Sunday, July 14, 2013

Doll hiz-ouse!!

Yeah, maybe I should use a different title.  1) I only talk like that when I'm excited (or at work) and 2) I have no idea how to spell hiz-ouse.  But I am excited! 
 
I actually worked on the dollhouse that has been glaring at me in my living room for a while now. 
 I decided I didn't want to break anymore balsawood 'molding' in our move, and the dollhouse has been pining for my time, so I took some time to freshen it up a bit.

But really, I want to share but I have so much other stuff to do right now... so this will be quick.... er than I have been lately.

Here's where we left OVER 4 YEARS AGO. I'll save you the link, below is how it looked after giving it to her (at age 3!!!).



I'm sure I have some more pictures of progress somewhere, but I'm trying to be quick.

Anyway, this is where we started off, a few months ago all furnished and in my workshop today.  I never finished the molding, the edging on the middle wall was never finished, the roof was primed but never painted/shingled and there was one window left that could never find the 'glass' for. After three moves, I gave up ever finding it and was just going to cut a piece of plastic to put in there.  Plus, a few months ago Isaac ripped out the wall & front door, and I accidentally impulsively pulled out the stairs.  So we were in sorry shape.




So while I was trying to get more molding pieces to paint, I dumped out the box the kit came in.  AND THE WINDOW FELL OUT!  You can imagine how many times I checked that thing.  It has been missing since its creation!  I have no idea where it came from, but I was so glad it showed up....  and then, I couldn't find the window/shudders.  Long story short, I slowly remember each box I transferred it from in each move, until I remembered where I put it in this house.  Once I had all the pieces together I finally put it in there as fast as I could.

I added in all the molding I could, but I ran out of molding for the kitchen . I still think it looks okay.



I fixed the stairs and wall too.  The stairs are a different orientation because I liked them better that way and eventually (hahahaha...) I'll rip out the bottom set and flip it to match.


We also wanted to finish painting it.  Eve didn't want anything but white for the top.  I wanted to paint the shutters, but Eve wanted them pink and I didn't.  We compromised; she got pink shutters and I got a gray roof.  Both of us loved the way eachother's decision turned out! 


The big kids hung out with me and even painted a bit of it too.


So here's the comparisons -



 
 

The front looks amazingly better, even without the porch. Building that will take some extra work because I want it stand separately from the house, since the likely hood of it getting broken off quickly is high.  Okay, I've babbled long enough, time to do important stuff...

Monday, July 8, 2013

Kindle App Promo Video



As I might have mentioned, my husband and I released Board Game Apprentice a few months ago.  It was a fairly exciting for us to go from hobby to paid software developers.  I was the 'lead software developer' so to speak, as I got to make the design decisions and lead development.  I also did the graphics.  My husband was the programmer, and graciously put up with my ambiguous directions.  He's a champ.

Sales haven't been great, I'd say mostly because the whole app market stinks.  So far we've sold about 30 copies.

::: Warning ! Rant ahead! (Feel free to skip) :::  It's frustrating because no wants to pay for apps.  At all.  In what other market is $0.99 considered expensive?  $1.99 super expensive? If I were to sell a children's book, most people would buy it for $5-$10.  If that book were an ebook, then people in general would be willing to pay $2 - $6.  Apps that are tied to books can get away with much higher pricing, because they're tied to something tangable that we already have [realistic] price expectations for.  (Character branding doesn't hurt either).  Yet, somehow, a more complex game/app that often requires just as much/more time and manpower has to be priced to nothing to get 'sales'.  As below, Monkey Preschool Lunchbox is aan example of  a cheaper, yet further developed app.



 Board Book - $6.25, eBook - $3.99, App - $3.99

 

Monkey Preschool Lunchbox - $1.99

I know, it's not just the buyers.  Developers haven't helped any either.  There are far, far too many apps that are worse quality than the OpenGL projects I did in college.  The 'look I know how to put a picture on a screen' programs.  They may be free, but they bring the expectations of apps down so much further.  There are many copycat apps of simple ideas, and just an over-flooded market in general.  Real developers had to combat this watering down of the market with other ways to get paid.  Sometimes reworking a game or idea to make it simplier, shorter and less fun, just so they can actually make a profit with it.  Or combat it with in-app-purchases (IAPs), paid extras, ads, demos and dividing one larger app into several small apps.  Personally, I hate IAPs.  You end up paying more in the long run and the incentive is often is making a pointless, addictive game go by faster!  You're paying to play the game less!  To me... that's lame.  Also, ads and IAPs can make an otherwise kid-friendly app unsuitable for children.  That's frustrating.

So that being said, we're trying to break the trend.  Sort of like the 'shop local' movement, we're joining a 'paid app' movement.  ::Country Accent:: We buy our apps fresh from the developer.

So... There will be no sneaky ways to make money in our apps.  You pay, you get the app in it's entirety.  Sadly, we knew that with this mindset, we knew the money we'd make back wouldn't come close to compensating the time it took developing it.  We pressed ahead anyway, as I did want this app for our own use at our house. It still hurts to look at sales though.

So, rant aside, I still think it's a good app.  And I do feel we need to promote it better.  Ah, yes, the point of the post. My simple 'lets make a promo with some video of the content' turned into, lets make a short film, staring my kids and featuring less than 10 seconds of actual content.  :)

We had fun, the kids loved it, and it turns out... getting clean video off of android is actually super hard.  We can't use the kindle, due to the 'virus blocking' they put into it, and the processer on the android phone we're borrowing gets taxed really easily.  So the screenshots screenvids are really kind gross looking, and not really representative of the app.  Thankfully we had already started the real life film by the time I found out, and it wasn't that big of a deal.

Enough blah, blah, blah.  Enjoy!



Alright, so the editing could use some work.  And the shaky hand in two scenes is my fault (I should have let Jon do all the filming).  But I love it!  My kids did so well!  Isaac especially surprised us, as he followed directions great!  Exclamation!

Here's the behind the scenes details -

Jon and I had a big discussion on the orientation at the beginning of the filming. Discussion = argument.  And as usual, we both convinced ourselves that each other was right, and had a second argument arguing against our original opinions.  (Please tell me we're not the only ones that do that.) We decided the film would be best set vertical because we are showcasing an app that is vertical and didn't want to shrink the most important part (the app). Also, most people would be viewing it through Amazon on a kindle/other mobile devices, and sideways looks just fine on those.  Funny thing is, 'vertical video syndrome' drives me nuts! And this was shot with a digital camera, so it was super deliberate too.

It was almost entirely filmed in the huge kids room.  It was wicked hot, so we were stuck upstairs w/ A/C anyway.  We bunked their beds a few months ago, which left us with plenty of open space and natural light.  Once we decided to film that day, we hurried to keep the lighting good and kids happy, so we dumped all the clutter in my room.  Complete mess.  I wish we had swept too, as you can see some crumbs on the floor in a few scenes.

I tried to make Eve look older by putting her hair back, and Isaac look younger by keeping his diaper cover exposed.   In retrospect, I wish he was wearing a diaper I had made, just because it's more personal, and I know this video will become part of our family memories.  Not a big deal though.  I hadn't really planned it, but I'm glad Isaac isn't really brought to scale in any of the pictures by his siblings.  He's quite big for his age, and Eli is small, so that could hinder my effort of making him look younger (he's 2 1/2, Eli 5 1/2).

The hourglass is actually two caps to our spray bottles, used for diaper changes.  We used construction paper to make it look more like the broken ends of our timer. It's a bummer we couldn't work in the real timer beforehand, so people knew what it was he was supposed to be smashing ahead of time.  I put in some cut up template plastic around so it looked a little more smashed, and then we filled them up with sugar.  Jon thought it would be funny if he was eating it, and well... it was.  That was the 3rd shot, and by that point, he was quick to get to eating the sugar, which is exactly what we wanted.

Getting the kids sitting down quickly was quite a challenge.  It's funny how awkward kids motions can be when you actually need them to move swiftly.  It explains the millions of cut scenes in toy commercials though.  We decided to keep the playing board and pad of paper out of the box because it took them too long to unload it.  Getting Isaac to get the dice out quickly was tough too, so I propped the dice up a bit with a rolled up hairband (everything was thrown together).  The dice he threw in the toilet was actually a wet square wad of toilet paper, colored on each side like the dice.

The boardgame I picked up on a whim at a recent homeschool curriculum sale.  Turns out, it's a really fun game.  We've played it several times already, so I was happy that was the one we picked for this production.

All in all, it worked well and was fun to do.  We payed the all the kids in M&M's, and they all left satisfied :)

And that's all the nitty-gritty I can muster!  Hope you liked it.