Tidepool News

I haven’t been very chatty these past two months, which is just as well since my forward progress has been slim. I’m still struggling to finish Colossal Cave. The data file is imported, but ironing out the gameplay is proving to be more difficult than hoped.

In the next three weeks, I should be able to finish the next big release (Alpha 4), which includes Colossal Cave, a much improved interactive map, and mirrored forum functionality ingame and on the website. Most importantly, Tidepool will then be feature complete, except for the cognitive agent (Alpha 5) and realistic terrain (Beta). These latter two are essentially optional … you can make stories and code agents without them … but they will be a big part of what people like about Tidepool when they’re done.

As it stands, I don’t have enough money to finish Alpha 5. Including today, I have 40 days left to work on Tidepool before switching to another big billable gig on January 2nd unless I raise $2400 by then, which would give me January to finish both Alpha 5 and the Beta release candidate.

Okay, on to the day’s work. I’m hoping to finish Tidepool 0.3.3 (Colossal Cave) by this weekend.

Guess what folks, I’m out of work! This may be a good thing.

Tidepool’s had a stalled summer, with no progress in four months. Instead I’ve focused on client work, earning money in hopes of someday raising my original Kickstarter goal: the three months I need to finish.

As summer ends, my fate has changed. My biggest client can no longer afford me. I have no current source of income, which while scary is not unusual. I’ve been here many times, always finding the next gig in about two months.

My Tidepool savings give us that at least. With a tight budget, I’m free to work on Tidepool in October and November.

I still need a third month to finish. With maxed cards and no Christmas presents, we need $4488 to get through December, which I believe I can raise by then.

So as Summer turns to Fall, I commit myself now to a Winter Solstice beta. 

On that day, you’ll explore a Tidepool world with realistic terrain that mirrors our own Earth. You’ll code your creations by chatting with them in natural language. You’ll collaborate with other players to build story worlds together.

Happy Equinox everyone. Here we go.

Hi everyone,

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!

Tim

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.

After five days of rest, I woke today with a new plan for finishing Tidepool by year’s end. Each weekday, I’ll put in two development hours and one Let’s Play hour, with no work on weekends and a week break every five weeks .. hopefully, a better balance between rest, billable income, and Tidepool.  A full sixth of the schedule was trimmed.

Given this new schedule, I’ll release Alpha 4 in July, Alpha 5 in October, and Beta 1 by New Year’s Eve.  Three months of work spread over eight.

Today during our first Let’s Play Tidepool episode in months, Isabel drew three new characters for her gotta-find-em-all game she’s working on.

Subscribe to our channel to see new episodes.

(last kickstarter update)

Well, folks, we tried.  A warm-hearted thank you to the 69 backers who pledged $5031. Because we didn’t reach the goal, we’ll get none of it. Your cards won’t be charged.

In retrospect, I’d make a better “ask” video, with gameplay and bullet points in the beginning before the personal ask. I’d also make it clear the drawings in the game are intentionally done by amateurs, since this encourages young kids to draw. Lastly, I’d pick another category than “video games”, since this clearly was not our crowd.

Live and learn. Since we weren’t funded, we won’t finish Tidepool this summer. Working weekends, I hope to finish by the end of the year.

Please signup to follow my progress and get announcements. You can also follow me on Twitter or like us on Facebook. To really deep dive, chime in on TIGsource.

We’re honoring the rewards, so let me know your Tidepool username by messaging me here or through our contact page. You don’t need to download to get a username.

Thank you for your faith in Tidepool.

Take care,
Tim

With less than five days left and only 25% of the goal raised, it’s very likely we won’t get funded. There’s typically a bump at the very end, but unless something crazy happens like getting featured on Boing Boing, our campaign will fall short.

This means Tidepool won’t get finished this summer. If I work weekends all year, I may be able to finish by the holidays, though more likely it’ll take another year.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to our 64 backers. Raising $4500 is impressive, though Kickstarter is all-or-nothing. Your credit cards will not be charged. We’ve decided to honor the gifts anyway, as they cost us nothing.

If you’d like to get further Tidepool announcements, be sure to signup if you haven’t already. We send news every month or so, along with release announcements.

Ah well, what can I say? We tried our best. With 4000 page views and 1600 video plays (20% of them finished), we had ample exposure to raise the needed money.

My guess is that Tidepool wasn’t a good fit for Kickstarter’s “video game” category, especially as a free game aimed at kids. Our video at the top could have been better. Live and learn.

My best to you and yours. May we meet someday in game.

Take care,
Tim

Special thanks to our most recent backers:

  • Dave Crossland
  • Chabane Maidi
  • Jim Hauser
  • Norman Girardot
  • Philomena
  • Bob De Schutter
  • Jamison Selby
  • Karen North
  • Tracey McCabe
  • Ryuichi Nawamura
  • Joshua Minchew
  • Michael Maiden
  • Naming is Hard LLC
  • Avigail Snir
  • Adriane Kuzminski

Every week, a group of five grade-schoolers from Seattle play Tidepool together with the express purpose of breaking it. Over Skype, I hear them trying what I’d never intended, yelling out things “Tim, Tim, I can’t type a K. It closes the box when I type a K.”

Yes, these kids are practicing QA (quality assurance), which is a vital role in the software industry. Coding seems to get all the attention these days, but QA is arguably the better path to true mastery. Teach kids what works by teaching them what doesn’t.

Here are some sketches they made on Wednesday:

With 16 days to go and only 23% funded, we really need your help in spreading the word. Remember that Kickstarter is all-or-nothing.  If we don’t reach the full $18,000, we get nothing and your credit cards won’t get charged.

Please tell people you know to http://backTidepool.com.  If two or three of your friends each pledged $12, and a few of their friends did as well, we’d reach the goal easily.

If we’re funded, we can finish Tidepool this summer.  If we fail, we’ll have to delay Tidepool until the winter holidays, which means we’ll lose another full school year.

My great thanks to our newest 20 backers:

  • Sarah Zaranek
  • Mathiew Greenway
  • Robin and Larry
  • Pamela Thalacker
  • Jay Shaffstall
  • Terese Scott
  • Sara Bolokofsky
  • Blake Whitcomb
  • Anne Di Fiore-Will
  • David Leonhardt
  • Susan Fisher
  • Adam Corres
  • Tony Forster
  • Diane LaBelle
  • Yvonne Harrison
  • Jonathan Linowes
  • Christoph Derndorfer
  • Valerie Williams
  • Stephen Kelly
  • Bart Krauss

Hi everyone,

They just posted an article about Tidepool at MMO Central, a gaming magazine. Click here to read it. For those that don’t know, an MMO is a game genre which stands for Massively Multiplayer Online game.

“Tidepool really does seem interesting and I hope we get to see more of it in the future. Kids are the future of gaming and getting them interested in making games will get them excited about coding and technology.”

Please continue telling your friends to http://backTidepool.com.  We’re 15% funded and 30% into our campaign, so we really need your help spreading the word.

Tim