Nova Scotia

Take a trip around Halifax with new app from Ukrainian-born developers

Serhii and Anna Otroshchenko didn’t know much about Halifax before moving from Lviv, Ukraine. When they arrived in July 2018, they couldn’t believe Halifax wasn’t as well-known as Toronto or Vancouver.

Mobile game aims to teach tourists and immigrants about what the city has to offer

Hali Drive was released by Otro Games last week. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

Serhii and Anna Otroshchenko didn't know much about Halifax when they immigrated from Lviv, Ukraine, through Canada's Express Entry program. They knew the two cities were about the same size and had a similar climate, but beyond that the port city was a mystery.

When they arrived in July 2018, they couldn't believe the Canadian city wasn't as well-known as Toronto or Vancouver.

"We were really surprised when we moved here. There is like a gorgeous city, it's a seaport, and it has so many advantages," said Anna Otroshchenko. "We said, why is it not so popular? Why [do] our parents not know about Halifax? Why [do] our friends not know about Halifax?"

Anna Otroshchenko has a varied background, ranging from law to I.T. to recruitment. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

After settling in their new home, Serhii and Anna Otroshchenko decided to start a business together. They called their mobile game development company Otro Games, an homage to their shared name.

Serjii said Otro also means "different" in Spanish, and that's what they strive to do: make games that are different than what's already out there.

'Drive' or 'dive' with popular Halifax vehicles

Their first title, Hali Drive, was released last week. Users can play on land or sea, as a well-known amphibious bus or the ever-recognizable blue and white ferry.

Collect coins to unlock interesting facts about Halifax, or custom Halifax-themed skins for your vessel — donair and lobster, to name a few.

The couple said the game is intended to be fun and educational, and promote Halifax in a way that hasn't been done before.

Serhii Otroshchenko has a decade of experience developing games and wanted to turn his hobby into a job once he and his wife moved to Canada. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

"Since we like Nova Scotia and love our city, we thought that everybody should know about it," said Serhii Otroshchenko. "That's the main idea — to engage a new audience through the game and motivate them to visit Halifax."

Because the game is targeted at immigrants, tourists and international students it's available in half a dozen languages, including English, French, Hindi, Russian, and simplified Chinese.

Anna Otroshchenko said they'll be translating it into more languages soon, like German, Spanish and Filipino.

Users can "drive" or "dive" and collect coins to spend on Halifax facts or Halifax-themed skins for their vehicles. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

One of the biggest challenges for the couple so far has been promoting an app that's not free.

Hali Drive costs about $2 or $3 in the app store, and Serhii Otroshchenko said people aren't always willing to pay for an app even if it promises no advertisements.

"Currently [the] gaming industry pushes us to make all products for free. But we believe that our trigger to know more about your city through the game is worth it," he said.

Now that the development stage is complete, the couple is working on marketing the game and getting the word out.

"Have fun and let's make our city more popular together," Anna Otroshchenko said.

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