Turing Tumble Progress Update #6: Virtual Pack Release Coming Soon
We are overdue for an update! First of all, let us just thank you again for making this possible. This has been one of the biggest, craziest, most interesting adventures of our lives. For example, this is the new normal at our house:
Here we have the game board set up on the kitchen table with a massive roll of white paper spread out over it for a backdrop. We had it set up with carefully adjusted lighting so that when our hand model arrived (one of our friend's kids who happens to have perfect hands), we could re-take some of the pictures for the back of the box.
On to the latest update:
We're very happy to say that things are still on schedule. Here's what's now complete:
- The box art is finished (and we really like it!)
- The book has been beta-tested and is ready to go
We're currently working on:
- Finishing up the final bits of manufacturing
- Building our website
- Creating an educator's guide
And we have an exciting bit of news, too!
The box art is finished and we are very, very happy with it! Mackey had an illustrator create a highly detailed technical illustration of the game for the picture on the left-hand side of the front cover.
It was extremely interesting to see how the creative process works for something like this. It's a skill just to communicate what the art should look like. Mackey spent a long time with us trying to understand what we were looking for - partly in specific things we wanted to include, but also to get the general "feel" of it. They nailed it. Not because we were any good at communicating it to them, but because they were good at pulling what they needed out of us.
Coming from a science background, this was especially interesting to me. In science, it's a major challenge to translate complicated ideas into the English language in such a way that they can be easily translated back to ideas by the reader. But in art, you somehow have to translate your "feeling" that you want the art to convey into English in such a way that the reader gets that same feeling. You can ask Alyssa - I'm not awesome at that. :) Mackey's creative director was telling us that even when they give it their best effort, the communication sometimes fails along the way when they hire outside illustrators to do work for them. That made me feel a little better.
And here's the back of the box:
Those big pictures will change a bit, but that's really all that will change.
A few weeks ago I had a little panic. I originally made the puzzles at a pretty good level of difficulty, but then somewhere along the way I thought, "Nope, those are too easy, I will make them harder." So I did, but I ended up making them way too hard. I had some beta testers try them out and they got stuck at about puzzle 15.
So I spent a long time changing around the puzzles and smoothing the difficulty curve. One challenge is that there's a surprising amount of depth to the game, and sixty puzzles isn't necessarily enough to give players all the practice they would need to be able to solve the later puzzles. We spent a long time thinking through how to address the difficulty curve. Should we split the book up? Should we add a bunch more puzzles to the existing book? Should we create more online resources to help?
We settled on the following. We adjusted the book's difficulty so that most kids and adults will be able to get through at least the first 30 puzzles. Through those puzzles, they'll learn binary (and why computers use it), logic gates, they'll get going with gear bits, and they'll understand the very basics of how computers work. Then the difficulty rises at a faster rate. You can see it visually in the following plot where I rated each puzzle with a star rating and plotted the difficulty as a function of the puzzle number. Here's what it looks like:
In addition to the puzzle book, we're planning to create a downloadable/printable practice book that gives players more experience making marble computers before they move on to the next puzzle. It may be a part of the educator's guide. One thing we've heard over and over again is that it takes time and practice to wrap your head around the bits. A practice book should help.
The good news is that the finishing touches have been added to the puzzle book and it's ready to go. In the far future, we may create multiple puzzle books for different skill levels. I'll be very, very interested to hear your thoughts on the puzzle book when you receive it.
Everything feels like it's coming together at just the right time. We found out last week that all of the injection molds will be done by the 25th of this month (next Wednesday) and that some of the molds will be done even sooner. That's a week earlier than we expected. If only minor modifications are needed to the molds, we're hoping to start production at the beginning of November.
This week, LongPack is going to make a complete prototype of the game (minus the plastic parts) and send it to us. We can't wait to see it! It feels like the longest Christmas Eve ever.
We've also started working on the website. We have our design nailed down for the front page and the forum is almost finished. The forum is actually the first part that needs to be complete (see why below).
You might not know it, but Alyssa actually has a degree in K-12 education. She's spending a lot of time now thinking how to best implement Turing Tumble in the classroom and what additional resources would be helpful in an educator's guide. We really want this to be a useful thing in the classroom, so rather than spend our time listing out all the standards it meets and sort of meets, we're just going to create a guide that focuses on how to use the game to teach what the game teaches best.
Once the website is complete, this will be our next highest priority.
The Exciting Bit of News
Alright, now for the good news. We've been waiting to release the virtual pack (the CAD files and the electronic version of the puzzle book) because we weren't quite finished with them - we didn't want to have multiple versions of them floating around, mucking things up. But as soon as we go into production, everything will be finalized.
For that reason, and because we know that some of you would like to make your own copy of Turing Tumble to give as a gift this December, we've decided to release the virtual pack as soon as production begins, which should be early November. Hopefully that will be early enough for you to make your own copies of Turing Tumble before the holidays. Start warming up your 3D printers!
I think it would be wonderful if we could work together to discover how to build these things from home in an efficient way. For that purpose, I'm currently putting the finishing touches on a forum where we can share our experiences. I can't tell you how excited I am to see the amazing ideas you come up with. This is a freaking smart group of backers.
Just to be clear, when the virtual pack goes out, it will go out to anyone who backed at a reward level that includes the CAD files and the electronic copy of the puzzle book, and to those who added the virtual pack as an add-on. These reward levels include:
- Virtual Pack
- Turing Tumble++
- Turing Tumble Complete
- Educator's Pack
- The Philanthropist
If you didn't back at a reward level that includes the virtual pack, you're welcome to go back to the survey link and either switch reward levels or add the virtual pack as an add-on.
Paul and Alyssa