Treasure Chest! The secret to fund and run your digital project in Ontario

To create an interactive product from scratch without the certainty of success may seem like a terrifying task and I will tell you a secret: it definitely is! One of my main objectives this year is to develop an interactive presentation web service called Dis+Play. To bring this product from the concept to a fully shippable version seemed something impossible until I discovered about the secret passages that can keep your company and project on the tracks. On the next paragraphs I will show some of the magic that inhabits in these powerful funds.

 

OMDC – IDM Fund

The Interactive Digital Media Fund managed by the Ontario Media Development Corporation is a great option for companies looking for a boost on their projects. Approved applications can receive up to 250.000,00 canadian dollars, this can be an awesome incentive to any company trying to boot up an interactive project.

After a Ontario based company (owned by a canadian) can apply for their yearly process and  if the project and company fit the funds specifications.

Every year dozens of companies like Cococucumber (Riverbond) , Reptoid Studios (Fossil Hunters) and  Asteroid Base (Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime) get their projects running thanks to this fund. Gamers around the world should be thankful to it, that is constantly allowing amazing titles to come to the shelves of stores around the world.

Image result for Riverbond

Cococucumber’s Riverbond is one of the many fantastic titles that received IDM’s aid

 

OIDMTC – Ontario Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit

If you are already running a project, Taxes can be one of your worst enemies. Fear not, OMDC also covers that with the  OIDMTC. This tax credit can cover between  35% and 40% over labour expenditures taxes. 

Just as the IDM Fund, the OIDMTC is resposible for the maintenence of many digital media companies around Ontario. To receive the creadit an Ontario based company run by either a canadian or a foreigner has to apply 18 months after the end of your company’s taxation year when you shipped your approved digital product.

 

BDC- Small Business Loan

If all else fails, there is still hope: The Business Development Bank of Canada has a special loan offer of up to 100.000,00 canadian dollars. Their application process is fast and efficient, companies praise BDC as one of the best options to inject quick money to your project. The interest rates are also relatively low compared to regular loans for companies, which is very attractive to companies that will only have profit on the long run.

Be warned that this option is different from the others above, debt is not something to play with, and companies should always be careful and think twice before opting into getting a loan.

 

Conclusion

What you just read above is just a fraction of the funds available for digital media companies in Ontario. The days of old, where your whole life depended on the success of a project are no more while all these economic options are available for inventors and designers.

If you are a game designer and have an awesome idea for an interactive project, go and enjoy this golden age of incentives that we are living right now!

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The Rules of Rules of Play! Or how Kahoot! terms and conditions may apply to your interactive product

As a post-grad student and an avid digital media professional, my main goal for this year is to build the alpha version of my gamified presentation building tool: Dis+Play.

Among the many similar digital products that I found on my competitive analysis , Kahoot! one of the most inspiring titles that I came across.

This norse educational quiz builder is equipped with a fun and colorful interface and a great sense of purpose that led it to invade schools all over the world to make classrooms a fun environment. However, a deeper reading into the terms and conditions, privacy policy and inclusion & accessibility policy of Kahoot have really revealed interesting details about how this company runs their product.

 

Terms and conditions & Privacy policy

Aside from the default terms such as keeping security and privacy as a user’s responsibility and making it clear that accounts and service may be terminated by any reason, Kahoot! has a whole section dedicated to how their rules and tracking apply to children under 13.

They say that only emails and usernames are tracked for children and only with the means of recovering passwords. This kind of concern is very noble and also essential when you are dealing with something like privacy for kids. To establish what accounts should not be tracked they have an special kind of account made only for students under thirteen.

 

Inclusion & Accessibility policy

 

“We believe that learning should include everyone.

We believe in removing barriers to education.

We believe that diversity is an asset that enables us to learn from 

each other, and should therefore be positively encouraged.”

 

Here the company states how their services are made to be as accessible as possible to any and every user. The passage above gives a fantastic insight of how Kahoot designed their tool with a high focus design thinking and empathy for their users.

This is also shown on their objective of keeping up with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)  (http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/). Kahoot tries to keep their product percievable, operable and understandable to all of its users.

 

Conclusion

Reading the legal terms behind a company really opens up space for great insights. Hidden behind every rule there is major concerns with both the users and company. I had no idea of the importance of how data tracking for children was such a sensible matter, Dis+Play may will also have children as a great portion of our users and having this in mind from the start can change the whole shape of our analytics plan.

I was aware of the importance of WCAG, but the way Kahoot paired it with the speech about breaking barries for education also inspired my product to follow these guidelines as strictly as possible. Empowering the users despite disabilities, status and other characteristics is essential and should always be one of the main pillars of a well-thought product, specially when the subject is education.

 

Magic Scrolls #1: 3 Reasons why you should Read “Evaluating Children’s Interactive Products

Stuart MacFarlane and Johanna Höysniemi  are the authors or the awesome book Evaluating Children’s Interactive Products, this reading takes you through every step of testing and evaluating every kind of interactive product for children (from toys to games passing through web softwares and much more).

Keep reading to know three good reasons for to put this book in your backlog right now!

1. Deciphering a new target public

“Children expect more from ordinary products. They may believe technology is magic. This may lead to high expectations that might not be realized”

– Evaluating Children’s Interactive Products, page 30

Children may look like little adults and in many cases we underestimate their intelligence and wits, the reality is that those little goblins have a whole different way of seeing and interacting with the world around them.

The first part of the book focus only in describing different theories about child cognitive and emotional development through each age, how they relate to interactive products and the role of interactivity in the development of their education.

This section is invaluable to all the designers that think that developing for younglings is basically making an simplified version of your interactive project. Children are a very peculiar and unique public to develop for, and this part does a good job of analysing and explaining how their minds, behaviour and skills are geared.

2. The Wizard of Oz  and other methodologies

Part 2 and 3 of the book focus solely in how to evaluate the products, interviewing, testing, recording methods are all thoroughly explained. This is the part you bought this book for, all the information in this part is very applicable to interactive projects and most of what is said about interviewing and recording data from testing with children can also be applied to adults.

One of the highlights of this section is The Wizard of Oz method. This is great for teams that desire to test their projects before programming an alpha version.

How does it work? As stated by the authors:

“A Wizard of Oz evaluation is one in which some or all of the interactivity that would normally be controlled by computer technology is imitated, or “wizarded”, by a human being”

– Evaluating Children’s Interactive Products, page 219

Not only this makes it possible to test your product before the developing phase, making it possible to forecast usability issues, as this method makes it possible to adapt the “software” feedback in real time as the “wizard” feels will better suit the children experience.

This method is not easy to apply, making the right environment and fast response to keep the belief that the software is really working without the aid of a human behind it is very hard, but the book offers great guidelines to build this methodology.

3.Amazing cases

The fourth and last part of the book tells the story of different cases that applied the methodologies mentioned in the book and reviews the all the steps taken in the application of the products prototypes.

Chapter 16 is one of the most interesting ones, it talks about three prototypes of games controlled by motion and the way the had to predict how children would behave in order to capture the movements is very interesting.

The Wizard of Oz method is very well applied in this case, were a man controlled the game’s feedback according to each movement, only proving the usefulness of this technique.

@ rights of header photo are of Seth Werkheiser. (this image licensed as Creative Commons)

Darkvision: Where are the games for blind and visually impaired players?

bateye

Life is not like a RPG where you carefully build a character choosing each attribute, talent and skill, you never know when or how you are going to get a permanent disadvantage. The truth is that there are more than 280 million visually impaired humans living around the globe, and as any living being, they like to play.

Developing for this user base has always been a challenge, as the game designer Eitan Glinert states in his great article about the matter “Designing Games That Are Accessible To Everyone

“ […] games for the blind shouldn’t mean games for only the blind.

Games for only the blind is a terrible model that most blind people themselves hate[…]”

Of course!

Making a game exclusive for the these players is the absolute opposite of making accessible games. In Glinert’s philosophy, games should be make with accessibility in mind to get the best experience even for disabled users. Nevertheless there are always the stray sheep like the blind youtube user MegaTgarrett who got until the end of Zelda: Ocarina of Time only by using audio cues, patience and tons and tons of save states.

A blind man cleared water temple, what’s your excuse?

If you watched the video above you can see how the last part of the game was a chore to complete, but at the same time, the way the audio cues of Link’s steps and Zelda’s shouts make this section of Ocarina of Time possible to complete.

But what we are after in here aren’t games that these users have to struggle to complete, on the contrary, they must be fun and playable for all fans of videogames.Where are them? Do they exist?

Fear not! I’ve compiled a list of three games with excellent ratings, scroll down for the delicous loot!

lootLoot Time!

blindlegend

A Blind Legend

A Blind Legend is an action/adventure game released in April of 2016 that relies only on audio inputs and awesome voice acting. The game costs only C$ 7,78 and his reviews are very good, it is worth checking out. The game is available for android, iOS and PCs.

audiorun

Audiorun

Audiorun is an action game for iphones by game developer Alexander Shen, it uses heartbeats and crisp sound design to give the player the sensation of being jumping from rooftops and obstacles while the protagonist is running.

king-of-dragon-pass

King of Dragon Pass

King of Dragon Pass was launched in July of 2015 and is fully accessible for visual impaired users at the same time it is beauty to behold. The art is amazing and the game is praised for its charming customizable narrative. The RPG/adventure game is available for iOS and Android devices, as well as on Steam and it is a must for all the fans of the genre no matter their status.


You can see(or listen) that these are just a glimpse of the huge existing market of games adapted to this public and they are still engaging and fun experiences that anyone can enjoy. There are many other games accessible at audiogames.net (with at least 500 on their archive at moment this post is being written).

This is the golden age for visual impaired gamers all over the world. As the videogame industry matures and development tools become more and more accessible (even for blind developers!) we will start to see more mods adapting gameplay for all kinds of gamers, just as it happened to Minecraft that turned a mod into an official version for the visually impaired. There will always be issues with making multiplayer versus games symmetrical for all users at the same time, but this is just a sidequest in the path of a, until now, very successful main quest.

Until the next quest, adventurers!