Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Cat in the Hat Website Refresh

We recently had the pleasure of working with Penguin Random House and PBS Kids to revamp the PBS Kids Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That website. The primary goal of the revamp was to create a responsive site in HTML5 that worked well on desktops and mobiles, all while capturing the charm of the Cat in the Hat universe.

The previous website was a tough act to follow. It did an excellent job of highlighting the characters from the show while displaying the site content in exciting ways. However, as screen sizes have grown (and shrunk in the case of mobiles) it was in need of an update both technically and in terms of modern web design.

For the landing page, we decided to retain a similar layout to the previous site, but remove the borders allowing the content to fill the page. This layout shifts as the screen grows or shrinks in size ensuring that it always looks good.

On mobile devices the landing site transforms into a vertical format that is easy to navigate via touch by visitors of all ages.

For the games and printables page, we designed the page around a Seussian machine that pumps out the site content in a joyful manner. The conveyor belt of content shifts via buttons or touch scrolling allowing visitors to access content in an easy, playful manner.

Even the video page got an update with a unified but flexible layout for mobiles and desktops.

It's always intimidating working on the website for a beloved property. There are so many goals that you're trying to accomplish all at once, technically and artistically, all while trying to retain to spirit of what makes the property so loved. It can feel like a juggling act. We loved working on this project and we hope that we managed to capture and share some of the magic that makes Cat in the Hat such an enduring character. If you want to see the site yourself, you can check it out here.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Rail Rally Release!

Do you love dinosaurs? Do you enjoy trains? Do you find yourself daydreaming about bezier curves? Do you wish that you could experience all three together!?! If that's you (and I am quite sure it is since the you not reading this wouldn't be the same you reading this), we have just delivered on your dream!

That's what we do here at Gopherwood Studios. We make dreams come true. Not all dreams, mind you. Just dreams involving things we're making come true, obviously.

What? Racing against a Zeppelin!?! Is that fair?
Behold Rail Rally! In this prehistoric adventure, the Dinosaur Train chugs across the serene hills of the Cretaceous, racing against three other formidable Troodon inventions: the Solar Train, the Rocket Train, and the Zeppelin. Test your train engineer mettle as your trusty train chugs along the rails, passing bonuses along the way that boost you past your opponents!

After you've finished trying out all four vehicles, give your child a chance to play too. All kids love HTML5 games. Mine do. They're always saying, "If it's not HTML5, it's not really a game." Not really, but one day they'll understand the wisdom of their father's words.

Thanks to the awesome folks at Jim Henson's Dinosaur Train and PBS KIDS for giving us the opportunity to make this dream come true, for you!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Dinosaur Train Gets Remodeled!

Here at Gopherwood Studios, we pride ourselves in our wide range of expertise. We're talented at game design. I'm particularly great at pressing keyboard keys. We're decent software developers. I'm also fantastic at describing how fantastic we are. And never ones to be shy about the breadth of our expertise, we're now showing off our prowess in engine development. Not game engine development, train engine development! Yes, we've become what every engineer and paleontologist aspires to be, Dinosaur Train developers. Check out how smoothly our latest creation rides the rails.

Once upon a time there was a mom. Her name was Mrs. Pteranodon...
This is a little atypical for us, since we usually make games, but the dinosaurs (especially Derek Deinonychus) really enjoyed Station Race and thought we could put more trains on more web pages. Boy were they on the right track! We really trained the Dinosaur Train home page and gave the rest of the site new digs worthy of the Cretaceous.

Have your 4-year-old check it out and let us know what she thinks! We've found that kids really dig the latest HTML5 standards (and dinosaurs and trains can be pretty cool too).

A big thanks is in order to folks at PBS KIDS and Henson for giving us the opportunity to put together the new site and pretend we're time-traveling paleontologist train engineers!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Lightning Runners

Todd and I had a blast working on Heartbeat - Lightning Runners; check it out! Developed in collaboration with Digital Eskimo for the University of Western Sydney, this puzzle-platformer is aimed at addressing health and culture with aboriginal children in Sydney, Australia.

AAAAaaaah! It's a Dooligah!!!
We designed unique puzzles for each level, so progress involves avoiding baddies as well as solving problems related to health.

Kuti wonders, "What could be wrong? And why is sewage pouring into the wetland?"
Also, unlike any game we've made up to this point, this one has a ferocious end-game boss!
If you think this is ugly, wait until he starts spitting phlegm.
Hope you enjoy the game, and let us know what you think!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Cat in the Hat: Invention Engine

We released a new game today! It's a little game called Cat in the Hat: Invention Engine. The game is all about building Rube Goldberg-esque machines to help Cat prepare for Fish's birthday party. If you've played The Incredible Machine or Amazing Alex, then you have some idea of what you're getting into.

An example of the free play mode.
The game has 25 levels that we designed and a free play mode that allows you to make your own puzzles. You can unlock more than 20 objects to play with in free mode. So, there's plenty of toys to play with.

We worked with the wonderful folks at Random House Kids and PBS KIDS to put this game together, and we're really happy how it turned out, so check it out! 

Monday, May 04, 2015

We Met Some Future Game Designers

We had the opportunity this past Monday to present at the Maiden Middle School Video Game Club. It was a ton of fun, and they were a great audience! We started with a really informative presentation, sharing a bit about ourselves, what we do, and how we do it.
VERY informative... ...leave it to game developers to turn it into a game...
After our presentation and Q&A (where they stumped us with hard questions), we had the club participate in game design with our latest alpha. We gave them about 10 minutes to play it, and then we talked about what they thought, what worked well, and what could be improved. They had some fantastic and insightful feedback that should make the game better as we continue to develop it.

Oh, and we always enjoyed these while in school, so we threw in a pop quiz... ...let us know how you do!  (Sorry, we probably won't hire you.)

Friday, May 01, 2015

Dev Log #4: Cannonball Z

If you played through the alpha then you probably already saw the cannon, but I figure I'd ramble about it anyway since it's a fun object.

The cannon idea came from wanting a new moving object to manipulate with our transforms. Cannons seemed like a good idea because cannonballs have a simple movement pattern (in a straight line until they hit something) that is predictable when transformed.

So, we can do things like this.

(Yes, the smoke trail is buggy, grr!)

The cannons themselves can also be transformed so that we can shoot in different directions.

We've made it so the cannonballs interact with other objects. They can be used to knock down walls.

They can press triggers.

And they can interact with the sheep. Though the sheep doesn't seem to enjoy it. :'(

Since cannons can hit triggers, they can even shoot other cannons. :)

Right now all the cannons are trigger-based, but we thought about having a version that auto-fires so that every puzzle that has a cannon doesn't require a sub-puzzle revolving around pressing the trigger.

Once again, we still have some things we're debating about with regard to the cannons. The main question being whether they should be cannons at all. Since the game is supposed to be in a magical forest (which is not well established by our current art) cannons don't make a lot of sense, but, everyone understands how cannons work, so it's easy to use that as a crutch. The question is, can we find something to replace them that fits in the world thematically while still being easy to grok. It's easy to think of a Mario Piranha plant-like cannon, but that feels like we're stretching, but grasping the next most generic thing. If you have any ideas on what we could replace our cannons with, we're open to ideas.

Hmm...maybe I went a little heavy on the cannon gifs...