IDEO: Toy Invention
Three toy inventions created by Painting with Ideas
As a member of the Toy Invention team at IDEO, I came up with countless ideas using the Painting with Ideas exercise. Tetris 360, Little People Klip Klip toys and the Tamagotchi Boardgame are three examples of those ideas that made it to market.
Product: Tetris 360
Tetris 360 adds one simple mechanic to the well-loved Tetris game – gravity detection. The player twists and turns the device to control the direction in which the Tetris blocks fall. Unlike other Tetris games, the blocks can be dropped on all 4 sides. Instead of spawning from the top, the Tetris blocks spawn from a rectangle located in the center of the screen – the player's goal is to clear lines of blocks before they get stacked too high.
Controlling for cost
The project was sparked by the popularity of the Nintendo Wii and gestural controls. However, one of the biggest challenges in the toy industry is keeping costs low. The use of accelerometers were prohibitively expensive. In order to get aboard the gestural gaming bandwagon, we had to invent toys using inexpensive and rudimentary sensors like the tilt sensor. Tilt sensors take much longer to detect position and can only detect two directions each.
Choosing the Tetris license
To begin the ideation process, I referenced the top games in multiple genres including board, card and video games. I explored how I could make each of them work in a stand alone handheld device, with a b/w LCD screen, and the rudimentary tilt controls. I found Tetris to be a perfect fit – it already uses gravity as a core mechanic. The challenge here was to figure out how to make tilting an integral part of the Tetris gaming experience.
Designing the interaction
I explored the possibility of allowing the blocks to drop on all 4 sides of the grid. I made paper prototypes with Tetris grids to work through the game experience. I moved on to creating a flash animation so I could work out the interactions of line clearing and block movement. Next we made a playable proof of concept prototype in flash using keyboard controls. It was so much fun!
Tetris 360 provides gamers an entirely new spin on a classic game.
Gamers twist the handheld device to control where the blocks fall.
Tetris 360 made it through Mattel's rigorous invention submission process and was sold in toy stores, game stores, department stores and more. Later, Mattel extended the 360 line to the Uno and Pictionary licenses as well.
Product: Little People Klip Klop Toys
The Little People Klip Klop toy line brings the joy of horses to life. When children place any of the horses on the ramps, they magically "klip klop" or trot down the ramp to their next destination.
The Fisher-Price Little People Klip Klop Disney Princess Stable is the largest playset in the Klip Klop toy line.
Sometimes all it takes is a fresh perspective on something tried and true to make a brand new success. The idea for Klip Klops was sparked by a wooden ramp walker toy that I had as a young child – it's just a straight ramp with a wooden character on hinged legs. I remembered how delighted I was to watch and listen to the character make it's way down the ramp.
Bringing back a classic
Since I hadn't seen anything like this in the market, and girls love ponies, I thought this might be a good opportunity to modernize a classic. The biggest challenge was prototyping the mechanics of the walking ponies and the textured ramps that they would walk down.
The Klip Klop line of toys were a huge success during the 2013 holiday season and came in multiple different themes and pricepoints.
Product: Tamagotchi Boardgame
Tamagotchi Livin' the Tamagotchi Life! Electronic game challenges players to compete in mini games to be the first player to grow from egg to adult. The game features the electronic Tamascreen randomizer that tells players everything they need to know to progress through the game.
Initiating the project
Pressman approached our toy invention team and asked us to design a Tamagotchi game. On top of incorporating the key elements of Tamagotchi, the game needed to appeal to children ages 7 and up and be played in about 20 minutes. Lastly, the game needed to feature a central electronic device that would act as a randomizer.
Playing for inspiration
To start, I bought a Tamagotchi and actively took care of my little guy. The next step was to play, play, play relevant and non-relevant board games with the team. 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.
I presented Pressman with three different concepts for the board game experience as digital renderings with gameplay overviews. Once we had a direction, I moved on to prototyping. I used pen, paper and dice to simulate the electronic randomizer and I printed out different board layouts. After much play testing, tuning, board redesign and more... we were excited about the gameplay experience.
Collaborating in multiple languages
With the final game design locked in, I started working with the manufacturers in China to develop the electronic randomizer device. This was an interesting challenge since the developers did not speak english. I had to create a system to flawlessly communicate pixel-level details – any mistakes might have been disastrous for our holiday deadline. To solve the challenge, I created a series of flow charts with number-coded pixel art diagrams, sound FX file names and details of the timing between each frame.
The Tamagotchi board game hit its holiday deadlines and was manufactured just in time for the season. It’s a neat little game for those enthusiastic with the Tamagotchi license!