Carla Fisher, Founder of No Crusts Interactive, gave new meaning to the term “running text” when she released Stride & Prejudice last week. Within 24 hours, it was #14 in the Apple Education Store. She discussed marketing strategy in her own blog on Monday, but I talked to her about the app journey, the twists and turns she had to make to get it up and running.
WS: For those who didn’t read Monday’s blog, describe the game play.
Stride & Prejudice is an endless runner game played on the text of Pride and Prejudice. Endless runners are a popular format, thanks to Canabalt and Temple Run. The player controls an avatar who just keeps running, as opposed to classic platform games like Super Mario Bros. where there is an ending to the board. When the player dies in an endless runner, they usually start over at the beginning.
In Stride & Prejudice, you control an avatar who jumps from platform to platform. If the player misses a platform, they die and the game is over. If you play in survival mode, you start over at the beginning. If you play in reader mode, you can pick up where you left off.
WS: So for an average gamer, this could be a never-ending adventure?
It’s at least a really, really, really long one. The secret is that the book does end…
WS: The game is rated educational. How and why did you go that route?
I’ve waffled on this one. I still might change the primary category to game and see what happens. But I went with educational because it’s a literary classic.
WS: Do you ever expect to see this in schools?
I don’t expect it to replace the traditional way of reading Pride and Prejudice, but I would love if this becomes part of the discussion around how classic literature continues to be reinvented, whether as movie adaptations, like Bridget Jones, as book mash-ups, like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies or as a game-book, like Stride & Prejudice.
WS: As players are “striding,” do you think they’re also thinking about the book?
I’ve read the entire book in game, and I can say that it is a lot of work to read and play. We take natural breaks as we’re reading, to comprehend what we just read. If you’re playing as a gamer, you might be less willing to take a break and think about what you just read. (You can pause the game to take these breaks.)
That said, Pride and Prejudice is a good fit because it’s a fairly lightweight text. You can get most of what’s going on while playing the game. Shakespeare, on the other hand, would be brutal.
WS: You’re selling this for 99 cents. What’s your rationale behind that? Why not offer it free…or go for $2.99+?
Like the category, I may change the price as well, either to free or to $1.99. $0.99 felt right to start with. I’m trying to reach two audiences – gamers who might be hesitant about Pride and Prejudice, and literature fans who may be hesitant about a game. Hopefully both audiences will be willing to take a chance and try it out for a dollar.
WS: What were the hardest and easiest parts of making this?
The basic game play of running across text was really easy to get prototyped. The hardest was balancing it. Gamers have an expectation that endless runners are difficult to play. Readers want to read at their own rate.
Each change that we made impacted a number of other features. If we changed the font size, we’d have to adjust the gaps between the platforms. I hand edited the text platform lengths to find the right balance of challenge and readability. Eventually we added the speed adjustments and the ability to turn off the acceleration so that the readers could really read the text. We debated obstacles and other challenges but ultimately left them out because it got in the way of reading.
WS: How long did it take you start to finish?
I prototyped the idea in the spring, to make sure that the basic premise was workable. The team started production in June, so it was about 5 months to launch. This was a side project for all of us, with the programmer and me spending the most time on it.
WS: Any more classics in your pipeline?
We’re talking about an Android version of Stride & Prejudice. Beyond that, there are a lot of options, but it really comes down to whether or not there’s demand. Sales will tell.
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