This morning, we release Tidepool 0.3.2, the first new version in three months. Aside from bug fixes, I’ve added a few features related to crystals, the in-game currency. Learn more from my screencast or download and try yourself. You can read about crystals in my latest book chapter.
After a month to recover from Kickstarter, I’ve resumed work and hope to post smaller releases every week or two, always on Saturday morning.
Keep in mind that this is an untested alpha version, so There Will Be Bugs. If you’re an existing player and have trouble, try uninstalling Tidepool and deleting the Tidepool data directory in your home folder.
See you ingame!
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Crystals are the in-game currency in Tidepool, which power stories like batteries. Players earn crystals by gathering gems that spawn hourly or by completing challenges within stories. Players can also give crystals to each other as rewards for stories they like. Gift giving is optional, but encouraged in the design.
Players can also buy crystals with real money to save time. Some players will buy yearly subscriptions that earn daily crystals at a reduced rate. Others will buy crystals as needed. Most will pay nothing, relying instead on gem gathering, story rewards, and player gifts.
Charging money or even imposing limits on an educational kids game will be controversial to some people. Others will want one price up front, as with Minecraft or LittleBigPlanet. While I know the phrase ‘free to play’ has a bad reputation, I’ve given this a lot of thought and think I’ve got a solution that’s both useful and fair.
Using crystals as currency has immediate practical benefits. Most games have some kind of progressive reward in their design, some progress bar or other that needs filling, as this encourages people to keep playing. Authors will want more crystals so they can build more elaborate stories, with premium bits from other players.
Crystals also teach economy, which is valuable in itself. Watch a kid play Minecraft in creative mode for a while, and you’ll quickly see the downside to no limits as they build towers to the sky or several hundred horses. Tidepool has limited resources, so kids must ask, “Do I need that many horses? Can I use their crystals for something else?”
Since the best way to earn crystals is from players that like your stories, authors will aim to make the most appealing content that uses the fewest crystals possible. This teaches the difficult concept of ‘return on investment’ in a fluid and relevant way. Kids will want to improve their stories so they attract more players. This teaches audience awareness.
Most of all, we want to teach that crystals are best when given to others. Tidepool’s voluntary crystal rewards are a terrific way to say, “Great job. Keep going.” As people give to you, you’ll likely give to others. Our goal is to reinforce this timeless truth, so that someday kids will give to charities and crowdfunding campaigns.
And speaking of charity, most of the money raised by Tidepool will go to vetted educational groups, either as corporate donations or directly within the game itself. These “foundations” can sell crystals they earn for real money, which means you help their mission by either giving them crystals or choosing to buy from them.
Immuexa, the company that makes Tidepool, will make most of its money from yearly subscriptions. Our goal isn’t to get rich, but merely to grow our game and serve its community. Hopefully such an approach will encourage support from our players.
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