Recently, however, Unicorn tried their hand at making eBooks for the iPad. And it seems like they’re doing something right — their first endeavor, the Corona-created Rabbit and Turtle’s Amazing Race, recently hit #6 on the App Store’s top free eBooks list!
We talked to creators Mark Sigal and Alex Mostoufi about making the leap from games to educational apps, and how Corona helped to ease the transition.
To start things off, what’s your background as developers? What coding scripts and platforms have you worked with?
Alex: My history of development goes back to early web when CGI and Pearl were the hot stuff. Fast-forward, I adopted many different scripting languages as technology progressed, but for the most part LAMP has been my best friend.
Mark: I have built apps targeted at networking and manageability in embedded systems, where we were working with ANSI C on the target side; and a rapid application development app that we built first using Borland Delphi, and then using Microsoft Foundation Classes. In recent years, I’ve built services that are LAMP-based. Currently, we have one team focusing on Corona and another on cocos2d.
Last time we spoke to someone at Unicorn Labs, it seemed like the company was more about making straight-ahead mobile games.
Now, with Rabbit and Turtle’s Amazing Race, you’re making educational apps that could have a profound impact on children in their earliest stages of learning. Quite a heavier bit of responsibility, wouldn’t you say?
Mark: Truth be told, the first six months of the business, we focused on two things: One, was building great, functioning product teams. On that front, we have now shipped 10 titles in under a year (with two more pending). The other thing we focused on was doing stuff that we felt like we have something worthwhile to add to the mix.
In the case of eBooks, we’re parents and we’re writers. We are fortunate to have a great illustration and audio capabilities, anchored by a narrative and design sensibility. In the bigger picture, the goal is about getting to our “signature move,” and we feel like we’re well down that path.
Did Corona help ease the transition to educational apps for Unicorn at all, especially when it came to designing (and possibly even testing) intuitive apps for a much younger audience?
Mark: Having built our first Corona apps (Astro Junk HD, and free iPad, paid iPhone and free iPhone derivatives), we had a pretty clear sense of the workflow from wireframe to runtime. We felt that the rapid, iterative nature of Corona would allow us to create a visual, audio rich and touch-active world, and that’s exactly what we realized. You could demo the product with a small child, and incorporate the feedback in the next build.
Alex: The development effort was two months. We put a lot of energy into fine-tuning our products. So, do expect some updates to the existing released product most notably, more fun interactive elements in the story.
From a business standpoint, is Corona helping you at all on the monetization front, as far as maintaining high app quality and quick-as-possible build times is concerned?
Alex: Yes, bingo! That is one thing we love about Corona: you get what you see. It’s very consistent across different devices, and trust that the end result is going to work, therefore we can spend most of our energy on the idea and creativity extensions.
How does Corona stack up to the other kits in the Unicorn Labs development toolbelt?
Alex: We use many products across the board, but a key distinction in favor of Corona is the human touch. During mid-development process on Rabbit and Turtle’s Amazing Race, we ran into potential showstopper issues. You guys totally stepped up. I always say that you learn more about a company when things don’t work as expected than when everything is running smoothly.
And we’re glad to have been part of the process. Thanks for talking to us, Mark and Alex!