WITCHPUNK

  • Role: Level / UX Design

  • Genre: Action Skating Platforming Brawler

  • Engine: Unreal Engine 4

  • Developer: 99% Funk (DigiPen Institute of Technology)

  • Total Dev Time: 2021; 4 months

  • Platform: Windows

The Weather and Climate Immersives were part of a larger project, Planet3. Intended to be used as interactive educational material for use in public schools, the idea was to teach middle school children various science subjects in a fun and interactive experience. It was in many ways like an adventure game and an interactive textbook as players would navigate an open area; talking to NPCs, collecting items to aid on their mission, and playing various mini-games before saving the day.

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TASKS / RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Authoring GDDs, priority lists, and asset lists.

  • Creating client-facing presentations and project updates.

  • Managing and adapting project scope throughout the project's life.

  • Wireframes for mini-games.

  • Writing copy for each mini-game's UI.

  • Writing up initial first draft dialog and helping establish structure and content of overall narrative.

  • Designing the mechanics of mini-games.

  • Researching, finding, and organizing real scientific data to ensure educational accuracy.

MAKING EDUCATION ENGAGING

Within this project a majority of the UX within the game and it's structure had already been developed, it was my job to design what the kids would actually be doing. Our target audience was 6th graders, all with varying degrees of experience with apps and games, so it had to be simple enough for the age we were designing for, but also for the wide range of familiarity. The final aspect of this is that this is science material, and we all know those kids who don't like or care about science for a variety of reasons, so we'd have to make things in a way that drew them in and kept them engaged.

Students sit around all day and get told what to think for hours, I determined that the best way to engage our entire demographic was to create an experience centered around discovery and experimentation as a result of their own agency. Inspired by the way content and information from pop-up books unfolds and changes as you interact with it, I designed a variety of short experiences to be interactive versions of many of the diagrams found in textbooks, such as weather front formation and the water cycle. As often as I could I would try to make the user's input have as much agency as possible, turning the learning into a form of sandbox play.

The responsiveness and sandboxy type of interaction was critical to making it engaging. In this way the user could interact with the material in the way they wanted or were most curious about and would ultimately learn the subject material through this discovery through cause and effect. The ultimate example of this in action was our Hurricane Storm Surge Simulator, in which the user got to experiment with a multitude of settings to destroy a house with the power of a Hurricane. 

In situations where this wouldn't make sense due to the level of complexity in the steps to how something happens, I instead went for an animated version of textbook diagrams, breaking them down into each critical step with animated signifiers showing what is happening at each step to further simplify the information and make it more readable. Textbooks don't have a lot of space to spare, so they conglomerate information where possible, we didn't need to do that, so by breaking down the multi stage process of how a Tornado or hurricane forms from what would be one static diagram into 4 animated ones, the actual information becomes more readable and easy to follow while also making it something the user gets to explore at their own pace.