Ari Abramovsky IDE 795
Mountain Climber Adventure
Title- Mountain Climber Adventure
Overview: Adventure game where the player controls a hiker attempting to climb a
mountain with the help of a friendly old man and his knowledge of geology and
biology. The player will have to scale the treacherous mountain “unscalable” from
the hilly grass covered base to the icy peak, all the while learning how mountains
are formed, what they are made of and how a person climbs them.
Instructional objective: The primary objective of the game is the education of
geology as explained to the player through the context of climbing a mountain.
However the player will also learn minor bits of biological and environmental
information, as this is supplemental information needed to convey the overall game
objective of reaching the top of the mountain. This makes the game an excellent
source of supplementary information for geology classes as it allows access to basic
information quickly in a stress-free environment. The game should not become a
major focus of the curriculum but could be used as a reference to aid students in
Learners: The majority of the games information is designed around the 4 th-5th-
grade geology curriculum. The game plays in the style of a 2D platformer, similar to
the Mario Bros. games. The 2D platformer is a game play system that is understood
and enjoyed by children of all ages and can be easily adapted for an educational
game of this type.
Context of Use: The game is designed to be used both at home and in school, with a
strong emphasis on home use as the game provides supplemental information to aid
a student in their work and compliment the information that is being given in the
classroom. When determining the best time to use the game in school, a teacher
would need to find time where use of a computer would not be distracting, or more
preferably when there is a break in regular class activities and the students are
allowed free time on computers.
Scope: The game is designed to be five levels in length. These levels will be selected
in a linier fashion in that once the player completes one level they will continue
directly into the next after the player looks at a results screen showing how well the
player did in factors such as speed and accuracy of jumps. Each level will focus on
different educational concepts; the tutorial level introduces the player to biological
needs and physical limits in the context of mountain climbing. The second level
discuses rock types and formations as your player climbs the mountain. The third
level is a fire level that also explains the concepts of volcanoes to the player. The
fourth level explains air currents and low oxygen levels at high altitudes in the
context of the player having to collect air bottles to keep from passing out and failing
to climb the mountain. The fifth level talks about temperature changes and weather
effects at high altitudes. The level is the icy peak of the mountain where the player’s
controls will feel slightly lose as they move their character on icy terrain in an
attempt to the reach the top of the mountain.
Object of the game: The overall goal of the game is to reach the top of the mountain.
Each level ends with the player reaching an old man that gives them advice on how
to climb up the mountain. This old man is also at the beginning of every level to give
advice on how to complete the upcoming level.
Design Details: The game mechanics are based on traditional platformers, in that the
player will be able to move a controlled character across a 2d field in any direction
they choose. The player will have limited jump abilities and will need to reach a
specific destination at the end of each level. This end point will either be marked by
a flag or a npc character that will give the player educational information that
connects to the section of the game they are currently playing. There will be no AI
enemies attempting to stop the player. The layout of the levels is the primary
obstacle stopping the player’s progress, with minor puzzles based on educational
information placed in the levels occasionally to ensure the player is paying attention
to the information that is being given.
Multiple color pallets and art designs will be needed as the game changes
environment types, going from grassy fields, to fiery volcano, to icy peak. This must
all be represented visually to ensure that the player quickly understand the changes
and enjoys the new situation. The difficulty must also increase as the player
progresses throughout the game in order to keep the player focused and to
encourage critical thinking and problem solving skills. All these attributes will aid in
proper game design.
Universal Elements: I would like the game to have a comedic tone. Over the top
character designs with an exaggerated art style and color palate would create a
world of humor and silliness for the players to immerse themselves in. I believe a
good game to reference for the art style I have in mind would be the game “Castle
Crashers”, a game built on the flash engine that uses bright colors and very animated
characters to draw the player into the world of the game. I would like something
similar to this, except on a more intimate scale as I would only have one protagonist
(the mountain climber) and one npc guide giving exposition and comedic dialog to
the player (the old man who lives on the mountain). Large animations would be
useful to convey emotions and emphasize the situation within each level and help
the player connect to the controlled character.
Music should be light and unobtrusive, but not over stylized and looped to the point
that the player becomes annoyed. 5 Pieces of unique music per level, each being 3
minutes long should be enough so that a player can complete each level without
being annoyed by repetitive music. If the player takes more than 15 minutes to
complete a level the music would reshuffle so that the player can enjoy the music in
a different order. This allows the music to be pleasurable but remain in the
background. If possible I would like to use samples from actual instruments (similar
to the soundtrack from Braid) however this is a very costly process and would
depend on the budget I was allowed at future development stages.
Mountain Climber Adventure does not have a map per se as each level is linked in a
progressive linear format. After the player completes level 1 they must complete
level 2 and so on until they complete level 5 and win the game. Each level contains
no sublevels or hidden levels. The difficulty of each progressive level scales as the
player moves forward in the game, raising the difficulty bar and forcing the player to
focus more on their actions and the information they are receiving from npc’s.
The learner is playing the role of an adventurer trying to climb a mountain. This
character is woefully unprepared and needs help every step of the way from both
the player and friendly npc’s. Through this role the player will control the
adventurer as he climbs the mountain and learn various facts pertaining to geology
and biology that will aid the player on reaching his goal.
All Five levels are designed around the same move set. The player has the ability to
run, jump, collect items to solve puzzles, and reach goals to progress levels.
Therefore instead of making five different flowcharts I will make one overall level
flowchart that shows how players can interact with the game world.
Challenges will come in two forms. The primary challenge will be in traversing the
levels using the player’s skills as a gamer and overcoming complex jumps, the
second form of challenge is from puzzles linked to the primary challenge. For
example the npc will warn the player that the peak is icy and explain why mountains
have snow at the peak, giving the playing information about air currents and
barometries. The npc will also explain that the human body cannot survive these
temperatures without proper protection (while also explaining about what types of
temperatures the human body can endure). The player character will then have to
wear a large jacket for the rest of the level which will shorten his jump and change
the timing the player has learned from all the previous levels, thus making this level
far more challenging than previous levels.
There are several items that the player must collect to aid him throughout the game.
During the tutorial level, the player will be instructed to gather equipment from a
previous expedition team that quit, this is teach the player the game mechanics and
as a joke about how difficult the mountain is to climb. Later the player must collect
air tanks in a timed mission, use a pickaxe to climb the side of the mountain, a
HAZMAT suit to walk inside a volcano, as well as the jacket previously mentioned.
Each of these items will be linked to educational information as well as to a primary
game play function to help the player progress further in the game.
There is only one npc in the game is known as the old man of the mountain. The
character will not actually be named in the game however, he will simply called “Old
Man”. He will appear at the beginning and end of each level to give advice on the
how the player is doing, what the player needs to do next, and most importantly, to
give educational information that relates to the players current situation in the
game. Whenever “Old Man” is about to give educational information he will begin
the dialog with the phrase “here comes the science” as a joke to the player that they
are about to hear educational information and they should pay attention. It will be a
running gag of the game that the old man keeps appearing every level until the end
of the game when he confesses that he is an old mountain climber who has been
trying to reach the top of the mountain for years and has been following the player
character to the top. The final level is the only level where “Old Man” appears second
and confesses his plan. He then waves goodbye to the player and a curtain falls on
the screen. “Old Man” is the source of most of the comedy in the game and will
hopefully be a fun joke for players to enjoy.
Players are scored on the time it takes for them to complete each level, as well as
their overall time to complete the game. This is to encourage future speed runs to
help the players memorize the educational answers they have used to solve the
game. This ensures the information is retained for future non-game settings, even if
the player does not realize it.
I have made a sample screenshot of the tutorial level of the game. This level is
designed to have a simple and straightforward structure with easy jumps so that the
player can easily understand and get comfortable with the game mechanics. Future
levels would be more complex.
This game could be made using Flash 10 and the Adobe flash design programs, such
as FlashPro. The current prototype is being designed using Playcrafter, a free flash-
based game development program, however this can be changed for future versions
of the game. The game should be designed for both PC and Mac use; this will ensure
that no matter what type of computers are available at school. The students can still
play the game. The game should also be capable of running on PCs that have
windows xp as it is still the most common form of the windows OS.
Screen resolution would be based on the standard screen resolutions of current
computers. Using that, as a default the starting game resolution would be
1200x800, however the player would have the ability to increase the resolution or
decrease the resolution depending on technical needs. Files would be in .swf format
as this is the most common format for flash games, music would be storied in .midi
files for ease of compatibility. Depending on how the game is distributed (whether
its on the computers hard drives or a browser game) saves would either be stored
on the browser as a cookie or as a .swf file in the program file.
While the 2D platformer is one of the oldest genres in videogames, it has rarely been
used as the template for educational games. When it comes to direct competition,
this will come from retail markets such as Nintendo and games like “Super Mario
Brothers Wii”. A retail platformer can offer better graphics and more levels and
deeper complexity. Parents can be assured that the product is safe for their children,
as the game will have a known character in the game. A free educational game
cannot compete for a child’s attention against games like these.
On the other hand, there are very few educational games that offer game play as
deep as the game I propose, in that way my game is unique from most educational
games as the game will be able to deliver the educational data to the player in a style
that the player will find far more appealing when compared to games that simply
have a few still images and word puzzles such as “where is ABC” or games that have
flimsy game play like “Earth Rock Hunter”. An educational game needs to have deep
game play and educational information to truly be wroth the time of the player as an
educational support product. I believe the game I theorize can be that.
The driving motivational force of Mountain Climber Adventure is Comedy. The
player should not become stressed or angered by the situations presented in the
game. The player should laugh at silly dialogue and wacky art as they traverse a
mountain and hopefully learn a few things on the way. This is not a game that is
concerned with creating an illusion of fair play or making the player feel great
conflict. Joy is the overall emotion that I want the player to feel, and from this joy I
believe the player should be able to enter a flow state that will enhance their ability
to learn even more.
As discussed in “Rules of Play”, a player within a game can find meaningfulness if the
rules of the game are properly defined and the game is designed well. I want the
meaning of my game to be enjoyment, as far too many games attempt to for “force”
the educational aspects too much which leads to the player not learning and
disliking the game and the content within it. I believe a softer touch is needed, if the
game is enjoyable the player will remember what they liked about it and these
memories will include educational information, and thus the game is a success.
Beyond the overall emotive tone of the game lies driving motivational force of the
game-play itself. If the game is designed correctly the player will want to complete
each level of the game in order to reach the next level of the game until they reach
completion. This driving need for completion should be disconnected from the
content or narrative. A person attempting to achieve a high score in “Asteroids” did
not gain motivation from a feeling of empathy for the player controlled ship.
The need for completion comes from an aspect of competiveness that leads people
to attempt to reach higher and higher scores. Hopefully “Mountain Climbing
Adventure” can create a similar competitive feeling within the player by gauging
factors such as time to complete levels and overall game completing, leading to an
encouragement to complete “speed-runs” where a player is encouraged to complete
the game as fast as possible.
In terms of specific instructional objectives, each level is composed of a specific
collecting task, which is linked through narrative to the educational material. From
this content-based narrative, the player must then perform a game-play based task,
such as move through a series of falling platforms to access the next section of a
level, or through the use of the collected item enter an area they previously could
not enter. For example, in the fire level there will be areas there the player can not
go until they find the HAZMAT suit. These areas will be marked by fire or lava,
however once the player has the HAZMAT suit, the player can enter the area but
losses access to the jump ability leading to a scene where the player must run out of
the of the volcano while being chased by lava. The player will be able to use ramps
to launch their character over holes and lava, leading to a funny and over the top
conclusion to the level.
The educational content of geology and biology is used both as a framing device for
each level of the game and for the overall theme the game in it’s entirety. The
framing device comes from “Old Man” literally telling the player what they should be
learning while playing this game (hopefully leading to a fun and educational
situation for the player) and thematically as the content directly connects to the
information “Old Man” is telling the player. In this way the educational information
is part of the game, but not part of game-play functionality. That is not to say that
the educational content does not connect with the game-play. Specific points in each
level require the player to retain the information they gain from “Old Man” at the
beginning of each level and use this information on content based puzzles.
A specific example of this would be in the third level where the player is climbing
the side of the mountain and learns about different types of rocks. The player will
need to find pieces of rope and a pickaxe to continue their progress in the level.
Throughout the level there will be rocks with names written on them , some being
silly joke names, while three of the names will be the three rock types, igneous,
sedimentary, and metamorphic. Under these rocks are the pieces of rope and the
pickaxe needed to progress. Through puzzles like this example, the educational
content can become part of the game-play, without compromising any of the core
When I began thinking about an educational game my mind quickly came to several
conclusions. First, the game must be 2D, this would give the game more focus by
limiting the amount interaction the player can have with the virtual world. It would
also make the game cheaper to make and easier to play on all computers. Second,
The game must be funny. When dealing with young students, a lighter tone is
necessary as drama to the young equals boredom and lack of focus. Third, the game
would have no enemies. In retail games most enemies are placed simply to extend
the players experience with the game. This is especially true with the “boss” type of
enemy, which acts as progression roadblock until the player figures out how to win
and achieve whatever arbitrary goal the designers wished for them to learn. As the
goal for an educational game is progression and not frustration, enemies should
simply be thrown out of the design. With these ideas in mind I began looking at
other games for comparative notes.
Platformers became my focus of examination as I looked at games like “Braid”,
“Castle Crashers” and “New Super Mario Brothers”, when comparing these games
strengths and weaknesses I started to think about what I like about these games and
what I would change.
“Braid” became a primary target of comparison as it was short, had a strong art
style, and was very player immersive. However the game was very difficult, slow,
and far to complex to be enjoyed by everyone. I played “Braid” with a group of
friends who all quickly got bored while looking at the game and told me to stop. This
led me to the conclusion that my educational game needed to be bright, fast, and
enjoyable from start to finish.
When thinking of how the educational material should be included into the game I
used my own reflective knowledge of educational games and thought about the
most successful educational games that I knew about, “Math Blaster”, “Typing of The
Dead” and the “Carman Sandiego” series of games. All these games made the
educational material necessary for game progression; you needed to learn in order
to win. These games did this without sacrificing the core game play inherent in each
game. For example, in “Typing of the dead” the player still had to fight zombies, just
instead of using a gun, the player used a keyboard and worked on your typing skills.
I believed this was the best approach to adding educational material to my game, as
I believe it will encourage players to pay attention to the educational sections of the
game in order to play better and ultimately win the game.
Games listed: Castle Crashers, Braid, Super Mario Brothers, Typing of The Dead,
Math Blaster, Carman Sandeigo, Where is ABC, Earth Rock Hunter
Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman (2004) Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals
Mihaly Csikszentmihaly (2008) Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience