March 2013 News

March 2013 News

The Radix Team

Eric Klopfer, the PI on the Radix project, recently wrote this article describing how not only his teams but each team member has interdisciplinary expertise. The Radix team is no exception and on a highly collaborative project like this, it’s essential that each team member be able to not only understand the problems others are grappling with but contribute to them as well.

For example, Susannah is our Education Content Manager. She has a PhD in biology, has taught high school math, and has experience writing curriculum materials. As the Lead Designer, I (Louisa) have a technology background, teaching experience, and knowledge of designing, building, and testing learning games. Jody is our Assessment Specialist. Her doctorate in Education combined with her expertise of innovative assessment strategies and extensive gaming background makes her the perfect person to design Radix’s game-based assessments. In addition, the staff and student developers in our lab are not only talented programmers, they also have an interest and often background in education and specifically educational games.

Having team members with the ability to understand a variety of aspects of the project is very useful. It enables smoother communication and we are better able to develop and refine ideas for the game. In addition, with a small team it means there are more people to help out on a given part of the project when necessary. Having people with a variety of skills but who all have a passion for learning games also means our teams are in tune and enjoy working together!

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A Helpful Companion

Among all the types of feedback being developed for Radix, communication with the player was one of the first considerations. Many open-world games bring a variety of strategies to the table.

Some games use the non-playable characters (NPCs) in the game to communicate all or most of the feedback. Sometimes these characters are simply civilians scattered throughout the digital world, who offer advice or quests when the player approaches them. World of Warcraft and the Elder Scrolls series employ this strategy. Other games, like the Final Fantasy series, will have characters accompany the player as part of their “party.” Sometimes a player gets a fantastical companion, such as Link’s fairy companions in the Legend of Zelda series. Other times, the player carries a gadget or other item to aid them, like the Pokedex in Pokemon. Some games include a central hub that radios the main character, like Alfred from the Batcave. Some games resort to simple pop-ups, like the God of War series, while others offer no hints at all.

Navi from Legend of Zelda

Pokedex from Pokemon

Out of all these choices and more, The Radix Endeavor is interested in giving players a companion to accompany them on their journey. Even this decision has raised more interesting choices. Is the companion a sagacious guide? A goofy comic-relief? A loveable animal?

As of this writing, the team has opted to pair the player with a wise owl. The owl is an island native, so it is knowledgeable of the island, its inhabitants, and its mysteries. The owl accompanies the player and knows how the player is acting and progressing.

When a player is stuck, the owl may swoop in with helpful hints or insights to get the player thinking again. The owl could also recommend resources for the player to learn more. The owl then flies away until needed again. The player can even manually call for his owl for help, but the owl may not help the player every time he is beckoned. The owl offers personalized advice for each player depending on the player’s needs and actions. We’re looking forward to how players will utilize and perhaps bond with their new feathered friends in the world of Radix.

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The Radix Endeavor is an educational MMO game in development at The MIT Education Arcade, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.