A challenging journey – The origins of Boken

Road surrounded by nature

Throughout 2020 we had to face a lot of challenges, so at the beginning of 2021 we were more than ready to face a new one, which resulted in Boken Engine. This time in the form of a new project, something none of us had ever been asked to do before. The idea was to develop a software around which we could build a community, following the Open Source foundations and its four core freedoms:

  1. To run the program for any purpose.
  2. To study how the program works and change it to make it do what you wish.
  3. To redistribute it.
  4. To distribute copies of your modified versions from others.

For this we established a multidisciplinary team, made up of developers, and business consultants all of us working remotely, based in Germany and Spain.

Within the team we had many years of experience in the design and development of digital products but never Open Source, so we were eager to learn from this new project and document our trip into the unknown.

But before going any further, let’s give you a bit of background information. The groundwork of the project was done a few months ago. In an earlier phase, most of the team worked on the development of a software product that would eventually evolve into Boken Engine.

In that preliminary phase, the objective was twofold:

  • On the one hand, we wanted to create an iOS Game engine for 2D multimedia slides-based games, with several elements characteristic of Point and Click adventures.
  • On the other hand, we wanted to publish the resulting game in the App Store.

We managed to develop a fully functioning application called “15 facts of the Universe” but in the end could not publish because it was not approved for the Apple Store. The Apple Store’s rejection message: “…the usefulness of your app is limited by the minimal amount of content or features it includes.”.

After several months of work, this drawback not only did not discourage us, but also provided us with some lessons that would be particularly useful to move forward with the second phase, and that’s how we started Boken.

To begin with, we refactored the software to convert it to a framework to make it more versatile, giving the possibility to create new applications based on a fully configurable multimedia content (adding text, sound, and images).

Boken thus became a tool that allowed us to create different types of applications and games. In addition to this we developed new functionalities that would take the possibilities of the framework further and enrich the applications resulting from using it.

In parallel to the technical development, we started researching about different practices on common Open Source projects. We learned about the best practices and the recommendations on how successful communities have been managed to attract and involve users committed to a common goal. We also learnt about Open Source licensing, business, and commercialization models, in addition to community contribution management and governance models.

The whole process is documented and it’s available on the project’s GitHub repository, so that anyone interested in joining us can check how we progressed and the different things that we looked at on this road.

Something worth mentioning too, is that our regular weekly meetings to review our progress helped us to continuously improve, getting valuable feedback for further development, both in building the software and in building the community.

In this way, we feel that we have made consistent progress on several useful new features for the future, and we can state that Boken is currently ready to be used by anyone interested in creating their own applications, games, and presentations.

At this moment we are working on a demo project to showcase the real power and features of the framework. It is a visual novel styled as a Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) books, set in an Epic Fantasy world, and geared towards a young adult audience.

We are open to receive new contributors interested in participating both in the development and improvement of Boken and in helping us to work on the demo. Are you interested? Go ahead and check our GitHub or Website to know more about it. Also check out our company project page to see more of the things that we do.

We’d love to have you onboard!