Mystery Math Town, easily our most successful app to date, was originally conceived as a simple Halloween matching game to launch in 2012. Five months later in April 2013, our “Halloween” app hit the App Store with a front page “New and Noteworthy” feature and rave reviews. The success didn’t come entirely as a complete surprise. We had already released the popular Marble Math series of apps and we had been testing Mystery Math Town with kids, parents and teachers, so we knew we were onto something. For me, the “moment” came over Christmas break - my son, who was seven at the time, discovered a rough beta version of the game on my iPad and started playing...and playing...and playing.
|Original Mystery Math Town concept art - simple matching|
|Working title: Scrollable Haunted House Logic Quest Environment With Doors/Elevators|
I spent some time writing screenplays in my 20’s and Math Town gave me an opportunity to try something cinematic with a kids educational app. My good friend (and Artgig Creative Director) Lis, designed the wonderfully atmospheric look of the game and managed to keep it spooky without getting scary. Lis illustrated all of the character portraits and handed them over to me to write their stories - all 27 of them. I have to say, I can’t recall working harder or having more fun in my entire professional career. It doesn’t matter if most kids never “get” that “Beans” McGuirk is highly suspicious of the cowboy, “The Outlaw” Jim McQuade (both apparently Irish), ever since his fedora hat went missing. And kids can certainly enjoy the game without ever tuning in to the somewhat one-sided budding romance between young robotics-engineer-in-the-making, Melody, and her Jack, who is more interested in beating Biff in a race, than Melody. What matters is the one kid who does get it.
|iTunes screenshot concept with Melody portrait|
I mentioned backstory - all of our apps, except Shake-a-Phrase which is more of a utility app for story creation, have it to varying degrees. We like to discuss the backstory of a game even when there is no obvious intent to share it with the audience. Backstory is important for you to understand as a creator because it informs the decisions around the game you are making. I will leave you with the story of Mystery Math Town. Lis handed me a picture of Math Town, perched on the edge of the sea, and said something like “what do you think of this?”
Mystery Math Town
As the story of Mystery Math Town goes, once upon a time, The Admiral (of Her Majesty's Royal Navy) became something of a specialist in hunting and capturing pirates. But one pirate in particular, known only as "The Ghost" eluded him. Eventually The Admiral chased The Ghost and his crew to the shores of what is now known as Mystery Math Town, and pushed the band of outlaws straight up into the hills, where they disappeared with their treasures, without a trace...until now.
Our ghost is the son/daughter of the infamous ghost pirate. The ghost pirate child is just hanging around town when the firefly mystery falls in his/her lap. Naturally friendly and curious, the little ghost is eager to help find and rescue the missing fireflies.
In the art collector challenge, the final painting you can collect to end the game is the infamous ghost pirate at the wheel of his ship with his little ghost by his side. It isn’t until you collect the final painting that the full story is completely revealed.
|We made a set of trading cards to tease the app prior to release|