Students love to play computer games, and the West Virginia Department of Education is tapping into that love through a website called Learn21. The site offers all kinds of games that help students in every grade level brush up on their studies. Fifth grade students in Dottie Pownall’s classroom at Orchard View Elementary in Martinsburg have played Probability Pond, a math game offered on the Learn21 website that features a big green frog. The frog can eat fireflies in colors of blue, yellow, purple, and red. The students have to determine what the probability is that the frog will eat a particular color. The students take turns guessing the answer and entering it on a large smart board in front of the room.
Special education teacher Sharon Collins led some lessons this year, incorporating as much technology as possible. “Almost every day, we find something online through Learn21 or other resources and incorporate it into our classroom,” Collins says. “With having an inclusion classroom, we have students who have vision problems. We have students who have speech problems, learning problems. We have an autistic student in our class, and then we also have regular ed. students, and it really appeals to their different types of learning styles.” The state education department started Learn21 two years ago.
The website offers online games that go along with the curriculum. Teachers can use the games in class, and students can access the website from home if they want to practice some more. Donna Landin, the department’s e-learning coordinator, says Learn21 is meant to help students in a variety of ways.
“They could find content on the website, go into that content, complete a game or an interactivity that went right along with what they were learning in their classroom, so it was either supplemental, or it helped them get at areas where they were having some problems, or it could accelerate their learning,” Landin says. Learn21 also offers the opportunity to review material. “They can go back and pick up concepts that they had gone over formerly, maybe in previous grades or earlier in the year,” Landin says. Vol. 05, Issue 03, Page 11
Can first-person shooter skills really be taught?
A development studio in Scotland thinks they can – and it has the browser-based instructional game to prove it
FPS Trainer … you too can shoot people with ease
Some gamers are just naturally good at killing people. They have the fast responses, the pinpoint hand-eye coordination, the Rain man-like ability to memorize maps and power-up locations. Meanwhile, the rest of us bumble around in the darkness hoping to achieve a kills-to-deaths ratio that doesn’t utterly shame our entire ancestral line. Now Play2Improve, a fresh-faced development studio based in Scotland’s games industry capital Dundee, thinks it can help players in the latter camp. Launched recently as a free-to-play browser game, FPS Trainer is essentially a coaching aid for would-be virtual assassins. With simplified visuals that separate maps into different strategic zones, the idea is to help players develop the tactical base necessary to start dishing out effective slaughter.
“FPS Trainer provides you with the necessary knowledge for playing online,” says designer Paul “acts!” McGarrity, himself a professional gamer who has triumphed in several major LAN and online events over the past decade. “It cuts out months of laborious practice time in FPS games by teaching the core skills and methods which experienced and professional players use when competing at the highest levels. “We do this by introducing the strategies for managing resources, controlling your opponents, positioning yourself, using the terrain or level features and setting up shots to maximize damage – all in a highly visual and intuitive manner.
There are many levels of strategy in competitive FPS titles that can take years to even become aware of; FPS Trainer will introduce these at an early stage to take you up the ladder more easily.” With its stylized visuals and emphasis on quickly picking up weapons and health packs, the game most closely resembles twitchy arena shooters such as Quake and Unreal Tournament, but the studio, Play2Improve, reckons the strategies it teaches will help with all kinds of FPS title. “We don’t really see a distinction between an arena-based FPS and more ranged, free-roaming combat – with the exception of vehicles to traverse larger maps,” says founder Matt Sweeney.
“Our premise is that first-person shooters are fundamentally strategic in nature, rather than purely twitch-based; therefore, we are focusing on the mental side of the game; including timing, positioning and appropriate weapon selection. This is what differentiates a good player from a bad one – not just blindly rushing in and shooting, but making sure you are fully prepared and taking a far more measured approach.” Set up in 2009 and based within the University of Alberta, Play2Improve has an interesting background. Although several of its staff has traditional games industry experience, Sweeney comes from the serious games sector, where simulations are developed to train workers in various professions.
With his previous company, TPLD set up when he was a student at Alberta, he created games for the Scottish schools system and for corporations looking for assessed cooperation exercises – it’s probably a natural progression from Apprentice-style team challenges to the dog-frog-dog world of the first-person shooter. One of the key elements of FPS Trainer is the monitoring of player behaviors and the provision of post-game feedback – and apparently this extends to more than just hit percentages. “Basic accuracy stats can be misleading,” says McGarrity. “We will be providing information not just on whether you scored a hit or not, but on whether you maximized the damage with each shot.
Along with this there will be information about which areas of a level you are most active in, which areas you have neglected and also indicators to show where you should ideally be positioned in key situations, along with your actual location at the time. The stats will also cover things such as item pickups, including the amount and frequency. They will show how long items have been left unclaimed, which will tie in with the positioning tips.” What’s really interesting is the way the game sounds like one of the fitness titles currently dominating the kindest software line-up.
As Sweeney says: “There are detailed stats for debriefing, with intuitive graphs and visualizations to identify strengths and weaknesses; you can track your performance over time and compare stats with your friends and peers, and everything can be easily shared with friends via Face book.” It’s the same approach as Your Shape or EA Sports Active 2, but it’s about shooting at people; it represents the appropriation of mainstream coaching techniques for a hardcore gaming genre. I like that.
At the moment, the game can only be played on PC and Mac (it runs on Unity so you’ll need the correct plug-in), and the next step will be the addition of premium paid-for features. But Play2Improve is also planning to create Xbox Live and PSN versions once they’ve achieved a benchmark of 100,000 users online. If it does make it too console, I’ll be near the front of the queue – though I’ll probably be shot in the back of the head by a sniper I failed to spot on my way in. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/gamesblog/2010/dec/23/first-person-shooter-skills-training.)
China’s Shanda Games takes majority ownership of eFusion MMOG By James Bright man
The online games publisher is looking to boost its overseas strategy Eschborn, Germany-based eFusion MMOG GmbH announced today that Chinese online games publisher Shanda Games has purchased a majority stake in the company (financial terms were not disclosed). At the same time, eFusion just announced that its entered into an agreement with Eyed entity Games, a Korean online game development studio for the exclusive license to operate its action MMORPG Dragon Nest in Europe. Shanda views the move as an important step in shoring up its overseas business. The company said it “has a strong intention to enhance its presence in the European market, where its influence remains relatively modest compared to other regions of the world.”
With the Shanda investment, eFusion noted that it will now “have all of the capital it needs in order to level up its position in the MMO games market.” The next step for the publisher will be to launch Dragon Nest across Europe. Michael Lim, founder and CEO of eFusion MMOG GmbH, commented, “We are really delighted to become part of Shanda Games and are also excited about the tremendous opportunity to offer Dragon Nest, a skill based high-quality MMORPG, to European gamers.
Launching Dragon Nest in Europe will be a huge milestone for us, but most of all, we’re looking forward to Dragon Nest attracting lots of fans among European gamers. The online game market in Europe is growing very fast but the competition is becoming tougher. We are ready to face the challenge and to build on eFusion MMOG’s success in this market.” (http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2012-07-25-chinas-shanda-games-takes-m ajority-ownership-of-efusion-mmog-gmbh.)
Definition of terms
1. MMOG- refers to role-playing games where thousands of gamers play online in a virtual and persistent environment on the Internet. (http://geekdictionary.computing.net/define/mmog.) 2. First Person Shooter Game- A first person shooter, commonly called FPS in the gaming arena, is a game in which the player sees the action on the screen as if he or she were looking through the eyes of the main character he or she is playing. (http://vgstrategies.about.com/od/basicgamingtipstricks/g/fps.htm.)
3. Simulation game- By definition a simulation is an imitation. So computer simulation games are games that imitate a real-life situation. Another way to think about it is that sim games attempt to recreate a past event. (http://compsimgames.about.com/cs/gamingtips/g/simulation.htm.) 4. Educational game- An educational game is a game designed to teach humans about a specific subject and to teach them a skill. As educators, governments, and parents realize the psychological need and benefits of gaming have on learning, this educational tool has become mainstream. (http://teachinglearningresources.pbworks.com/w/page/35130965/Educational%20Games.)
5. DOTA- is an action real-time strategy mod for the video game War craft III: Reign of Chaos and its expansion, War craft III: The Frozen Throne, based on the “Aeon of Strife” map for Star Craft. The objective of the scenario is for each team to destroy the opponents’ Ancients, heavily guarded structures at opposing corners of the map. (http://dictionary.babylon.com/dota/.)
6. Diablo- is a word in Spanish meaning “devil”. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diablo.) 7. Dragon nest- A free-to-play Korean MMORPG playable in Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, North America, SEA, Australia, and New Zealand. In North America, Nexon runs and operates the game on their servers. (http://www.soslang.com/term/dragon-nest.) 8. Ran online- is a free to play, 3D MMORPG developed by Min Communications, Inc. located in Daegu, Republic of Korea. The game is set in the modern world built around 3 schools. Players will belong one of these three distinctive schools and enjoy the game. Plus, one of the six special clubs in each school can be selected as the class of a character.