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Educational Browser RPG

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Platform: Browser (Chrome or Firefox preferred)

Art Style: 2D, Anime, SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics)

Genre: RPG, Interactive Fiction, Educational

Price: Free

 

I would like your thoughts on my game design:

 

In this multiplayer online game, you attend classes and hang out at various locations in the game world (ex. library, local shops, arcade). NPCs populate the world along with human players as students and teachers. Gameplay comprises of answering questions in class and talking to other students (NPCs or players). Your character can be customized, and there is no set story. There's also an in-game clock and day-night feature.

 

Here is my current list of class subjects:

  • Vocabulary (word roots, etc.)
  • Mathematics (from addition to calculus)
  • Art and Animation (how to make game sprites, animation tips and tricks, shading)
  • Music (teaching things like guitar scales, how to read sheet music, and more)
  • Creative Writing

 

Do you have suggestions for features or gameplay? I'd like to know if there's anything in particular that could make this game more fun and accessible to people of all ages.

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Unless this game is compulsory for kids (like a form of home school), it's unlikely that they'll play it. Kids play games to get away from school.

The only way to make classrooms more interesting is to follow the Harry Potter model; that is, make it fantastic, but also completely useless to the real world.

If you want to educate on real and useful topics, you need to focus on story first, and integrate the need for those skills into the narrative so that the kids have motivation to learn them in context.

E.g. You're a bard in an RPG, and you use REAL music to cast your spells, playing on simulated instruments.

Some of these things you mentioned are, in practice, very difficult to gamify. Which is why most educational games are terrible.

Music, Math, and Vocabulary; these three things can be plausibly gamified, because it's relatively easy to evaluate basic performance and translate that into in-game effects and benefits. It won't be easy by any means, though.

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StarMire,

 

First of all, I'd like to thank you for responding; however, I feel you misunderstood what I was asking.

 

In the original post, I did say that this is for people of all ages (not a children's game), and I also asked for more gameplay suggestions. I am very frustrated with today's "educational" games which tend to have very little educational value (aside from adding 2 + 2 to shoot zombies, or something like that...). You might be surprised to know that many people actually want to learn new things, and are often discouraged because many of the available means of learning tend to be dull and uninteresting (ex. many textbooks).

 

What I want to do is provide an alternative.

 

So while I do appreciate your input, I would not have posted to this forum if I wanted a list of reasons why what I'm trying to do is difficult or unfeasible. All I wanted was gameplay suggestions. Thanks anyway.

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First of all, I'd like to thank you for responding;

 

No, I really don't believe you would.  Downvoting somebody's reply (particularly since I was the only one to reply) is not a good way to "thank" somebody for responding.  You're sending mixed messages.

I understand you're trying to be diplomatic, but this just comes off as dishonest, and makes me less inclined to help you (and I would warn others against doing the same, since you're being so defensive).

 

And yet, although you're making it very hard for me to respect you, I think educational games are very important (and that there should be more of them), so I'll try again to clarify, and help you understand my point (although you will probably downvote this post too).

 

 

 I feel you misunderstood what I was asking.

 

In the original post, I did say that this is for people of all ages (not a children's game)

 

 

I didn't misunderstand, and that's irrelevant anyway.  You do have a certain demographic, and it is apparently teens/young adults.  I would call those 'kids' and not children.  Probably people in high school or university.

 

Anyway, there's no such thing as "people of all ages", which is both a common and meaningless phrase.  Saying you want to design a game for "all ages" demonstrates your inexperience in design.  It's like saying you want to make an MMORPG where people can do anything.

 

Candyland is a game that's billed for all ages, along with others of that type, because their mechanics are highly random to balance out wins and losses due to differences in general skill and competence; but they aren't really for all ages, because they're profoundly tedious after a couple playthroughs to anybody old enough to grasp strategy.

 

It doesn't matter whether this is for young children, teenagers, or senior citizens, my point still stands.

Games (fun ones anyway) are meant to introduce us to something extraordinary that we can't do in life.  Nobody wants to sit in a virtual classroom as you describe.  Not children, not kids of college age, not the middle aged, and not the elderly.

 

 

and I also asked for more gameplay suggestions.

 

 

 

If you read my post more carefully, rather than being fixated on being defensive to my valid criticism, then you would see that I offered you positive gameplay suggestions and encouragement to that end.

 

 

 I am very frustrated with today's "educational" games which tend to have very little educational value (aside from adding 2 + 2 to shoot zombies, or something like that...). 

 

 

 

I am too!  Modern educational games are largely very bad.

And you know what?  I'm trying to build an educational game, so I'm very interested in this subject, and I'd really like to help you.

 

The solution to making something legitimately educational and entertaining at the same time is not trivial.  Using addition to kill zombies isn't it, and putting people in a virtual classroom isn't it.

Do you want to know that the solution is?  See my last post where I gave it to you.

Would you like me to expand on that explanation?  I'd love to.

 

But maybe you can cut back on the sarcasm and rudeness:

 

 You might be surprised to know that many people actually want to learn new things

 

 

That wasn't necessary.

 

 

I'm trying to be nice, and take time out of my day to help you, because I think what you're trying to do is important.  VERY important.

BUT I would not be helping you if I didn't tell you that you're going about this the wrong way.

 

You need to create a context in which the skills are relevant (2+2 is not relevant to killing zombies; that's a bad example of creating relevance), to motivate the student to pick them up in the game.

 

 

 I would not have posted to this forum if I wanted a list of reasons why what I'm trying to do is difficult or unfeasible. All I wanted was gameplay suggestions.

 

 

I didn't give you a list of reasons why what you're trying to do is unfeasible, many parts of what you want to do are possible.  I highlighted some things you are doing wrong, and which areas are more practical and upon which you should focus.

I also gave you gameplay suggestions on how to do it.

 

Do you want more suggestions, or more targeted suggestions?  Are there any problems with my suggestions that don't fit your goals?

Great, I'd love to help you.  Why don't we discuss this like rational adults, and leave the rudeness/sarcasm and whatever else at the door?

Edited by StarMire

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StarMire,

 

I downvoted because I did not find your response constructive or helpful (I do that with any post I read on anyone's topic). If I cannot offer helpful information, I do not comment. Please review my past posts for reference. There was no other reason. I do apologize if I offended you, and I don't understand why you are upset.

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StarMire,

 

I downvoted because I did not find your response constructive or helpful

 

No, you chose to ignore the helpful and constructive advice in my post, because you didn't agree with it.  You are biased on this subject, because you are emotionally invested in your game (as any creator can be).  You received the feedback that you needed, and if you take the advice, you will find it both helpful and constructive.  What you need is some perspective.

 

Do you think a noob who just started using game maker yesterday and wants to make a WOW killer agrees with the helpful and constructive advice to start smaller?  And yet, it's the advice that is needed.  Your concept is misdirected.  Educational games are great, but you're trying to go about this the wrong way, and you've demonstrated naïveté with regards to the demographics you need to appeal to.

 

I gave you precisely what you asked for.  And you may care to notice, nobody else did.

 

Don't bite the hand that feeds you.  If you want advice, take it graciously rather than being defensive and defaming the ones who give it.

 

Like I said, I'll help you if you want, but you'll have to change your attitude and be less defensive.

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I won't address the viability of your approach for now--I don't feel that I have sufficient information to be confident of my feelings on the matter (although that should not be taken to reflect on StarMire's comments on the subject--I don't know what StarMire's body of knowledge might be).

 

If I may ask, is this intended to provide serious schooling--essentially providing an alternative source of education--or is it intended to be supplementary to more rigorous schooling? Have you looked into alternative schooling models for inspiration? I'm not expert, so these may not be the best options, but offhand I'm aware of "studio schooling" and an interesting experiment in student-driven education (the talks to which I've linked there are fairly short--a little over 6 minutes and 17 minutes, respectively, I believe). It might be worth looking around in TED's "education" section for additional inspiration, too.

Edited by Thaumaturge

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I won't address the viability of your approach for now--I don't feel that I have sufficient information to be confident of my feelings on the matter (although that should not be taken to reflect on StarMire's comments on the subject--I don't know what StarMire's body of knowledge might be).

 

If I may ask, is this intended to provide serious schooling--essentially providing an alternative source of education--or is it intended to be supplementary to more rigorous schooling? Have you looked into alternative schooling models for inspiration? I'm not expert, so these may not be the best options, but offhand I'm aware of "studio schooling" and an interesting experiment in student-driven education (the talks to which I've linked there are fairly short--a little over 6 minutes and 17 minutes, respectively, I believe). It might be worth looking around in TED's "education" section for additional inspiration, too.

 

No, I don't intend for it to be an alternative source of education (like a home-school program, as I was home-schooled for several years prior to high school). I actually wanted to make a game that's like Cooking Mama, in terms of content. The only difference is that my game will have a focus on a few different topics (like math and music). The thing that made Cooking Mama and other food games like it fun is the gameplay. The player is, in a way, indirectly learning how to cook and make different dishes. I really loved the minigame, stress-free style of gameplay. That's something I'm interested in expanding into other genres.

 

So it's not necessarily formal, but more offhanded. I wanted to make something like this, but I'm not sure how I should structure the gameplay. I would have included this in the main post, but I didn't consider it until just now.

 

Thanks for the links! I'll look into that as well.

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Some thoughts...

 

I haven't played Cooking Mama but I would assume that part of what makes it enjoyable is the ability to experiment and see what the results are (demonstrations of cause and effect where users influence elements can be quite interesting). And as you said, it's something that people can get a sense of how it might relate in the real world. So, perhaps you can get similar enjoyment if players are given the ability to experiment in different ways relating to different subjects you want to approach. Or if an experiment isn't quite intuitive for the subject, maybe a puzzle or task of some kind that at least shows the usefulness and application of the various subjects. I would suggest that experiments or puzzles be something that's done outside of any kind of exam element you might want to include. Since a fundamental part of what you intend is for things to take place in a classroom, it might make sense to present experiments and puzzles as the actual "class" when a player enters the room. However if this is the only place where such things occur, you might be making it more difficult to demonstrate how various topics might relate to the real world.

There's also an in-game clock and day-night feature.

Is there something that you envision the player doing at night that you haven't mentioned?

 

You also used the words "multiplayer online game". I do get the appeal of creating a living online world but I would recommend that you take a hard look at whether doing so might detract from whatever educational experience that you're trying to provide. Especially since it's been well established that people often don't play nice when they're online.
 

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I like the idea of using puzzles and experiments as gameplay. Thanks for the suggestion.

 

However if this is the only place where such things occur, you might be making it more difficult to demonstrate how various topics might relate to the real world.

 

 

You're absolutely right about that. It would make more sense for the players to actually use the knowledge first-hand. To use a Cooking Mama example, the player prepares a dish with step-by-step instructions along the way. I want to draw inspiration from that model without copying it. I'll think of a way to do this. I'm definitely rethinking the classroom idea now.

 

Is there something that you envision the player doing at night that you haven't mentioned?

 

You also used the words "multiplayer online game". I do get the appeal of creating a living online world but I would recommend that you take a hard look at whether doing so might detract from whatever educational experience that you're trying to provide. Especially since it's been well established that people often don't play nice when they're online.
 

 

Well, at first the day-night feature was just something that I wanted to include. But now I think I can justify this feature with gameplay. For example, say I want to teach the player how to play the guitar. In a minigame or puzzle game format, he or she could play a live show on stage at night. A real fret board (or sound board) is displayed on screen, and the player can experiment with different melodies or scales. After finishing a song, the player can be scored based on accuracy or creativity (I'll have to think about scoring methods). During the day, more shops are open and the player can purchase more gear (using in-game currency). I think that might be more fun than going to a guitar class in a classroom for sure.

 

As far as the multiplayer aspect goes, I wanted to give players the opportunity to collaborate, but I didn't factor in the downside to that. If it were a multiplayer online game, I suppose I would have to find moderators to keep the game open and inviting for everyone. Otherwise, it could potentially become an environment that no-one would want to participate in. I've played online games with others before, and I have to admit that the good comes with the bad.

 

On the other hand, I can think of many positive outcomes of having multiplayer functionality as well. To use the music example again, a group of players could form a band and simultaneously perform a song using different instruments (guitar, bass, drums, keyboard). The thing that separates this from Rock Band is the actual content and gameplay. Instead of hitting notes as they pass over a circle for all the instruments (Rock Band), the players can use guitar frets, bass frets, cymbols and tom toms, and keyboard keys to create their own songs. All the instruments are shown as graphics on the screen for the player to interact with. It could be like the individual guitar or drum simulations in a full game. The possibilities are endless, but I do need to consider whether or not the good out-weighs the bad, and decide on the multiplayer accordingly.

 

I think I have a real game design now. I'm removing the classroom for all skills that don't have a practical use there. Instead, I'll create individual minigames for various locations.

 

Thanks again!

Edited by Mia.

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You're absolutely right about that. It would make more sense for the players to actually use the knowledge first-hand. ... I'm definitely rethinking the classroom idea now. ... For example, say I want to teach the player how to play the guitar. In a minigame or puzzle game format, he or she could play a live show on stage at night. ... I think that might be more fun than going to a guitar class in a classroom for sure. ...
I think I have a real game design now. I'm removing the classroom for all skills that don't have a practical use there. Instead, I'll create individual minigames for various locations.


Which is what I said in the first post.

Learning through application of knowledge in fun/exciting situations that most people never get to enjoy (like being in a rock band, or being in some fantasy world of dragons, or whatever it is) is both more engaging, and cements the knowledge better through use.

I'm removing the classroom for all skills that don't have a practical use there.


With a little creative thinking, you will soon find that there are no skills that only have a practical use in a classroom. If you can model the skill and evaluate it at all (that is, if it has any use in a game), it can be better modeled in a practical situation through a puzzle and skill-based resolutions in narrative gameplay.

As I said before, that doesn't mean adding 2&2 to kill zombies. That's a bad example. True application makes the knowledge and skill relevant, and still models the real elements of the skill or knowledge closely enough to be educational.


After finishing a song, the player can be scored based on accuracy or creativity (I'll have to think about scoring methods)


Accuracy: If you're just following sheet music, that's fine.

If you're letting them go off script or make their own music (which seems to be what you're suggesting), you will find scoring to be a monumental task which the brightest minds in music and computer science have yet to fully solve (although we're getting closer to computer programs which can evaluate music, I don't think we're quite there yet).

If you keep to the scripted format, you'll be safe for evaluation, but it will also remove a lot of the reason for players to work together or learn the fundamental concepts of music, since all they have to do is give the right inputs at the right time. This can hamper motivation outside the rockband demographic of a party game.

Working the music and concepts into the narrative as a way to advance the story or overcome other obstacles can help rectify this: You need to construct and outside reward and additional feedback for successful mastery. It doesn't matter if that's casting spells, or constructing some kind of dating sim. This reward will help define your ultimate demographic.

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If you're letting them go off script or make their own music (which seems to be what you're suggesting), you will find scoring to be a monumental task which the brightest minds in music and computer science have yet to fully solve (although we're getting closer to computer programs which can evaluate music, I don't think we're quite there yet).

 

+1 just for this.

 

If you are a single person team, I think the more important thing is to be consistent and keeping it simple. (at least initially) instead of coming up with great ideas that will probably need a team to implement. 

 

So my advice would be to keep the design simple. I think RPG models will best suit educational purposes as RPG itself is about character development. The user will more easily get attached to his/her online character in that type of mechanism. So, I think the big idea in this educational games is this "Create a REALLY GOOD! game and integrate the educational model within" so that the "students" will have to study hard in order to achieve good results or ranking in the game. The overall experience will be rewarding because the game itself is rewarding.

 

Ok, think about WoW. Why do people spend too much time to achieve a top-notch gear score, or like do quests for legendary items like crazy? Because, they want a higher dps (damage per second - a score to measure player's overall ability / or  healing per second etc.). This is a way to show off that you are successful in playing WoW. As they succeed they improve their gear and get better results. This cycle goes on and on. The WoW mechanic is this simple. (Note here: many games successful today are directly showing an overall measure of your success so that the player gets the sense of improvement as that score increases - example: in League of Angels(called battle rating) and many more)

 

So what I propose is, students would need to study hard in order to increase their "ability" in the game. Like, in order to get a legendary item you would need to achieve a near perfect score in a math mini game. Of course, there has to be a glamorous game behind this to work. Let's give another example. There are dailies in WoW that you need to complete every day to get good gear for your character. Make that daily quest to study, i don't know, chemistry. That mini game or even a like dull, coursera like format will be enough. I bet the student will have more willpower to complete that daily and get his reward. Once he/she is done, he can play the game as liked with better gear. 

 

So to sum up. I think, playing the game should be an end reward. But, in order to enjoy playing the student would have to study. As he studies, he will be more successful in the game and he will WANT to study more.

 

Here is a game that uses this mechanic to motivate people to be productive:  https://habitrpg.com

 

Yeah, I think overall it is well implemented. But, the game itself is not that rich to stimulate that much motivation. Now, think that instead of pixel graphics there are these fancy graphics and a really addictive game mechanic like wow. 

 

If I was head of Blizzard I would definitely try some stuff like this. There is too much game-play and motivation going into waste.

But meh, as a single-person team I better not to attempt. I can barely complete a mediocre browser rpg 

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