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Rapid Prototyping for Multiplayer Serious Games

Author:Christian Reuter, Thomas Tregel, Florian Mehm, Stefan Göbel, Ralf Steinmetz
Date:October 2014
Kind:In proceedings - use for conference & workshop papers
Publisher:Academic Conferences Limited
Book title:Proceedings of the 8th European Conference on Games Based Learning
Editor:Carsten Busch
Keywords:serious games, multiplayer, rapid prototyping, testing
Number of characters:32747
Research Area(s):Serious Games
Abstract:Multiplayer games allow players to play together with friends, enriching gameplay with social experiences. While being more motivating for players, these social interactions can also help them develop their social skills (like teamwork or leadership). Especially in serious games there is also the potential for collaborative learning through multiplayer. Since players are able to complement each other in pre-existing knowledge and learning style, this can more effective than learning alone. Especially the motivational aspect has made multiplayer mechanics ubiquitous in leisure games, where multiplayer modes are also used to extend play time by giving the players the ability to challenge their friends after finishing the (singleplayer) story mode. However this is not the case for serious games, where a great majority of games is still developed for single players only, leaving the potential of multiplayer serious games unused. One of the reasons for this is the fact that multiplayer games contain an additional layer of complexity evolving around the interactions between the players, the simultaneous actions of multiple players at once and technical challenges like network connections for online games. Having lower budgets and being developed by smaller teams, serious game developers are often unable to handle this additional complexity. One particular problem regarding complexity is that testing multiplayer games requires multiple players to be present at the time, discouraging rapid prototyping by small teams or single authors. While it might be possible in some cases to start multiple instances of the game and manually switch between them, this solution is quite complicated to use and in most cases not feasible at all. We addressed this challenge by creating a rapid prototyping environment for multiplayer games, allowing a single author or game tester to control several players simultaneously. To do so we developed a concept to present visual and audio information in such a way, that it is possible to observe multiple player characters at one while still being able to discern at which character the information was directed. We also enabled the author to simulate parallel player actions by adding a record and replay function to queue several actions which are then executed simultaneously. Although implemented for scene-based games created with our authoring tool StoryTec, an API has been designed that allows other games to be connected to the prototyping environment as well.
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