lördag 2 november 2013

Level design and effective teaching

I want to catch the player with a hook in the first level but it also has to be simple enough to understand in 1-2 minutes. All this while preparing for more information to be presented in a smooth way.

I want the first level to present the 'whole game' in the first level. So that the player will understand generally what the game is all about.

In the first level I've almost decided to have the player:

Make a neuron out of an embryonic cell
Connect the neuron to a micro-robot
Stimulate the neuron to make the robot shoot
Inject genes into the neuron to develop pain-reception (nocireceptors)
Defend the neuron and embryos against bacteria

I've read a book called "Beyond barbie and mortal kombat" which is a bunch of texts written by different
authors about gaming and gender. I want the game to appeal to both boys and girls, this is hard. The book doesn't present many solutions except having girls in the developing team. I haven't got a hold of any motivated girls so I fail at that point. One text in the book proposes to divide gamplay in masculine and feminine since many girls can like "shooters" for example. I recognize the tower defense gameplay to be classified as "masculine" and will probably appeal masculine players mainly. Hjalmar came up with the idea of having "puzzle"-levels where you think a bit more and that may be a bit less masculine. I also want to show the player a good story (relationship development) since that seems (accoring to some parts of the book) appealing for feminine players. I don't know how well we will pull this one off but we'll try our best. I'd love to have more people with a feminine playstyle on the team. I will definately push to have 50% of testers have a feminine playstyle.

So I am going to put some energy to come up with a simple puzzle and incorporate the story into the first level. Then maybe switch back and forth between playstyles, maybe giving the player the choice of which to use.

There are alot of cells doing alot of stuff
I've thought about having a bilogical "warfare" on the threats to bacteria and such instead of having nano-robots. As I researched immunology today and I got so much info... It's to much to work with right now. It's interesting though!

So I think we'll stick to neuron, micro-sized bots and maybe glial cells.

What I really like to incorporate is my ideas about how to facilitate learning. I like Ebbinghaus forgetting curve and I think that one can combine that with making a network of associations between knowledge.

In order to make the new knowledge usefull and memoriable, I want the player to be able to think about it when outside the game and be able to find everything she has experienced in the game.

I believe that memories are formed through connections between neurons by processes like LTP (Long Term Potentiation). We make new connections/associations and the stronger the connection the more likely it is to fire "when you need it". I want the player to get the knowledge and be able to find any knowledge in her network (brain) at any time. So in order for that we need to present the knowledge in a structured way that is easy to navigate through, a way that works good with the natural processes of the brain.

For example:
We present the term "polymodal nociceptors" and we tell our student that it's what we use to experience pain. If this student doesn't know much about the elements that makes up the words and the context it is used it can be very hard for her to remember what it was used for. The connection could just be from this set of letters and sounds to the fact "we use it to experience pain".

Different chemicals stimulating a polymodal nociceptor
If we on the other hand prepare our student with some knowledge this can be easily fixed. We tell her that "poly" is the word for 'many' (http://www.etymonline.com). Like polygon has many edges and polygyny is having many wives. We try to connect this word to different exiting knowledge the student has so that she has greater chance of getting the knowledge when she need it. You may know that innocuous means 'harmless' and in this case 'noci' means harm. We tell her about what a receptor is and we also tell her about modality. In this case we have a "nociceptor" that reacts to many different stimulis; heat, touch and chemical substances. The richer the painting the easier it is to remember, in fact presenting a picture, sound, smell, touch and other things makes all this stuff allot easier (but that's another part of memorization). This is actually quite obvious but I feel that we aren't paying enough attention to the existing knowledge in students when teaching them new stuff. I am no teacher so I don't know what goes on inside their heads but I often feel like I'm supposed to take care of painting the picture myself. Which is fine by me but we could do so much better! And with algoritms that learns what a learner know and doesn't we can present data on a silver platter.

Is knowledge a part of success or success a part of knowledge?

I don't know exactly how to implement this everywhere yet but I see a bright future. In our game we will see to it that we use the Ebbinhaus forgetting curve or other curves so that repetition occurs at the right place. We will try to connect as much info as possible to real life situations and knowledge already existing in the mind of the player. We have had some ideas to see what knowledge the learner is going to build new knowledge on, like having tests to lock up new levels and also ANN (artificial neural networks) to see patterns in playing, memorization and understanding. ANN may be a bit to much computation in this case though.

We will see how much of this we have time to implement but I feel that the most important thing is to learn and to create a system to make good educational games.

I'm going to continue working by making at least 5 complete level-designs. So that we have something to make when we start to make the game. Felix and Svitri has begun to look at construct 2 to see if we can make it with that and we will also start to use the equipment and socialize at Umeå universitys "HUMlabb".

The truth is out there.

Tistou Blomberg signing out.

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