December 10, 2019

MVP launched for local city penpal web app

Vlad Shulman @vdizzle

Read local news and get invited to hangout with people who like reading similar stuff

demo gif

web app link

Functionality deployed in MVP:

  • access app via official hi5 url, but only my current city of Troy,NY is live
  • code system (playcanvas) communicates with no-code system (bubble)
  • gameplay involves earning points by clicking on cat or physically shaking phone (if using mobile browser)
  • points are used to participate in local news articles
  • choose branching narrative choices for articles (provides data for compatibility model)
  • write comments about the articles (admin manually sends letter to other users who might be compatible)

Next steps:

  • update landing page
  • start social meetup group for Troy / Albany to start acquiring first users
  • reach out to local university professors who might be open to letting me run a pilot user group with their students in exchange for me giving a talk on using no-code tech stack
  • find journalism experts to provide advice for sourcing interesting local stories

Thoughts on this update:

  • Finally finished integrating my game with a no-code wrapper; overall I'd use this tech stack again because Bubble plays nicely with stuff that can be embedded into iframe through postMessage logic.
  • I ultimately chose PlayCanvas over Unity because PC publishes into really small file formats (my final game was ~2mb vs unity games that are typically >30mb), so the webgl game runs nicely on web browser. Unfortunately the learning curve was immense because PC has limited tutorials & community engagement relative to other game engines.
  • The gameplay is...weak (I'll be the first to admit), so after several failed attempts at creating games I admitted to myself that game development is an art that requires subject matter expertise. TBD on partnering with game developer. Despite the weak gameplay, I think the idea of using "gameplay" might be an interesting alternative to the typical "endless scroll" / facebook/twitter designs commonly used today.
  • I also like the implementation of the "interactive story" for news; it chunks an article into bite-size pieces, and provides interesting analytics for which parts of a story appeal to a particular user segment.

Tech stack used:

  • PlayCanvas: 3d assets, camera movement, click/touch recognition, javascript
  • Bubble: 2d interfaces, database, account management
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