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E-Learning Awards 08: Caspian Learning Wins Best Serious Game

Via: Caspian Learning - Caspian Learning Wins Best Learning Game and Simulation at the 2008 E-Learning Awards


Caspian Learning, a leader in the use of simulations and games within training and education announces it is this year’s winner of the E-Learning Awards’ Best Learning Game, Simulation or Virtual Environment category. 

Caspian won the award for its Rome in Danger game, which was designed to educate children about history by taking learners back in time to be immersed within a historical 3D world to experience real chapters of Roman life.

Caspian developed the game for a division of one of the world’s foremost media groups. The aim was to create web-based educational content for homes and schools globally. The immersive 3D interactive Roman history game, which dramatically enhances both learner motivation and learning outcomes, is set in ancient Rome where learners take the role of a futuristic Time Knight to solve mysteries and protect the integrity of time from those that would change it.

Graeme Duncan, CEO at Caspian Learning comments; “The Rome game was the first game developed with our authoring tool, Thinking Worlds™ 3.0, a unique 3D engine with a range of proven learning interactions and behaviors built into it. This enabled us to develop a very complex game with 48 different scenarios, over 20 worlds and hundreds of historical characters and artifacts, all of which was delivered in less than six months. Furthermore the game can be consumed real time through the web like any other Internet page which is a first for 3D educational games”

The judging panel comments: “By taking a subject like history, in need of revitalization, Caspian Learning has created an immersive world where learners can go on a voyage of discovery, completing challenges and tasks on the way. The learning objectives embedded into the game play hit all the buttons for learning engagement and achievement. The technology used to deliver this solution over the web successfully is a key achievement.”

Project Overview
Source: Award Submission Document

The client is a spin out business of one of the worlds foremost media groups. Its core business strategy is to generate a web-based educational offering that positions it as the primary choice for educational content to homes and schools globally. The company recognised that games technologies would offer one of the best opportunities to achieve its goals and engage its target audience: boys and girls aged between 11 and 14 yrs of age.

The clients ultimate goal is to deliver a series of real 3D learning based games applications, which motivate children to want to learn by taking advantage of the benefits of this technology and yet do it in a scalable and flexible way. They had a clear desire to develop a range of highly motivating “blue ribbon” resources that supplement these knowledge resources. The client selected the gaming medium in a clear and thought through effort to increase the levels of learner engagement and interaction, setting new standards in “educational applications”.

As a first step to achieving its goal, the client wanted to develop a game to cover approximately half of the ‘Roman History’ curriculum which would provide a proven development template for other curriculum areas.
The Game & Linking to Learning Needs

To meet these objectives, Caspian Learning developed an immersive 3D interactive game called Rome in Danger. This game was developed using Caspian’s core technology Thinking Worlds™.

The design template for Rome in Danger is a puzzle adventure format that successfully blends game plot and narrative with historical content and learning activities.

The game covers the development of Rome and explores the social and political changes related to it. Learners take on the role of ‘Time Knights’ working for the Chrono Crime Commission - a group of time travelling investigators sworn to protect the integrity of history from others from the future who may abuse it.

In the course of their adventures, learners travel back in time to be immersed within a historical 3D world to experience real chapters of Roman life. It covers major events including the Punic wars; Republic in crisis; and the rise of Imperial Rome. The real historical narrative is linked to different game story narratives, such as the chase of a Time Criminal – ‘AgentX’.

The game includes a ‘learning hub’ where the learner is briefed on their missions and receives feedback at the end of each challenge. The hub takes the physical form of a castle called Gilliam Castle. The castle provides the learner with access to their colleagues in the CCC and to a library of learning resources to support their mission. The learner must gather key information for their mission and pass knowledge acquisition tests before the Time Machine is activated and they can travel back to ancient Rome.

To explore Rome, learners use a choice of real 3D avatars with accurate animations and expressions. “The Roman Games” is a fast-paced problem solving game in which learners meet characters of the time that they must guide and advise through the challenges that they face. They also have the chance to interact with famous historical characters such as Julius Caesar, Augustus, Cicero and Arminius; to examine Roman artifacts and to use tools. There are many possible outcomes to each challenge and many possible routes to each outcome.

The game utilises 11 different learning or game mechanics – these are interactions by which the learner gains access to and manipulates learning information within the game. The learning / game mechanics directly link the actions of the player within the game and to the learning objectives that are to be achieved. It is a precise mapping in to the very DNA of the game. For example, for knowledge gathering and recognition the game employs mechanics such as multiple choice, conversation selections, process drops and labelling. Knowledge of key facts are embedded and tested by these methods. For higher level competencies the game employs mechanics of construction, non-linear conversation, block puzzles, object placement/manipulation and stealth.

These higher level multiple learning mechanics are linked together and interweaved with historical narrative and game story, sometimes over several different scenes. For instance, in mission one the player must solve several different mechanics to identify component parts of the plans of AgentX (the baddie). These must then be synthesised and judged in relation to historical events and facts, to understand what AgentX is going to do. This links natural resources, map of empire, voting process in Republic, role of Familia, role of Senate and the role of Military, to conclude and thwart his plans.

In this way every learning objective is literally embedded into the gameplay. These are seamlessly integrated within the game story and historical narrative – a very difficult task. These link time travel, real historical events and possible other versions of history, code breaking, key finding, assassins, historical characters, soldiers, crystals, special abilities and a multitude of other actors and objects into a coherent whole.

About Caspian Learning

Established in 2002, Caspian Learning is the leader in the use of simulations and games within training and education. By combining best practice in learning and memory research with 3D computer gaming technologies, Caspian developed a proprietary engine called Thinking Worlds™ that delivers highly advanced and engaging 3D Performance Simulations. These simulations transform the standard learning experience and place learners in highly contextual, immersive 3D worlds where they have to demonstrate their skill levels and carry out problem solving tasks.