Blog Post

Ecobugs: Designing game characters with help from players

The challenge in designing the bugs for EcoBugs has been creating new exciting and engaging species that remain linked to real world bugs. 

From a gaming perspective I wanted the bugs to be crazy and fun, and from an educational perspective they needed to enable pupils to identify them and link the to real species. 

The way we achieved this was by getting lots of the right people involved in the design process. Designers, Kids, teachers and entomologists, all helped make sure the designs were going in the right direction.


Entomologists input

The entomologist gave us some rules to design by. Arachnids have 2 body parts and 8 legs, insects have 3 body parts and six legs. 

Beetle with 2 body parts and 6 legs  Spider with 2 body parts and 8 legs

Different rues were set based on habitats. e.g. dark areas have ugly bugs with small eyes light areas have quick bugs with large eyes. 

We were also given three basic rules for bug colouration: Camouflage, warning and mimicry. Some of the bugs we designed used these rules were taken to the extreme, like the cammo print snail, the beetle with a toxic sign on its back and the bug that mimics a bottle top. 

Camouflage snail  Warning beetle  Mimic bug

Although these bugs wouldn't exist, they still teach the reasons why bugs are coloured the way they are, how they adapt to different environments and how you can tell different types of bugs apart.


Teachers input

One of the important things for the teacher is to be able to relate our bugs to real world examples. So we used real bugs as a starting point and went from there.

Warning ladybird  Ladybird

The warning marks on this beetle a based on the bright colouring of a ladybird, which is toxic if you eat it


Kids input

The kids input was to determine 2 things. Do they like the bugs? and can they tell what type of bug it is?

The feedback we got was great, they, liked the design but what was more interesting was when they started classifying each bug.

We provided them with a list of questions to ask like how many legs? how many body parts? When they were asked why it was coloured that way it seem to spark questions from the kids. Sometimes they werent sure or had their own ideas about why bugs were coloured a certain way, which is great.

The idea behind this game is not to reward players for right or wrong answers but to get the players to discuss what type of bug they think they have found and come to a common conclusion, and our bugs seem to be encouraging that. 


A reiterative design process

Input from all these great sources have been constant and reiterative. Using workshops, feedback sessions and quick testing sessions has been vital for creating cool little bugs that meet all the requirements of all the end users

Watch this space for more designs and animations.



1 comment

Steve, what a great post. Ecobugs has done such a good job of documenting the process of game development, and it's helpful to see how iterative the feedback loops are. The lady bug looks awesome!