2006 - How To Build A PC
- Target Group
- Project products
- Project phases and time estimation
- Game concept
- Advantages and disadvantages of this project
- The notification area
- Learning goals
- Didactical concept
- Screen design
- Technical requirements
This project aims to create a game that teaches the player on how to build a working x86 computer from hardware parts. While playing, the player will eventually learn, which parts belong where and which mistakes one can make while putting the hardware together. The methodological approach can best be described as a non-linear tutorial.
The whole project is planned and produced by Thomas Radeke.
The game targets technically interested people with medium, little or no knowledge about computer hardware. The age of the player is only restricted by their knowledge of how to use a computer - if they can use a mouse, they are able to play the game. The covers x86-compatible (Intel) hardware only, i.e. Windows or Linux compatible systems.
- to create a simplified virtual representation of real computer parts or equivalents
- to give the player the opportunity to explore different ways of assembling the hardware
- to give the player the opportunity to make common mistakes without financial consequences
- to give a general overview over categories of hardware components - no specific parts or vendors will be used although some components may resemble devices from popular vendors.
Non-GoalsThe game should NOT be
- a replacement for various instruction manuals
- 100% technically correct - simplified in favor of gameplay
- a buyer's guide
The final products of this project will be:
- a website for online playing
- a standalone executablefor offline playing which will be available at the website
Note: No part products are planned.
Project phases and time estimation
Web research showed that there are currently no products that are comparable with this project. The lesser-comparable products are websites which explain the procedure of building a computer with much text and some images.
The ingame interface
The main game element is the drag & drop interface which is used to assemble the hardware parts. A natural environment for assembling a computer is a wide empty space - possibly a well-lit table top or a floor - on which all hardware parts are scattered in a more or less orderly fashion. The player can pick the parts up and move them around with the mouse. If a part is dropped on another hardware component that it fits on, it will snap into place and a notification will be shown in the notification area. If the parts don't fit together, the parts will merely be stacked atop each other, but will not be connected. In case some parts would normally fit together but another requirement is not met yet (e.g. mounting the CPU cooler on the mainboard without the CPU being in place), an error notification will appear. The user will then have to move the offending part out of the way (as in reality) and correct the problem before he can continue.
All this takes part under the pressure of a countdown of 30 seconds (or less, depending on the final implementation of the game).
When all parts are connected correctly, the main interface will be replaced by the outtro of the story, which either shows the successful finishing of the university work or the failure of the poor student. Then, the player will be offered to try again or improve his timing.
The notification/error area
This is a special area which is displayed independently next to the main interface. It is used to display messages that are triggered during a game, e.g. errors, explanations or hints. The error messages are short texts which explain the error.
The main goal is to learn how different computer parts look like and how they must be finally assembled to have a working computer as result. Minor goals are
- to learn that there are multiple ways to assemble segments
- to find out which mistakes one can make and what effect they have
The key ideas behind this game are learning by doing and trial & error. Both of these concepts can be achieved in the real world but require a lot of money, patience and much spare time. This game accelerates the real-world learning process by translating the process to the virtual world and removing complicated or frustrating processes (such as mounting the CPU cooler) or processes which require quite a bit of physical strength, e.g. placing the RAM in it's slot. Naturally, these real-world processes cannot be replaced by this game, so it is more of a theoretical learning game which just introduces the player to the concept of building a computer.
By letting the player decide which device he wants to connect next, both learning ideas learning by doing and trial & error are addressed at the same time: The player tries and does, until he makes a mistake. Until the computer is finished, the player might have to disassemble whole segments again, forcing him to repeat some steps in the process.
While the pure building of a computer is not very exciting, another level of gameplay must be added as challenge to justify the main task. New players will then try to beat the countdown and get the high score, that is - the best time.
First scribble of the interface
Initial object hierarchy
As the graphics should not just be static, but also animated in some cases (such as parts snapping into their slot), using illustration software alone is not enough. Using 3ds max and the Swift 3D rendering plugin, Flash-compatible vector animations can be created. Prior to rendering, the whole hardware has to be modeled and animated.
The animated intro and outro of the story can be added easily after the main game has been created, so focus lies on creating the 3d models, graphics and the ActionScript game code.
Sequence of screens
1 - Intro
The game begins with an animation that introduces the player to the challenge: A lightning stroke and fried the student's computer but he has to finish his work for the university. God suddenly appears and offers him a solution: he gives him the computer parts if he can connect them in only 30 seconds.
The player has the option to skip the animation and jump right into the main game.
2 - Main game
The player is presented his task again: Connect the parts before the time runs out!
The main game interface appears and the countdown starts. If all parts are connected properly when the time runs out, the good outro will be shown, otherwise the bad one.
3 - Outro (good or bad)
If the player was fast enough to connect all parts, an animation will be shown where the student finishes his work and gives it to the teacher and gets a good mark as reward. Otherwise, God will take the parts away and the student will get a bad mark, because his work is not finished.
Different sound effects are used in the intro, ingame and the outro, to illustrate the storyline or to
give feedback to the player. The countdown also makes ticking sounds to apply
temporal pressure to the player.
Basic screen prototype
The game requires a web browser with the Macromedia Flash 8 web plugin and a mouse.
The game will either run online through a web browser, or it will be possible to download and play the game offline. The Macromedia Flash plugin enables this game to run on any computer with the appropriate plugin, so it is not limited to Windows, Mac OS or Linux.
Here you can download the finished game, as it appeared in the presentation at the 30th of January 2006. Note that the implementation is fairly different from the specification, mainly due to professional "last-minute" feedback from Mr.Paul Kearney from the School of Computing and Information Technology.
pcgame.swf (1.25 MB)
Right-click the link and chose Save target as… to download the SWF - else the SWF will open in your web browser, which is not recommended because of performance issues.