I’ve been thinking a lot recently about apps for kids, looking into the market and considering what I can possibly bring to the table there. I’ve got a three year old and Baby Unit Two on the way, and I’ve been mulling over the idea of making some interactive story-book things as a way to hone up my minimalist design chops and also potentially make something which is going to provide some passive income.

Most games I’ve tinkered with previously rely heavily on randomization to produce narrative content – for example a shop where customers have random(ish) traits, names, needs and biographical backgrounds. When most people hear “procedural generation” the obvious example is usually Minecraft, where the landscape is what’s being produced differently each time. But PCG can also be used to create the actual puzzles for the player to solve; such as DragonXVI’s entry for ProcJam2014: Inquisitor – a medieval “whodunnit” where the victim, murderer and other details are different each time.

In the context of interactive kids apps, PCG seems like a way to add additional value through replayability. A plausible business model seems to make a story/set of puzzles which change every time – use that as the premium app – and then release the always-different version as the paid app. Nothing in an interactive kids’ book would be as complex as generating terrain (I’m not sure if they even constitute PCG!) but some examples I’ve thought of are:

  • The player has to put 4 tools into 5 appropriately-shaped slots in a tool kit. A different tool is always missing, and has to be found in the next scene
  • The player has to build a robot using different objects for the three sections of body. They are provided with 6-8 items drawn from a pool of 12-15. The robot they have made is persistent through the rest of the story.
  • A sight-seeing “walk” through an area with a narrator character, with animals/things which appear along the way (picked from a long list) each accompanied by a “what is this called?” type multiple-choice question. The list would be skewed to have more unusual animals/objects at the bottom end, so that the game can keep track of progress of how you’re doing and adjust accordingly.

This is mainly a brain-dump kind of post but feel free to let me know if there are any apps you think I should check out.