Tamagotchi Livin’ the Tamagotchi Life: Electronic Game
Pressman approached the toy invention team at IDEO and asked us to design a Tamagotchi game. The game needed to be appropriate for children ages 7 and up and be played in about 20 minutes. The game would also feature a central electronic device that would act as a randomizer. Above all, the game must incorporate the key elements of Tamagotchi.
Design and Development Process
To start, I bought a Tamagotchi and actively took care of my little guy. I also explored the Tamagotchi website and researched into the license on fan pages. The next step was to play, play, play every relevant and non-relevant board game I could find with the other toy inventors. We played everything from Pretty, Pretty Princess to a football simulation called Battle Ball. In fact, Battle Ball was one of the main inspirations for the board layout of the Tamagotchi game.
We presented Pressman with three different concepts for the board game experience. These were 11×14 renderings of the board game layout with descriptions of the electronic device’s functioning with high level gameplay details. Once Pressman chose a direction, it was time to make playable prototypes!
I used dice to prototype the electronic randomizer, printed out my board layouts and used placeholder movers from existing games. Once I had a solid direction, I created a functional prototype of the electronic randomizer in Adobe Flash. This Flash prototype was also used at the International Toy Fair to demonstrate the game to buyers like Toys R Us and Target. After much play testing, tuning, board redesign and more play testing we were excited about the gameplay experience.
We then worked with the overseas manufacturers to design, spec and prepare the electronic device for manufacturing. This was an interesting challenge and a huge learning experience. I had to create a system to convey the information to the manufacturers who did not speak English. Every minute detail needed to be specified – any mistakes might have caused us to miss our holiday deadline. I ended up creating a series of flow charts with number-coded pixel art layouts, sound FX file names and the timing between each frame of the animations. It kind of felt like programming in pictures! When the manufacturers made progress, they would mail the prototype to me for feedback and then I’d mail it to Pressman for their feedback and then back again to Asia!