November is a month where we often reflect on what we're most thankful for – typically family, good health and happiness. Aside from this, I’m also thankful to have be a part of the games industry since 1999 working across console, mobile, tabletop, and web at various Indie and Fortune 500 game companies. The excitement of being on the forefront of technology and entertainment seems to be a common theme among game industry folk. We’re not in it just for the fun and games but also because what we do matters. For instance, Child’s Play has raised almost 20 million dollars since 2003 from the kindness of gamers and game industry vets everywhere. There are other great charities such as Extra Life, Gamers Helping Gamers and of course, Game It Forward. I had a chance to chat with my long time friend and co-founder of Game It Forward, Brandon Bozzi, on the power of play and giving back.
Hey Brandon – tell us about your app! Quingo is a free trivia game with a bingo twist where you support your favorite causes just by playing. It runs on iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. Quingo is fun to play solo, with a friend or significant other, or with the whole family.
Quingo combines trivia and bingo making it unique in the mobile space. The fact that you get to support charities while you play is another exciting differentiation from other games. In Quingo, players have to find five correct answers hidden among twenty incorrect answers for each question, as the clock is ticking. Some of the wrong answers are there to trip players up, other are there to make them laugh. If players get five correct answers in a row they score a Quingo earning bonus points from them and their charity. The more points players earn for the charity they select the more money Game It Forward donates to that charity. The money comes in from ads and in-game purchases.
Players worldwide spend 3 billion hours a week playing games. If those games donated just one penny an hour, we’d raise $30 million a week for people in need. Game It Forward helps make that happen by producing free-to-play games where money generated from ad and in-game purchases is donated to charities such as the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center,Kiva, PAWS, Seattle Children’s, Splash and The Martinez Foundation.
Tell us about the team behind Quingo. Morgan Belford and I are the co-founders of Game It Forward. Morgan is the technical genius and I’m the game guru.
The app icon feels spot on with the game – it’s a bold and bright concept. Tell us more about the design and UI. We want the user interface to be welcoming and fun. Trivia can be intimidating so we want our UI to help communicate that Quingo is a more friendly kind of trivia. We also don't want the UI to be overly complex – trying to get the information and feel across with as few images and words as possible is ideal. As far as the app icon goes, we want it to be memorable and a little exciting. Once we had the Quingo logo done, it was a quick jump from there to using the starred "o" from the logo as the icon. Also, many great mobile games feature animation and sound. We wanted to take that to the next level, by enhancing the core game play with compelling animations and sound, so even when a player gets a question that's hard for them, they're still having fun just by interacting with the game.
What tools did you use for creating the app? We had many people contribute their time to help make Quingo a reality – from sound designers, to UI artists, to writers. We even had help from our charity partners. In general, the Seattle gaming and startup communities are very supportive. For development tools, we mostly use the usual suspects:
– UI/UX: Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, Audacity, iStockAudio, and Edge
– Client Side: XCode, TextMate, Github and TestFlight
– Server Side: Heroku, Rails, RubyMine, Postgres, New Relic, Google Analytics, Flurry, and Kiip
– Content Creation and Production: Google docs, Dropbox, Gmail, Skype, Pivotal Tracker, and GChat
We also took advantage of the HUB co-working space, and of course the Starbucks chain of startup meeting rooms. And let's not forget our Indiegogo backers who got the ball rolling!
What lessons did you learn building this app? Sound design is hard and important, and even just gathering stock audio is very painstaking. Writing Quingo questions is a lot of fun and also a lot of work. Charitable organizations have begun embracing the positive power of games in a big way, and were very excited to help us get the word out about Quingo. On the technical side, we mostly used proven tools, but still find it amazing how quickly and cheaply one can deploy a robust service on platforms like Heroku and AWS. These kinds of services are real game-changes for startups of all kinds. And for mobile startups, tools like TestFlight are invaluable.
What went right and wrong with the development and release? My favorite thing is to watch people play the game. They have a great time, they're challenged, they want to play again, and they dig the charity aspect. With that in mind I think we got the core game play right. Something we did wrong is not giving ourselves enough time between when we submitted and when we were wanting to release. There were complications and stress, and we almost missed our launch date. On the technical side, things went mostly right, though Morgan had a few harrowing weeks (okay, months) learning Heroku, Ruby, and Rails. Also, although relying partially on the kindness of others for some of the audio and graphics work was wonderful, it made for an unpredictable schedule, and design-wise a somewhat less consistent user experience than we would have liked.
What was life like before you and Morgan created Quingo? I’ve spent the last 13 years working in games. From helping to design the worlds and cards of Magic: the Gathering and other tabletop games, to working as a designer and producer on casual and hardcore digital games. When I’m not working on games, I’m playing them or connecting with my community… pretty much just trying to optimize my happiness.
Morgan's first claim to fame was helping to create the PivotTable in Excel, and more recently he's crafted a number of top-picked and top-grossing mobile apps on iOS, Android and, yes, Blackberry, both for himself and others. He jumped at the chance to work on a game (because secretly or not-so-secretly every developer wants to develop games), especially one like Quingo, and especially with a game designer like myself!
What are some of your favorite apps now? I like Uber or Lyft for getting around town, Marvel Puzzle Quest for passing time, and Testflight for beta testing our games. We also found DropBox to be an essential and inspiring app that "just works". Morgan is also a fan of Dots and Letterpress for helping show that even subtle use of animation, color, and sound make a huge difference in the user experience.
Brandon, such a great story, game and cause! I’m happy to game it forward and play Quingo. Game on and keep us posted when you release on Google Play.
Hey you! Wanna be featured like our friends at Game It Forward? Be sure to check out www.powerslyde.com/developers.