Enigma is a spy themed point-and-click adventure game designed to teach first-order logic. Learning is embedded into our game through clues and puzzles, which require players to understand our educational objectives to solve.
In our brainstorming session, we discussed games we enjoyed and academic subjects we found interesting. After a detour into a conversation about Alan Turing, we decided to combine our love of espionage fiction, logic, and adventure games such as Myst to create Enigma.
Initial Research and Instructional Design
To choose an appropriate order and scope we looked over syllabi from courses taken, textbooks and other logic curricula from different institutions. While narrowing down the scope, we decided to focus on reinforcing concepts taught in the first 1 or 2 weeks of an intro-level logic course. We conducted a Cognitive Task Analysis (CTA) to see how students solve problems and what common difficulties they experience. We documented problem areas we need to pay special attention to in the game based on the CTA results.
Our initial rounds of playtesting were conducted with undergraduate and graduate students with little or no familiarity with first-order logic. We had participants use the think-aloud protocol to vocalize their thoughts while going through the first few levels. Their feedback helped us refine the game UI and narrative. For example, dragging and dropping to reorder elements of a puzzle was not obvious to many players. Players felt frustrated when they knew the answer to a puzzle but not how to express it to the game.
We conducted a more formal playtest with pre and post assessments at a local Pittsburgh high school AP Calculus class. From seeing the students performance and feedback, we found that some puzzles were too difficult leading to attrition in the game. This critical finding prompted us to add more instruction through the hint system and to make it more aesthetically appealing, scaffolding players through increasing levels of difficulty.
Enigma emerged after through planning sessions when we set the narrative: the player wakes up on submarine with no recollection of how he got there or who he is. Through secret coded messages written in the language of First-Order Logic, the player has to collect these hints and decrypt the puzzles to reveal more about his identity and objective.
Our final product was developed in Adobe Flash Builder (Flex 4). Interactivity and puzzle logic were implemented in ActionScript.
Why not try out the game for yourself?
I planned out the learning objectives and how we would measure them. I created questions for the Cognitive Task Analysis, conducted playtesting sessions and analyzed results.
I designed two levels of the game and we worked collaboratively to plan out the game structure into a cohesive narrative. Gordon and I developed the game (wrote the code) and Kristina was responsible for the artwork.
Methods and Tools Used
Instructional Design Principles
Cognitive Task Analysis
MDA (Mechanics, Dynamics, Aesthetics) Game Design Framework
Adobe Flash Builder