High quality educational games don't seem as common or popular as they were back in the 90's. Growing up on games such as Math Blaster, Carmen Sandiego, and various games from the Jumpstart series, I can recall actively enjoying (and learning from) all these series. Nowadays, most learning games seemed to have been reserved solely to the mobile space, with PC offerings becoming an increasingly rare occurrence.
However, there are still kids out there with a hunger for knowledge and a love for animals. Super Jungle Scout aims to bring the same experience I had as a child to the children of this generation. Inspired heavily from Humongous Entertainment's "Let's Explore the Jungle", Super Jungle Scout wants to bring back this "click and explore" style of learning, using the latest technology for the web, and will be freely available on any modern browser, including browsers on tablets (theoretically it would also work on phones, but the game will be designed to be enjoyed on a more spacious screen). By using web tech, this will also help the game maintain a relatively simple codebase, which will allow for quicker updating and completion.
This kickstarter is basically funding the development time of a free product, available to anyone with internet access (and an offline, standalone version will be made for those who might restrict online access for their kids, don't have a great connection, etc.). The rewards included are basically small thank you gifts for supporting this game at the various tier levels.
On a slightly more technical note, the game will also be open-sourced on Github after reaching a somewhat complete state. This will allow any web developers to enhance the game, fork it and make their own versions, etc. I want to not only make a game kids can enjoy now, but make a foundation other developers - interested in similar goals - can use to make more educational games like this.
Like "Let's Explore the Jungle", the main method of control for the game will be via clicks (or taps on touch devices). Kids will be able to examine 10 different areas of the jungle, each one containing fully illustrated backgrounds and animals. By clicking on the animals (or specific areas), animation and sound will be used to engage the child and have him wanting to explore more of the jungle to find all the silly surprises that may await them.
On top of this simple layer of interaction, kids will also be able to use a menu option to study the animals as well. A built-in encyclopedia will be included with easy to read information regarding each animal, which will leave your child's sponge-like mind saturated with so much jungle animal knowledge that your family will wonder how you even managed to teach them all that when you can't even differentiate your jaguars from your leopards. Information will mostly be gathered from Wikipedia and other online sources but condensed into elementary level English.
Super Jungle Scout will initially include the Amazon rainforest (more specifically, Central/Southern American rainforests) as it's primary location of learning. With this stretch goal, we can double the amount of content by including African jungles into the mix. This will include animals such as the Leopard, Lemurs, Gorillas and Chimpanzees! This will increase development time of the game, however it will not affect the release schedule, and simply be released as a free expansion update later on to the game.
Similar to above, with this stretch goal the game will triple in content, by including a third set of jungle animals from Asian rainforests. Animals from this area include the Tiger, Orangutan, Gibbon and Asian Elephant.
At this level, the whole in-game encyclopedia will be fully narrated, allowing children who haven't learned to read just yet to be able to enjoy the huge amount of information with a press of a button.
Reaching this stretch goal will allow the game to be fully translated (text AND narration) into Spanish, reaching a whole new audience of kids around the world.
The game will have a very cartoonish style that kids with artistic inclination may find easier to imitate. At this stretch goal, a "How to Draw" series can be produced on Youtube to thoroughly explain and guide young artists in drawing all the animals in the game.
The idea is to have the game (excluding the "expansion" stretch goals) ready for the public before Christmas, with the initial code being opened up in November, and polishing of the game (and with enough funding, more content) continuing on into early 2015. The dates for the rewards are just that, for the rewards. The first month after the kickstarter finishes will be dedicated to getting the rewards out to everyone. Once that is taken care of, game development will ramp up to full speed.
An extremely rough example demo is available to try out. In general, this is just to give you an idea of the art style, basic functionality, and overall feel of what Super Jungle Scout aims to actually be.
Risks and challenges
The only risk here is underestimating the amount of work needed, and therefore a slightly delayed launch.
I'm a sole freelancer hoping to dedicate my time to this project as if it were a full-time gig, except this time my client isn't an individual or company, but basically every kid out there looking for a fun game about animals. I do have plenty of experience though, having worked with companies such as Ideaware, Bible.org, and Bunny Inc. in the past on various pages and web apps, and have absolute confidence the task can be completed.
Many measurements will be put in place to keep work on the project as transparent as possible: All code will be open-sourced, progress will be continually updated via the Kickstarter campaign page to ensure everyone is aware of the present state, and I'm fairly confident at estimating my work duration (as this is literally my day job and clients love accurate estimates). More funding also means that I can offset any overflowing workload to the countless artists and designers I know.
Worst case scenario, I guess the whole internet could also spontaneously explode, in which case I do not take responsibility for the apocalyptic repercussions that may ensue.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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