We’re making learning a cooperative, social activity with our new item sharing mechanism!
Phoenicia is nearing it’s first stable release, with the second beta version being published to Google Play today! Download it now from the image below, then keep reading to find out what’s new in this release.
While testing the first beta with select children and adults, the one consistent set of feedback we received was a need to explain how the game worked, what the elements did, and how to use them to advance the game play. To solve this problem we up-ended many parts of Phoenicia’s internal processes and structures to support an introduction tour that can be customized in each Locale Pack to be specific to the language, word order, and map layout the player is using.
The tour will pop up at several times during the game, as you unlock new features it will be there to introduce that feature to you and walk you through the first use of it. Locale authors will need to provide translated text and recordings for this, but we maintained Phoenicia’s goal of never requiring any custom programming to support a Locale.
Speaking of Locales, after the beta 1 release we were contacted by several people who were interested in helping us expand the languages and cultures available in Phoenicia, and within just a couple of days we had a working Spanish locale thanks to Guido Vera. This really illustrates the advantage of our “no custom programing” rule, and shows that Phoenicia will be able to efficiently scale out to many more languages and locations using community contributors.
Adding a Spanish locale was relatively easy, but it uses the same alphabet as English and Kiswahili. Supporting non-latin alphabets turned out to be not so simple, and brought to light a number of assumptions the code was making based on the original alphabet. However, with a little bit of work, we were able to get an example Farsi locale running using a unicode alphabet. There remains work to be done to properly support Right-to-Left languages, and alphabets where combined characters change their shape based on those around them. But it shows that the fundamental nature of Phoenicia will work for any phonetic-alphabet, not just western ones.
All that remains to be done before the final 1.0 release and XPRIZE submission is to incorporate the final artwork (you can see the first of it in the Marketplace building), finalize the Kiswahili locale and record audio for it, and add the last two mini-games that will introduce counting and number recognition as educational elements.
You can try Phoenicia beta 2 yourself on any Android phone or tablet. Click the image below to be added to our beta program. If you’ve installed the previous beta, you will be getting this latest update shortly! Feedback of any kind is most welcome, and contributions of locale packs, especially in French, Portuguese and Kiswahili. If you can help, leave a comment below or email me directly.
This month we’re excited to be making another public release of Phoenicia into the Google Play Store. This Alpha 2.5 release gets us halfway to the first Beta milestone of our development, and things are really starting to come together quickly.
While the underlying code has supported having multiple saved sessions, there wasn’t a graphical way to actually take advantage of that. Until now. Not only does this allow you to have sessions in different languages, it also supports having multiple players in the same language, each with their own progress and personalization. This is going to be important for the XPRIZE field trials, where the children who get tablets may be sharing them with other siblings.
One of the important things we want Phoenicia to show children is that knowledge has value, both to themselves and to others. So we want them to be able to use that knowledge at any point in their game play. For that purpose we are complimenting the standard word building tiles with a Workshop where players can build any word that they know how to spell, whether or not they’ve been exposed to it by the game yet. Moreover, it lets them share the words they learn in the game with their friends who haven’t reached those levels yet, giving their knowledge a social value.
Mini-games are coming
While the main game play of Phoenicia is geared towards teaching kids how to read, there’s a need for more than that. In order to teach numeracy, sequencing as well as reinforcing the literacy skills learned in the main game, we will be introducing a set of mini-games that can be unlocked by the player. While the games themselves haven’t been written yet, the framework for them is now in place.
Making it yours
Personalization is important, especially to young kids. They like to customize things and make them their own. Creativity and learning go hand-in-hand, and we want Phoenicia to allow for both. So we’re introducing decorative tiles that will let them build their own unique world. These decorations will be unlocked as they play, and will give them a reason to keep playing and learning.
We’re now working towards out next big milestone, and at the end of this month we will be releasing our first Beta release. We’re already halfway through the month, and some of the highlights above were actually done in the past two weeks, but there’s still more on the roadmap for this milestone so stay tuned for our next update.
March was a very busy month for Phoenicia’s development, but it ended on a high note with a public presentation and our first alpha release!
Phoenicia at XPRIZE Summit
The XPRIZE organization has been hosting several summit events for the Global Literacy prize, but unfortunately we were not able to attend them, as the closest one was 1,000 miles away in Washington DC. However one of the attendees, Patrick Morris-Suzuki, generously offered to demo Phoenicia for us. If you weren’t their either, you can watch the video that we made for him below. And many thanks to Patrick for doing this.
I had started this month’s development with the intention of finishing the Marketplace feature, but once I found out that Phoenicia was going to be shown off at the Summit I quickly changed gears and focused on adding support for different Locale Packs so that a Kiswahili version would be part of the demonstration. This required quite a bit of refactoring, since many parts of the codebase had been written to expect only one globally-define locale.
With that work done, and test cases written or modified to support it, I could then focus on developing the Kiswahili locale pack itself. I obviously didn’t have time enough to build a proper localized version, but I was at least able to show it using different letters, words and artwork from the English version.
First Alpha Release
March also marked the end of our Alpha 1 development cycle. With the addition of the Locale selection, it’s a fitting time to make our very first release available for wider testing. We still have many features to add and bugs to squash before the game is ready, but this is an important milestone in our road to the XPRIZE finals, and we’re excited to make it available to all of you. If you know how to sideload apps, you can download the Alpha 1 APK from our GitHub page.
Looking towards Alpha 2
We’re not slowing down now, there’s still much to do. Development on the Marketplace has picked up again and will be the next major feature to land. The Marketplace is an important part of Phoenicia’s game play, and will serve as one of the primary mechanisms for progressing the player through the levels of the game. Beyond that we’ll be expanding the capabilities of the map and block placement on it, polishing the locale pack support, and hopefully start introducing lots of new artwork too.
Sometimes you don’t want to place a new block exactly where you pressed the screen the first time. To make this easier, we’ve implemented an intermediary step that lets you change the location to place the block until you’ve settled on just the right spot. In the future, this may also be used to move blocks after they have been placed.
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_video link=”https://youtu.be/rnWlQ3NOjCQ”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_wp_text]Lots of refactoring has been going on in Phoenicia recently, but it’s enabled better inventory handling and not the ability to sell letters (and soon words) for in-game “coins” that will be used elsewhere.[/vc_wp_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]