An app-titude for Maths

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Winprovise founders Walter Wong and Tim ChewWinprovise founders Walter Wong and Tim ChewMathgician’s deceptively simple gameplay is winning fans in unlikely places and Chew (left) and Wong are proud of their innovation.

At first glance, Mathgician – a mathematic app its creators call a “casual and fun game” that offers real-time interaction between players – seems deceptively easy. You are faced with a game board with 5×5 grid featuring a whole set of numbers. On top is a mathematical equation that you have to solve: A + B = a given value (C).

Your job is to find, from the grid, as many combinations of A + B that equates C. So, for example, say C is 15, then you will have to hunt on the grid various combination of numbers that will equal 15, for example 10+5, or 12+3, etc. Easy, right? Not so fast.

For one thing, the numbers on the grid are entirely random. And the second thing is, you have to battle the clock, and other players. And finally, to really put the screws on you, gamemakers Walter Wong and Tim Chew have thrown in a “magic” curveball, where you can cast a “spell” to freeze your opponents for a set number of seconds. Yes, evil has a name and it’s Winprovise.

Business Circle met up with Winprovise founders Wong and Chew to find out what makes them tick and why Mathgician’s deceptively simple gameplay is winning fans in unlikely places.

Wong says he got the idea to come up with a mathematic game app about two years ago, but due to work commitments, only started pursuing it diligently from the beginning of the year.

Mathematics for fun

Mathgician

Mathgician

“It took us three to four months to develop and fine tune the app. From the beginning, we knew the game would feature mathematics in a fun way, but we wanted something extra – a hook – and we decided to tag it with magic. Once we finalised the magic part, it gave us a whole new direction to turn to.”

Up till then Winprovise dealt mostly in consumer apps, and this was the company’s maiden foray into the world of gaming.

The boyish-looking Wong, 33, says he first met Chew a decade ago at the Malaysian Independent Developers (MIND) community. Finding a shared interest in exploring their creative side by developing apps, they embarked on a working relationship five years ago.

Both Chew and Wong, who are Microsoft MVP award recipients, decided to build a start-up leveraging on the support from Microsoft BizSpark program and Winprovise was the result.

Wong also expresses his gratitude to Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC) – Winprovise was a participant of MDeC’s ICON programme which was established in 2009 to facilitate the development of the local content industry – for helping the duo with their marketing efforts.

The company also has other apps in its stable, including a popular feng shui app called Reli (meaning Good Day in Mandarin), but hope to break new ground with Mathgician.

“We used the Hackerthon event in Kuala Lumpur in May as a platform to launch the app, and managed to generate good buzz. The app won a ‘people’s choice’ award,” says Petaling Jaya-born Chew, who is a fan of 80s’ retro games such as the turn-based strategy computer game, Taipan!

Having studied computer science in Western Michigan University, the 40-year-old Chew says he did work on games after university, but “found it tiring and difficult to compete with the major publishers”.

“But now with the mobile platform, you can get a sense of gratification that your game can be developed and find an audience,” he adds.

Mathgician is available on the Windows 8 platform via the Windows Store, and has so far garnered over 4,000 active players.

Winprovise held several Mathgician competitions since then to introduce the game to people, including at the Application Lifecycle Management User Conference 2014 on May 28.

Different platforms

Why Windows 8 and not, say Android or Apple iOS?

Wong says Windows 8 is available across various platforms, including mobile, tablets and personal computers, and as such has a potentially wide reach. Plus, as developers, they are familiar with the Microsoft ecosystem.

He also explains that using Facebook login (ostensibly for authentication purposes, though this does pose a problem in certain countries such as China) makes it easier for the developers to keep track of players and statistics.

The game presently has three levels of difficulties, though there are plans afoot to increase this, along with having costumes and new power spells for in-app purchases (in the next version, scheduled for year-end).

“When we launched the game, we expected that parents would find it fun to compete with their children as a way of bonding with them. But we were also surprised by the fact that so many of the hackers – the geeks – got hooked on to the game. It brings out their competitive streak as they don’t want to be outdone by their friends,” says Wong rather gleefully.

Mathgician will be available in the iOS platform at the end of the year, while Android users will have to wait till between the 1st and 2nd quarter of 2015 to play the game.

As for the all-important monetisation aspect of the game, the guys are looking at advertisements and online in-app purchases.

In the meantime, they are busy marketing the game, and recently took Mathgician to the Tokyo Game Show (MDeC sponsored them) which is one of the major events in the gaming calendar.

“Now that the game is gaining traction, we will devote time and more resources to marketing. We will also be tweaking the game based on feedback to make it even more interesting,” says Chew.

If Wong and Chew play their cards right, they could well be counting their way to success very soon.

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