Our Villian!

We have created the vision of our game world and potential superheroes. Of course, we can’t forget about one very important individual in the game and that is our villain! Without the villian, our superheroes would not exist, so here it is. Enjoy!

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The Electric Company

Today, I watched about 5 hours of The Electric Company.

“What is that?”, you inquire. “Why would you do that?” you ask. “What’s wrong with this guy?” you wonder.

Well it’s this spectacularly 70′s and rather well done show put on by PBS in the 1970′s to help children learn to read. In our group-to-group meeting we were asked if we’d heard about it. We had not, seeing as the three of us were born in the late 80′s. We only knew of Sesame Street. The Electric Company was apparently the show for those that were a step past Sesame Street. It stars Morgan Freeman and Bill Cosby, among others.

So, why did I watch it? First, because it was a great way for me to see some ways that children are taught to read. Secondly, and more tangibly, to come up with ideas for this project. I have three game ideas that I think will be great additions to the mini-games we’ve already come up with.

1. Meaning Match
Present phrases or words to the player and have them match the meaning of those to another given phrase. For example, if the player is asked to identify who is asking them, “How are you?” Then they would not choose an Non-Playable Character (NPC) that is saying, “Bad,” because that’s an answer to the question. They would want to select the NPC saying something like, “What’s up?” or “How’re you doing today?”

2. Fill in the Missing Letters
A player comes upon a sign, note, or some other grouping of words. The player then has to decide which letter is missing. For example, given the phrase, “_us, _o _et _as, please. -_ary.” The player would need to recognize that filling in the blanks with ‘G’ would correctly fill in the spaces to make, “Gus, go get gas, please. -Gary.” Difficulty can be increased by making more than one letter missing or leaving out whole words.

3. Rearrange the Letters/Words
This game would involve being presented a whole word or phrase. If it’s a whole word, the letters would be scrambled and if it’s a phrase, the words would be scrambled. To solve the letters version, a picture might also be provided to direct the user or the word said aloud. In the phrase version, just one word might be in the wrong spot or the whole phrase might be messed up. For example, “You are cute very.” The player would need to move the word “very” in front of “cute.”

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Storyboard – Part 2

Yesterday, Sunday March 20th, we met again to expand further on our storyboard. Using our work from the previous week and the feedback that we got from talking with other groups, we began to layout the flow of our game. We came up with the following illustration to show the general idea of our game:

We started by mapping out what we knew. From the start screen up unto actual gameplay. We talked about what the initial setup would look like, including an interactive tutorial to help players acclimate to the game. We then came up with the structure of gameplay by reviewing what we’d already done and by looking at our notes from the group-to-group meetings. All that we came up with is in the flow chart and hopefully makes sense. We think it does.

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Storyboard – Part 1

Today we began our storyboarding. We drew different scenes in the game. We drew these scenes on 8.5″ x 11″ sheets of paper and outlined the iPad form factor on them. I handled drawing a screenshot of a bunch of the games and a few other screens.

  • Puzzle Piece Words
  • Helping a Neighbor
  • Follow the Map
  • Interpret a Picture Clue
  • Information Screen

Each of the games usually required multiple screenshots to show what is intended to happen. Small descriptions were also written when needed.

Nicole drew the title screen, story intro, secret lair, and a few of the games. Cindy drew the city map and a few of the games as well.

As soon as I get a chance to scan all these pictures, I will add a gallery to this post so that our storyboard can be viewed here.

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Expanded Project Description Feedback

Today we received feedback from Professor Quintana on our expanded project description in preparation for our upcoming storyboard. We were told that for the most part we’re on track. One thing that we need to make sure we do better is to fully describe the connection between the mini-games, what the students learn, and then how they use what they learn later in the game. It’s also important for us to make it clear where the learning goals are being met for each grade-level. We also want to make sure that we keep including Jim Gee’s learning principles, specifically call them out, and talk about the other learning theories we’re employing.

We start storyboarding Sunday at 4:30. Our plan is to storyboard the following:

  1. Introduction Story
    1. Newspaper article with all the words ruined … words are scrambled everywhere and the player must go around town fixing it
    2. Playing on the playground one day and goes down the slide into a secret lair with all the equipment they’ll need. (Perhaps some equipment locked until later stages)
  2. Secret Lair is the base of operations
  3. Overview of city — maybe include legend?
  4. Navigation around city
  5. Mini Games
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Recently we brainstormed mini-game ideas. We wanted the games to be interactive, use the touch-screen to it’s full potential, and be in-context. By in-context we mean that the activity shouldn’t be arbitrary like “paste the letter ‘v’ on an envelope.” We wanted them to be more like activities you would encounter in the real world. Here is what we came up with:

  • Help the policeman find the letters
    ○ Description: you reach a roadblock and find a police man standing there. He asks foryour help finding all the letters (a’s, b’s, vowels, consonants, etc.) in the vicinity. Afteryou find the given number of that letter, you are able to pass the roadblock.
    ○ Learning Goals: Letter recognition (early levels), Word recognition (later levels)
  • Find the animals that escaped from the zoo
    ○ Description: You go to your secret lair and are given a list of animals that the villain letloose from the zoo. You must search the city until you find all the animals on your listand return them to the zoo.
    ○ Learning Goals: Learn to sound out words
  • Follow the map
    ○ Description: Given a map to follow, the superhero must read the map to reach thedestination. Reading can mean either reading actual words on the map and/or pictures.Following the map correctly will lead the player to another clue. Help can be providedby the side-kick. The side-kick will first provide hints. If more help is needed, the sidekickcan show the player where to go next and explaining why that’s the right place togo. Then, the next place to go on the map will require using the same skill that the sidekickjust explained.
    ○ Learning Goals: K-2: Places of interest are identified by letters or basic sight words. Thestudent must identify the letter/word to navigate to the next location
    ○ Learning Goals: 3-5: Students must read and decipher clues to move to the next location(Reading Comprehension)
  • Interpret a picture clue
    ○ Description: The player will have read a sentence but in place of some words, therewill be pictures. The player will then be asked to write the word next to the picture.By pressing the picture, the player will hear the word spoken by the side-kick. Furtherassistance can be provided by having an outline of the word next to the image that thestudent traces over.
    ○ Learning Goals: 3-5: Spelling○ Description: For kindergarten/1st grade, the sentence would be made up of mostly sightwords. For non-sight words a picture would be used in addition to the actual word. Thispicture would serve as a clue if they can not figure out the word.
    ○ Learning Goals: K-2: Sight-word recognition
  • Comprehension
    ○ Description: Reading a clue and being asked by the side-kick to explain it to them. Theside-kick would ask questions such as who the subject of the clue
    ○ Learning Goals: Sentence structure and grammar
  • Food List
    ○ Description: Taking a list of food and finding the item in the grocery store by identifyingthe correct aisle to be in and then picking out the correct food item.
    ○ Learning Goals: Identifying sight words and sounding out unknown words
  • Treasure Hunting at the Beach
    ○ Description: The villain hides something important at the beach. Find the hiddenclues (sight words for K-2, words matching needed parts of speech for Grades 3-5) andconstruct a sentence to find the hidden item.
    ○ Learning Goals: K-2: Identify sight words and construct basic sentences
    ○ Learning Goals: 3-5: Parts of speech and sentence structure
  • Puzzle Piece Words
    ○ Description: A clue given by a citizen or henchmen comes in the form of a word that willhelp you complete your mission but the word was written on a puzzle and the puzzlehas been taken apart. Each letter would be on the a separate puzzle piece. The puzzlemay also have a picture of the word on it. The superhero must put the puzzle backtogether to get the clue. This allows the student multiple ways to get the clue. Hopefullythey will learn to recognize the word, making the puzzle easier, but if not, the clue canstill be had by simply completing the puzzle based on the shapes of the pieces.
    ○ Learning Goals: Spelling, word recognition
  • Fishing for Vowels
    ○ Description: There is a boardwalk by the beach with several games that need to beplayed in order to receive a clue. A photo containing short vowels will be shown.The consonants will be displayed with a blank where the vowel should be, and thesuperhero must fish for the missing vowel. For example, the superhero might see aphoto of a cat and the corresponding “c _ t.”
    ○ Learning Goals: Vowel identification
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Our Superheroes

Meet some of our Super Readers! Mark and Maggie are two of the super heroes that I designed for use in our game. These two are just representations of what the super heroes might look like. In the game, the player will get to customize their character to look however they want (within reason). The game will allow the player to choose hair, eyes, skin color, face and body shape, and customize their costume and mask. The point of all this is to let the player create an identity for themselves. This creates a greater connection to the game and hopefully motivates the player to continue playing.

Here are the original sketches the superheroes came from:

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