Developer Interview with Ken Fountain of Crackerbox
Today’s interview is with Ken Fountain of Crackerbox which developed the outstanding geography app, Geo-Me! Please visit their Website, Facebook and Twitter pages.
Thank you for participating our interview. Please tell us a little about yourself.
Crackerbox is a very small group of passionate artist/technicians, who’s goal is to create an educational experience that is somewhere between a game and a musical, interactive book. No points. No power-ups. Our simple aim is to promote curiosity and exploration through an appealing story and an unforgettable song.
How did the idea for your app come about?
We knew we wanted to do something that was an animated story/song, much like the Sesame Street or Schoolhouse Rock cartoons of our childhood, but we wanted to choose a topic that took full advantage of what was unique to the device we were using to deliver it – the iPad. Using touch-based maps is so universally fun, so we decided that creating something that used the built in geolocation services and detailed maps was the way to go. “Geography” was chosen, and I began to invent the story.
I am a former feature film animator, and I teach animation for a global online school. This allowed me to recruit a great group of my international colleagues and students to interview about where they grew up. And from hours of recorded conversation I wrote the story verses for the song “Where I Am”.
For the app, we wanted to present something original, something different than the average puzzle or quiz. We wanted the interactivity to relate directly to the story being told. We came up with the Geo-Me’s as a result; little interactive avatars that belonged both to the characters of the song and to the user.
And how long was the process from the original idea to the release of the app?
It took us about a year and a half from concept to completion. The artist involved in the making of “Geo-Me” all live across the country from each other, so many Skype meetings and a few plane flights were involved to have worthy brainstorming sessions, to record and produce the music tracks, and to sit and stew over code conundrums. We discovered really great work methods in the process, and look forward to applying what we’ve learned to future titles.
Did you hire a developer or do it yourself?
All of the coding was done by Crackerbox-er, Bill Hayes. I created and animated the characters, wrote the song, and designed and produced the interface graphics. But none of this machine would have worked without the tenacity and dedication from Bill. Or the amazing music production of Scott Tallarida. Or the out-of-the-box UX brainstorming of Brian Doherty. From the song to the animation to the functionality, we feel pretty proud of our home grown little app.
What has been the hardest obstacle you have had to overcome in the development process?
Finding time around our paying jobs was expectedly difficult. But, really, one of the biggest challenges was getting the huge sets of geographical data to behave in a way that was ultimately fun. “Creating” a Geo-Me on the interface was no easy task. So many of the early versions of the Geo-Me builder produced too few matches with any of the world cities we had stored (and there are a lot!). Finding that “sweet spot” where accurate date met with fun was daunting, but we eventually got there. (Heck, we even mixed the music tracks according to geographical data.)
AND I got to learn a whole bunch about GIS (Geographic Information Systems) in the process, which was a bonus!
Have you had much support during the development process (from family, peers, Apple Inc.)?
Our families were huge supporters. Heck, some of them even ended up on the recordings or in the animation!
Apple also chose us right away for a featured banner under “New and Noteworthy” in the Education section on the App Store. To launch with such prominent visibility was awesome, and to get a nod like that on our very first title was a major moment of pride. We hope to live up to it as we continue new titles and further updates.
What are your plans for the future? Will you be developing any more apps?
We will most definitely be developing more apps. We challenged ourselves to create a unique way to present useful information to a child, and we feel like we have only scratched the surface. A “Crackerbox” will always involve song and story, but the look, feel, and experience of each one we hope to be a new invention every time. And if they can start extending beyond the touch tablet someday, then even better!
What sort of feedback has your app been receiving so far?
Feedback has been so great. Writers and educators seems to get exactly what we are trying to do, as well as wishing for exactly the additional functionality that we intend to release in the near-future updates. We feel like we have presented ourselves and our app the right way, and we are proud and flattered by the kind words we have been receiving regarding “Geo-Me!” and Crackerbox – about the song, the graphics, the map functions, all of it. We even hear from teachers who are looking forward to working it in to their curriculum. So cool.
And finally, what advice would you give to anyone considering creating their own app?
Do it because it represents who you are, and it involves something you love doing. Why? Because it takes a really really long time to produce, and you will not be able to sustain the momentum to finish unless you love it. I love to animate. I love to write songs. I love maps! And I’ve spent hundreds of hours over the last 18 moths dedicated to every frame and function of this. All of the Crackerboxe-ers have. And we are even more excited and proud of it now than we were when we started. We feel like we’ve created something good, and we hope it allows us to make more.
Oh, and don’t plan on getting rich ;) Just feel satisfied about putting something good out in to the world for a bit. And if you write a companion song that gets stuck in people’s heads, then even better!
Thank you so much for talking with us today and sharing a bit about your company. We really appreciated the chance to get to know you!
Category: Education, Entertainment
Requirements: Compatible with iPadMini, iPadFourthGen, iPadFourthGen4G, iPad 2 3G, iPad 2 WiFI, iPadMini4G, iPadThirdGen4G, iPadThirdGen
Size: 116.79 MB
Category: Education, Entertainment
Requirements: Compatible with iPadMini, iPadFourthGen4G, iPad 2 3G, iPadThirdGen4G, iPadMini4G, iPadThirdGen, iPad 2 WiFI, iPadFourthGen
Size: 233.41 MB