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Bob the Builder: Can-Do Zoo Developer Interview

Game: Bob the Builder: Can-Do Zoo
Company: Brighter Minds

Game Vortex had the opportunity to speak with Jody McLain, VP of Operations and Marketing for Brighter Minds Media about Bob the Builder: Can-Do Zoo and here's what she had to say.

GV: First off, tell us a bit about Brighter Minds, and about your role with the company. We're especially interested in how you've been involved with the creation and release of Bob the Builder: Can-Do Zoo.

Jody McLain: Brighter Minds Media is based in Central Ohio. We have over 20 employees; mainly comprised of authors, artists, marketers and sales executives creating a very creative and supportive environment. The whole team focuses on growing the business by selling product in non-traditional outlets. Of course, we also sell in traditional brick and mortar retailers and online in "box" form. I lead the Online Games and Publishing group that chooses our Licensing and Development partners.

I've been withCan-Do Zoo from conception to reality. In this business, every step in the process is intertwined with the next. I'm so proud of Bob the Builder Can-Do Zoo!! It is everything we imagined it would be.

GV: Tell us about the decision to release Bob the Builder: Can-Do Zoo as a download title, and with developer Gamelab. Brighter Minds works with several huge brands in the family entertainment space; why was Bob the Builder the first one you chose for this experiment?

Jody McLain: The idea behind Can Do Zoo was to take the number one children's preschool property and pair up with Gamelab, the creators of Diner Dash, to make a branded children's game with extraordinary content. We wanted to deliver a game with high production values AND a major brand. Adding Macintosh compatibility and the ability to play in Spanish was important to us because we wanted to include as many users as possible.

GV: The fun games contained in Bob the Builder: Can-Do Zoo have a strong learning component. How was this built into the game, and who did you work with to make sure the gameplay was tuned to the correct age range?

Jody McLain: Since 1998, our company's main focus has been making educational games, so the age compatibility and components were not new for us. We wanted this game to feature new critical thinking, problem solving, and object classification skill sets rather than traditional ABC, 123 learning. We review updated curriculum standards regularly to stay current for Can-Do Zoo, and all our "edutainment" games.

GV: What suggestions do you have for parents that want to help their kids get the most out of Bob the Builder: Can-Do Zoo from an educational perspective? Do you have support resources on your site directed toward parents?

Jody McLain: The biggest way for parents to help kids is to use this as a chance to spend time together having fun. The educational component of our games is mostly transparent. We also have a weekly newsletter with parenting tips and craft for the whole family and more content is added daily. Our site also has printables, like coloring sheets and workbook pages for parents to download for free.

GV: The audio portion of Bob the Builder: Can-Do Zoo contains both English and Spanish dialogue. What was the rationale for choosing Spanish as the alternative language, since Bob the Builder doesn't seem to have the same cultural cross-over as other shows like Go, Diego, Go! or Dora the Explorer?

Jody McLain: Spanish is the 3rd most spoken language after English and Chinese. While Bob isn't distinguished as a "Latin Culture" product, we feel that fun and learning are universal. In a nutshell, kids are kids!

GV: What were some unique challenges you faced in creating Bob the Builder: Can-Do Zoo that you had not encountered before with boxed software and other games?

Jody McLain: It was difficult to add as much video as we had wanted since we needed to keep the file sizes to a minimum. We know that young children have a shorter attention span so we focused on the narrative - help Bob build the Bobland Bay Zoo. Another strategy was using Orbital technology to cut down on the time from download to actual play time.

GV: Have there been talks with other Brighter Minds licensed brands that you may use as the basis for download titles?

Jody McLain: Of course!? The key for us will be to make sure the games are fun for the age group and include the educational component for the brands that make sense.

GV: The so-called "Casual Gaming" genre is a crowded space. What will you do from a Marketing perspective to make sure that Bob the Builder: Can-Do Zoo isn't lost in the crowd? Will there be cross-promotional efforts with HIT Entertainment and PBS Kids?

Jody McLain: Since this is the first Bob the Builder online game, there will be a lot of online support and buzz built for the game. The brand, content and production values are outstanding which will help the game stand on its own.

GV: What are your favorite things about the final product that you hope kids will notice as they play? What are the things you hope their parents will notice?

Jody McLain: Fans of the show are loyal so it was important to us that we used the official Bob the Builder voiceover talent for both the Spanish and English builds. My personal favorite part of the game is probably the sticker mode, because for every level you complete, you earn a free sticker and then you get to use all of the stickers that you have earned to create your own scene in the sticker book. It lets kids be creative with their favorite characters.

GV: What else would you like our readers to know about this exciting new release from Brighter Minds and Gamelab?

Jody McLain: Can We Build It? Yes We Can!

-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

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