Cirque du Soleil and Our Games

Cirque du Soleil

Dog food?


If you are really observant, you may have noticed that this post is categorized under “dog food”. What the heck is that all about?

In software companies, the phrase “eating your own dog food” is often used to refer to people who use the products their companies make, particularly in the beta (testing) phase.

My purpose in this series of posts is to show how the dog food is made, that is, to reach out to people who have an interest in start-ups or computer gaming, particularly students, so they can see what it is like on a daily basis.

Yesterday, we went to see Cirque du Soleil, under the Santa Monica Pier. It was amazing. I highly, highly recommend it.

So, what does the world’s most famous circus have to do with educational games? Other than both being a great way to spend your time, that each one seems to have a million different pieces.

Each show in Cirque du Soleil has a theme – water, love, mystery, horses. The one we went to – Totem – has a kind of tribal theme, so, of course, we loved it. Every show also has costumes, sets, actors, performances, equipment, props, music -and it all has to be coordinated.

In my last post, I mentioned that I had just done the very first sketch of our mini-game for the end of level 3, for snaring rabbits, when I got called away. I am still away. Not literally, I’m actually sitting in the exact same spot I was three days ago, but since then I have been called upon to work on

  • css (cascading style sheets) that give every web page the same size and look,
  • editing graphics to make the 2-D game prettier, making our arrows look more like real arrows, our hills and fields more like real hills and fields,
  • getting our 2-D and 3-D components to work together,
  • updating our company wiki to explain how the parts of the game fit together, to document changes from the original story line, and describing the possible paths students could take when they get answers wrong,
  • in several spots, breaking a single page into multiple pages because students with reading and attention difficulties are likely to find it easier ,
  • adding an option for students to use the X key to shoot because there is a bug in a piece of software we are using that will not let us use the CTRL key to shoot in the 2-D portion of the game
  • creating a new installer for the Spirit Lake game

This is just the making the game part, not marketing it, management – working with other people on our staff, scheduling, contracts or anything else.

I’m not complaining. Like Cirque du Soleil, I hope it will be both intriguing and beautiful when we finish. It also is a fascinating way to make a living, with new challenges always on the horizon. The other things we have in common – it’s a lot of work, requires a whole bunch of skills and boy do you ever have to juggle!

Don’t get discouraged, though. Yes, it’s a lot, but do you really think those acrobats started out balancing one-handed on top of one another? I’m sure there were lots of falls in practice, plenty of scrapes, bruises and a broken bone or two. No doubt they fell down and looked like complete idiots in practice when no one was watching. They kept at it, though, until they were amazing.

We’re going to be just like Cirque du Soleil, except without the possibility of falling from 80 feet in the air.