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Get Your Programming on with Donald Duck –
Aku Ankka K.O.O.D.I.M.E.S.T.A.R.I for Sanoma Kids Media

Get Your Programming on with Donald Duck – Aku Ankka K.O.O.D.I.M.E.S.T.A.R.I for Sanoma Kids Media

The Challenge

Sanoma Kids Media publish the Donald Duck comic books, a staple for every child, in Finland. They were looking for a product that could use the Duckburg world as the hook for an educational coding game. The skill has been added to the national school curriculum in Finland, such is its growing importance in society. That’s when LudoCraft were approached to help. We were really excited to get to work with none other than Donald Duck!

Getting Our Ducks in a Row

Sanoma Kids Media wanted an innovative game that inspires kids to understand the basic principles of coding. We know that play is such an important part of every child’s development. With that in mind, we brought our game design expertise to the table to create a game that was equally engaging and entertaining. The concept we presented, Aku Ankka K.O.O.D.I.M.E.S.T.A.R.I, takes children on a comic book adventure.

Generating Coding Puzzles

There were two important aspects to the development process: creating a game that is in the true spirit of the comics, and making puzzles with the appropriate amount of difficulty. Based on the story Sanoma Kids Media had selected, we created coding puzzles that illustrate many different processes. As more puzzles are completed with the game, the more the story moves forward. We could also make artwork that was in the style of the comic books.

Get Coding with Donald

We invited families to our offices to test the game and took on board all the feedback that the enthusiastic testing crew of kids gave us. This helped us take K.O.O.D.I.M.E.S.T.A.R.I. to another level. It was an honour to work with Donald Duck, a character that is so beloved from all of our childhoods. Using his worldwide fame, we created a product that harnessed the power of play to teach children a valuable skill and let their imaginations run wild.

Coding Is the New Reading and Donald Duck Is Here to Lead the Way

Lots of us have learned how to read through the adventures of Donald Duck (known in Finland as Aku Ankka). The comic books are a staple in households across the country. Who among us has not spent countless of hours in the Duckburg world?

Coding is becoming an increasingly crucial skill in society nowadays. So much so that that it is now part of the national school curriculum in Finland. However, finding solutions that correspond to this new skill requirement in a way that is both educational and motivating is not the easiest of tasks. Therefore, Sanoma Kids Media, who are the Finnish publishers of the Donald Duck comic books, wanted to create an accessible, fun, and educational game for kids about the principals of coding.

They were looking for someone who could apply the mechanics of fun and captivating commercial games to a product that supports a child’s educational development. Additionally, this would supplement the coding lessons children get in school. That is when LudoCraft were approached by Sanoma Kids Media to make this idea a reality. Game design is our expertise, so we know how to make a concept engaging and entertaining.

Reading literacy and coding literacy are similar in that both enable kids to establish new ways of expressing themselves. It made perfect sense to us that Donald Duck – a character that has helped so many to learn how to read – would lead the way! We wanted to pay homage to the ingenious acronyms found on the pages of Donald Duck comics with K.O.O.D.I.M.E.S.T.A.R.I (translates as ‘Code Champion’). In Finnish the acronym stands for Kiperien Ongelmien Oikein Determinoitunut Ihminen Mainio Erityisen Sujuva Taitava ASCIIn Reipas Ihmelapsi. (Loosely translates as determined wunderkind who is skilled at ASCII).

Aku Ankka K.O.O.D.I.M.E.S.T.A.R.I.

A Coding Journey Through the Duckburg World

Our concept involved taking children on an adventure where the only way they could progress was by solving coding puzzles. As the game continues, the tasks gradually increase in difficulty. Once kids reach the finish line of their journey, they are presented with their own K.O.O.D.I.M.E.S.T.A.R.I. diploma!

The most important part of developing the gameplay was that it was age appropriate for its target audience. For the game to achieve this, the puzzles needed to present complex coding commands in an easy-to-understand format. To get us thinking on what would be most suitable, we took inspiration from visual programming tools. For example, Blockly, which allows users to create a simplified-looking code in the form of building block pieces.

As well as balancing the gameplay difficulty, we also had to keep the product’s aesthetic in line with the comic books. Sanoma Kids Media had selected a story that they wanted the game to be incorporated with. This also meant we could integrate some of the signature artistic motifs from the comics (speech bubbles, for example) into the gameplay.

Throughout development, it was incredible to see the growth of the game in tandem with the storyline in the comic. It was also a joy to make artwork in a style that we have recognised and loved since our childhood!

Key Features

The Formula Behind the Idea

The goal of the game is not all about teaching coding as such. Instead, the purpose is to show the logic that goes into coding, and get kids thinking about how it is used in the world around them. This is in keeping with the national curriculum in Finland.

Solving the Coding Challenges

We wanted to make learning fun and motivating. Therefore, the puzzles in the game are varied so that it entices and encourages multiple thinking styles. Using inspiration from visual coding programmes, we can present the puzzles in a way that’s faithful to the comic.

Learning Through Stories

The only way for the player to advance in the story is to solve the challenges they face. Likewise, learning through play is a big part of a child’s development. With that in mind, bringing together a rich story and a fun game is an extremely powerful combination.

LudoCraft Way of Working

The professionals at LudoCraft executed a great demo for us and reached the goals of the project regarding good project management, scheduling as well as the actual implementation of the project. It is safe to say that they delivered more than we could have hoped for or expected to get. I can warmly recommend the innovative touch and high-performing project work of LudoCraft for demanding projects.

– Ulla Hemminki-Reijonen, Director or Business Development, Sanoma Kids Media

Inviting an Enthusiastic Test Crew to Solve the Puzzles of K.O.O.D.I.M.E.S.T.A.R.I.

We wanted to make sure the end result resonates with the people who’ll play the game. This is a step that is crucial with any product development. With that in mind, we had the unique opportunity to invite a group of enthusiastic kids and their parents to our playful office. We often get told by our clients visiting our offices that they love it here. Additionally, we’re told that their kids would get a real kick out of the place with all the games, puzzles, consoles, legos and such.

We had a playable prototype of K.O.O.D.I.M.E.S.T.A.R.I. ready to be tested by the kids. So we brewed some coffee for the parents and listened attentively to all the notes our esteemed testing crew bestowed upon us. From there we were able to take the game to a new level, by refining and tweaking the gameplay.

This project was a chance to take a character who is beloved across the world and use his star power to make something that could inspire the coders of tomorrow. It was pure joy observing the brilliant young minds cleverly solve the coding challenge puzzles. It really proved the old wisdom of kids being our future.

LudoCraft’s background in game research gives us an understanding of how important play is for a child’s development. Through games, children can let their imaginations run wild, and they can also be highly effective educational tools. Kids are taught a valuable skill in K.O.O.D.I.M.E.S.T.A.R.I. but it’s not just about coding itself. Additionally, the game harnesses the power of imaginative and creative play to get kids thinking about what they are able to create in the wider world.

Want your own game solution? Get in contact!

Marja Kuipers