'V-mule was a non-violent, multiplayer videogame that explored the potential learning aspects of these technologies. While the aims of the game are overtly to support the development of children’s thinking and collaboration skills, the scenarios into which they are immersed are more typical of commercial videogames than of traditional ‘edutainment’. Each prototype builds on the lessons learnt from the preceding ones, providing a far more informed and focused iterative production process. V-mule 1 (‘The Bridge’) tested collaborative gameplay mechanics and communication across networks, using a commercial 3D ‘engine’ for prototyping. V-mule 2 (‘October Island’) took a real disaster location of a volcanic island and provided players with detailed information on the historical, social and scientific aspects of this environment. This version used ‘Renderware’ by Criterion to create our own 3D engine. V-mule 3 (‘Team Rescue’) seeks to bring together this gameplay and scientific information into one cohesive and collaborative game experience. Common Features • Collaborative GameplayAll versions use gameplay mechanics that require more than one player to progress. For example, a retractable bridge requires ‘player one’ to step on a switch to expand it, so ‘player two’ can cross, and in turn step on another switch so the two can re-unite.
• Mentoring The promise of a reward is a vital form of motivation and empowerment within commercial games. Rewards can take many forms from improved capabilities to access to new areas. One reward structure V-mule is studying is that of greater control and responsibility within the environment. Once a player has gained a certain level of expertise, they can become a Mentor. The Mentor has all the powers of a player plus extra control over environment. They can observe all the other players and interact with them. • Gathering Scientific DataThe environment contains underlying scientific data, which can be retrieved by the player using different sensors. The data can then be used as a gameplay mechanic for working out, for instance, a safe route for a survivor. • Different RolesEach player is part of a team and can play different roles within that team by either: 1. Carrying a piece of equipment that others cannot, having access to certain information that others have not, or 2. Having different strategies explained only to them. These roles are there to encourage debate and communication within the team. • Multiple SolutionsThe problems that each team have to complete have more than one answer to them, have better or worse solutions, not right and wrong ones and require iteration – every attempt to build a solution potentially changes the problem. 2004
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