Happy New Year from us all at Wibbu! Let’s raise a glass to a 2017 that was full of exciting discoveries, bold directions, and the Soo San song (we’ll get to that).
How do we begin to break down a year as jam-packed as 2017? Well, let’s take a look at the calendar…
We started 2017 with a BETT-sized bang!
BETT is the UK’s biggest education technology showcase. Hundreds of exhibitors from around the world present the innovative classroom tech of tomorrow. Interactive textbooks, digital workspaces, robots! …And Ruby Rei.
In January, Ruby Rei as a video game was still in its infancy. We had a heroine. We had a story. We had our teaching methodology. We just needed to bring Ruby’s adventure to life! Preferably by the 26th Jan.
We scrambled over Christmas. We built environments through the night. We recorded with voice actors through the day. And when BETT arrived, we were ready to rock the Excel Centre in London with FIVE playable levels of Ruby Rei.
Were we nervous? Well, we were testing our game for the first time, with the public, and on a huge platform. What could go wrong?
We set up our stand. We had our iPads. We had Ruby Rei. And then the doors opened.
Hordes of marauding kids on school trips wandered the floor, grabbing at robots and looking for any tech that could potentially brighten their stuffy school lives.
Our key art acted like a beacon. A ten foot tall poster of Ruby, standing in a mysterious forest, ready for adventure.
‘What’s this?’ says a kid.
‘This looks cool,’ says another.
‘Can I play?’ says another!
That was our first lightbulb moment of the year. Kids were intrigued by Ruby Rei. They were pulled in by the mystery. They wanted more.
Those few days set the tone for the rest of the year…
We had won big at BETT. But that was an education conference. And we knew, to make Ruby Rei a real success, it had to work as a teaching tool and as a piece of entertainment. It had to work as a video game. So, Wibbu packed its bags, and headed to San Francisco. A huge test awaited. The judgement of the gaming community. GDC.
The Game Developers Conference is the largest annual gathering of professional video game developers. Amazing tech. Amazing art. Amazing games.
We hadn’t had much time to develop Ruby Rei since it first met the world at BETT. A few extra tweaks. A few more levels. Some new characters (hello, Hugo!) Ruby was progressing, but we
would soon know if we were on the right track…
GDC was incredibly positive. People were at times confounded by what we were doing. A 3D action adventure game that teaches languages? The concept was strange and cool. But an interesting question was asked. ‘How will people find something this different, when they don’t
know they need it in the first place?’
We had lots to think about…
It was crunch time. We had a deadline to get Ruby Rei out into the world. All 22 levels!
We were creating Ruby’s adventure at roughly the same speed she was journeying through it. Environments shifted from her crashed spaceship, to a forbidden forest, to a desolate desert, to a meeb market, and finally back home.
We stayed one step ahead of Ruby, creating new characters and plot threads daily. Tony Romance, the King of Midnight. Victor, the grumpy taxi driver. Meebee, the alien dreaming of adventure. Ruby’s adventure grew and grew. We could have kept going forever! But the deadline loomed…
Ruby Rei was complete. We had a game that we loved and were proud of. It was time to share it.
Wibbu headed to BAFTA and had a huge party in honour of Ruby. Amazing guests, big trays of tiny food, and… well it gets fuzzy later into the evening. We had a great time!
Ruby Rei was out. But she wasn’t done with us yet…
The first purchases were made. The first feedback online was heard.
The App Store. Google Play. Facebook. Reddit. People were loving Ruby Rei. They loved the story, the visuals, the teaching. We printed the best reviews and glued them to the walls of the office. But that wasn’t all we printed.
We looked for criticisms. We looked for suggestions. We looked for the harshest feedback we could find. We didn’t just want Ruby Rei to work for some, we wanted it to amaze EVERYBODY (not impossible, right?).
And so, we started making lists. We started reviewing levels. We started talking about Ruby again.
Summer had arrived and we were back in development. We were focused, energetic, excited. We had a plan! First, we tightened the scope. We took levels and combined them, bringing characters together in exciting new ways. We added new puzzles. We added new mechanics. We pushed the game to its limits, enhancing every detail and refining every moment.
Some of the most exciting all-nighters Wibbu had seen were in that development phase. We were giving people what they really wanted and it felt great! And in doing so, we opened a few new and unexpected doors…
With some great PR and a new website, Ruby Rei was starting to get attention. We had made a consumer product for commuters. For people getting ready for their holidays. For gamers. But suddenly we were being contacted by schools. Lots of schools.
Teachers. Head Teachers. District Heads. Phone calls and emails.
‘Can we know more about Ruby Rei?’
‘Can we test Ruby Rei?’
‘Is Ruby Rei a classroom tool?’
That lightbulb moment that was sparked at BETT in January suddenly exploded.
Wibbu’s mission statement has always been to change the DNA of education. To bring together learning and fun in fresh and innovative ways. It seemed like teachers were right there with us.
And so we jumped on a plane, over the pond to San Antonio, Texas. It was time to test with a new crowd.
The International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE) brings together the most forward thinking educators from around the world and gets them talking about the future. Could Ruby Rei fit into that future?
The reception at ISTE was warm, to say the least.
Wibbu was going in bold new directions. We began reviewing our teaching materials and adapting them for the classroom. We started talking to teachers. How long would they use a video game in class? How did they see a story like Ruby Rei sparking group discussion? Did they engage with the emotional development points we worked so hard on?
We tweaked. We added. And then, we were ready for the ultimate test. We signed Ruby Rei up for an independent efficacy test.
Externally sourced and guided, a class of children were split in two for a week of learning. Half of the class were taught using interactive flash cards – words, phrases, images. The other half were introduced to Ruby Rei – a story, characters, translatable dialogue.
The results for the Ruby Rei test group rocketed! Engagement with learning increased by OVER FOUR TIMES! It was official and we had it in black and white. Ruby Rei was a classroom tool that gave results.
It was time to start plotting. If Wibbu was going to introduce Ruby Rei to the classroom, we were going to do it right. That meant lesson plans, activity sheets, vocab lists and… oh, I forgot all about the Soo San song!
When was the Soo San song? Was it March? Was it May? Was it entirely mythical and took on a life of its own? All we know is that Soo San, our resident blue warrior, began to sing at some point in the year. He sang about the problems with quests. He sang about the problems with his name (he’s not called Susan, y’know). And weirdly, he sang to jazz.
We don’t know why Soo San started crooning, and we didn’t know where in the game we would put his song. But pretty soon, we had other characters joining in. We got actors back in the recording booth and we added more lyrics.
Now we have the Soo San song. But where is the Soo San song? Well, what is a video game without easter eggs…
We started work on our interactive textbook. That meant expanding the scope of the Ruby story to include new characters and situations. It also meant creating a lot of new material, fast. And so Wibbu went on a huge recruitment drive and hired five… FIVE… new artists.
Concepts were drawn. Backgrounds were painted. Victor met Holly the warrior mouse. Tony Romance met Richard the dream monster. And we were consistently finding new and exciting ways to teach.
Our teacher’s book is still evolving. We’re adding content all the time! As we talk to more teachers we are given more amazing ideas. The conversation had truly begun.
We set up pilot programs with schools that had shown that crucial early interest in Ruby. We gave them the game. We gave them the materials. And we let them play.
Teachers had as much or as little guidance navigating Ruby’s world as they wanted. We were always on call to lend a hand, but for the most part, they were happy to be left alone. Kids wanted to explore the levels, and teachers wanted to explore our interactive reading, writing, speaking and listening tools.
We held focus groups. We got test scores. We were rated on playability, price point, proficiency. We absorbed all of the data…
What can I say about December? Well, not a lot really.
You see, we’ve had quite an exciting development in the last month. A new door has opened. A new evolution of Ruby Rei has begun. It’s kinda top secret. But we’ll have an announcement soon. We’ll have it in January to be exact. We imagine it’ll look like a press release. But here’s something that won’t be in the press release…
In December, we all went out for an amazing Christmas meal. We shared stories, we talked about the year behind us, we ate way too much. And we toasted to the future.
Wibbu has some new ideas.
Let’s raise a glass to 2018.
Truan Flynn, Educational Game Writer