“ENV manager” is an education-oriented game targeting children aged 9-12. It aims to raise awareness on sustainable thinking, then changing their behaviors into an environmental-friendly way. It is designed to be placed in the classroom as an supplementary tool for teachers which helps them educate students. Players are required to balance sensible resource use, sustainable business development and environmental protection within an amount of time. Their actions represent different human activities by controlling the physical installations. On game screen HUD, these actions will vary 3 bars’ value (profits, resource and degree of pollution bar) which indicate impacts on environment.
It is a multiplayer-setting game requesting 2-3 players to cooperate in each round. When players experiencing this game, they are able to allocate their works and complete tasks collaboratively. If players take responsibility on working on forest area, their job will be to cut down trees and collect woods as resource. In the meanwhile, other players will focus on factory zone and their job will be to produce goods in order to launch the factory and earn profits. During the game, the number of trees is decreasing as well as exhaust gas is accumulating by player actions. When woods run over, the factory will have no resource to consume and cannot make profits. The only way to regenerate resource is spending money to plant trees. Each move will need an amount of time to finish. Therefore, it will require players to discuss and plan ahead before they move. It is important to note that the level of pollution will increase the required time to plant a tree, which will affect both the speed of resource regeneration and the efficiency on making profits. For encouraging participants to play until the end and attempt multiple times, cards will be given to then as rewards.
This game is developed in Unity 3D engine and its physical installation is made by timber and dowel (laser-cutted). Also, Arduino is used as microprocessors and controllers, which equipped with sets of input/output pins and connected with breadboards inside the project. Reed switches are used to detect magnet below trees and behind the door. These will pass the message to Arduino and then send to our Unity project once. These can detect magnetic field whether move away or come close. The message send from Arduino are based on the location of the reed switch in the project. In other words, the reed switch in different location will trigger different methods which prevents error occurs when users interact with it simultaneously. LED strips are only controlled by the Arduino UNO. The method used to turn on the LED strips will be triggered once the player open the door.
We set digital counters. One is in Arduino program, and others are in the Unity project. They are used to prevents users who try to win the game through speed but not strategy. The counter set for the LED in the Arduino will start and end with the counter set for the factory in game together. Using LED strips is aim to create a connection between the game and the physical controller. LED strips will turn to green light once the counter count down to 0. In this way, user are able to focus on the project itself, rather than keeping look the game screen. Buttons are also used as input sources which provide different options for user to choose from. A spring is used behind the door in order to make it automatically close after pushing. Then, the magnet will touch with reed switch to trigger function in the Unity program.
Public Response & Future Improvement
Overall, the public strongly showed an active and appreciating response at exhibit. Most of participants insisted that this game has a good performance on usability, playability and human value. For usability, players are able to learn game rules easily and then experiencing with it quickly. For playability, almost all participants believe that it is a playful and meaningful journey because they are willing to earn profits and prevent pollution. In addition, participants were delighted to cooperate with their partners and desirable to get reward cards. This game also conveys the human values. Participants’ main goals is to protect environment and develop in a sustainable way. It seems user experience achieves our expected aims.
According to summative evaluation above, there are some recommendations for future work that were needed. Firstly, a thorough tutorial would be provided in order to navigate player and help them understand how to play this game and interact with it. Secondly, reducing the gap between the physical installation and digital animation on screen might make the product much more understandable to the user. The appearance of physical installation looks as exactly the same as low-poly style 3D model in the game. Thirdly, in order to change the project better, it can be expanded the depth and complexity of the game. Some measures could be used. For instance, more types of trees and goods can be added into the game. Each tree or goods has different features. (E.g. Plants in “Plants vs. Zombies” cost differnent energy to grow.) Also, different terrain can be added, like oceans, to represent more different eco problems, such as water pollution etc. Therefore, users might have a better UX because of balancing more complicate mechanism and acquiring more environmental knowledge. Lastly, the tips at back of reward cards would be more specific.