This has been a tough week. Our team works on skype – a four person meeting –hammering out the level design for games we want to a) be really, really fun and b) require science learning in a way that can be cleanly measured. By that I mean we need to not only make sure the science in the game is reasonably accurate (enough not to teach “bad” science) but also we need to isolate players’ understanding of concepts so that we can say “yes they are learning that concept” or “no they aren’t”. It’s not like I thought this would be easy, but this was one of those weeks where the rubber really hit the road.
We were working on a game that focuses on work and energy. We wanted to use mills as generators with flowing water, thinking it would be fun to make puzzles where the player had to divert some water off to do tasks in the game, but make sure they had enough to power different mills at the end to open a door – something like that….but….
The physics of flow rate and change in velocity (keeping mass conserved) was our first hurdle – and then onto how different amounts of energy would be produces depending on where the water was hitting the mill, way too many complicating factors, how could we get players to focus on any one concept when nature makes them all happen at once?
It’s tempting to break a complex phenomenon down into each layer of physics, teaching them one by one…but it sure makes a boring game. We instead decided to step back from the mill game. We went back to fundamentals of what makes a good game.
We want a simple, repetitive game mechanic that is intuitive and fun. Then the context can do the storytelling. So we are starting with an n-body code. A bunch or particles that have an attractive inverse square force (like gravity). Let’s start and make that fun and then we will have lots of places to go from there. Stay tuned….