Development Team Meeting – KSB3+

Due to unknown circumstances, we were unable to webcast today so it was a phone meeting only. That means no meeting recording either, which is a pity since we discussed a major change to our character animation workflow and rig.

Despite the technical issues, we had a full meeting with plenty of new stuff to go over and continuing tasks to finish. Next week we’ll be ramping up playtesting on KSB3 (the Snowshoe Race), first with small internal testing and tutorial video making, and ending the week with an open playtest on Friday. We’ll post more about the playtest next week, and also tweet our updates.

Kyle Bean is our master QA, Dialogue, and Game Design guy. For KSB3 he’ll be working on the tutorial videos that will be seen before the player starts the game. He’ll also be developing the entrance and exit questions, and the Project Testing Database System Presentation. Ty Hegner is our amazing Environment Artist and Musician. He’s working on the gray level for KSB 2, various game props, and in-game instructional videos. And Cecilia Mason is our awesome Art Director and Character Animator. She’s working on various environment props, establishing web content, and also re-rigging and re-animating the male snowboarder character (player avatar).

To elaborate on the decision to re-rig the snowboarder, the old rig was… old. It would need some significant modifications in order to add all of the functionality that was required, and most of the mocap data that needed that particular rig was dense and could have used some serious cleanup in order to lower file size. Since we had so many unique actions that were destined for hand animation anyway, we decided to push forward with the change in direction. Cecilia will create a new rig in Maya, then bring it into Motion Builder so we can share the rig between all team members with a variety of software. We’ll post a workflow video to our youtube channel once we make the shift.

Our next meeting is this Thursday for Design. See you then!

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Meeting Schedule and Art Update



KSB2E_Cavern2

Originally uploaded by Gaming2Learn

Just a quick update to make up for last week. Our meeting schedule has reverted back to the old one, where instead of meeting every Monday for General and Design related things, we have one meeting a week – every other Monday and every other Thursday for General/Design stuff (if that all makes sense). Every Tuesday is when the development team gets together to assign tasks for the week and give status updates.

Also, check out our recently updated Flickr account. We’re currently working on getting art and photos from the Survival Master Alpha stage up. More to come soon!

Team Meeting: Multiplayer

shelter frame

Our first meeting of the new  year kicked off with us getting right back into the design of the Multiplayer component.

The design team began with an overview of plot motivation behind the Shelter Design activity and basic activities that should go on during this part of the game.  We know that the team of 4 players will need to design and build a survival shelter based on what they’ve learned so far, and survive for 3 nights while the shelter is put through some strain. The gameplay has been broken up into 9 team activities to be completed within several class sessions.

We focused on questions that came up during the design process. Here is a list of the general questions asked:

Game Play Setup:
Teams of 4
Questions/Concerns/Comments

  • What if there are an uneven amount of students?
  • What if students are absent for illness, out of classroom activities, etc.?
  • Can the system play as a missing student?
  • Can the system recalculate for 3 (or 5, etc.) team member efforts?
  • Roles?
  • Without roles how will work be divided?
  • Can the system divide work tasks evenly between team members? Ex. Once a team decision has been made (e.g. Insulating materials) can the system divide up the number of tasks needed to insulate the shelter and distribute them evenly within the team – popping up each member’s task on their screen?
  • Is there a way to make teams include students from various skill levels to ensure the teams have an equal chance?
  • What will the students do while waiting for teams to be formed? Snowboard?
  • What do teams do if they finish before the other teams?

Saving

  • Questions/Concerns/Comments
  • Is the game continually saving team progress?
  • If any of the teams need to retry in the activities below, how far back do they need to go?
  • We need to determine the average in-game time amounts per class period.

For the rest of the meeting, we discussed many of the questions in-depth. Good progress was made today, but we still have much work ahead in order to finalize the game design.  This will be continued in next week’s meeting.

Game Play Setup:

  • Teams of 4

Questions/Concerns/Comments

  • What if there are an uneven amount of students?

  • What if students are absent for illness, out of classroom activities, etc.?

    • Can the system play as a missing student?

    • Can the system recalculate for 3 (or 5, etc.) team member efforts?

  • Roles?

    • Without roles how will work be divided?

    • Can the system divide work tasks evenly between team members? Ex. Once a team decision has been made (e.g. Insulating materials) can the system divide up the number of tasks needed to insulate the shelter and distribute them evenly within the team – popping up each member’s task on their screen?

    • Is there a way to make teams include students from various skill levels to ensure the teams have an equal chance?

  • What will the students do while waiting for teams to be formed? Snowboard?

  • What do teams do if they finish before the other teams?

  • ???

  • Saving

Questions/Concerns/Comments

  • Is the game continually saving team progress?

  • If any of the teams need to retry in the activities below, how far back do they need to go?

  • We need to determine the average in-game time amounts per class period.

  • ???

Team Meeting: Upcoming Schedule & Multiplayer Design

Early multiplayer test run

Occasionally, technical difficulties arise and in this case we had no ability to record sound this week so these meeting notes will be brief and perhaps a bit muddled.

We started the meeting discussing the schedule for the coming weeks. We have next Monday off for the holidays and resume our previous meeting schedule in January (every other Monday we have a general team meeting, and every other Thursday we have a design specific meeting).

Our next playtest will be in the Spring, and during Summer we will be having an open Alpha playtest for KSBs 1-4. We’re aiming for the end of April for finalizing the team multiplayer design.

Basic Multiplayer guidelines so far:

  • Teams of 4
  • Earthquake leaves the 4 finalists stranded in a camp
  • Random materials will be strewn about the campsite which can be used to craft a shelter
  • The shelter must be sturdy and warm enough to keep the finalists alive for 3 days, and big enough to fit all players and their gear

The design team then detailed a working plot scenario that ties all these points together.

Team Activites to be performed by the players in the multiplayer portion:

  1. Determine “foot print” (size and shape of shelter)
  2. Team agrees on a shape and size
  3. Hunt for materials & bring them back to the campsite
  4. Scan materials for the best insulation
  5. Agree on materials
  6. Re-analyze shelter design to compensate for snow load
  7. Re-adjust shelter build as necessary
  8. Re-analyze shelter design to compensate for wind
  9. Re-adjust shelter build as necessary

Once the design team completed the run-through of the initial multiplayer design, the entire group discussed details of gameplay and what is possible to achieve within Virtools.

There was also talk about including a physical notebook with the game so students could use it for calculations/sketching/note taking. On one hand, designing the multiplayer around the use of physical notebooks restricts the game to be local multiplayer only since it is very difficult to share something like that purely online. On the other, given our current research goals local multiplayer is what we need to focus on.

After talking about the multiplayer gameplay for a while, we realized that KSB 4 can be simplified dramatically to support the activities being performed in the multiplayer portion. The meeting finished up with us still hashing out the details for shelter design, construction, and temperature.

Team Meeting: KSB 4 – Structural Design

water tower for KSB 4

Each week on Monday we usually have a 2 hour team meeting to discuss the design of Survival Master Knowledge and Skill Builders (KSBs). At this week’s team meeting, we were joined by an engineering expert, Jack Goldberg, to discuss our learning goals for KSB 4. We consult with experts periodically during development in order to confirm that we provide the necessary lessons for the subject matter being taught. In the case of KSB 4, we wanted to ensure that we addressed all essential aspects of constructing a water tower.

The meeting started out with introductions and a brief game overview for the sake of our guest. After that, Jack and the design team bounced ideas off eachother on how to present the idea of “bracing” in the context of the game. They discussed various bracing types and ways of attaching the braces to the main posts, and what role the base of the tower plays in relation to bracing. After that, the discussion turned to what forces act on the tower supports and how the supports would fail given certain situations.

Some important points brought up:

  1. If you have proper bracing, the thickness of the columns can be reduced.
  2. Bracing essentially breaks up one lengthy vertical column into a series of shorter vertical columns that are less prone to buckling.
  3. Internal forces of the bracing without any horizontal force applied to the structure are essentially zero.
  4. Once a horizontal force is introduced (such as wind), the internal forces of the bracing increase.
  5. Showing a student the worst case scenario, then improving the structure from there would be an effective way of conveying the importance of each aspect of tower design.

The rest of the discussion was filled with specifics on measurements, weight, wind load, base design, connections, stability, and gameplay. At the end of the meeting, we were still struggling with giving the player enough choices to make this KSB interesting and fun. It is easy to come up with one or two optimal solutions, but for a player we feel it would be more fun if they had a wider variety of options for completing the exercise successfully.

In our next meeting, we will return to this issue and hopefully find a workable solution.

What is Survival Master?

Hello! Welcome to the Survival Master blog, where the design and development teams can share updates and news relating to the game. We will be posting weekly with meeting notes, artwork, animation, and hurdles we encounter during our time working on this project. Hopefully, this gives fans, researchers, developers, aspiring developers, and curious passers-by some insight into what goes into creating a serious game (at least in our particular case).

At this point you may be wondering “What exactly is Survival Master anyway?” In the story of Survival Master, the player is auditioning to become the host of a new survival reality TV show (think Survivorman or Man vs. Wild). Through a series of mental and physical trials, the producers will determine who is best suited to take on the position. Along the way, a group of survival experts will challenge and assist the player, while the producers work against the host-to-be to ensure the show is as entertaining as possible.

Here’s the technical description of the project as seen on the website:

Survival Master is the digital game-based learning component of the Simulation and Modeling for Technology Education NSF research project at Hofstra University.

The game incorporates the informed design process, leveraging a single player, self-paced sequence of Knowledge and Skills Builder (KSB) challenges that prepare learners for the culminating multiplayer survival challenge. The research compares the learning performance of game-based, traditional class room, and hybrid delivery.

Survival Master is developed with 3DVIA Virtools using the Havok Physics Engine to produce realistic physics and engineering behaviors experienced in the gameplay based upon engineering parameters determined by the learner.

The digital game-based learning system incorporates Moodle learning management features and serves as a classroom curriculum for Technology Education classes at the 8th grade level.

Hope that was enlightening, and please check back again soon for some cool links and video demonstrations!