So, if you’ve been following us on social media, you have almost certainly seen the slew of posts we published over the weekend about our latest project. If you haven’t, we’d love to introduce you and give you the details.
During the summer of 2017, we collaborated with ZEROBRANCH on a toy prototype we call the Connect-A-Sketch, which combines the iconic Etch-A-Sketch with a mobile app. ZEROBRANCH approached us with the idea to create a toy that combines a mobile game with a drawing toy, so we used an Etch-A-Sketch as the base model for our concept and worked from there. Specifically, we at GuessworkVR developed the app portion of the prototype, while ZEROBRANCH built a Bluetooth-enabled Etch-A-Sketch to act as a controller and docking station for players’ mobile devices.
The app we built consists of two game modes: Etch-A-Mazing and CopyCat. Etch-A-Mazing is the main mode and allows players to navigate in-app mazes that result in drawings on the toy. The player controls the game with the two standard knobs on the front of the device as well as with two additional buttons, one on each side. As the player twists the knobs to draw a line on the Etch-A-Sketch, his or her character moves through the maze in a 1:1 mirror. The bumpers change the character’s orientation to turn down paths.
We built two levels for the prototype: one set in a castle and one set on a farm. If players reach the end of the mazes without making any wrong turns (and without getting knocked out by the traps scattered around), they’ll end up with a drawing of a castle and a drawing of a dog, respectively. As players learn the ins and outs of the mazes, they’ll be able to improve their time. By finishing each maze in certain time limits, players unlock stickers that they can use in CopyCat mode.
CopyCat mode lets players draw freely: whatever they draw on the controller will also show up in the app. Through the app, players can change the color of the line, add backgrounds to the drawings and add the stickers they unlocked in Etch-A-Mazing. Then, players can upload their artworks to social media if they’d like.
We also developed a main hub that looks like a child’s room. From here, players can choose which thematic world and maze they would like to visit. Each branch from the hub features an icon to guide players toward where they want to go.
We built the prototype in hopes of pitching it to companies that might be interested in an interactive drawing game. After all, when we talked about the idea internally, we all realized we had similar experiences with Etch-A-Sketches growing up: we thought they were cool for a while, but then we realized we were horrible at drawing anything good on them and got bored. We figured this could be an awesome way to revamp a classic. But the idea isn’t Etch-A-Sketch exclusive: there are plenty of other art and toy companies that we think this could be valuable to, like Crayola and Fisher Price. We even mocked up a more generic controller design that could apply to any company that might be interested.
We started the prototype design with some asset packs, then we designed our own extra models as needed, designed the mazes, added some traps, and all the other nitty gritty details of game design. It turned out to be a product we’re incredibly proud of, especially considering we had to solve some unique problems along the way.
First of all, between us and ZEROBRANCH, we basically designed a brand new controller. Since controller relied on two knobs, it wasn’t as simple as designing a game for a keyboard or PS4 controller. When’s the last time you’ve seen a game controller with knobs? In time, we figured out how to calibrate them to function properly, and the result was the 1:1 mirror between the controller and the app.
Then, we had to design each maze to be solveable, fun, and just challenging enough without being too tough, all while resulting in a drawing themed on the maze’s setting. We went through several iterations of each maze, and it took a bit of trial and error to fine-tune them. But in the end, we think we accomplished our goals.
Maybe the toughest part was that we kept encountering challenges that we couldn’t simply look up on Google. For example, we couldn’t exactly get outside help troubleshooting our controller since it’s quite literally one-of-a-kind. It’s pretty sweet to be the frontrunners, but in that sense, it isn’t without its inconveniences. Thankfully, we were able to solve every issue we encountered, and the end result is a fully-playable, fun prototype we are proud to present after a summer of hard work.
If you’d like to check out a media kit including photos, images, gifs and videos of the Connect-A-Sketch project, click this link to our Dropbox.
And if you know a guy (or know a guy who knows a guy) who can help us get this idea into production somewhere, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org!