Educational game about the Cretaceous Era

Bring a dinosaur back home by avoiding the many dangers of the Cretaceous Era!

Context

I worked with museum curators to create an educational game to support their exhibition on dinosaurs. The game is designed for children aged 8-12 and can be used as an adjunct to school programs. The simplified navigation makes the content shine, while animation transports learners back into the world of dinosaurs.

To comply with my non-disclosure agreement, I have omitted confidential information in this case study.

Tools used for this project: Captivate 2017, Adobe After Effects, Adobe Character Animator, Adobe Illustrator, JavaScript.

My role: building a learner-centered experience

Define and observe

The subject-matter experts of the museum were available for the duration of the project, and we had easy access to testers, so we decided on an iterative approach.

We first defined more precisely what we wanted to achieve and what we wanted to avoid, as well as indicators of success. I then performed a competitive analysis to see what types of media were used in similar situations.

Empathize before designing

I wanted to make sure the content of the game would be adapted to the abilities of the target audience, so I interviewed two teachers. Both told me how they would use the game as an educational tool, and how they would relate its content to school programs.

elearning-animated-dinosaur
Closeup of the Albertosaurus, meaning you're in trouble...

I also interviewed several children, asking them what they liked and disliked in video games. I asked the same questions about classroom exercises, and also questioned them about how they’d like to interact with dinosaurs if they could. My goal was to determine what to look for and what to avoid when building the scenario and interactions.

“I’d explore all the jungle and see all dinosaurs” - Gary

“I don’t like when I do something, and I didn’t know I shouldn’t do it, and nobody told me, and I get time-out” - Adam

“I like when my teacher is next to me if I don’t understand” - Alexis

Create several options, pick the best one

I created several scenarios based on these testimonies and the goals of our game. Our team agreed on what we thought were the two best ones, and I made a first version of them with Twine. We tested them both, and chose to develop the most popular among learners.

screenshot-twine-software
First glimpse at our scenario, made with Twine.

Our final scenario: a dinosaur got lost looking for food. The learners’ goal is to bring it back home safe and sound. The game is made up of three levels:

  1. - pick a path, and escape a dangerous predator,
  2. - choose the right direction by knowing attributes of dinosaurs, such as being biped or quadruped, oviparous or mammal, etc,
  3. -choose the type of food adapted to the dinosaur’s diet in order for it to regain energy and finish its journey.
screenshot-adobe-captivate
Game built with Adobe Captivate 2017.

Build, test, review

Once the scenario adapted, I did all the graphics in Illustrator. I then storyboarded the different levels of the game, and finally built it with Adobe Captivate 2017 and Adobe Character Animator. Finally, I tested and adapted it according to users’ feedback (interviews). It took 3 iterations before it was ready to go.

screenshot-character-animator
Animation built with Adobe Character Animator and Adobe After Effects.

What I learned

  1. Character Animator is a great tool. Easy to use, with tons of possibilities, and people love animation.
  2. Children are more than honest when they test a product, but the questions have to be extremely clear, with a simple vocabulary.
  3. For a lot of testers, freedom in a game is not linked to choices, but more about the possibility to move your character around.
  4. Music is greatly appreciated, and gives a real atmosphere to a game.