game had huge potential. Everyone was suddenly super excited by the idea of playing as an alien which travelled through time to teach financial literacy to the cave people.
We were building a lot on how we could do an action in present time and then travel into the future to see the fruits of our labour. We kept circling around the idea of planting a seed in the past and then going into the future to see how it had grown into a giant tree. This was the idea that we pushed and everyone (Product Advisors, Facilitators and Peers) agreed that the idea had a ton of potential behind it.
Concept Phase – Sprint 2
It was only in sprint 2, where we were trying to figure out which game idea we wanted to build, that we realized that the Time Travelling idea was going to be a huge pain in our neck.
We spent the whole of week 1 trying to come up with a storyline idea for the game. We ended up failing so badly because we realized that we couldn’t come up with anything other than seed becomes tree. We were lucky that our facilitators had kept pushing us to think of new ideas while working on the time travelling one. It was through the additional brain storming that we came up with a back-up game which was a hero-defence styled card game.
The card game could fit our objectives well, but it was difficult for us to think of an innovative and fun way to play the game. We could bid for cards with other players or with an AI, but it felt boring and weird. The game fared well as a paper prototype, but when we translated it into a digital one, felt strange.
It was during this stressful and brain dead period that Ivan (our Designer) and Jermyn (our Core Programmer) came up with an interesting idea.
They called it Cutie Bee.
The main idea behind cutie bee was allowing the players to draw a path on their touch screens and then play it out to collect resources. Players can then use the resources to purchase upgrades. Initially, they thought about it in a setting where the player was drawing paths for Bees to collect nectar.
Because our Product Advisors wanted the game to fit their company branding and image, we couldn’t do anything that could be described as ‘cute’.
We then tried to rebrand the game. We thought about using the context of the user playing as a neglected kid who was collecting fireflies, because he’s heard of a rumour that if he collected a certain number, he could make a wish. And he’d wish for his mom to come home. We played around with a ton of different scenarios and context.
At this time, Quinn, our artist, was trying her hardest to come up with an art style that could fit with our Advisor’s company’s branding and also our game context. It came to a point where whatever we came up with, it would be impossible for her to imagine it in her head, and our creative process got stalled, both design, art and programming wise.
Because we couldn’t settle on a design (because we were just everywhere) it became painfully difficult to settle on an art style and without design, the programmers couldn’t do anything as well.
During this whole ordeal, we were trying so hard to force different ideas together. A fun mechanic and our grand objectives. It was painful. Because we started with coming up with a cool mechanic and then trying to force the branding and objectives in. We wanted to do that because we wanted to build a game that we would be proud to call ours at the end of the program. We let that get so deep seated in our heads that we lost sight of the big picture.
We pitched the idea (together with the card game idea and a third, adventure type idea) to our Product Advisors.
The Product Advisors agreed that the idea had potential, so we moved on to the prototyping phase.