Radix First Steps

Now that you’ve created an account to the Radix Endeavor website and are wondering what to do next, here are some tips on getting started.

Playing the game
You arrive on the island of Ysola, in an area dubbed Bladed Plains. Ysola is an earth-like world populated with people. Approach the child near you. She’ll send you on your way. Use the left-click and hold on your mouse to travel, or you can use WASD keys on your keyboard.

What to expect in game
We began with a tutorial quest line to help get you oriented as a player. Following that, there are topic quest lines on genetics and geometry to get started – and we’ve got much more to come. A few notes to help you if you get stuck:

  • Game progress is being saved, so once you have completed a quest with an account you won’t be able to play that quest again. You can, of course, always create a new account.
  • If at any point you are disconnected from the game (whether by interruption of service or if you chose to log out), your in-game location will not be saved. When you re-enter the game, your character will return to Bladed Plains.
  • Information on your quest objectives and quest items are not saved when disconnected. If you are disconnected from the game while you have an open quest in your quest log, please drop this quest and begin again. (Please see note from earlier that *Completed* quest cannot be restarted.)

Using the website
If you registered for a Teacher account, you begin with an unapproved Teacher account, which allows you to play the game right away. Once a Teacher account has been approved, you will see additional features under Dashboard. There are many Dashboard features in progress; you’re welcome to check out what we have so far. Dashboard tools include:

  • Create Class
  • Manage Class
  • Create Student
    etc.

On-going Project
We are continuing to polish our quests, in game tools and website features during the Beta period. If you find bugs as you make your way through the game, that is expected! You can send us feedback at:

radix-feedback (at) mit.edu

We will monitor that mailing list for feedback, however we won’t be able to reply to each message. If you have questions related to the project and need a reply, please continue to write to:

radix-info (at) mit.edu

Thank you for joining us during the Beta period and thank you for playing!

Play The Radix Endeavor!

The Beta version of The Radix Endeavor is here!

Information on our project is still available at this link so you can read all about it: http://education.mit.edu/projects/radix-endeavor

If you are ready to dive in, register to play here: http://www.radixendeavor.org

Things of note:

  • Please create temporary accounts for now. You can even use a fake email address to register. At the end of the Beta period, we will do a full system purge of these accounts and start fresh.
  • If you selected the Teacher account type, please enter “MIT” as your school, and select MIT from the drop-down. The address info will auto-populate.

For Teacher accounts, the system creates an un-approved Teacher account when you first register. Un-approved Teacher accounts will not display the Dashboard feature at the top of the page. These accounts will be reviewed by Admins to be confirmed and approved. Once approved, you will see the Dashboard feature after log in. Please note that it may take up to 48-hrs for an unapproved Teacher account to be reviewed and approved.

This being our Beta release, you will likely encounter error messages. Please bear with us! We thank you for your patience as we work to continue to improve your game/website experience.

Questions? Contact radix-info (at) miit.edu.

Fun With Phenotypes

When you make a game, designing the game mechanics (what the player does and how the game experience feels) is a huge part of the job. Writing the game content (all the stories, characters, and tasks) is another huge job! Writing content for an educational game is even trickier because we have to make the content appropriate to the game, fun and engaging, and also true to the concepts being taught in the game. In Radix, although it is a fictional world, this means everything about the world still has to follow the rules of mathematics and also plausibly fit into realistic biological systems.

One example of content we’ve been writing lately is all the phenotypes of the plants and animals in the world. “Phenotypes” refers to their genetic traits – the way they look or function, which you can see or experience. For instance, within the same species some flowers could be red and others yellow. Or, bugs could have long or short antennae. Real plants and animals have countless traits with very complex varieties, but in the world of Radix we simplified our system to focus on up to 3 traits per species, with up to 5 possible varieties within each trait.

myzle-yellow        myzle-orange

Coming up with the traits and their varieties is both challenging and fun! It involves researching real species to see what is feasible, thinking beyond the most common examples like color and measurements, plus fitting the traits to the species in the world and what can be reasonably drawn or communicated to the player. For example, some myzle flowers have a shock factor while others don’t – shockingness is an interesting trait that leads to lots of fun uses in the world! Ripsnarls can have curly or straight tails, and may be bred for a certain variety depending on what is currently desired as pets. Other traits are not even visible, like an animal’s sense of smell or the stickiness of a plant’s sap.

Ripsnarl2By providing a rich array of examples, we hope to get the idea across to players about how important biodiversity is, and at the same time let them figure out that there is a genetic system that can be discovered and understood. Most importantly, since Radix is set in a contextual world, players don’t just collect and breed animals because they are following instructions. Rather they are motivated to do so in order to use those special phenotypes to solve problems and improve their character and the world!

Teacher Conferences!

Last month we went to both NSTA (science teachers conference) and NCTM (math teachers conference) to present on Radix. We talked to teachers about why an MMO is a good fit for STEM learning, what the Radix gameplay experience is like, and where we are in our current phase of production. We also told them about the exciting opportunity to pilot the game during the 2013-14 school year, and invited them to sign up here to get more information on the pilot program as it becomes available.

We love going to teacher conferences because we get to share our project with teachers who we hope will play it with their students and make it come alive. But we also love it because we get great feedback on the game and our implementation plans from objective potential users. We live and breathe Radix every day, but they help us see it through the eyes of someone getting their first look at the game and evaluating it as a usable tool, which tells us a lot about what’s necessary to actually adopt it. Teachers at both conferences asked great questions about how students interact in the game, privacy concerns related to in-game chat, how to track student progress, and much more. This gave us a good sense of what the most important elements are for teachers, aside from content and standards, that would enable them to use Radix “in the wild”. And knowing this helps us prioritize features when we work with our developers over the next few months.

One of our favorite comments came when a teacher we met voiced her concern about the game, asking, “What do we tell the English teachers when the students aren’t doing their English homework because they’re busy playing this game all evening?” Well, if this game is that engaging for students, we’ll just have to tell the English teachers they need to find an equally good literacy game! We’re excited for math and biology teachers all over the country to use this new style of learning game and help us research its merits and challenges, and if what we find is that students are spending that much time on it, that’s not a bad problem to have!

The Radix Team

Eric Klopfer, the PI on the Radix project, recently wrote this article describing how not only his teams but each team member has interdisciplinary expertise. The Radix team is no exception and on a highly collaborative project like this, it’s essential that each team member be able to not only understand the problems others are grappling with but contribute to them as well.

For example, Susannah is our Education Content Manager. She has a PhD in biology, has taught high school math, and has experience writing curriculum materials. As the Lead Designer, I (Louisa) have a technology background, teaching experience, and knowledge of designing, building, and testing learning games. Jody is our Assessment Specialist. Her doctorate in Education combined with her expertise of innovative assessment strategies and extensive gaming background makes her the perfect person to design Radix’s game-based assessments. In addition, the staff and student developers in our lab are not only talented programmers, they also have an interest and often background in education and specifically educational games.

Having team members with the ability to understand a variety of aspects of the project is very useful. It enables smoother communication and we are better able to develop and refine ideas for the game. In addition, with a small team it means there are more people to help out on a given part of the project when necessary. Having people with a variety of skills but who all have a passion for learning games also means our teams are in tune and enjoy working together!

A Helpful Companion

Among all the types of feedback being developed for Radix, communication with the player was one of the first considerations.  Many open-world games bring a variety of strategies to the table.

Quest giver in World of Warcraft

Navi from Legend of Zelda
Pokedex from Pokemon

Some games use the non-playable characters (NPCs) in the game to communicate all or most of the feedback.  Sometimes these characters are simply civilians scattered throughout the digital world, who offer advice or quests when the player approaches them.  World of Warcraft and the Elder Scrolls series employ this strategy. Other games, like the Final Fantasy series, will have characters accompany the player as part of their “party.” Sometimes a player gets a fantastical companion, such as Link’s fairy companions in the Legend of Zelda series.  Other times, the player carries a gadget or other item to aid them, like the Pokedex in Pokemon.  Some games include a central hub that radios the main character, like Alfred from the Batcave.  Some games resort to simple pop-ups, like the God of War series, while others offer no hints at all.

Out of all these choices and more, The Radix Endeavor is interested in giving players a companion to accompany them on their journey.  Even this decision has raised more interesting choices.  Is the companion a sagacious guide?  A goofy comic-relief?  A loveable animal?

As of this writing, the team has opted to pair the player with a wise owl.  The owl is an island native, so it is knowledgeable of the island, its inhabitants, and its mysteries.  The owl accompanies the player and knows how the player is acting and progressing.

Helpful owl companion

When a player is stuck, the owl may swoop in with helpful hints or insights to get the player thinking again.  The owl could also recommend resources for the player to learn more.  The owl then flies away until needed again.  The player can even manually call for his owl for help, but the owl may not help the player every time he is beckoned.  The owl offers personalized advice for each player depending on the player’s needs and actions.  We’re looking forward to how players will utilize and perhaps bond with their new feathered friends in the world of Radix.

Image references:

  1. http://gamestudies.org/0801/articles/karlsen
  2. http://www.zeldauniverse.net/zelda-news/navi-pesters-comic-con-crowd/
  3. http://es.pokemon.wikia.com/wiki/Pok%C3%A9dex
  4. http://www.jrj-socrates.com/Cartoon%20Pages/winnie_the_pooh.htm