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Straight from a game into your E-Learning Course – Bitesize Tip #3

First of all a little news from me, I’m going to be moving to a new site very soon – this is due to happen by the end of this week. I’ll also be recording podcasts to be hosted over at the new site, the release of the first podcast will coincide with the launch of the site, so lots of exciting changes coming up very soon!

I haven’t put out a bitesize tip in a while so whilst I’m writing a new feature post I thought I’d offer another example of some great instructional approaches in video games. This time I’m looking at a game called Trine 2 – a wonderful action, adventure, puzzle, platforming cross-grenre game.

What I’d like to pay particular focus to in this game is the way the introduction unfolds. So as always let’s take a look at a brief overview of what Trine 2 is.

What is Trine 2?

Trine 2 is a puzzle platform video game, requiring the player to use the skills of the three characters, Amadeus the wizard, Zoya the thief, and Pontius the knight, to navigate each game level. As with the first game, the mystical “Trine” has bound the three characters together into one common entity, and thus the player controls only one character which can be switched to the other two at any time. Each of the characters has unique abilities: Amadeus can use magic to grab onto certain objects in the game world, and create boxes and planks to be used to get around; Zoya can strike at objects with her arrows, and grapple onto certain surfaces; and Pontius is strong in combat against foes, can bash apart walls, and deflect projectiles with his shield. A combination of these elements are necessary to complete each stage in the game’s world.

Why’s it great?

So the introduction to Trine 2 has to bring in three characters we will take control of during the story and how they do this provides a lovely example of how we can open up an E-Learning course.

We are guided as a player by the fantastic voice of the narrator telling the story of how each character started their quest. So the narrator speaks in the third person whilst we control the character through the level.

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What’s really clever about this approach is that if there is a screen you have spent a little too much time on, potentially there is a puzzle that you just can’t crack, then the narrator is on hand to provide you with a little prompt for how to complete it.

One example when you play as the wizard, Amadeus, you quickly get to a screen where you have to use his telekinesis spell to lift a box to counter balance a tree allowing you to progress to the next area. If you spend too long on this screen without successfully completing the puzzle the narrator jumps in and says something along the lines of:

“Amadeus needed to counter balance the tree to continue his journey, this is no problem for a wizard of his ability – Amadeus would simply conjure a box to provide the additional weight he needed.”

This approach is one that can be adopted in E-Learning with relative ease. We can introduce the main character to the learner and use audio narration to support them through an introduction so they are comfortable with the navigation through the course. By reading this blog you’ll be aware that I’m very passionate about narrative, I think that the use of an introduction like this really helps bring in some engaging narrative. Of course not all courses are going to have audio with them – to counter this why not use a ‘guide’ who can appear on screen should the user spend longer than usual on that particular slide. Use the guide to compliment your instructional text, we know not everyone pays attention to it so think about time limits for certain screens and have the guide appear if the user begins to over run that time.

If you think that the narrator is a little bit above the level you are comfortable implementing then why not have a look at the way that instructions are displayed to the player. In Trine basic commands are displayed above the player before they can conduct any actions in a sort of bubble effect.

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You can even combine both approaches together:

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This is a very nice way to display our instructional text, it’s right in front of the user which means the chances are they aren’t going to miss it. Of course Trine has a very ‘fantasy’ feel – however with some simple changes any of these points I’ve mentioned can easily be transferred to a range of topics in E-Learning.

See you very soon at the new site.

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