We’re pretty psyched to announce that Nickelodeon has released our second digital pilot, Earth to Allen: Hunger Pains. The short follows 12-year-old Matty Mota as he tries to feed Allen (a tremendously incompetent intergalactic assistant) enough metal to stop his growling stomach from destroying the town. So many talented artists contributed to the development and production of the pilot, and we had an awesome time bringing the characters and world to life. Grab some popcorn and watch short HERE!
It’s that time of year again… you know, the time for complaining about how much snow we’ve already gotten, for recovering from holiday food comas, and, yup, you guessed it: for the annual CloudKid Year-in-Review! We know we say this every year, but seriously guys, this was a crazy year! Check out some of the highlights:
- Produced 2 pilots for Nick Digital, slated to launch in their app in early 2014!
- Created the transmedia suite for Peg + Cat.
- Launched our first original web series, OZMAT.
- Produced three games for Sesame Workshop: Jessica’s Joyride, Let’s Build It, and Grover’s Winter Games (launching early 2014).
- Redesigned and animated Romo, everyone’s favorite iPhone robot, .
- The App Store featured two of our apps: Hectic Harvest and The Big Gig.
- LA Unified School District chose Fresh Pick to be installed on student tablets.
- Helped kick off a Boston chapter of the Children’s Media Association.
- Landed our first TV development deal (stay tuned!).
- Landed our next big transmedia suite gig for an upcoming PBS KIDS show.
- And last but not least, our greatest accomplishment of 2013: Donut Thursday.
As always, we’re proud of everything we accomplished in 2013, and we can’t wait to see what this year brings! Stay tuned, and Happy New Year to all!
This summer we have been in the thick of production on our two Nickelodeon digital pilots, and while we can’t spill the beans quite yet, we wanted to give y’all a sneak peek into our environment and background design process:
1. Reference Field Trip
Back in May, we took a field trip to the sunny shores of Marblehead and Swampscott. We walked around, took pictures, ate local cuisine… we immersed ourselves in a setting we were hoping to bring to life.
2. Concept Sketches
After the trip, a couple artists spent some time exploring concept sketches so we could get a better feel for the setting and key locations.
In the thumbnail phase, our writers and director planned out the shots that were needed to tell the story. Background sketches were built out based on the rough storyboard.
4. Color Script and Keys
A color script was created to give the directors and background artists a sense of the lighting and mood for the entire short. Once completed, the colorist did a series of “color keys” that locked down the color and lighting for each shot.
5. Final Backgrounds
The background artists referenced the sketches and the color keys and worked their wonders to digitally paint the final polished backgrounds.
It’s a labor-intensive process, but we think the results are worth it in the end!
iOS, the heart and soul of Apple’s wildly popular iPhone and iPad, has looked basically the same since the phone first launched six years ago. We’ve been yearning for a change. Now we finally have one, and we couldn’t be more excited.
Meet iOS 7. We’re happy to see the departure of glossy icons and “skeuomorphic” textures (think the yellow lined paper in the Notes app or the green-felt table in Game Center). These designs seem dated and look bloated in comparison with the sleek hardware design of modern iOS devices. The new version uses “flat” graphics and thinner typefaces, making for a more streamlined look. We also love the bright new colors and the increased use of white. Simplicity and friendliness is a winning combination in our book, and iOS 7 nails it.
The new iOS looks flat, but it also utilizes depth. Translucent panels slide over your screen, giving the impression that multiple flat layers are sitting on top of one another. The display even changes as you move your device to create depth effects. We were concerned that a flatter iOS might end up looking like a knock-off of Microsoft’s new tile-based “Metro” design, but this layered style looks unique and adds a feeling of orientation within the various screens. Cool!
And, of course, big changes to iOS mean big changes to its ecosystem of apps. We think developers will need to match Apple’s refined functionality and ease of use in addition to its new aesthetic. That may be a liability for some, but we see this as an incredible opportunity for creativity. Utility apps as well as games could use the new layered style to change the ways we interact with content.
The bottom line: iOS 7 looks like a beautiful and modern refresh of the popular mobile operating system. It seems familiar yet new, stylish yet unique. And it holds promising opportunities for innovation from app developers. Great job, Apple; we can’t wait to get our hands on it this fall!
By this point, you’ve heard a lot about our beloved (albeit negative) little cloud, Nimbus. As we mentioned many-a-time, Negative Nimbus was our first self-published, original app release. We poured a ton of time, energy and love into the production, and learned a lot in the process of releasing it to the masses. And as they say, hindsight is 20/20, so we thought we’d share five key lessons we learned along the way:
1) Devote time, money and resources to marketing: While we put a lot of energy into outreach, we realized early on that marketing, like production, requires talent, expertise, and ultimately, a significant budget. While we were proud of what we were able to accomplish internally on our shoe-string budget, we’ll definitely be putting more strategic resources toward the marketing of future self-published titles.
2) Release on as many platforms as possible at once: We were eager to get our game into the hands of users ASAP, and went with a tiered release of iPad first, followed by iPhone/iPod and finally Android devices. This meant a lot of separate marketing pushes, and an overall spread-out of “buzz” and resources. If we could do it again, we’d wait it out and launch on multiple platforms at once, so everyone who hears about the game in a single marketing push has the ability to try it out.
3) Figure out a free strategy: For Thanksgiving, we decided to thank our supporters by going free for a few days. Our downloads that weekend were upwards of 15,000/day, which confirmed that free games have the potential to reach so many more users. While we still struggle with the best way to monetize free games (as most developers do), it’s something we’ll consider more thoughtfully now that we’ve really seen proof of the contrast between free and paid downloads.
4) Use resources smartly: Whether you’re a giant company, or a smaller independent studio like ours, it’s important to use your resources as effectively as possible. As we got further along in our marketing efforts, we learned what avenues were dead-ends, and conversely, where our efforts were paying off. In purchasing ad space, for instance, we quickly learned that one site in particular led to many more click-throughs than all the other sites we tried combined. This made it easy for us to specifically target that site in subsequent marketing pushes.
5) Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box: One benefit to being completely new to self-publishing was our willingness to take risks in our outreach efforts. Eager to learn, we tried everything from guerilla marketing posters with QR codes, to purchasing ad space on a variety of sites, to creating a weather utility app starring our characters for cross-promotion. We also played with the pricing structure, eventually introducing a lite version with a paid upgrade for all content. Our hunger to see what worked help us form relationships with key outreach partners and gain insights that will undoubtedly inform future efforts.
These are just a handful of the many lessons we learned through launching Nimbus. Perhaps our biggest takeaway, though, was in rethinking how we define success. While the app hasn’t left us flushed with cash, we view it as a huge success both in terms of quality of the content we produced and the impact it will have on our efforts as a studio moving forward.
2013 is off to a great start at CloudKid HQ! We’re thrilled to announce the soft launch of the “social app” we mentioned in last month’s post. Meet Emogo – the emotional avatar! While Twitter and Facebook provide information about what you’re doing and who you’re doing it with, Emogo lets you share how you feel with your friends, family and followers in a fun, unique way. CloudKid helped conceptualize the product while also creating the branding, UI design and all artwork for the Emogo avatar assets. CloudKid partnered with NYC tech incubator, Soho Tech Labs on the creation of Emogo.
The streamlined “public beta,” which is only available via desktops and tablet browsers, allows people to create their Emogo avatar before the app is available. Stay tuned for more info on the official launch, and in the meantime, create and share your very own Emogo!
For months now, we’ve been hinting at the release of our first original iOS app. Well, good news loyal CK followers… the wait is almost over! Negative Nimbus, our lovable little rain cloud, along with his fellow Sunnyland inhabitants, will be coming to an iPad/iPhone near you very soon. In the meantime, Nimbus’, website, blog and trailer (also above) have all gone live. Check these out for lots of sneak peeks and behind-the-scenes looks at the production and development of the app. While you’re at it, please like Nimbus’ Facebook page. We’ll be posting all kinds of exciting updates there leading up to launch, and little Nimbus can use all the love he can get!
Game Jam [game-jam] noun: 1. A gathering of developers, artists, and other creatives over a short period of time in which a collective effort is made to make one or more games.
A few weeks back, the creative minds at CloudKid came together to formulate and pitch ideas for our next potential game(s). The goal of each game jam (yes, we had 2!) was to produce several concepts for possible games and present them to our peers.
We met early in the morning and, after a yummy breakfast, broke into small teams of 3 or 4 (each with an artist, an animator, and a programmer). Each game jam started with a theme and some rough parameters on which our teams based their ideas. After brainstorming and discussing concepts, each team settled on an idea to flesh out and present to the larger group. We sketched, wrote, wireframed, and, in some cases, even programmed rough mock-ups of our projects. At the end of the day, the whole CloudKid crew met to view and discuss all the game jam presentations.
Results: a success! For the second year in a row, we had some great concepts come out of the game jams and had a lot of fun in the process. In fact, one of our current productions–our first iOS title–was a result of our very first jam last year. More on that game’s launch to come very soon…
In the meantime, check out our Facebook album of some of the CloudKids jammin’ away.
They’re hard to explain, those flashes of brilliance that seem to come from nowhere. J.K. Rowling had that moment sitting in a coffee shop, writing on napkins and formulating what has become the world’s greatest heptalogy. Whoever made this clearly knows what we’re talking about, too. But how do we foster these flashes of brilliance? Where do these surges of inspiration come from, and how, for the love of god, can we make them happen more often? Everyone has those days where it seems that the more you think, or the harder you try, the more empty your brain gets and the more, um, lame, your ideas become.
As an interactive media studio that prizes itself on creativity and innovation, we depend on these moments, which is why we love Jonah Lehrer’s new book, Imagine: How Creativity Works. Lehrer discusses the origins of creativity and how to best nurture a creative environment in the workplace. We all have routines outside of work – going to the gym, taking a long shower – that help us think clearly and originally, but how to replicate that at work? Check out the story on NPR and see what you think!
Notice anything different around here? Yup, that’s right… you’re looking at our brand spankin’ new blog page. Over the past month, CloudKid brains and brawn have been working like crazy in our computer lab and… voila! We are proud to present to you the new CloudKid website!
Now, now. There’s no need to get all nervous. Even though we’re suddenly really, really, really ridiculously good looking, we’re still the same old CloudKid at heart. Don’t believe us? Take a look and see for yourself! We’ve taken all the content from the old site, snazzed it up, and added tons more fun stuff. Seriously, so fun.
One of the reasons we went the extra mile with the new site is to attract talented folks. The better the artists and programmers we work with are, the better CloudKid will be. And since Boston is a pretty small town, we’re hoping the new site will help attract the best talent from our area and beyond.
Let us know what you think – we love feedback! You could even be like this lady and make your very own YouTube video about it.