Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Producing levelling using Moodle

I thought I'd tackle the tricky subject of levelling next. Levels are an integral part of a number of games now, they are a useful way of allowing students to chart their own progress throughout the game and add an incentive element, especially if levelling up grants the students perks.

I also wanted a way of giving the students a visual identification of their current level. This will change as the student levels up, and should allow different students to see different levels when they log on. In other words, student A who is on level 3 should have a different visualisation of this to student B who is on level 2.

Initially I doubted this would be possible using Moodle, however thanks to a great deal of advice, I found it was indeed possible, so here's how I did it.

In the very first section of the Moodle page I created a checklist. I made it invisible to students, and also that I was the only person who had access and could check items on the list. I made as many items on the list as there were levels, simple called level 1, level 2 ... Level 11.

I also gave the checklist a score out of 100. This would mean that checking 1 box would complete about 9% of the total, checking 2 boxes about 18% and so on.

I then made 11 banners each with the name of a different level and species on it. These banners were then made into 11 labels using Moodle.

Finally I used conditional release on each of the labels to only show 1 label at a time. Label 1 would only be visible to a student if the value of the checklist 'Levels' was between 8-10%. Label 2 would only be visible to students if the value of checklist 'Levels' was between 17-20% and so on. I also set each of the labels to be totally invisible otherwise.

Thus if I had checked 2 boxes on the levels checklist for a particular student, they would have completed about 18% of that checklist and only the level 2 banner would be visible to a student when they log on.

I wanted to have control over this and not have students level automatically because i also want the students to complete an additional task before they are allowed to level up. This will be a research task based on the species that denotes their current level.

I realise i made a mistake organising this, as I could simply have level 1 being displayed if levels was 0%, this would have meant that the remaining 10 levels would equate to 10% each. Maybe I'll correct that, but the system I have works so I probably won't.

So that's how I organised the levelling during the game, please feel free to comment.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Game Mechanics

Right down to business. 

Every game needs a catchy name. As part of the course concerns the study of Human evolution. I've called my game (at the moment) A Game of Humans.

I've decided to go for a levelling game, where students start at level 1 and move through to level 11. They move up levels by completing tasks or objectives. I decided to have two parallel streams of objectives, the first being academic objectives such as completing the tasks for a particular topic (There are 20 of these in the year) or achieving their target grade in progress tests throughtout the year. There are quite a lot of these and I'm sure more of them will be explained in the due course of time.
There are also a list of Pastoral objectives, such as complete SMART targets with their Personal Tutor or have a one to one meeting with their Personal Tutor. Again there are a number of these, and I'm sure I'll explore more of these in the fullness of time.

Each completed objective gains the student 10 experience points (XP). I've decided to make it fairly easy to move from level 1 to level 2 in order to give students a sense of achievement and keep them wanting to play. Only 40 XP are needed to move from level 1 to 2. This idea came from Skyrim, in which levelling is relatively easy at low level, but get progressively more difficult.

As already mentioned the game is about Human evolution, so the students start at level 1, and each level is named after a different species eventually ending with Homo sapiens. The names of the levels are as follows.

Level 1 Smilodectes gracilis (very early prosimian)
Level 2 Aegyptopithecus zeuxis (early monkey species)
Level 3 Proconsul africanus (very early ape species)
Level 4 Sahelanthropus tchadensis (one of the last known common ancestors of humans and Chimpanzees)
Level 5 Australopithecus afarensis (studied in the course)
Level 6 Homo habilis (studied on course, tool user)
Level 7 Homo erectus (studied on course, fire user)
Level 8 Homo heidelbergensis (ancestor species of modern humans)
Level 9 Homo neanderthalensis (Studied on course)
Level 10 Homo floresiensis (may only have died out about 12000 years ago)
Level 11 Homo sapiens (Us)

So that's the basic game mechanics. I've decided to use Moodle to organise the game so in the next blog I'll start describing how that process is going. Currently everything is in the development stage so if you have any comments or advice, please feel free to let me know.

A Bit about me

I've been playing games for as long as I can remember. One of my earliest memories was of playing games with my dad. He taught me how to play chess at a very early age. I still play occasionally today, though pretty badly. When I was a teenager my parents bought me a Dragon 32 computer. The vast wealth of games staggered me. Even though the graphics were (by today's standards) terrible, it was the game that counted. I would spend hours programming in new games, usually to find a syntax error of some sort. I even tried designing and making my own games. I can honestly say I was in love with games and gaming.

I then discovered Dungeons and Dragons, and my life changed again. Now gaming was something that you did with other people. To be honest I probably spent too much time playing D&D, but I learned a lot of important lessons about games and gaming.

I'm now older, and now a teacher, yet I still consider myself a gamer. I still play games, and it's never been easier to access games. Beautiful challenging games. I still get that rush of giddiness when I try a new game. Buying it and rushing home to try it out adrenalin pumping. What will the game hold? What will i need to do? Will it look right?

Recently though I've been introduced to a new idea in gaming (well new to me anyway). That of Gamification. I have to admit I first heard of it over a year ago, and didn't really think it had anything to excite me or change the way I approach what I do. All that has changed!

A couple of people helped to hasten that change. The truly inspiring Paul Andersen creator of Bozeman Science, and the equally inspiring Salman Khan, founder of the Khan Academy. If you haven't seen these videos then you should (then come back to me)



Right, you're back. Good. So now you see my inspiration. I then read Reality is Broken by Jane Mcgonigal, another inspiring experience. Since then I've read as much as I can get my hands on about game design. So here is my plan.

I teach A Level (16-18 year olds) Human Biology, and have decided to gamify the whole year, using Moodle and a lot of help from a variety of people currently too numerous to mention at the moment.

What follows is my experience of this gamification experiment.

Here goes!!