Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Shrinking the scope - how to go to market

OK .. breathe.

We've come a long way since we decided to make a 3-D video game about Mathematics. In some ways we bit off more than we could chew -- math is an enormous subject, and to explore it with a video game means we could only ever hope to cover a tiny slice of it. But which slice?

The short answer: Integers, Simple Operations, Negatives, and Fractions.

How did this happen?

We started by literally throwing things together in a world and seeing what stuck. What was fun to play with? Well, one of the core building blocks of math is numbers, so we started with 3-D numbers you could pick up and play with. That turned out to be pretty fun -- the default mechanic ended up being very simple. Just touch two numbers together, no matter which numbers, and they add together.

One of the major breakthroughs of our game was the Fraction Sword. I don't actually remember who came up with it -- the three of us were just brainstorming about cool things we could do, and we hit on the idea of literally cutting numbers in half to produce fractions. We implemented it and it was immediately fun! Boys and girls alike (and all three cofounders) love to cut integers and see fractions pop out. There's something deeply satisfying about this level of number manipulation.

Negatives came out of necessity. Since the only way to destroy something (like a wall or enemy) is to add until the result is zero, one of the two numbers must be a negative. We've heard that teaching negative numbers has been moved to Seventh grade -- outrageous! We've seen six year olds grasp the concept of negatives after just a few minutes with Mathbreakers.

Finally, we have operations. This was the logical next step after addition. Here's a gif of the number hoop in action -- it's a door you walk through that either multiplies or divides whatever numbers you have.

So there you have it. Through thousands of trial-and-error experiments, we boiled it down to a few simple mechanics that work together to strengthen your number sense, all in a vivid 3-D adventure that will have you leaving your math worksheets in the dust!

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