Umi: The Coolest Girl in the Savanna

Everyone has that one friend; you know, the one with the coolest hair, most fun personality, and care-free attitude. Hey, maybe that person is you! If it is, then you will definitely find a kindred spirit in Umi.

Umi is a Zebra and the lack of water in the savanna is affecting her entire herd. She teams up with Arturo and the rest of the gang to solve the problem. Just like Esteban el Elefante, Umi represents a letter in the alphabet. When I say that it was hard to find a name that started with U, I’m not joking. I resorted to looking through name lists on the internet. I found the name Umi, which is a unisex game and has various meanings, including life and energy.

That is exactly what Umi brings to the table! She is vivacious, energetic, and a lot of fun. As with  our other characters, Umi has undergone a few transformations.

The first version of Umi from Learn Safari

The first version of Umi from Learn Safari

Usaid, one of our 3D modelers and consultants, designed this first version of Umi. I absolutely love her! She is just so cute. However, she looks very much like a baby. Umi needed to look more grown up. She also needed to be a little more realistic, so she could match the style of our other characters. When Vincent, our Head 3D modeler optimized Umi, he made some changes to make her look more like a real zebra.

Um from Learn Safari compared to a zebra.

Umi from Learn Safari compared to a zebra.

Comparison of the two versions of Umi from Learn Safari

Comparison of the two versions of Umi from Learn Safari

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the model was complete, it was Angie, one of our graphic designers, who had to make all of the textures for the model. If you remember from a previous blog, a texture gives a model its color and detailed feature. Angie had a bit of a tough time making the Zebra pattern fit precisely. That wasn’t the only difficulty with Umi. Thomas, our animator, then had to make sure Umi could walk and run (among other things). Being that she has 4 legs, she was a new kind of challenge for him. The hardwork, however, paid off in the end!

Final Version of Umi from Learn Safari - Side View

Final Version of Umi from Learn Safari – Side View

Final Version of Umi from Learn Safari - Front View

Final Version of Umi from Learn Safari – Front View

What do you think of our girl? Let us know in the comments below!

Besos,

Keli
Lead Spanish Teacher
Learn Safari
[email protected]

The Spanish Safari Kitchen: Where Everyone Kisses the Cook!

The heart of a home is usually the kitchen. Not only is it the place where meals are made, but it is also the area were families gather to share their lives. Arturo’s home is no different, and much of the family life (and the learning!) take place in this environment.

As a team, we wanted to create a warm and fun setting for Arturo’s family. We wanted a space that would be inviting for the users and a space that would be conducive for learning. Angie, one of our very talented graphic designers, sketched out the initial idea.  Angie Based her design upon the description of the kitchen in the lessons. She also included items to represent the vocabulary that will be used in the Spanish Safari lessons and added a few ideas of her own.

The Initial Sketch for the Spanish Safari Kitchen

The Initial Sketch for the Spanish Safari Kitchen


 The initial design above is what Vincent, our 3D modeler, based his work off of. Vincent modeled each item inside of the kitchen, using a program called Autodesk 3Ds Max. Once the 3D items were ready, Andrea (Our Lead Graphic Designer) and Daniel (Our Lead Developer) set the environment in Unity.

The Learn Safari Kitchen. Models Without Textures.

Angie then created the textures for the items. The textures are what give items their color and detail. Before they are applied, they look something like this:

Textures for a flower vase in the Spanish Safari Kitchen

Textures for a flower vase in the Spanish Safari Kitchen

Once everything (3D models and textures) were set in Unity,  the team had to go through and “optimize” the space, meaning they had to make it functional, while not having a high poly count (the number of polygons that can be found in a 3D model) which can hinder performance. The goal was to make models that look fantastic, but that won’t slow down the speed at which a game loads.

Vincent was even able to make some of the cabinets and doors open and close, therefore creating a truly interactive environment!

 

The Spanish Safari Kitchen with a model of Arturo in it.

The Spanish Safari Kitchen with a model of Arturo in it.

KitchenFinal2

The final version of the Spanish Safari Kitchen. A few more details with a pop of color were added.

Arturo and his family spend a great deal of time in the kitchen, therefore, the user will also spend a lot of time here. It is a great environment for learning vocabulary, and the user helps Arturo and his family make food, set the table, and even clean up. One thing that’s important to remember, whenever you walk in, you always have to kiss the cook! (Especially if it’s Mamá).

Besos,

Keli Garcia-Allen

Lead teacher and Cook

[email protected]

 

E is for Esteban: A Closer Look at Spanish Safari’s Favorite Elephant

Every kid needs a friend. If they are lucky like Arturo el Mono, they have a few great friends; and there is no better friend than Esteban el Elefante. Esteban is the adorable sidekick in our Spanish Safari game. He pops in just in time to help Arturo teach about the letter E and he becomes one of Arturo’s most loyal pals.

Esteban was one of the easiest characters to come up with. Wanting to teach the vowels, we were looking for a character whose name could start with the letter E. Esteban was the first name our Lead Teacher, Keli, came up with (it just so happens to be her father’s middle name). Even better, the Spanish word for elephant, elefante, also starts with an E. From that simple play on letters, Esteban el Elefante was born.

Esteban was one of the first characters that our 3D modeler and consultant, Usaid, came up with. We wanted a cute and lovable guy who would exude friendliness and trustworthiness.

First draft of Spanish Safari's Esteban el Elefante. #learnsafari #spanishsafari

First draft of Spanish Safari’s Esteban el Elefante. #learnsafari #spanishsfafari

This little guy is beyond adorable! (Some of our staff members certainly thought so). However, he seemed a little too young. This baby elephant might make a great little brother to Esteban, but he just looks far too young to be Arturo’s best pal.

We decided to make him appear a bit older. We gave him a larger body size and head, smaller ears and we even tweaked the eyes a little bit. At one point, we even tried glasses!

Spanish Safari's Esteban el elephant with black glasses.

Spanish Safari’s Esteban el elephant with black glasses.

Although Esteban’s proportions were a lot better, the glasses just made him appear much older than he was. Even though elephant’s are not known for their keen vision, their sense of hearing, smell, and touch (facilitated by their trunk) more than make-up for any need of glasses he may have. In fact, his ears prevented the glasses from even fitting correctly.

 

The biggest challenge, however, was getting his size right in relation to the other animals of the safari. Check out some of the photos bellow to see our “Esteban Evolution.” Trust us, you won’t find the photos “irrelephant.” (Oh I know, terrible, but just give me a break!)

In the picture below, you can see Esteban after the changes mentioned above were applied. Esteban looks older, but he is too small when compared to the other animals.

A line up of some of Spanish Safari's main characters. Esteban looks older, but he is too small when compared to the other animals.

A line up of some of Spanish Safari’s main characters.

Once we decided to make Esteban bigger, we overshot it a little. Esteban even had a hard time fitting in his classroom! So we decided to make him 15% smaller.

The whole gang is once again assembled. This time, Esteban is just too big. We decided to make him 15 % smaller.

The whole gang is once again assembled. This time, Esteban is just too big.

Esteban is having a hard time fitting into his Spanish Safari Classroom.

Esteban is having a hard time fitting into his Spanish Safari Classroom.

This is our final version of Esteban. You can see him hanging out with his other savanna friends. His body was made a little less round and some nice textures were added to make him look more realistic.

The whole Spanish Safari Vowel gang! Esteban has been finalized.

The whole Spanish Safari Vowel gang! Esteban has been finalized.

Esteban’s character is a wonderful addition to the Spanish Safari game world. He is a loyal and talented friend, who loves art and his family.  Although he is known for being a bit of a “scaredy cat,” he reminds his more impetuous friends of the need to be cautious when facing dangerous situations and he never leaves his friends behind. Hope you and your children will enjoy this lovable friend!

-The Learn Safari Team

 

The HQ

The World Explorer’s Headquarters serves as the recruitment office for new explorers and it also serves as home base for the User.

The HQ has gone through many transformations. We wanted to make sure we had an open environment that was high tech, yet visually appealing.

One of the earliest versions of the World Explorer's HQ

One of the earliest versions of the World Explorer’s HQ

An earlier version of the HQ with the acacia tree in the background

An earlier version of the HQ with the Acacia tree in the background

HQ with mountains in the background. But the ceiling looked structurally unsound!

HQ with mountains in the background. But the ceiling looked structurally unsound.

HQ Close up

HQ Close up

HQ at night

HQ at night

The Learn Safari HQ Computers

The Learn Safari HQ Computers

The Learn Safari HQ Stage

The Learn Safari HQ Stage

Learn Safari HQ Technology

Learn Safari HQ Technology

The latest version of the Learn Safari World Explorers HQ

The latest version of the Learn Safari World Explorers HQ

We have gone through a lot of changes. What do you guys think of the HQ? Let us know in the comments!

-Learn Safari Team

Image

Animals of the Safari

Safari animals are some of the most recognizable and popular animals around. We all love lions, hippos, giraffes, cheetahs, zebras, etc. When it was time to choose the animals we would feature, there really was no science behind it. Our main characters were chosen as result of the personalities we attributed to them and our personal experiences and/or views on some of these animals.

Our main characters went through a series of makeovers, but they are finally finished! Here we have a picture of the before and after. What do you guys think?

This is the original gang.

This is the original gang.

After the Fab Five got a more grown-up Makeover

After the Fab Five got a more grown-up Makeover

Arturo, the monkey, is intelligent, friendly and honest. Oscar, the lion, has the heart of a warrior. Esteban, the elephant, is clumsy and scared, but loyal to a fault. Isabela, the giraffe, is friendly and lovable. Umi, the zebra, is the coolest girl around.

A lot of time and effort went into creating their personalities and modeling the characters after what we imagined in our heads and what we put down on paper. Our background characters, however, were a little different. We came up with a list and animals you would typically find in the African Savanna, and gave the list to our talented 3D modeler, Vincent. Check out some of his awesome work below:

chame                  señora serpiente


Señor Leopardo
Goldfish

The models he created are wonderful, and some of them were bursting with personality. As the story unfolds, some of these take on a life of their own. As we write these lessons, we find inspiration in the scenery and characters we create. The process is becoming more organic (and more complicated!) as we don’t merely dictate the visual aspect of the game, but the visuals inspire and drive the story.

What do you think of these characters? Stay tuned as we will bring you guys more updates on the rigging and skinning of the characters and the voices that bring them to life! Thanks for keeping tabs on us!

Saludos,

Learn Safari Team

The Spanish Safari Game World

Spanish Safari takes place in the western plains of Africa. This semitropical biome is characterized by open grasslands with a smattering of trees and is home to some of the most beloved animals in the world. Lions, zebras, monkeys, rhinos, antelopes, and giraffes are just a few of the animals that call the African Savanna home. There are two seasons in the savanna; the rainy and the dry season. The animals and plants of the savanna have adapted extremely well to these periods of rainfall and drought.

We wanted to make sure we could create a beautiful and functional game world to enchant and entertain children, while making it conducive to learning. We hope you enjoy!

ArturoHome

The acacia tree is one of the most iconic trees of the savanna and it was in one of these trees where we chose to make Arturo’s home.

Arturo at the bottom of the Monkey Tree playing games.

Arturo at the bottom of the Monkey Tree playing games.

The Zebra Plains.

The Zebra Plains.

LearnSafariRiverByVillage

The river by the human village.

 

¡Adiós Amigos!

It All Starts with Arturo

We started this project with two ideas in mind: we wanted to teach Spanish to young children and we wanted to center the project around the idea of going on a safari. Safari is the Swahili word for journey and our goal is to take children on a journey in which they can become more familiar with the Spanish language.

One of our first thoughts was that when going on Safari you would need a guide and we found the perfect guide in Arturo. Arturo is a young monkey (a Vervet monkey to be exact)  who lives in the African Savanna. Arturo is friendly, brave, intelligent, and willing to do anything for his friends and family.

In our initial discussions regarding Arturo we knew what his personality would be like. However, we didn’t really know what he would look like. He has gone through a few design changes and evolved from a really goofy looking guy to a cute character we have come to love.

Arturo's two faces
We thought Arturo should have big eyes and ears to make him cute. But, how big is too big?

Arturo Version 1

This Arturo was a little goofy looking to us!

Chunky Monkey

This little guy seemed more like Arturo’s little brother (more on him later) than Arturo himself. So we kept him on the back burner. We made a few changes to this guy, and we finally had Arturo!

Now Thomas, our amazing 3D animator, is working on bringing Arturo to life. Check out the video below to see him in action.

We really love Arturo and we hope that kids and parents will love him to. In order to finish bringing him to life, however, we need to find Arturo’s perfect voice.  We’re still on the hunt, but we will make sure to keep you guys updated.

See you guys in the savanna!

-Learn Safari Team

Welcome to Our Blog

¡Hola!

Welcome to our blog! We are Learn Safari – a team of teachers, designers and developers from around the world who are working to change the way children learn. Our first project; Spanish Safari, teaches young children (5-10 years old) Spanish in a fun, interactive, and intuitive way. Children are hardwired to learn languages and we wanted to make a learning system that would capitalize on their natural abilities and on their love of games.

Spanish Safari is seeking bright young kids to help The World Explorers on a mission in the African Savanna. Jason Digby, the Head of the WE, is ready to take on some new mentors and has found the best guide in Arturo Mono, who will guide your child and teach him or her Spanish throughout the mission.

The purpose of this blog is to share with you our process. We will keep you updated on the creation of Spanish Safari, our wacky designs, gaming strategies, approaches to learning and even some of the crazy antics of our team. We hope that you enjoy the process as much as we are enjoying it, that you will share with us your thoughts and ideas, and that we can bring to you the best that we can possibly offer.

Jason Digby, Head of the World Explorers Organization

Jason Digby, Head of the World Explorers Organization

Arturo el Mono, our guide!

Arturo el Mono, Our Guide!

The World Explorers Headquarters

The World Explorers Headquarters

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Arturo With His Friends In The Savanna

Besos,

The Learn Safari Team