Overall, life has been progressing relatively smoothly here at 7 Generation Games, but “overall” is the key word in that sentence …
Every parent is probably familiar with this scenario – You are in a restaurant, airport or other public place and it seems to you that your child is behaving horribly but no one notices it but you, because no one is really paying all that much attention to your child’s behavior but you.
(Of course, the flip side of that is those people who must have been born at 30 years old because they have no tolerance for the normal types of things that children do and are irritated if your child chews gum. Fortunately, we don’t deal with any of those types in the schools where we are beta testing.)
So … watching the students in the labs this week, every little thing made me wince.
We moved from a game that runs in the browser to an app installed on your desktop. In a few parts of the game it said “Reload to play again.” Of course, if it’s not in the browser, there is no way to reload. The next day, we added a RELOAD button.
We thought the smallest screen size would be 1024 x 768 , which was correct except that doesn’t account for the WIndows 8 menu bar at the bottom of the screen and on some of the screens the arrow was hidden. Fortunately, all screen sizes are controlled with a single style sheet so we changed that.
Often, the students did not realize they failed a quiz, so they thought something was “broken” that they kept getting sent back to the study page after having completed a quiz. The teachers also asked if we could show the correct answer if the student had gotten the wrong answer. Today, I changed the script in Spirit Lake to say “Sorry, the correct answer is – ” after each problem they got wrong and added a splash screen that says “Sorry, you failed the quiz”. I’m actually thinking of adding movies to those screens or animation, adding more “juice” to the game.
In Fish Lake, the first cohort of students testing it said there should be more going on in the first level, so we added a storm, debris across the path and snakes that they had to avoid stepping on . Unfortunately, that seemed to be a little TOO much and most of our testers lost all 10 of their lives on the first level. This was kind of funny in retrospect. Anyway, we reduced the number of snakes.
Then there is that “overall” part. One of the school districts had major problems because they have much tighter security features than the others, which blocked many features of the game, and prevented them from downloading any updates. We feel terrible about that and I am going to meet with them next week. I would say I was bringing armor in case they throw things at me, but the truth is that these schools are staffed by some of the nicest people you’d ever meet, which makes us feel even WORSE.
I’m going to go up there and give each of them a thank you card, a letter of apology and a small grant for school supplies from our company. They have helped us identify some issues and we have made major improvements as a result, so they benefited us but all they got was frustration. Hopefully, this will be some small recompense.
In 2014, there is a trend, that I think is healthy, for start-ups to talk about their failures. This isn’t to say that we are closing up shop – FAR, FAR from it! We are only 7 months into 24 months of funding from a USDA SBIR grant (thanks, USDA, we love you!) and we already have sales months before our commercial release deadline of May 1st. Many people, including me, expect that 7 Generation Games will knock it out of the park.
However, when we do, I’d like to have this record of the blizzards in North Dakota (in January AND April !!) , the glitches, the reboots, because that is how a company really grows. People see these case studies about 40% month over month growth, and that may occur, but only after a year or two of “technical difficulties”.