Fragmented Reality – Ludum Dare 33

Amidst all the preparations for the upcoming fall term, I found some time last weekend to participate in the 33rd Ludum Dare contest. My entry is “Fragmented Reality,” which some of the reviewers described as an “art game”.

Fragmented Reality screenshot

Screenshot from an earlier version of the game

For those unfamiliar with the contest (which I may have described here before), the objective is to complete an entire game, from scratch, in 48 hours. Art, sound, music, design all has to be completed in two days. You are allowed to start with publicly available code libraries, which saves us all from having to design our own programming languages, compilers, and base libraries. I like to refer to it as the “Nanowrimo of game development,” but unlike Nanowrimo, the entries are rated by all the other participants.

The theme this time, voted on by the participants, was “you are the monster.”

The trick to doing well seems to be to know what you can reasonably accomplish in 48 hours. I’m pretty happy with the way mine came out, especially considering I didn’t have the entire 48 hours. I didn’t really have time to sit back and think about how well I made the design decisions, but there are fewer flukes than in the last two contents I participated in.

I’m filing this one under “storytelling”, because despite all the little shortcomings, I’m pretty pleased with the ending. There are a few frustrating levels, but it’s a short game.

{ Game Page }

{ Ludum Dare entry page }

The Hybrid Textbook, Part 1

A couple of years ago I wrote about the hybrid novel. Recently, I’ve been bringing this idea back into the spotlight in the form of a “hybrid textbook” that will supplement an introductory-level course I’m starting this semester.

In my 2011 experiment with the “hybrid novel”, I envisioned a novel that adapted its content based on the reader’s input. The intended effect was subtle, and mostly found in the illustrations and “illuminations”. The result would have been less like a choose-your-own-adventure book, and more like using the illustrations to solve the mystery in The Eleventh Hour.

“Illuminations” in a textbook are hardly new. For instance, many books on programming languages came with sample programs; math books with calculator programs and activities; other books with supplemental CDs; etc. Today, most online homework systems provide guided and interactive tutoring.

However, there are still two notable problems I consistently run into:

  • Many students do not purchase the textbook, and fewer regularly read it
  • In introductory (100-level) courses, there is a wide range of student ability

On the first point, there are plenty of students who don’t know how to read the book. Obviously a textbook–math, in particular–will not read like a novel. Properly reading the book requires some ability to teach one’s own self. I can’t expect 100-level students to come into class with this ability, since one of the goals of a college education is to “learn how to learn”, so to speak.

There are also multiple types of learners to deal with. Some people are visual learners, others auditory, and so on. A book isn’t going to do much for an auditory learner, nor a kinesthetic learner.

On the second point, an introductory course is less likely to have prerequisites that ensure the students come in with a certain level of ability. In fact, the course I’m targeting doesn’t even have a “recommended” prerequisite course. It’s the most elementary course we offer. Even in a small class, the spectrum is fairly wide.

In an effort to solve these problems, I’ve designed a “hybrid textbook” that incorporates video, audio, interactive demonstrations, and traditional text. The supporting software is the Instructional Software Development Kit that I spoke about at ICTCM 2015, and takes advantage of just about the entire toolset. Indeed, this was the project I had in mind when I designed the toolset.

I am beginning to bring the book online. I have the about page up. (As of time of writing, none of the other links work). It is designed to accompany a “flipped classroom”, and so many of the activities within the book feed to a report I can use to monitor student progress. I can adapt the course as necessary.

In Part 2, we’ll see what is working and what needs improvement–once I learn that myself.

Imaginary Worlds

Euclid

One of those days, eh?

When my brother and I were kids, we always had to have an imaginary world. It was usually a setting for all of our Lego-related adventures. The first world was called “Image”, but I don’t remember why.

What I do remember, though, was that we had a surprisingly large cast of regular characters. There was Largo, named after the character from Monkey Island; Governor Marbles, who was the (unseen) antagonist; Mr. Jockey, who evolved over the years in several ways; and “Butt”, because we were eight year-old boys when we named him.

Now that I’m well into my thirties, I still have a little imaginary world. So, some things never change.

An Orthogonal Universe has stepped up to fill this role. Unfortunately, now it’s having a bit of an identity crisis. Is it a book series? Website? (Recently) a cartoon series?

For better or worse, the actual answer is “all of the above”–and more. However, I do need to be careful that I don’t undermine the book series.

So, I am now taking some steps to separate the provinces of my internet empire. In a stroke of luck, I managed to secure my own name as a domain name.

www.robertloydwatson.com will become what math.anorthogonaluniverse.com was set to be–a host for my more professional-related activities (teaching, research, etc.). One of the motivating factors for this is that, over the next few months, I’ll be bringing an interactive textbook online. A product of the Instructional Software Development Kit, it will be used in one of the courses I’ll be starting this semester.

I’ll likely be moving the cartoons to their own site. I have a fairly extensive list of ideas, and at a rate of only one per week, it’s a feature I could easily keep going for the next few months. If I’m not careful, this feature could easily crowd out the rest of the site.

This blog will continue to be a central “hub” for news and updates on any of my endeavors. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be cleaning up the post categories. If you’re subscribed to the site, (Thanks for your interest!) you can click the “subscription” tab and un-check any categories you’re not interested in following.

I’ll be combining redundant categories. I often use joke tags, but I do try to be consistent with the categories. After some time, though, I need to do a bit of spring fall* cleaning.

* When you’re in academics, “fall” is the school semester–not the season.