Last year, a new client approached us with interest in developing a video game called Live Life Virtually (LLV). The purpose of the game would be to teach kids the valuable life skills that were not a standard part of their school curriculum. As a lawyer, councilman, educator, musician, and writer, amongst countless other descriptors, his vision was as wide and ambitious as they come.
We engaged in long, fun discussions, imagining the many ways Net Theory could bring his vision to life. This game would need to have everything: a fully customizable avatar walking around, making decisions, spending money, choosing what foods to eat, socializing and chatting with friends, running, jumping, and on and on.
The game we were envisioning would take years to complete. The many horror stories attached to long term video game development are infamous; developers working on a game for seven or eight years, only to be beat out in the end by a slightly better idea. These decisions can be career-ending, and idea-killing. With our limited timeframe and budget, we named the ultimate game we were imagining the Taj Mahal version, and decided to roll out our game in smaller phases.
To build an achievable Phase I, we began picking the UX elements that were necessary to achieve a minimum viable product (MVP): an interface that required little to no explanation, an expandable lesson structure, and beautiful, original graphics.
We also began to research the tools best suited to build the MVP that was slowly beginning to take shape: a simulation gaming app, built to take a student through the many decisions they will make in their first year of college.
Since the application would target both iPhone and Android devices, we settled on developing with React Native, a cutting edge, platform-agnostic solution.
This would allow us to quickly iterate across both environments, minimizing duplicate work.
We constructed a Ruby on Rails-based CMS to manage the content, such as lessons, random occurrences, scheduled payments, store and food item creation, and to monitor player progress. The CMS also operates a RESTful API for communicating to the application.
With both the app and API this closely integrated, we enabled the writing team to add and modify the in-game content instantly, without requiring players to update.
Our MVP version of LLV rolled out for testing in February 2018, and the tests have been both a great success and a hugely helpful indicator of what to build next.
In September 2018, LLV will be introduced to three middle schools, with bank sponsorship lined up for each.
We maintain the goal of building the ultimate, Taj Mahal game, and we’re so happy to have completed a first version which lays the proper foundation to do so.
Learn more about our partnership with LLV on the Net Theory site.