Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Caerus Game Engine: a first look

The Caerus Game Engine: a first look
(Copied from my old Blog--since this article was written, the Caerus engine has been modified and my introduction here is certainly not the moste updated!!!)

I installed the Caerus (Context Aware Educational Resource System) program on my laptop and Dell Axim and spent some time going over the user manual. Here is what I found. (Well, to have a more holistic view of the engine, I would need to play the game myself)

1. Desktop Editor: Unlike the previous MIT augmented reality game (with which we design the MadCity Murder Game), CAERUS has incorporated the game (or Application) editor and the PDA game together as a kit, which is more convenient for the designers. The designers now can edit the desired content (texts, audio or video) with the desktop editor. This is a great feature because the desktop editor is more accessible to laymen.

2. Role Play: I did not find information about role playing from my first look. It seems that Caerus does not specify role play in its design. However, role-playing is not impossible for the Caerus engine. The designer can design three games tailored for three different roles on the same location or different location. I think it affords more flexibility for the designer to develop different scenario. A tour of a British garden can be modified as a game about biology or botany in the garden.

3. GPS coordinates: The Caerus engine works the same way as the MIT engine. Both need to specify three reference points to make the game work.

4. Game play: The Caerus engine allows the designers to design different games and specify one of them to play. For example, A history teacher can design two games regarding the history of Madison in the 1850s—one from the perspective of minority and the other from the perspective of the government—and then have students play the minority game, followed by the government game.

5. Time: From my first look, the Caerus engine can not designate time; hence the development features) of events can not been detected in the game.

6. Trigger: The Caerus engine does not afford the triggering of events, which is a great shortcoming for designers who wish to make visible the causality or interconnectedness between events or people. The MIT engine overpasses the Caerus engine in terms of allocating time and trigger. It is clear that the Caerus engine has some affordances the MIT engine fails to provide and the MIT engine surpasses the Caerus engine in some key aspects. The strength of the Caerus engines lies in its ability to provide multimedia support for the gamers (text, audio, video), its user-friendly design interface, and the content flexibility that affords different design scenario. The MIT engine is great for making explicit the causality and interconnectedness between people and time, which is essential for science related subjects. I would argue it is possible to integrate the strengths of both engines and make a more general-purposed game engine for multiple subject matters. (That would be an engine that middle school students can use for their learning/design in class--an engine that afford learning by design) However, it would require a team with designers, practitioners and software engineers for a period of time. (Might it be a potential project for grant?)


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