Is the Mouse Dead?

July 22nd, 2013

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Earlier this month, the inventor of the computer mouse, Douglas C. Engelbart, passed away. His contributions unquestionably altered the future of computing for the better, but since hearing the news of his passing, we’ve been contemplating if the “death” of his famous invention might also be imminent.

Like many others, we’ve been thinking a lot lately about the future (or lack thereof) of desktop-specific gaming for kids. With Flash-based browser games a huge part of our portfolio, it’s in part a hard pill to swallow that there might not be a long shelf life for this content as it continues to come against tablet competition. We’ve even noticed in kid testing on both computers and touch-screen devices recently that there’s a huge divide, with younger users struggling to understand the mouse, and even attempting to swipe and tap the computer screen.

In response to this shift, we’ve been doing a lot more work over the past couple of years creating device-native apps and porting Flash content to apps via AIR. This has allowed us to repurpose existing content that might otherwise become obsolete as the paradigm continues to shift toward touch devices. More recently, we’ve also produced a lot of projects in HTML5, including a website, as well as several games and activities (all of which are launching in the fall). While we were initially hesitant about the limitations that HTML5 would put on design, animation and audio, we’ve been continually surprised with how quickly the technology is evolving to allow for engaging games that are playable across platforms. We’ve also been trying to push the boundaries of what’s doable as much as possible to make great games that meet our (ridiculously high) standards!

We’re excited to see how this technology continue to evolve, and whether or not desktop browser-only games will be a thing of the past before we know it…

Introducing iRead

July 3rd, 2013

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Back in 2011, we partnered with Scholastic Education to help develop groundbreaking reading software for K-2 classrooms. Scholastic’s had tons of success with intervention software for older students who have struggled with reading, so the natural next step was to create a product for younger audiences and help prevent reading ability gaps altogether. The big challenge was creating a property that would engage the K-2 audience. Enter CloudKid!

Over the course of nearly two years, we collaborated with the team at Scholastic to create iRead, an interactive, character-driven program that takes place at Beastie Hall, a school for monster readers-in-training. With Scholastic, we developed the IP, designed the characters and backgrounds, created an avatar system, made an animated program opener and designed dozens of interactive activities that reinforce reading lessons. We put a ton of work and creativity into this program, and we’re so excited that it’s finally set to launch in classrooms across the country in fall 2013!

We were lucky enough to observe a pilot of the program recently. Kids seemed to love everything about iRead, and watching them enjoy and learn from something we helped create was amazing to witness. We can’t wait to share more on this exciting project closer to launch!

It’s What We’re Into: June Edition

June 20th, 2013

Last month, we brought you a couple reviews from some of the crew here at CloudKid HQ in a new post we are calling “It’s what we’re into.” Well, it’s about that time again, so check out the write-ups below to get an idea of what type of media we’re digging in the month of June!

A Youtube Channel!: The Piano Guys

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We’ve gotten really into The Piano Guys, a group of rising YouTube stars who make beautiful music videos. Starring a cellist and a pianist, they put their own spin on pop favorites as well as classical pieces, often combining new and old styles in creative ways. We love how the instruments themselves are used creatively as well; many of the percussion sounds are made using cellos! But the stellar music is only half the picture: every Piano Guys piece is released with its own video. They take pianos to extraordinary locations, like the cliffs of the Grand Canyon, and create lovely imagery that combines with the music to make for a breathtaking experience. We’re hooked!

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Apple Shakes Up iOS with Redesign

June 13th, 2013
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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!

Pixar Pops

June 11th, 2013

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Last week, the The Boston Pops played a very special show that we had to check out. Pixar in Concert featured key scenes and moments from all thirteen Pixar movies synced with live music played by the incredible Boston Symphony Orchestra. Being huge fans of Pixar and soundtrack music, the work of Pixar composers such as Thomas Newman (Finding Nemo and Wall-E), Michael Giacchino (The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and Up) and Randy Newman (Toy Story and Bug’s Life) was even more inspiring in person; we were especially moved by Michael Giacchino’s theme for UP.

Sitting there, we were reminded that an army of musicians create the emotional backbone to Hollywood’s most iconic moments. With so much digital music playing in our earbuds nowadays, it was helpful to witness the sheer magic of a live orchestra and understand the physicality and beauty of the art form.

The Pops makes orchestral music very accessible to the masses. So, if you’ve never been, we highly recommend it. We guarantee there are few things as moving and inspiring!

More Exciting Nickelodeon News

June 6th, 2013

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As a follow-up to our post a couple weeks ago, we’re super excited to announce that we’ve begun production on a second original pilot for Nick Digital! We’re honored to be working with one of the biggest leaders in kids’ entertainment on these pilots, and are particularly proud to be collaborating with such an innovative group within Nickelodeon. Part of our excitement is also due to the fact that our two properties are really different from one another: one is focussed on world and story building, and the other is pure ridiculous, physical humor. We can’t wait to share both pilots with you all later this summer!

Donut Thursday

May 30th, 2013

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Some people think Fridays are the best day of the work week. At CloudKid we say, “No way bro, Thursdays are the best.” Why? A little thing we invented called Donut Thursday. Yes, Donut Thursday is as simple and magical as it sounds—every Thursday, we have a sampling from one of Boston’s best donut bakeries such as Olihn’s, Linda’s, Union Square, and of course Dunkies. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “hey, aren’t you the guys that produce Fizzy’s Lunch Lab?”. While that is true, even Fizzy can’t stand between us and our donuts. Sorry.

Modern science has proven that there’s nothing quite as yummy, artery clogging and morale-boosting as a donut, so we have fully embraced our new tradition with open arms and mouths.

Donut Thursday is here to stay.

Xbox One, Gamers Zero

May 23rd, 2013

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As you’ve heard by now, Microsoft announced their next console, the Xbox One, earlier this week. Certainly a hardware upgrade from the 360, the Xbox One was supposed to be the next great thing to come from Microsoft, as gamers tuned in from all over the world to watch the live reveal on Tuesday. We expected promises for greater graphics, revolutionary gameplay, new franchises, basically anything and everything gamers wanted to see in a new console, especially one meant to rival Sony’s PS4.

Instead, we were served a glorified cable box.

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Nickelodeon Digital Short

May 17th, 2013

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We know we always say we’re busy with exciting work, but this time, we REALLY mean it. It’s been a crazy packed spring here at CloudKid HQ, and it’s shaping up to be an even busier summer. We’re thrilled to announce that one of many exciting projects we’re working on is our first short pilot for Nickelodeon Digital. With all of the exciting coverage recently about Nick’s app and shorts, we’re pumped to be working on our first project with them at such an innovative time.

We wish we could share more about the project, but just trust us that it’s going to be worth the wait! Stay tuned!

It’s What We’re Into

April 29th, 2013

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As artists, creators and producers, we love any and all types of media that come our way. From video games and books to movies and web series, it’s often from this very media that we draw our inspiration. So in a small shout-out to the things we love, we thought it would be cool to give you a glimpse of some of the media that the folks here at CloudKid are really digg’n in the month of April.  We’ll be posting more updates like this in the coming months in a feature we’re calling “It’s what we’re into”.

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