Our initial design began with the overall learning objective to teach heatflow in a cold environment. In order to inject a sense of danger to the scenario, it was determined that the players must be struggling for survival out in the unforgiving wilderness during winter. Setting them in that situation without any real hope for immediate rescue first came from a resulting plane crash over snowy terrain. This idea emerged during a very early development phase in which there had been no thought of a single player campaign before the multiplayer experience. Players would simply be thrust into this situation and would need to figure out how to construct a shelter for themselves based on extrinsic knowledge. From an educational standpoint, that was more of a homework exercise than an actual teachable moment. We needed to give students the tools to figure this out within the game; this is where KSBs emerged, as well as a new premise for the game itself.
Teaching the students about the heatflow formula one piece at a time meant that there would need to be several levels – each potentially comprising of smaller pieces to convey each variable in the formula. However, we needed a reason for the players to be completing these tasks. The new overarching goal turned into a reality television show, heavily influenced by the survival series on Discovery. Players would now be vying for their shot to host a tv show of their own, but only if they were able to complete a series of challenges themselves; essentially taking part in a reality show to host a reality show. While the premise did give cause for players to learn the new objectives, there was very little tie-in to STEM professions as a whole. Ultimately we changed the final story to reflect the idea of making a career out of the learning that was happening in game. Survival Masters were now government employees whose sole job was knowing this information and using it in the field. Players became trainees in the Survival Master government program, competing against other trainees for a coveted spot on a tactical government team. This allowed us to keep some of the more outlandish aspects of the reality television show challenges and locations, as a sort of hazing for new recruits. With all the changes that we have seen, it is important that we assemble all these scattered design pieces back together.
We are now in the process of recompiling all documentation that has accumulated over the past years, and setting it into a single Game Design Document. To do this, we will be drawing upon various sketches, workflows, word documents, discussions, and even the prototypes themselves, to make sure that the vision is completely synced together into one cohesive draft. This will help us to iterate later on with the transfer over to Unity 3D, so that no aspects of the game are lost in translation. We will also be able to use this document to iterate on the gameplay itself as we work from beta versions to the gold candidate.