Tag Archives: Laser Maze

Ready, Set, Play…Online!

I recently sat down with Co-Founder and President of ThinkFun, Bill Ritchie to talk about ThinkFun’s newest offering, Play Online. This new and improved section of the site features thousands of challenges for some of your favorite ThinkFun games like Laser Maze, Chocolate Fix and Solitaire Chess. While talking to Bill, I wanted to get his thoughts on the future of digital and physical products and how learning can be incorporated.

 

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Co-Founder and President Bill Ritchie playing his favorite Play online game, Chocolate Fix!

 Q: ThinkFun is mainly known for their physical games; what inspired the addition of a more robust Play Online offering?

A: The Play Online program is very exciting because this is our first showing of a much larger idea that we’ve been working on for years.  When we launched Rush Hour in the mid 1990’s online versions of our games started to surface – some we supported and some of them were pirate knockoffs. What never felt right to us was an online game version where players only got to play a fixed number of challenges. That meant that players would play some and then leave, and we wanted them to keep coming back.

Our Play Online program is built as a BLITZ GAME, which means that each game comes with a reservoir of 1000 challenges, specifically selected by us. These are randomly served each time a new player comes to play a challenge; so they can play to their hearts’ content and never face the same challenge twice. Then we can put on our Admin hats and refresh the challenge reservoir with a new collection of challenges, so players will continually get a whole different ThinkFun gaming experience.

For each of the five new games in Play Online, we now have tens of thousands of challenges in our database. We continue to develop and refine to find which of these challenges are the most fun and which are the best to help you stretch your brain to build your thinking skills.

In terms of motivation, it was mainly us trying to give our fans what they wanted. We noticed players definitely wanted to engage with our games in digital form as well as in physical, hands-on logic puzzle form. We hope the end result is a “BOTH/AND” experience—a ThinkFun puzzle challenge experience that doesn’t just mimic our physical game play, but enhanced it in an inherently digital manner.

 

Q: What has been the reaction so far to the online offering?

A: People are definitely starting to find the Play Online section. It’s becoming one of our top pages! This feature is a great way for consumers to test our games out prior to purchase, so it’s perfect for the upcoming holidays.

 

Q: Which are the newest games? Which are updates or upgrades to older games?

A: Our newest Play Online game is Laser Maze, which has been a huge hit for us.  The physical version of the game sold out on Amazon at holiday 2013, is now selling better than ever on both Amazon and in-store at Target, nationwide. This is one that everybody really should try—we got the play experience just right with the Play Online version, all the brainwork plus a great payoff when you hit the FIRE button.

Screen Shot 2014 11 10 at 10.19.40 AM 300x195 Ready, Set, Play...Online!Rush Hour is our most famous game, and one that everyone seems to want to play in both physical and digital forms. We’ve updated this game so that it’s accessible to more people. We want everybody to experience the fun of getting lost in these wonderful challenges!

Solitaire Chess is worth mentioning here also. I describe it as “The distilled essence of chess” because it’s an exercise in both critical thinking and strategic thinking. Playing the online Solitaire Chess will give players a leg up at mastering the offline version of this marvelous puzzle.

 

Q:  Can you tell us about your plans for your digital games roadmap? What’s next for you?

A: We’re moving toward developing a more sophisticated set of digital challenges that will allow us to measure the effect on critical thinking skills in a more standardized manner. We want to help players to build mental models and to learn about the mathematical structures that underlie these puzzles. This wasn’t possible with physical games only, because we didn’t have access to how kids’ play progressed without a repeatable way to track their activity.

Coming in 2015, we will be launching our ThinkFun BrainLab Tournament Competition program along with ThinkFun University where we teach university level thinking skills to grade school kids. I’ve been working on this for more than 10 years now and it’s finally starting to come together. It’s all very exciting, and it really takes the ability to track progress to the next level.

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Q: For you personally, what is your favorite Play Online game by ThinkFun, and why?

A: I love them all but my personal favorite Play Online game has to be Chocolate Fix. We have put so much development energy and love into this one over so many years. Chocolate Fix is clever and fun, kind of like a mini-Sudoku style game, but underneath it is really just a manifestation of pure logical reasoning. In various experiments we have taught kids how to analyze the tree structure of a given challenge and also to understand different types of logical contradiction and how to describe your reasoning in the form of a mathematical proof. In one pilot program, we taught kids how to make their own Chocolate Fix puzzles that they could send out to their friends to challenge them. This was fun!

 

Feeling ready to give Play Online a go? Log on now!

 

 

Vote ThinkFun for Toy of the Year!

Exciting news here at ThinkFun!  The 2014 Toy of the Year (TOTY) finalists were just announced – and we have THREE nominees! We are over the moon about these nominations… and we need your help! 

TOTY 2014 lm war Vote ThinkFun for Toy of the Year!

TOTY awards are determined in large part by online voting – can you spare 3 clicks?!

 

The 3 Nominees (with links to vote) are:

Laser Maze – Innovative Toy of the Year

WordARound – Game of the Year

Laser Maze – Specialty Toy of the Year

 

As an added bonus, all voters are eligible to win a fabulous prize pack!  HUGE thanks for your vote and for your continued support of ThinkFun!

(Voting ends Jan. 13th.) 

The man behind the Laser… meet Luke Hooper!

Folks are getting fired up about Laser Maze! Since behind every great game are some equally amazing brains, I thought it would be fun to introduce the inventor, Luke Hooper! Luke also invented the award-winning strategy game Laser Khet 2.0, and he has done a brilliant job translating the fun of laser play to a solo logic game!

Laser Maze Inventor2 1024x768 The man behind the Laser... meet Luke Hooper!

Luke & Laser Maze strike a pose at Toy Fair 2013

So Luke, what inspired you to create Laser Maze? 

Luke: Anyone who has ever picked up a laser pointer naturally starts to play with it in their own way, regardless of age. Unfortunately, a lot of things in physics and math don’t translate to everyday life in a way that justifies how amazing they are, but with lasers, it’s exactly the opposite. There is a universal coolness to controlling this very focused beam of light.

I was a huge fan of puzzles and single-player puzzle games as a kid and never really outgrew the fascination. When it comes to packaging games with challenges that have a great blend of fun and substance, ThinkFun is the leader in the puzzle game market for a reason. The team worked tirelessly to ensure the final game fit their high standard to satisfy puzzlers of all levels.

 

What has been the reaction you’ve heard to the game? 

Luke: All very positive thankfully! Anyone who has played Khet or shined a laser pointer off of a mirror has felt the satisfaction and wonder of seeing a laser end up somewhere completely different than the direction in which you originally aimed. Add to that the natural satisfaction of solving a puzzle, and you’ve got double the payoff with Laser Maze.

 

What was the biggest challenge in creating Laser Maze?

Luke: It is really tough to make a laser-based game in real life because the laser follows real life rules (physics)! This means that everything in the game has to be aligned almost perfectly, with errors smaller than 1/10 of a degree or the game won’t work. Solving these problems goes beyond typical game manufacturing, so a master’s degree in mechanical engineering was a big help!

 

Are there benefits/skills resulting from game play that you find surprising?

Luke: The unique mechanics involved with splitting beams introduces a new type of logical thinking that draws people into physics, geometry, and reasoning that normally wouldn’t touch a puzzle game!

 

Haven’t seen Laser Maze yet?! Check out this quick how-to-play video:

Get FIRED UP for Laser Maze!

Laser 1004 HiRes ActionShot2 Get FIRED UP for Laser Maze!After months of anticipation, Laser Maze finally arrived last week – and the initial response has been incredible! A GeekDad writer summed the excitement up perfectly with this response to game’s arrival, “Oooh, lasers!”

Of all the game-lovers in my life to share this with, first on my list was my friend Billy. Not only is he generally brilliant (check him out in action on the TEDx stage!), but he also happens to be an aerospace engineer and expert in optics and aviation lighting… who could be more qualified to play with lasers?!

(Also – I owed him big time after sending the 36 Cube puzzle a few years ago and costing him a full sleepless night in finding the solution.) After receiving one of the very first samples this weekend, Billy and his 6 year old son dove right in. His report:

“Upon receiving an awesome gift of Laser Maze, we solved the toughest puzzles then did the obligatory double slit experiment. #opticspuzzlegames=heaven… [My son] and I investigated the beam divergence angle of the laser, as well as learned about transmission, translucence, and opacity. I’m pretty sure he will have a slightly different view of nature than many if his 6 year old counterparts…”

This last line made me laugh out loud – I have no doubt this little guy’s got quite the leg up with a dad like Billy. Unsurprisingly, having solved the hardest challenges, Billy wrote back hungry for “more diabolical challenges” …we’re on it!

Have you checked out Laser Maze? Here’s a quick how-to-play video to show you how it works:

Toy Fair 2013: Behind the curtain…

Each year when I tell friends – especially those with kids – that I’m headed to Toy Fair, the first response is generally, “That sounds AWESOME, how do I get in?!”

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Unfortunately for my game-loving buddies, this event is not open to the public. Learning the doors are locked tends to conjure up visions of top-secret toy meetings, tinkering elves, a massive toy workshop inside the Javits Center… the imagination can run wild!

I hope I’m not spoiling the magic by sharing the experience inside the ThinkFun booth…

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Welcome to the ThinkFun Booth!

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Laser Maze, available in May!

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I thought you said no outside visitors?! This brainy bird couldn’t resist playing WordARound during show set-up!

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The ThinkFun team, ready to roll!

Sadly no game-making elves were spotted this year, but we were thrilled to visit with some amazing  inventors who have created many of our great games… kind of the same thing right?!

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A familiar face! ThinkFun co-founder Bill Ritchie poses with his two toddler inventions: Roll & Play and, new for 2013, Hello Sunshine!

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Luke Hooper, one of the inventors of Laser Khet, stopped by to pose with the amazing new game he created with ThinkFun – Laser Maze features a REAL (safe) laser, we can’t wait for it to arrive in May!

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The Hebert Brothers are the brainy duo who created WordARound, we’re addicted!

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A visit from the inventors of UnHinged!

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The Costers are the inventors of the iconic Zingo Zinger!

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Steve Hayton, Turnstile inventor, visited ThinkFun to say hello!

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Yackety Smack inventor Roberto Fraga stopped by to play!

Despite auspicious beginnings (ahem, Snowstorm Nemo, I mean YOU!), 2013 Toy Fair was a fantastic show – The Toy of the Year Awards were a wonderful celebration to begin the festivities, and our 5 new games were so well-received – and we are looking forward to a terrific year!