Corona Takes a Swim with ‘Sparky the Shark’

Sparky the Shark
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Corona Labs is proud to bring you the story of Sparky the Shark, by Biscuit Interactive®.

This beautiful children’s eBook won our App of the Week award in May 2012 and is a great example of the high-quality, interactive experiences that can be built with Corona SDK.

Read more about Sparky and Biscuit Interactive in our interview with the creator and co-author, Mark Newell!

What’s your background as a designer?

I have worked full time in the Graphic Design, Web and Multimedia industry for 20 years. Before starting my own creative design studio in 2000 called Biscuit Interactive, I was involved with character development with Mars Confectionery (including the famous M&M characters) and developed innovative creative design, web and multimedia solutions for many large brands in Australia and overseas. Our studio, Biscuit Interactive is solely owned and operated by myself and my wife Paula, who is also a designer. We are both responsible for all innovation, design, development and production work created in the Biscuit studio. We are a small but formidable creative duo who are often mistaken as a large studio and we pride ourselves on our innovation and early adopting strategies. These are fuelled by my desire to innovate using the new technology-driven disciplines of web development, Flash animation, and 3D modeling/digital illustration.

My love of drawing has always played a strong part in my life and I hope to spend more time developing a series of Sparky and Dax adventures.

Given your deep background in character development – what inspired Sparky’s character and the storyline of your book?

Sparky is a character I dreamt about one night many years ago. Since then, he’s been a part of my life. Sparky was someone I could relate to, being a shy and awkward child myself, I knew how difficult it was to fit in and I’ve always been fascinated with sharks. Sparky is a manifestation of my own lack of self-esteem and my fascination for sharks. Amazing how dreams can create beautiful amalgamations. For many years, Sparky continued to whisper in my ear, begging for attention but the thought of developing a book and dealing with publishers was all too daunting and undesirable. Sparky took a backseat for a while, until the day I saw the iPad and I knew there was an opportunity to self-publish. That’s how the book began. I already had a lot of the framework developed as well as the morals and themes of the story.

Can you give us a handful of examples of morals and themes found within the Sparky the Shark story?

  1. Sparky is no ordinary shark, he can walk amongst us ‘humans’ because of his special breathing-bubble Dax made for him.
  2. Sparky isn’t accepted by people even though he’s very special and kind. People don’t like him coming onto the beach.
  3. He is misunderstood and it makes him exceedingly sad.
  4. He’s also a vegetarian and prefers eating seaweed sandwiches.
  5. He tries to change how he looks in an attempt to be accepted and liked. He doesn’t realize that people think he is there to hurt them.
  6. I also knew the story was going to be funny but have important messages throughout. I really wanted children to laugh.
  7. I liked the idea that it was obvious to the reader why the people were frightened of Sparky. Yet we followed Sparky, supported him, and laughed with him on his journey of self-discovery. The book has many layers and poses many questions but one thing prevails; being truthful and accepting who you are.

Was Sparky the Shark your first eBook?

Yes, Sparky was our first eBook AND book. This journey has taken me on a very steep learning curve – lots of late nights illustrating, learning and developing. The focus was to create a marketable brand, not a one-off shallow book, rehashed fairytale or budget production. I focused on creating a book and story I would be immensely proud of as an indie developer and incorporated rich and interesting elements through the story, plot, characters and illustrations. We focused on offering the best quality possible on a shoe-string budget, developing a captivating plot, interesting and zany characters and a story with heart. As an artist, having a toolbox of great software helps bring that vision to life but it has to start with great ideas.

How did you first hear about Corona?

I’m very proficient in Adobe Flash and was looking for something similar or compatible to develop a storybook app. I discovered Corona while doing a bit of research and felt drawn to its functionality immediately. The idea that I could create a storybook app that could be used on iOS and Android platforms was also a bonus.

Why did you decide to use Corona to develop your eBook?

I initially downloaded Corona SDK and experimented for a few months, playing, testing, and dabbling with game code and learning the basics. I was blown away with its ease of use. I discovered some amazing apps developed with Corona getting traction in the app stores and developer community. I didn’t want to produce an OK eBook, a boring ‘real book,’ or a poor book adaptation. If I was going to do it, I wanted to commit as much of my time as I could and invest money into a project; I wanted to know without a doubt that the software platform I chose would deliver what I desired. Corona did this and much more. After committing to Corona, I began searching for Corona third party plugins and came across Kwik. Kwik added to my excitement in the possibilities for Sparky the Shark. A match made in heaven.

We’re glad you agree that Corona and Kwik make a great combo for designers. Tell us about your experience using Kwik in developing the eBook.

Kwik was a crucial tool in building Sparky the Shark. For someone like me who’s more at home with visual things, being able to move objects, swap layers, and add hotspots and navigation quickly and easily without looking at lines of code was a massive benefit. Alex, the creator of Kwik, was 100% supportive, innovative and always willing to help. Like Corona, he’s always madly developing and improving his software so you feel like you’re at the cutting edge of something big and new.

Are there any Corona-specific features that you found particularly helpful in building your app?

The Corona Simulator and ability to build a development version to an iPad were awesome features. It was very comforting to know that the book would look great on the final device. The experience was invaluable and helped me gain many new development skills and techniques.

Have you used Corona to create any other apps?

No, we have yet to develop any other apps, although we hope to seek opportunities with publishers and authors to develop another Sparky adventure in the future.

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Mark!

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