Roles: Student Position as Game Designer
Link to project page (German): https://www.th-koeln.de/anlagen-energie-und-maschinensysteme/projekte_62915.php
The FutureING Educational Games are part of the ATPO module from the faculty of Anlagen, Energie- und Maschinensysteme of The University of Applied Sciences in Cologne (TH Köln), made for first semester students. The project is led by Prof. Dr. phil. Anja Richert, who envisions the ATPO module to become a fully self-learning module, with two games as a means of both assessing student competencies as well as motivating them to participate. The module aims to teach planning, communication, collaboration and cooperation skills, by employing two Games: The FutureING AR and the FutureING VR Game. In addition to that, the games are to be used as a basis for research about the use of Hyperimmersive Seriours Games and Gamification in education.
This project is radically different from any other project I have worked on so far:
1. Stakeholders and their requirements had to be analysed.
2. The project had already been running for a while
3. I had to work in development for media I was not accustomed to (AR and VR)
The first to months at the job I spent fixing last minute issues, as early versions of the games were about to be released for the students. While the survey I conducted proved the AR Game to be a success, the VR Game (adapted to Desktop because of restrictions due to the pandemic) suffered from "childhood sicknesses". The survey for the VR Game showed that the tutorial and readability were main issues for the players. Generally, I find those the hardest to design and I usually need to work through several iterations until I am satisfied with the result. This means that I spent most of the time on solving those issues. The tutorial I have planned to be more concrete, meaning that the players will be walked step-by-step through an exemplary task before they are let into the final game, as the main required of the game is to force the players to communicate and not to figure how to solve the tasks. The tutorial should already help with readability issues as after that the players will know what to look for but also more diegetic means of conveying information will be employed, such as recognisable and animations of environmental objects that are clearly visible from afar.
In addition to that, I am currently working on diversifying level goals (some players have complained about repetiveness) and to create more collaborative and cooperative mechanics. For the latter, I went through the list of inputs that is available to our games and combined those inputs with the skills the ATPO module aims to teach and then added a narrative touch to explain why it is in a game. For instance, I combined the drag and drop input of the mouse with the cooperation skill and gave it a narrative touch: two players need to pull an end of a cable, connecting them in the middle to start a machine.
Moreover, I worked on tying the games together and also tying them into the ATPO module. This I did on the one hand by introducing narrative "Phases" into the VR Game, while also using narrative to bringing it closer to the AR Game. For the AR Game, I conceptualised a level-spanning shopping system, in which players can buy upgrades using their score. This shop system will also be used to connect the AR Game to the rest of the module. Voluntary in-game quizzes will allow players to show their knowledge of the subjects taught in the first semester. After finishing the quiz, players will gain additional score based on their performance, which they can use in the shop.
All in all, I am very happy to work at the FutureING project as it gives me new challenges and makes me work in a workflow different from that encountered in the semester projects at CGL, while also of course giving me a lot of practical experiences and letting me peek into research processes.