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Solvd enthusiasts created a game about COVID-19

Due to the threat of the coronavirus, Solvd, like many others, switched to remote work back in early spring. The pandemic has become the main subject in the professional life of employees: many have relatives working in the healthcare sector. First, we donated money to the Ministry of Health fund and then decided to create projects that could benefit people. This is how the educational game about the coronavirus Cowidy and the medical workers support platform spasibo.live appeared.
Posted by Aliaksei Barushka
August 6, 2020
Hackathon for social projects

The idea to arrange an online hackathon sprouted when employees shifted from the office life to the remote. Registration was on until Friday evening, and from the moment it was closed, the participants had time to develop and present the concept of the social project until 7 pm of the next day.

The winners were chosen by C-level executives of the company. After that, each winning project received a curator.

Such a classic hackathon, especially of a social nature, was our first time. The company has a practice of holding TechTalks every 2-3 weeks, where we share our knowledge. Also we have an annual ElevatorPitch, where each of the employees can present their project, and the company subsequently helps in its implementation. Before our social hackathon, we haven't worked on game-projects, for the team, it was a whole new experience and challenge for everyone.
If it happened that the team did not have enough expertise to implement the project in one direction or another, we could additionally involve in the project the guys who initially did not participate in the hackathon, but could help to implement the idea.
Lera Kuhareva
HR Manager
Such a classic hackathon, especially of a social nature, was our first time. The company has a practice of holding TechTalks every 2-3 weeks, where we share our knowledge. Also we have an annual ElevatorPitch, where each of the employees can present their project, and the company subsequently helps in its implementation. Before our social hackathon, we haven't worked on game-projects, for the team, it was a whole new experience and challenge for everyone.
At the hackathon during the brainstorm, we studied foreign solutions and tried to adapt their practices, but first of all, we focused on the problems and difficulties with COVID-19 in our country. We were inspired by the heroism of Belarusian doctors. My wife is a medic and I know what doctors have to endure during this period. We wanted to create something that could support them.
Andrei Barashkau
PHP Developer
Role reversal and a challenge

At the end of the hackathon two projects were chosen for implementation: an educational game for children Cowidy and a platform for medical workers support spasibo.live. The development process was often outside working hours, and the implementation took about a month. Some employees had to change their usual roles.
When the question of implementation came up, I immediately fit in, although I had little experience in game development. What for? Apart from the topic relevance, it is also a technical challenge and bootstrap of tasks in a new team. This format was a good experience exchange and I managed to get acquainted with people in the company. Of course, it is useful to change the focus for brain training and new sensations. The feel of drive is addictive and it affects the performance of each member in the team.
Maxim Golokhov
Android Engineer
Lera Kuhareva: "I was a game designer on these two projects. Although I work in the company as an HR manager and have never dealt directly with the development of a real product. For me, it was a very cool challenge. I had to start from scratch and we were short on time. I studied all the literature that could help in my work. Youtube, Sloperama and Habr became my constant companions. It also helped that I used to play casual games and had a basic understanding of general mechanics. It was an important practical experience that I can now apply to work and communication with engineers."

Cowidy and kids assisting in the development

We decided to create a product that would help children to understand why it is important to observe the rules of hygiene. What adults should do is pretty much clear, they talk about it everywhere. But how to explain to kids, why it is necessary to wear masks and wash hands more often? That's how the idea of a game with a cow as the main character was born. The plot of the game is as follows: Cowidy noticed public places are closed and many people are sick because of the pandemic. She decides to save everyone and fight the virus. Each level is dedicated to one of the basic rules of hygiene: do not touch your face and eyes, wash your hands, wear a mask.

After each level, there is a strip cartoon, which explains to the player the next steps and develops the plot.

Lera Kuhareva: "We've realized that most of us have preschool children, and it's very difficult for them to get the idea of self-isolation and why can't we go to our grandmother's and why we shouldn't 'pull' our hands to the face. Children are learning better in a playful way, the game engages them and helps to memorize the information. That's how our Cowidy, a non-serious but charming game character, came into being to solve a serious problem."
Maxim Golokhov: "It's a great association. As I see: a "cow" is in tune with a "covid". Next, mental pictures of the cow reminds us of a village, grandmothers, grandfathers, milk, which is associated with health."

Lera Kuhareva: "We made Cowidy especially for children and took into account their opinions and interests. That's why we tried to rely on the way our children perceive the world when creating each level of the game and choosing the complexity. When the first sketches were ready, we showed them to our children and asked to tell us how they saw it and what they liked. The children's imagination is limitless, it's not a problem to make up a story from a picture or add some new action to the story for them. And while they were fantasizing, we wrote down their ideas and then discussed with the team how we could implement them. You could easily say that game-designers and beta-testers of the game were our children."

Medical workers support

The second project that was implemented after the hackathon was the medical workers support platform. To collect all the words of gratitude in one place, we decided to make spasibo.live. It is an aggregating resource written in laravel, which collects posts with hashtag #благодарюмедиков (eng. Thanks to medical workers) from social networks. All of them are automatically moderated on the portal to exclude ads, there is also a system of banning certain accounts by ID. This helps to filter unwanted or irrelevant materials from getting into the feed. Now the team is working on extending the portal's functionality and adding a psychological test.

Andrei Barashkau: "For me personally, spasibo.live was not a changeover. It was a usual development. Of course, I had to communicate with new people, the social importance of the project added enthusiasm."
Lera Kuhareva: "spasibo.live is the second social project, which was born within the social hackathon. The main idea is to show doctors that society sees and values their hard work, to support them morally in such a difficult period, gathering in one place all the kind words of gratitude from people. There are lots of separate posts in social networks, which can get lost in the feed. We wanted to create a place where all these posts form a big mutual "Thank you". Now we see that there are enough visitors on the site. The amount of gratitude posts is growing and this is the most important thing for us."

Maxim Golokhov: "I was involved in the development of both projects. My child is 6 years old, my wife is a doctor. The child was explained everything about hygiene, but it is not enough. What is the best way to consolidate acquired knowledge? Through something bright, emotional, catchy - the game."

Book design is the art of incorporating the content, style, format, design, and sequence of the various components of a book into a coherent whole. In the words of Jan Tschichold, "methods and rules upon which it is impossible to improve, have been developed over centuries. To produce perfect books, these rules have to be brought back to life and applied."
Front matter, or preliminaries, is the first section of a book, and is usually the smallest section in terms of the number of pages. Each page is counted, but no folio or page number is expressed, or printed, on either display pages or blank pages.
Maxim Golokhov: "Medical work today is a separate big topic because they are at the frontline. It is important to show that we understand and appreciate their work. The development of the Cowidy project required immersion in a new toolkit, language and generally in a few new to our concepts. I attended several courses in game development in parallel. Almost every day we had online meetings and calls, where we were coding in real-time, experimenting and debugging animations. Here we must pay tribute to the multi-platform engines (in our case, Unity). We made the most of the codebase on all three platforms. Now children can play on the website or download the application from Google Play."

Our team developed versions of the game for iOS and Android. Apple refused to publish the game because of the subject matter. This strongly demotivated us, many even lost their hope to pass the Google Play review.

But after the Solvd team elaborated and decided to make a web version containing a history of the game. While adapting Cowidy for the web, Google gave us the green light. Now children can play on the site or download the application from Google Play.

The game is and will continue to be free. We plan to update it with new levels and functionality, as well as improving spasibo.live is on our agenda.