wanted: feedback for my educational thesis game Machineers

In the last 5 months me and my two collaborateurs Niels Frederiksen and Giuseppe Franchi have developed a demo of a learning game as a master thesis project at ITU Copenhagen, Denmark.

We are trying to teach procedural literacy and introduce logic and basic programming concepts to kids from 10 years upwards by "stealth learning" in order to provide a good "preparation for future learning".

Check out our trailer:

If you want to know how we designed and embedded the puzzles, have a look at our commented walkthrough:

You can download the game for PC and MAC or play it online.

If you are interested in the field, we would appreciate it if you could give us some feedback on how well the game is suitable for teaching basic programming concepts in your opinion.

Would you use this game (if it was fully developed) as a teaching tool? Would you recommend it to students? How exactly do you think it would help them when actually trying to learn programming?
Are there some parts of the game design that you disagree with? Which parts would you say are disrupting the learning experience? How would you change or improve this game to fit your needs as a tool for enhancing student motivation towards learning programming?

Please feel free to look at our developers blog and follow us on Twitter.

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Comment by Henrike Lode on September 1, 2012 at 4:05pm

turns out Chrome didn't like the httpS version of the link, but I exchanged it now with a link that should work for everyone :)

Comment by Houle Nemo on September 1, 2012 at 3:55pm

@David Donohue: i just downloaded the game, i couldn't play it in browser either

Comment by David Donohue on September 1, 2012 at 5:35am

I had trouble installing the Unity player despite repeated attempts.  Neat looking game though!

Comment by Houle Nemo on August 23, 2012 at 10:20am

Hi!

I just played it and I have to say that it was a very polished game. Below I've included some suggestions that I personally think will make it better.

  • A fast-forward button on some of the level (especially the teddy bear) will make it better and also help the player debug the problem. (A set of time control buttons could also work: fast-rewind, rewind, pause, forward, fast forward)
  • Allowing the players to replay the levels so players can go back and review what they've done before might be a help to solving more complex problems.
  • A sandbox mode! :D :D :D (Or levels where you start from scratch)
  • I noticed that I always have to click on the ground to make her walk. For me in the factory, there isn't a lot of floor space so walking can be a bit tedious at times.

Aside from these, I found the game very enjoyable!

In terms of teaching programming, I think you're still missing a few elements (boolean algebra, input, if conditions and infinite loops just for the fun of it! :D) but I'm guessing that they could be added later. Overall, great game and I think this does an awesome job of introducing and teaching the basics of programming.

Just out of curiosity, on the last level with the teddy bear, did anyone program the robot to fetch the lollipop and the chick too? I realized that it's possible to get all 3 (bear, lollipop, chick) in one run! :D

Comment by Henrike Lode on August 9, 2012 at 6:27pm

@Rob: Thank you for offering your help!
Like I said in the post, please watch the commented walkthrough and play the game using one of the links above, and tell me what you think, any feedback is helpful

Comment by Henrike Lode on August 9, 2012 at 6:25pm

Thank you!

If we can get some funding and turn this into a real game, we are thinking of partly and gradually replacing puzzle elements with pseudocode, but generally this should not be understood as a game that actually teaches coding. To me programming is about more than words, I think there are a lot of metaphors and images connected to it that help understand the bigger picture of how all the concepts work together. We also want to implement a sandbox mode where you can build your own machines and vehicles and have more control over the puzzle elements. Not all learning can be measured in scientific way - this game is more about giving you a good mindset and a metaphor that you can relate to.

Of course in order to learn anything, it is always helpful to have a teacher or mentor present that debriefs the learner and helps them draw a connection to programming, as well as a group of peers, who talk about the experience. 

Comment by Sergio Schuler on August 9, 2012 at 5:10pm

This looks pretty cool!

I am just curious about how you are going to make the leap between what was learnt in the game and programming (I understood the concepts with the walk-through video, but I don't think I would connect the game with learning programming concepts without the video). Would you have some sort of teacher's guide?

Comment by Rob Croft on August 6, 2012 at 5:24pm
Hi Henrike,

I'd love to test out the game if you're still looking. Contact me and let me know what you need me to do.

Regards,
Rob

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