How to play the Willowdale game

Belle and Megan
Belle and Megan, characters in the game

Willowdale is a game I made with my kids where you can explore our neighbourhood.  You can read more about how we created it in  Creating A Game.

The Game

You can access the game at


  • Arrow keys to navigate
  • Enter key to advance dialog
  • Move your character to the ladders to move from one map to the next
Ladder to move to another screen

Hints and Things to See

We’re not gameplay experts – if you want to explore, disregard the following.  However, if you just want to see what we’ve implemented, you can check out the following:

  • Walking into the kitchen at 55 Ellerslie will trigger dialog
  • Walking into the patio stones in the middle room of 55 Ellerslie will take you to Candyland
  • From Candyland, you can walk into Belle the fairy’s home.  Walking near Belle in her home will trigger dialog

Creating a game

The kids are always drawing characters and writing, and I was wondering – could we use this to make a game together?

It turns out, we can.

Scene from Willowdale
Scene from Willowdale

I’d guess in about 30 hours, we’ve put together a small world where:

  • The player can wander around our world
  • The kids have both drawn characters that appear in the game
  • My 7 year old has designed a couple of maps
  • Together with my 7 year old, we have written some dialogue
  • I figured out how to build out some simple logic, connecting scenes

First, I looked into various game making tools.  I ended up using Stencyl, the first one I tried.  I checked it out first because the free version is limited only in that it only allows you to publish your game to the web (as opposed to desktop or mobile versions), and, for me, a big bonus was that it runs in Linux.

I was really impressed, and would recommend it to anyone thinking of doing something similar.  There is a small library of assets you can use in your game, adding logic is similar to logic blocks in Scratch.

I did get stuck in a couple of places:

  • The recommended system for character dialog is not built-in, and instructions for installing it were hard for me to find.  I posted a question to the Stencyl forum, and the extension’s author sent me a link to the Stencyl Dialog Extension installation instructions within a couple of hours
  • I struggled adding the extension to my game – someone has put together a Dialog Extension Youtube Tutorial which helped out
  • Other small things – usually when I create something, with a little searching, I can usually find answers pretty easily on Stack Exchange.  I found it harder to find answers my issues with Stencyl, and spent more time trying different things – I think, largely due to a smaller development community

It wasn’t until we started that I realized how much effort is required to put together the artwork for a game.  It is one thing to scan in a drawing of a character, but another to create drawings of the character from every perspective, such that it is animated as it walks across the screen.

At this time, it’s not much of a game – just a small world to explore.  But it was fun to put together – you can check it out here:


Fish Feeder Project – Part 1

My 7 year old recently acquired a fish bowl with a betta fish.

Apparently, the PLA plastic used in 3D printers doesn’t degrade significantly in a fish tank, so I started looking for aquarium decorations we could print.  And I came across a design for a fish feeder:

I started modifying it to accommodate our fish bowls.  She asked to help out, so I suggested she do a sketch of her design.

Rachel Fish Feeder Sketch
Rachel Fish Feeder Sketch

Her design has a timer, and uses a suction cup to attach the feeder to the bowl.  I was skeptical, but she found a suction cup and demonstrated it would stick to the curved wall of the bowl.

I then set her up with Tinkercad.  Here’s the 3D model she made of her design:

Rachel Fish Feeder - 3D Model
Rachel Fish Feeder – 3D Model

Our fish feeder is still a work in progress, we’ll post pictures of our project when it is complete.