Game Proposal: The Frontier Sims Frank Kusiak Game Introduction: What would it be like to live in the Nineteenth Century American Frontier? Frontier Sims takes a player into the Nineteenth Century and places them in the role of managing a frontier family. In this game, players can create their Frontier Sim, create their own frontier home, and design the interior of a frontier home all within a set budget. One will have to consider multiple variables that impact the lives of their Frontier Sims: from the daily grind of household chores to the historical political/economic trends of the time. Will your Frontier Sims flourish or will they go hungry and die? Game Background: One of the most popular games of all time, The Sims, captured the imaginations of many people: children and adults alike. A gamer takes control of a single “Sim,” gives it personality attributes, and guides it through a simulated life. Life in this virtual landscape entails the minutia of living (taking showers, going to the bathroom, sleep, and eating) to other needs designed to improve life (education, work, love, and play.) Another aspect of the game is how the design of a living space can affect your Sim, and how others, from Sim friends to Sim significant others, interact with your Sim in that space. For Nineteenth Century history, history teachers mainly focus on the political and economic revolutions of this time and give short-change to the impact these revolutions had families: teaching and understanding of social history for this time period is lacking. The Frontier Sims addresses this shortfall in an engaging way: could you manage a Nineteenth Century family who is living in the Nineteenth Century American Frontier? Game Description: The game starts out with your Nineteenth Century Frontier Sim and significant other (optional), you must assign personality attributes that had value in Nineteenth Century discourse, then design your period living space given a certain budget. What household amenities will you incorporate and how will that affect the Frontier Sim’s daily routine? What occupation will your Frontier Sims have? Will you be able to dedicate time and resources to improve your Sim’s lifestyle? What risks are posed by choosing this strategy? If your Frontier Sim is single, what must he or she do to find a suitable partner and how difficult is it to find a mate (will one have to save up money to buy a mail-order bride? When the little patter of feet is heard around the Frontier SimHouse, will your children go to school or work? How much can you budget to improve the amenities in your abode? How is daily life different on a Frontier household to a your modern dwelling? Even though time in the game can be sped up or slowed down, the chronology of the outside world will be accurate: events that happened in 1888 will happen in 1888 Frontier Sim- United States. The economic, technological, and political climate of the time might impact how you manage your Frontier Sim family. Can the father find steady work with his profession in 1883? Should the mother and children start making crafts to augment their income? As a student plays the game, he or she must make choices that real, frontier families has to make. Audience: For general play, any age over 12 years old. For educational purposes, seventh grade to twelfth grade classes with access to a computer lab. Although, it might still be useful in a general history class or a college level class focused on the American Frontier. 11th to College age: Game modification through research. One of the demographically significant aspects of Sims 2 was that it was extraordinarily popular with females. Hopefully, this game will be readily accepted by both sexes. Personas Four main audiences have been identified: history buff gamers, “The Sims” players, history students, and history teachers. The history buff gamer and Sims player are almost identical from a marketing standpoint. Even though they have slightly different reasons to play the game, they're both getting entertainment from the game by playing it and the “history” twist is why they play it. The history buff will be attracted to it because of the history, while the “The Sims” player will play it because it puts a history twist on the “The Sims.” Jason the 10th grade history student. Jason, a white, middle class kid from a family of four enjoys his history class. His class is doing a report on a topic of their choice as long as it relates to the late Nineteenth Century American Frontier. His teacher reminded the class not to limit themselves to traditional reports: multimedia and alternate means of presenting a report are encouraged. He has heard of the Frontier Sims, and decides to use the Frontier Sims for two reasons: 1) He can start his report on Nineteenth Century frontier families by playing the game, and 2) he can use game capture technology built into it to create animated examples of Nineteenth Century family life for his presentation. He also discovers that he can create a reflective journal periodically. The journal interface prompts him with several helpful questions to get the journal started, and from this, he can make notes about the decisions he has made and how historic events affected his Frontier Sim. By playing the game, he learns about events and household technology that had positive and negative effects on his Frontier Sim. He then uses these pieces of information to create and outline for his paper then go to the library to look for books that can provide more extensive information about the frontier history. Emily, the 30 year old history buff and gamer. Emily, a married Asian girl, is a graphic designer by day and prodigious gamer by night. She plays many computer games which are usually based on historical themes. This is no surprise because when she's not gaming or spending time with her husband, she also enjoys history books and historical-fiction novels. She used to play the original “Sims” game seven years ago, but she never had a chance to play the sequel. Upon hearing of the release of “The Frontier Sims,” she decided to grab it because she wanted a new challenge. Emily was also attracted to the Goal Creation gameplay option because of its potential for replayability. She enjoys the fact that history can be re-told several different ways based on what game goals she selects. As a graphic designer, she could create new game objects and clothes for her Frontier Sims. Joseph, a 45 year old history teacher. Joseph, a divorced African-American, has always sought new ways to teach history to his 7th grade kids. He is designing the next two weeks lessons around the late Nineteenth Century Frontier, and he wants to start the lessons off with something to grab the students' attention. He really likes the Frontier Sims because in the span of four class periods, he believes that most of them could complete one of the pre-arranged scenarios. He can introduce the game and the kids can play around with it during the first class period. The next three class periods can be spent playing one of the game's short scenarios. Although the kids will get points for successfully completing the scenario (only 3% of the grade or maybe extra credit), he really wants to look at their reflective journals to see if they are learning anything from the game: he wants to give kids who did not successfully complete the scenario a chance to explain why they did not “win” and what historical factors played into their Sim's failure. He will base the last class of the week to an in-class discussion about their Sims. Learning Objectives: 1) The learners will examine the lifestyle choices made by Nineteenth Century families. 2) Learners will calculate and form a strategy based on how historic events outside of the household can impact a family. 3) Learners will arrange division of labor choices, based on traditional Nineteenth Century roles, amongst family members and whether/where kids will work or be educated. 4) The learners will be able to interpret how social standing impacts lifestyle decisions. 5) Learners will be able to interpret and distinguish the use and utility of Nineteenth Century household appliances and appreciate the style\aesthetic of them. 6) The learners will demonstrate an understanding of basic Nineteenth Century history. Genre: Simulation. Also called a “God Game,” the player is not actually a character on the screen, but a faceless character who views the virtual world from above and has absolute power over (most) characters on the screen. Game Mechanics: The game mechanics revolve around the interaction of multiple variables, in the form of object and character characteristics, over real time. Macro Variables: Time: Time marches forward at a given rate (although the player may speed or slow it up, it has a uniform effect on characters and objects). However much time goes forward, certain events need to happen both in the historical timeline, in the daily life of the Frontier Sim, and in the degradation of objects over time. Resources: How much money does the Frontier Sim have and how much does it make for a given amount of time? Will be called SimGold. Available Technology: Are there certain pieces of technology that make home life easier, harder, or more/less productive? Combined with time and resources, has it been invented yet and can the family afford it? Family Size: How many children does your Frontier Sim Family have? How much SimGold does it take to support them? Combined with time, how long does it take for them to grow up? At what age can they take on more duties around the house or go to work? Climate (political/economic): What national or local events may affect the daily life of your Frontier Sims? Will Civil War hurt or help your family? Depression, boom, or stable economies? Local community of Frontier Sims: Is the local community the same religion as your family? Are you a respected member of it? How many people live locally and what percentage of the locals are women (important for the single Frontier Sim)? In a multiplayer game, this variable may not exist as real people will decide such things amongst themselves. Sim Variables: These variables are those that effect all Frontier Sims individually. Some of these characteristics are constants (like hunger, sleep, and bathroom), can be improved/degraded, and are set at the beginning at the game when the player creates her Frontier Sim. Constants: Hunger: How much food has one had and when was the last time any had been eaten? Sleep: How much sleep has the Sim had and when was the last time it had slept? Bathroom: when was the last time your Sim, “went” or cleaned themselves? Improvements: Time spent working/improving themselves: What attributes can be improved given a certain a amount of time dedicated to improvement? For example, intelligence and strength. Happiness/Sadness: Do the people around them make the happy? Do the objects in their household make them happy or sad? How much time is spent making them happy? Religion/Community Standing: What value is placed on interacting with other Sims positively or negatively? Does how religious you are (and how much time you spend on becoming religious) help or hurt you? Beginning Character Attributes (Player assigns these attributes, but have a limited number of points from a pool to apply to each attribute. For example, if 6 points are given to fortitude out of an available pool of 20 points, then that leaves 14 points left to be divided amongst the rest of the attributes. The higher the number, the stronger that attribute is) Fortitude: How much can your Sim take? Can it weather hard times or does it need constant luxury to be happy? Countenance/Disposition: What is the overall attitude of your Sim? Are they happiest when others are sad? Are they perceived as honest or humble? Are they arrogant? Are they outgoing or shy? Industriousness: How much does your Frontier Sim like to work? Cleanliness/Sloppiness: Is your Sim clean or sloppy? Does it enjoy clean abodes or messy abodes? How does this effect your Sim’s relationship with others? Key Features: The Frontier Sims will be a full 360 degree, 3D virtual world: the default view will be isometric, but that can be altered to the preference of the gamer. Not only will this allow the gamer to get the best view of how your Frontier Sim moves and interacts with its environment, it will also be easy for the player to move, manipulate, create, and introduce new objects or environments to game (like building the SimHouse, adding new rooms to the house, or placing a newfangled indoor toilet in it). Since Frontier Sims is a real time simulation, time can be slowed down or sped up, but certain events will occur after a set amount of Sim time: if the player sets the game to a slow setting, the Frontier Sim will get hungry at the same rate as a Frontier Sim that exists under a faster time setting. At the default setting, one Sim day will take about 20 real life minutes. The advantages of slowing time down are that one will be able to control multiple Frontier Sims and be able to meet their needs. The graphics in the Frontier Sims will be cutting edge, but they will be scalable so that it can run on older computers flawlessly. On a state-of –the-art system, one should be a see the grain of wood, hairs on a head, and dynamic shadows that show the time of the day or the flicker of candle light. However, on an older system, the graphics won’t be as showy, but they will be clear and functional so that the gameplay itself is not affected. The graphics and language of the interface will also reflect the time period: a wood grain with ebony/ivory inlay would be very elegant. But, it will have to be somewhat anachronistic so as to be understood by modern audiences and it will have pop over text boxes that explain interface elements. The beginning of the game will incorporate an “in game tutorial” that coaches a new player through the Frontier Sim creation, the creation of a Frontier SimHome, and provide tips on how to deal with the daily needs of your Frontier Sim by explaining how to interface with your Sim. Although typing will be spare and the use of hot keys to display certain options or screens, the main interface element will be the mouse. One can simply click on a Sim or SimObject, it will be highlighted, and the player will be able to interact with it. Right clicking on the highlighted object/Sim will allow the player to explore different options in terms of interaction. Objects in a Sims-like game should be easy to modify in terms of changing or modifying certain variables: there will be an editor that will allow anyone to import existing object models and alter the object’s variables (for example, the student can increase the happiness created by a card table, but also increase the amount of time required for a Sim to play it). Creating an object from scratch should not be that difficult: one could use a Google Sketch-up like 3D creator to create a game object. If students are motivated, they could research objects that had value in Nineteenth Century America and introduce them in the game. For example, does the game have opiates? After doing considerable research, a student could create an object that was addictive, make it look like a snuff box, and see the effects this object would have on a family or individual. Frontier Sims is also multi-player: students in a class can create a community of Frontier Sims. How will the student created Sims like each other? Do they have time to socialize? If they socialize too much and ignore their work/housework, their Frontier Sim may not be able to make money, the house can go into disrepair, and they may not be able to feed themselves eventually. What benefits does cooperation have? Can the Frontier Sims take the time to help build their neighbors new barn or repair a fence? Technically, the multiplayer could be “hot seat” (multiple people, usually two, using one computer), over a local computer network, or over the Internet. If a class is playing over the Internet with other classes, a chat client will need to be incorporated (if the students chat too much, they might ignore their Frontier Sims and negatively affect their final grade). In multiplayer Frontier Sims, (excluding hot seat only play), time will need to progress at the same rate so that all computers in the game could be synchronized. Multiplayer Frontier Sims should only be played by students who have played the single player version first because students will not have the option to pause the game to read historical updates. History will be learned as the history is revealed: the player will have the option to explore historic events/inventions in detail through an easy to use, hyperlinked library (like the Civilizations Series). Movies about these things may or not end up in the final game, but would be very useful: if possible, machimina (a video/cartoon made within the Frontier Sims world) will be used. In addition, as new inventions/events occur in the game, the player will be shown what it is and what variables it will affect: the player will also have the option to pause the game to explore the history of the event/object further. For educational purposes, a reflective journal will be incorporated into the game so that at the end of a gaming session, a student can reflect on the actions he or she took to maintain/improve the situation of the Frontier Sim. She could also reflect on how 19th Century events impacted the Frontier Sims. These journals could be public, viewable by the class(es) or private, viewable by only the student and teacher. Teachers can set their own rubric for the game or use the in game rubric to grade their students’ participation. Additionally, teachers can set a timer so that after 45 minutes of play, the students would have 10 minutes of reflection. Other factors can also be considered in grading: the student or teacher can set in game goals for the students. For example, a student can declare that they will be married and become a certain profession. The grade can reflect how close the student came to these goals or a thorough explanation of how these goals were sidetracked. Likewise, a teacher could set game goals for the students and grade them on whether they were reached and/or what factors helped/prevent them from achieving these goals. Winning an Open Ended Game: There are two modes of play, “Goal Selection” and “Scenario.” Each have their own criteria for successfully “winning” the game. Goal Selection (Gamplay time: 6-50 hours) Since Frontier Sims is an open-ended game, one can play with or without a goal in mind. However, for the FrontierSims to be educative and fun, success in this world can be determined by the player before the game starts. Victory is reached when these pre-selected goals have been met. (Of course, a teacher could set these goals for the students or for truly open ended game, one could select “No Goals.”). The player starts out single, with only a set number of dollars (a number that can be changed), and no home. Step 1: Gamer selects the starting date (from 1850 to 1889: 1890 is considered to be the last year that a frontier existed, but the game will go until 1899). Step 2: Gamer selects goals and time periods to reach goals. Goals will be divided into family, financial, social status, and political status. The example below is a minimal representation of the options available. Each goal will be divided into sub-goals. The sub-goals will have only one option to choose from several (like number of children), but several sub-goal categories can be selected within a goal (For example, 5 kids and 2 daughter/son-in-laws.) Example: Step 3: Player selects a general profession (Farming, Law, Theology, Education, etc.) Step 4: Player selects character's attributes: fortitude, industry, etc. These options may also be randomly assigned. Step 5: Player selects a plot of land within/near a town (if they are a farmer, hopefully, they'll place it outside of a town). Step 6: Player creates a house and furnishes it given available resources. Step 7: Game starts. The game is when when all of the pre-selected criteria are met. Hopefully, a player will set simpler goals for the first couple games then steadily “raise the bar.” This should contribute to its replayability. Scenarios (Gameplay time: 3-6 hours) Each scenario has a preset house and family make-up. The only aspect that the player can change is the character attributes at the beginning of the scenario. Scenario Name: Panic of 1873 Brief Description: During the 1873 panic, the U.S. economy was a shambles. Many men were out of work, businesses closed, and too much railroad speculation led to railroad failures. You start the game in 1872 and everything is fine until the the panic hits. Your father, who works for the railroad, has an unsteady source of income due to worker strikes. How do you manage your family of 5 (two teenage daughters and one 10 year old son) so that they are well fed and productive? What should the wife do so that the family can get by? If your circumstance become so dire, do you steal food or money? Conditions for Victory: Make it through two virtual years without: becoming homeless, losing a family member to starvation, or getting arrested. Scenario Name: Death in the Family Brief Description: Your husband has just died from a horrible farming accident. You will need to manage your family of three boys ages 6,12, and 14 and two girls ages 16 and 8. How can you manage your family so that the children do not starve? Are your kids old enough to work the fields? How do you divide the labor amongst the kids? Do you court local single men? What is the protocol for choosing an acceptable replacement? Do you attend church more often or public events to find a mate? Do you sell your home and move into town? You will need to manage your family's time and make the big decisions so that you do not become homeless or lose a child to starvation. Conditions for Victory: Make it through a virtual year without 1) becoming homeless and 2) losing a child to starvation. Scenario Name: Community Leader Brief Description: In 1870, your family has just moved from Ohio to Colorado. You and your wife must establish a daily routine so that your household runs smoothly, but also leaves time to improve your lifestyle and prominence in the community. There are several routes one can take based on the occupation chosen at the start of the game. For example, if the Frontier Sim chooses law or medicine, he could become a city councilman, but first, he'll have to work his way up the ranks by allotting enough time to improve his knowledge/capability for a job (thereby increasing income) and be able to socialize with the town folk in order to rise in the society. Balancing the needs of family, running a house, and being active in the community is a very difficult challenge. Conditions for Victory: When the head of your household becomes: member of the town council, prominent minister, or member of the local association of businessmen. A Sample Game Here is an example of the 3D isometric view of a Sim World. The player can see through walls according to the location of the game camera. http://thesims.uk.ea.com/gfx/screenshots/sims2-scr5_lrg.jpg Here is a picture how Sims 2 creates characters. Frontier Sims will not be so detailed in terms of character creation because a student might get bogged down with all of the options available to her. In fact, a teacher may decide that the only thing a person can choose is gender and set the rest of the character attributes, from looks to personality traits, random. http://image.com.com/gamespot/images/2004/reviews/914811_20040611_screen003.jpg This is an example of home improvement/creation in Sims 2. One can buy amenities based on price, aesthetics, and attributes (how it affects your Sim). In the picture below, you get a description of the object, how much it’s worth, and what variable (in this case, environment) it affects and to what degree. Frontier Sims will incorporate actual objects that existed during the Nineteenth Century, but how it impacts ones family is a matter of interpretation (an interpretation that can be modified by the player/teacher through the game editor). Notes: do a walkthrough...where to place it? Illinois State Standards.