Biology Meets Fantasy – Creating the flora and fauna of Radix

The Radix island world is full of plants and animals living everywhere from cities to swamps.  While the setting is “earth-like”, it is not actually earth.  This means that our artists and designers have lots of freedom in what they create.  However, we have to think carefully about the properties of everything that we create.  To begin with – can these plants and animals really exist?  We don’t want to make animals that seem anatomically impossible – a grasshopper the size of the empire state building would collapse under it’s own weight!  We also want teachers to be able to relate the game world to the real world so we try to not stray too far from what we know.  This often leads of a bit of fun – we spent an afternoon looking up all kinds of plants that could glow in the dark.  Bioluminescence is amazing.

LightPlants

Since our plants and animals are being used for biology quests we have to think about them in even more detail.  Anything used in the genetics quest line needs to have well defined traits.  As we think about those traits we have to decide which ones are dominant/recessive combinations?  Which ones are sex-linked?  One of our favorite creations is a striped trait for slugs.  Some have horizontal stripes, some have vertical stripes – we decided those traits would express a co-dominant inheritance pattern and that meant we could breed plaid slugs!  As we develop ecosystems, we determine predator-prey relationships and fit all the plants and animals into food webs.  In most cases, we don’t reveal these relationships to the players.  Instead, through the quests, they discover them.  We set evolutionary relationships in the world allowing students to track changes in traits over time, try to determine common ancestors and make predictions about how organisms in the world might change.

menjis

We want the world to feel new and exciting, but we need it to be accurate.  Sometimes it feels like a very fine line between fantasy and biology. Occasionally though, just when we thought we’ve gone too far into the fantasy world, an internet search shows us that nature can be just as odd as our imaginations.

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The Marketplace

One of the earliest pieces of concept art we got from Filament was this image of a marketplace. It was an instant favorite with our team because of the way the colors make it feel both dark and mysterious as well as warm and intriguing. As a player exploring this world, we can’t resist peeking in to see who is behind that curtain and what exotic wares they may have to offer.

At the time, we didn’t know exactly how we would use this setting but we knew we wanted to have a marketplace in the game world. Later, as we were working on the algebra curriculum, we decided on a bartering system for the marketplace that would play up the desire to explore the unique goods on offer there, while creating a place where players will need to think about unit conversions, ratios, and systems of equations. Using math skills in a realistic context, players will be able to get the best deals on their much-needed berbuckles, myzle flowers, and exploding fruit.