Friday, September 3, 2010

From idea to first prototype

Once we had the idea of using a virtual globe as a game board we had to figure out how to do it. Since we were geographers with limited computer and coding skills we had to seek outside help. Being at a place like Ohio State is a huge advantage in that situation because there is always an expert in whatever you can come up with. In this case we talked with the directors of CETI, Drs. rajiv Ramnath and Jay Ramanathan. It turned out that they offered project oriented capstone classes in things like Enterprise Architecture (CSE 757) Software Engineering (CSE 758) and Service Oriented Computing (CSE 762) and students team were always on the lookout for challenging projects. As a sponsor of two such capstone projects we got to experience some prototype functionality for the envisioned games.

The first prototype was built in the spring of 2008 using Openlayers and managed to handle real-time interaction on a map between simultaneously logged-in users. The next prototype was built in the fall of 2008 and experimented with the newly released Google Earth javaScript plug-in for web-browsers. It could handle multiple players around a RISK-style, command-and-conquer type of game where players could interact through chat and see other player's moves in real time. Another feature was the ability to freely add additional geographic data to the map display. One of the things I find most interesting with the GeoGame idea is the ability to have these game-like scenarios develop over time as a result of player's interactions, identified needs for additional information, or modifications to the rules of engagement, all decided by the participants/players. IF we can find a clever way of saving these preferences we can allow users to build on previous experiences and developments of a game, from a simple adoption of a board game, to a complex, dynamic, and organic system.

These prototypes gave us enough insight into the technical challenges and possibilities of our idea in order to formulate a robust proposal for an internal development grant (TELR Expertise grant ~$10k). This grant helped fund a Master's student to do some serious coding and development. It also provide technical, and design support for the adoption of the game in an educational setting. mor on that next time.

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