E-Learning, ELearning, Game Design, Gamification, Gaming, Instructional Design, Training Design
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How we can use Turn Based Combat in E-Learning – Revolutionize & Gamify your Multiple Choice Questions!

It’s been a long time (or so it feels) since I’ve written a post.

Since the excitement I had writing my previous post on Pokemon, (available here if you haven’t seen it yet) things have been very busy for me. Along with all of the work I’ve had I also completed a charity trek which has taken away some of my time.

But all is now well and although the work hasn’t slowed down at all I do owe it to everyone (including myself) to take another look at a game and see what we can learn from it. These periods of reflection increase my knowledge as well and allow me to look back at the work I’m producing to make sure it’s up to the level I expect of myself. Writing blog posts is one of the best self-study methods I have so I’m glad that you stick with me and enjoy coming on this adventure.

I’m going to keep this post as a simple concept idea for how we can build an E-Learning course looking at a game called The Banner Saga. My aim by the end of this is to change the way you look at multiple-choice questions.

What is The Banner Saga?

The Banner Saga is a Viking-themed tactical role-playing video game developed by Stoic, a trio of indie game developers formerly of BioWare, and published by Versus Evil, an independent video game publisher based in the US. It was released as a single player campaign, The Banner Saga – the first game of a projected trilogy – on 14 January 2014, as well as a separate free-to-play online multiplayer game, The Banner Saga: Factions, in February 2013.

The core of the game is a single-player campaign of turn-based combat engagements inspired by games such as Final Fantasy Tactics and Shining Force, with the player controlling and being able to build up a party of characters with complementing abilities.

According to the developers, their aim was to create a “mature game for adults in the vein of Game of Thrones or The Black Company”. They intend to engage players emotionally by allowing them to build relationships with the game’s characters and shape the outcome of the story through an array of conversation choices. The game eschews certain conventions of action-oriented computer role-playing games such as the focus on a young lone hero’s story, looting and buying items, or reloading a saved game state after defeat. Instead, the developers intended to tell the story of the player’s caravan as a whole, and encourage players to accept and deal with the consequences of any defeats they may encounter.


What can we learn?

Well you may have already picked up from this initial introduction that the game description feels quite similar to the Walking Dead series of games that I’ve covered. I’ve spoken in depth about the power of letting the learner make the key decisions in your course and letting them deal with the consequences. Today I’m going to expand on a different point and look at some other ways we can design the learning to bring in a little more action!

Some of you may be gamers, some of you may just be drawn in by the power of games in your particular field, but for this post I need to bring out a gaming term (both video and miniature) so lets go in to it right from the off.

Turn Based Combat

“Tactical turn-based combat is a form of combat found in games in which the combat is turn-based and emphasizes thoughtful placement and usage of the player’s units. Combat in this style is typically fought on a grid map that governs character placement and movement ranges. To succeed in battle, players must move their units into advantageous positions and use the combined power and skills of their units in order to defeat the enemy or achieve other objectives. Notable franchises that include this gameplay type include Fire Emblem, Final Fantasy Tactics, Nintendo Wars, X-Com, Jagged Alliance, and Worms.”


Can we use Turn Based Combat in E-Learning?

Well I’m glad you asked. We can absolutely use TBC in E-Learning and I’m going to show some examples of what we can substitute out from gaming to blend with our world of learning. Let’s strip all of the complex information out from that previous description and focus on one thing we usually struggle to bring out well enough in E-Learning, action!

Obviously the big draw here is combat, in TBC games you select an ability or an attack you would like to complete, select your enemy and then complete your action. For a number of reasons, violence, complexity, theming, this may not work as intended in E-Learning or with the company you’re working for. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be using it; instead why not simplify a lot of the options?

One example I’ve previously created for a school involved a superhero (quirkily titled The Mathinator) that protected the town of Numbersville by defeating waves of enemies. I replicated battles through reshaping traditional multi choice questions – the enemy would appear on screen along with a math problem the learner has to solve. In order to successfully attack and defeat the enemy the learner has to get this question right – this then causes The Mathinator to vanquish their foe. Of course if they answered incorrectly The Mathinator would instead take damage from the enemy. What I did was take the concept of TBC but then simplify it massively to make it easier for the learner and development.

Think about the possibilities you have from even a simple system like this, you can include narrative, boss fights, bonus rounds, achievements. There are a whole host of options available to you that just require thought around the shaping and presence of a turn based system.

Naturally E-Learning lends itself very well to being turn based because when we ask a question we are naturally creating a ‘pause’ in the flow of the module much like TBC games do when you first encounter an enemy or mission. The question we’re asking the learner then becomes the attack/ability selection in TBC games, instead of going through a list of spells or movement options we are limiting the learner to a few multiple choice answers which dictate their action for them. The feedback from the question then becomes the next ‘turn’ by completing the action and describing it to the learner. Simply put, if they get the question right they will attack the enemy or defeat the situation however if they get it incorrect then the enemy will attack. In the game I created for the school I always tailored the feedback to the theme of the game EG. “The Mathinator knew he’d got it wrong this time, 2 x 18 is 36 but it was too late and the enemy attacked!”

Questions can become powerful tools when it comes to gamification and we should stop thinking about them in their basic form. Using questions in an imaginative way, from presentation to feedback can actually create a gamified solution straight out of the box. Of course we need to think about the other engaging factors like a solid framework, narrative and engagement principles but you get the idea.

I hope that this brief post has given offered you an insight into how it’s possible to take information we’ve been working with for years and quickly start to turn it into something that feels more like a game rather than an end of module assessment (blast that term!)

I promise it won’t be so long till the next post, but until then, have a productive and fun time!


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