If you’re curious who might be the next Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg, Patch may have found them.
Three eleventh-graders at l - Prem Nair, Ameya Khare and Shrav Mehta - are developing an Android puzzle-solving game called Candybot.
“What differentiates us from other game developers is our age and background,” said Nair. “What differentiates us from other people our age is the size of our project.”
The goal of Candybot is for the candybot, which is the user, to move the piece of candy into a pipe through an obstacle of walls and additional challenges.
Each project member has his own responsibility. Nair is the primary coder, Khare creates the levels, Mehta heads the marketing and Nair’s 10-year-old brother Tej contributes to level development.
“When we’re making the game, we can see that we took everything for granted when we were playing a game,” said Nair. “There’s a lot of physics in it. Things have to happen and interact with each other.”
The project that began in July 2011 features four worlds, each with 20 levels. As the levels get harder, new elements are introduced. Bombs blow up tiles, lasers kill the candybot but not the candy, and objects slide on ice blocks until they hit a solid wall.
Khare said that there are always multiple solutions to solve a level, but the challenge is finding the most efficient way. “The less moves, the better,” said Khare.
“When we introduce an object, we don’t make the level very hard, so the user can understand what it does,” said Khare.
Khare said that he had a peer try a new level without help text, but he was confused. Because the difficulty increases exponentially, they decided the help text at the start of each level explaining new objects is necessary for users to understand what their role in the game is.
“When we’re making the game, we have to think about how the user is going to interact with it,” said Nair.
By tapping into the users’ minds, the team knew that incentives were necessary to keep users coming back. They created achievements for positive accomplishments such as completed levels, but also for failure.
“It encourages the user to keep playing and share his success or failure with friends,” said Nair.
Through swarm intelligence, users can transfer their progress and achievements in the game to new devices with the game, similar to cloud computing.
Based on the feedback from people at hackathons and their peers, the team is constantly modifying the game.
“We’re all working on different computers on the same project,” said Nair. “We have to synchronize our systems to make sure we’re all up to date when one person makes a change.”
While creating the game, Nair said that the team has had to address various aspects such as ensuring compatibility with older and newer Android models, preventing memory leakage on the device and restricting the size of the game.
All three had some experience with computer science and programming, but Nair said they learned the application of those skills by making the game.
“I didn’t have any big project at the time and I thought it would be fun to do,” said Nair.
Khare became involved in the project after taking a computer science class at Monta Vista. As the final project for the class, Khare started developing the various levels for Candybot.
Nair was unable to get into the java class offered by Monta Vista, so he took the initiative to teach himself the skills by following the curriculum and completing the assignments.
This self-starter attitude is what has carried the team to where they are with the game. None of the team members had the experience in developing graphics and it was too costly for them to hire someone. So they taught themselves through trial-and-error, YouTube videos and eBooks.
Mehta created his first Android app called “9,000+ Awesome Facts” in eighth grade. Before he knew it, he made $40,000 from advertising. Mehta said the Candybot project is something more complex and involved that he thinks will be an even greater success.
Currently Candybot is a beta game since there are still some glitches to be worked out, said Nair. The team will release the game through a general partnership where the game will be free if users register. When it is released, the game will be ad-supported using AdMob.
Looking ahead, Mehta said that if Blackberry opens a conversion tool, they will convert the game to be compatible for other devices. Otherwise it’s only Android users that will get to enjoy this mind-boggling game.
“If it’s the next Angry Birds, then maybe we’ll create an iPhone app,” said Mehta.