Producing a virtual world for Kids Online

It may seem like an enormous task producing a virtual world for kids online, and i guess I’m lucky that I’ve been fortunate enough to have done something like this before – in addition to building a bunch of websites and free fun online kids games over the years, and really being invested in technology and gaming as an avid user of media of all kinds. There’s a bunch of good advice I could give kids or even seasoned developers wanting to make online games and virtual worlds, but to break it down into some byte size chunks -  here’s my top 5 key ingredients to producing a great game:

1. THE IDEA

At the root of every great game is a strong idea. From rough thoughts and daydreams, your ideas need to be nurtured and developed. With a game, it’s critical that you have a strong and compelling story that draws on universal themes that most of us can relate to, regardless of age or background. Creating and developing characters is important too – these are the actors that take your idea and transform it into an evolving tale. Work with your idea. Keep moving it forward. Ideas are good, but it takes great execution to turn an idea into a finished game.

2. THE TEAM

Teamwork, collaboration, and an environment where everyone’s got a voice is that special ingredient that will take a project to new heights, bring new ideas and break down all boundaries and challenges, technology or otherwise. Find friends, colleagues and collaborators who share your vision and who are fueled by that passion to create something amazing. Work is hard, but by bringing together a great team, you can make it a lot of fun too!

3. ONE PIXEL TO THE LEFT

At my old job at Disney, when I first joined I felt challenged by our regional Creative Director who was always coming back to us after QA testing asking us to “just move it 1 pixel to the left” … OMG! My team and I were so busy and we were like… this guy’s crazy! Surely no-one will notice 1 pixel! But if you add up the 1 pixel here, and 1 pixel there… it actually makes a difference… and more importantly it’s about looking at things and having that level of attention to detail. I never used to look at things to the pixel level, but now I do, and its the best advice I ever received in helping me to create awesome games and experiences. And realistically given production pressures and the “whole vs moving parts” you don’t always need to move it one pixel!

4. LISTEN TO YOUR AUDIENCE

Throughout our entire ideation and development process, we’ve involved our target audience. We’ve done a massive amount of game testing with kids of all ages and lots of parents too :-) This has proven invaluable to get their thoughts and feedback and to make sure we’re creating something that they will not just like, but truly love. Soon we are going to have our closed beta of our virtual world for kids online which will give us more opportunity to gather feedback on mass… the team are so excited they’re almost bursting! As part of our community building efforts we’re going to start having competitions for ideas to put into our free online virtual world for kids, because we really want to give kids the opportunity to be creative and get involved in making the Little Space Heroes virtual universe with the team at Bubble Gum. So stay tuned for some exciting invitations to create planets and other fun stuff that we’ll fold into our virtual world for kids!

5. NEVER GIVE UP

Don’t be fooled into thinking anything is easy. Even if you have all the above ingredients and more, its hard sometimes. Lots of people will say “You can’t do that” or “This won’t work”. It’s important to listen to constructive feedback but don’t be disheartened. So my final piece of advice is to never give up, do all the late nights and weekend you need to get things done on time and to schedule… because at the end of the day you’ll get there with hard work and focus.

Ok so these are my top 5 tips for peeps with dreams of creating fun games for kids right up to massive virtual worlds. Stay tuned for more later ;)

- Phil

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