In the first of our series of interviews with kid’s virtual worlds developers, we talk to Paul Gray from Little Space Heroes, an upcoming Virtual Universe for kids.
Tell us a little bit about Little Space Heroes
It’s an interactive, online multiplayer game in which kids create their own hero and explore a galaxy full of fun and adventure. Players create and personalise their very own Space Hero, learn to use their Jet Pack, Bubble Blaster and Starjet at the Space Hero Academy and team up with buddies for an adventure that’s out of this world. Together, they must solve the mystery of the missing Glows and the whereabouts of the dastardly Lord Shadowbot! With a compelling original story, unique and quirky characters, amazing planets to explore as well as challenging quests and missions to undertake, Little Space Heroes provides kids with a safe and fun virtual world gaming experience.
What’s different about your virtual world?
Little Space Heroes is a virtual universe – and we use that word intentionally. In our game, you create your very own Space Hero and start off on the Heroes Homeworld where you can explore, play games, make new friends and start discovering the game story. But that’s just the beginning. Every Space Hero gets their very own Starjet and they can blast off into space to explore an entire universe! There are other planets to explore with new characters, creatures, quests and adventures. There are space based mini-games and activities to play alone or with friends. Little Space Heroes is a story-driven virtual universe, with a compelling storyline, unique and quirky characters and overarching story arcs for kids to enjoy and immerse themselves in.
What type of kids are your target audience?
Little Space Heroes is a game for boys and girls aged 5 to 12.
What gaming features are you using in-world?
Little Space Heroes is a 2D virtual world type game that has dual engines – a world engine for all the planets and a space realm engine where players fly through the universe in their Starjets. Players have their own customizable avatar, can play games, adopt a pet, chat with other players, go on missions and buy items. They can even decorate their own home, planet and galaxy.
Are there any safety features in the virtual world?
Safety is of utmost importance to us and we are designing Little Space Heroes with multiple levels of safety. Our registration process collects minimal child information and requires parental consent. We are currently working with Truste to secure a Child Privacy Seal by the time we launch the game. We also utilise white and black list word filters to ensure that no inappropriate language is used for usernames/avatar names or in-game with chat. Parents have the option to choose a safe chat mode or an open (filtered) chat mode. We also have game moderators who patrol game and offer customer support to players and parents. We have relationships with the Australian Federal Police and Virtual Global Taskforce and have received and integrated advice and expertise from them.
Do you have any educational content?
Little Space Heroes is primarily an entertainment experience for kids and families. That said, there are discrete educational elements throughout the game. This includes elements such as social play, teamwork, problem solving, understanding the value of money and learning how to interact with others. We also have subtle educational elements based on science, physics, the environment and other aspects that fit with the sci-fi setting of the game.
Are there any classroom resources?
At this stage no, however we will be providing more resources in future. For now, we are focused on building the core game but we are working with childhood education specialists to find out what sorts of resources they would find valuable. We do have some craft activities on our website already (coloring sheets, printables etc) and will be adding much more of these over time as we are big fans of crafting, hobbies and creative pursuits like drawing and writing. We’ll be inviting members to send in their artwork, stories and other creations so that we can share them with the wider community.
How much does it cost to become a member?
Little Space Heroes has a free play option. Players can play for free for as long as they like. Paid memberships will be available at monthly, 6-monthly and annual membership periods. Pricing is still being finalised but is being based around a $6 per month for monthly subscription (USD)
What is your company background?
Bubble Gum Interactive is an independent children’s entertainment studio led by a veteran team with a passion for creating story-driven immersive gaming experiences. Our management team has designed, developed and managed virtual worlds before at Disney and worked on triple A grade console games and other online gaming activities. (See: www.linkedin.com/company/1245173)
How long did it take to build?
We’re still in development and expect the full development period to be around 18 months, but as a virtual world, Little Space Heroes will always be growing and developing.
What platform are you using for the technology?
The underlying game platform is Flash.
Are you involved in any product / marketing campaigns?
At this time, we are reaching out to games and parenting press and blogs. We value the input, opinions and feedback of those with an interest in the virtual world space, or an interest in safe and fun online experiences for kids. In future we will be conducting more comprehensive marketing campaigns to introduce more people to Little Space Heroes and to continue to grow our community.
Do you have any future plans for the world?
More than you can imagine – with our game being a Virtual Universe, there is literally no limit to the creative scope of how we can expand the game. We have a well-crafted story and are investigating cartoons to tell the backstory. We’re also working on multiple proof-of-concept for exciting new game play features. We’ll share our news via our company blog at www.bubbleguminteractive.com.
And finally, why should kids visit this virtual world?
In Little Space Heroes, you can create your very own Space Hero and explore a galaxy full of fun and adventure. Kids can personalise their own Hero, adopt a virtual pet Glow, make new friends, play mini-games, fly around in their Jetpack, soar into space in their Starjet and explore distant planets and wormholes. Players can jump into the game for free and join the quest to discover the whereabouts of the dastardly Lord Shadowbot and solve the mystery of the missing Glows. Little Space Heroes will blast off for adventure in the second half of 2011.
Sign up for adventure at www.littlespaceheroes.com.