Last night I spent an hour or so discussing stage two of Perins School’s very exciting IF immersive learning project. With the key skills of creativity, logic and literacy highlighted, students were separated into small groups ensuring that each group had students with these skills. The students then played, mapped (drew the floorplan) and reviewed ‘Play ‘Things that go Bump in the Night‘ with one laptop per group (of course they can play on their phones – #TTGBITN is free on iOS and Android). The aim of this structure was to encourage discussion and collaboration, with further opportunities via the ‘course’ online forum, overseen by the teacher, managing, supporting, prompting and guiding their progress. IMHO reading and experiencing game play is hugely important for appreciating game structures and IF interactions and a great introduction to the genera. I will have to ask Gideon Williams how this first stage went.
I have Previously written about teaching IF and the temptation to dive in, only to find out you are in at the deep end and out of your depth. With more experience and lengthy conversation with other educators and Alex Warren, a would still recommend a ‘playing’ introduction, including mapping a game. However, from here I would do things a little differently, a little more visually.
Stage 2 – Introducing Game Design for IF
|Delivery Model x2|
|Step 1||Play IF|
|Step 2||Plan and draft (visual) game floor plan (keep naming conventions simple)|
|Step 3||Write a very basic game script outline including verbs, rooms, objects, basic interactions and puzzles (again keep naming conventions simple)|
|Step 4||Construct the game floor plan in Quest – providing a scaffold upon which you can write the room and object descriptions|
|Step 5||Learn to tell their story and also consider how the player ‘may’ interact with their game|
|Step 6||Code the game interactions and puzzles. There are plenty of mini lessons here, basically teaching as much or as little of Quest as is required to fulfil the plan|
|Step 7||Share and peer review and debug games|
|Delivery Model x3|
|Step 1||Play IF – Map, review and discuss|
|Step 2||Decide upon a theme, location and lead character / hero and villain*|
|Step 3||Draw out either a 1 room game or a 3-4 room game|
|Step 4||Design how the rooms are connected and interconnected|
|Step 5||Design the room puzzles, challenges, obstatcles and barriers|
|Step 6||Map where these operate and connect in the game|
|Step 7||Flowchart the pathway through the game|
|Step 8||Write room outlines and outline game narrative|
|Step 9||Introduce basic logic used to code the game interactions and puzzles|
|Step 10||Build the game and develop the puzzles, maintain the continuity|
A random generator* – use a randomiser accelerates the decision making process however it does restrict creativity and depersonalises the game. However when working in smalls groups, will you be able to please everyone? Have you got the time to let your student agree upon a creative project?
In reflection, I would spend more time modelling and mapping the game. This can then be followed by designing the puzzles and thinking through the logic, followed by a ‘draft’ of the narrative and then its time to build and write the game.
Tom Cole (@thesynapseuk)- Part-time science teacher, part-time video games design student.
Here is my interpreatation of Tom’s top tips for teachers desiging an IF game, rather than students but it still has some very good advice.
Decide on the scope of your game. If you make it too big then you’ll never finish it and that would really be a shame. If you make it too small then you may not get much of a chance to build up atmosphere/narrative etc. I decided that mine was going to be 4 rooms. The 5th room only got introduced as a way to deal with the dog blocking the entrance to room 2.
This is especially important if you’re still making your first few IF games. When you encounter problems implementing and polishing your game, if it’s that big then few people will have the motivation to finish! No matter how easy/difficult they think it will be to actually make, it will always be at least twice as hard as they thought it would be!
Keep your aspirations manageable. Flexibility is a key component to an effective IF plan.
Decide on your theme/purpose before you draft out anything. I decided I wanted a small game that needed science knowledge to solve it. But notice that I have never at any point said that it’s a ‘science game’. I’ve presented it as an ‘escape from the room’ kind of game. This is something else to keep in mind. Try to present it JUST as a game, and then the puzzles in it require certain types of knowledge to solve, which don’t need to be made explicit. To help strike a balance here I included various ‘hint envelopes’ around the game which have a science word on them (like, ‘pop test’, ‘metal and acid’, ‘desalination’, ‘exothermic’ etc.). These pointed towards needing science knowledge, but didn’t make it a ‘science game’. I think as soon as you make it /present it as an ‘educational game’ many people switch off. I’d like it to be a game that they enjoyed as a game first, and then learned something from as well, rather than the other way round (interestingly, Jo Twist has just mentioned this in her interview on Gamesindustry.biz).
An interest aspect of IF for students could be to develop an edu-game as described but its not essential.
If you’re doing character work, then you want to draw up a profile before you start. Even with details that don’t make it into the game. This will help that character appear more real – you’ll be more able to think about what they’d do/say from their point of view. My game doesn’t really have any substantial characters in so it wasn’t important, but it may be for the kind of games you’re looking to make.
One way to develop the game authencity is to develop the character or define ‘the player.’
That sheet on the second slide of the Prezi was the only thing I used to design this game! Before that I jotted down a few ideas for possible puzzles that I could use in the game. There is a puzzle that I dropped that involved picking up weights and placing them along one side of a ruler on a pivot so that it balanced (this is using the law of moments and turning force to solve it). This would have taken way too long to implement! I was never going to finish. As it is I’ve got more tightening up and polishing to do than I thought I would need.
Visual design seems a simple but effective design process.
This comes to another point – be prepared to allow your game design to change. As you implement it you come up against things which don’t make work, or things which don’t make sense when you actually put it in the game, or things that will just be too damn hard to do or will take too long (like the e.g. above). That doesn’t mean cop out on everything that’s difficult! But it’s worth baring in mind that a game design should NEVER be set in stone.
Flexibility rides again.
It may help them to write a walkthrough (think of it as a flowchart through the game) after they’ve drafted out their plan. This means they’re less likely to miss out anything when building the game. Later on of course they can put this in the game itself, but it will help to do it before building anything so they don’t waste time doing something they’d have to change at a later date.
It will help if they draw out their rooms (like I did) in the actual places where they will be. As if they’re drawing a map of somewhere. This will be important when they’re placing exits and writing descriptions of what’s in the rooms. I’d strongly suggest a graphical approach with written notes, rather then just a list of text which may make some visualisation tasks difficult.
So, there you have it. Think it, map it, design the puzzles, build it, write it and be prepared to change the plan.
Are making a shout on Twitter to any game designers we now have some leads…