Development in the Past Year

This is one of my occasional posts for those of you interested in how software is made – at least at 7 Generation Games. There have been a lot of articles lately saying start-ups need to  talk about their failures as well as successes.  I can’t say we have had any real failures yet, but we do have delays. Things just take longer than you expect.

Dennis had some delay getting the water in the lakes and rivers working exactly the way he wanted, which he wrote about previously. He still thinks the deer hunting in the fourth level is a little too difficult for the fifth-graders, but I don’t  think so, especially since many of the kids in our target schools will have gone deer hunting in real life and the physics of the arrows is the exact same. Dennis made sure of that.

On my end, it hasn’t been one thing but a  pile of little things. For ages we have been meaning to switch from tables to a combination of CSS, javascript and canvas for positioning elements on the 2-D pages. Once we got the first few levels done, I circled back to the beginning and have been improving the looks of the pages, while Dennis is stitching everything together. (More on the stitching together in a later post.)

We had initially planned to have NO multiple choice questions and, since the game teaches fractions, have all questions where the student inputs a numerator and denominator. It turns out that some questions on the new state standards tests aren’t that way, for example, drag the fractions less than 1 to this box, drag the fractions that equal 1 into this box, etc. A little bit of CSS and jQuery and we had that working. There are also questions that really only fit multiple choice, such as which of these figures have 1/4 shaded. So, another modification to the javascript to read and check the answers.

Then, there are the movies and games that teach and test math, both between levels and when a student answers incorrectly. I have long railed against a mathematics curriculum in America that is “a mile wide and an inch deep”, so as not to be a hypocrite, the math in the game increases very gradually. The first half of level 1 assesses teaches the concept of a fraction as one part of a whole, that is, 1/b when a whole thing is divided into b equal parts.

There are a LOT of examples of different types.  Making the movies, making the auxiliary games and fitting them into the right spot has taken time.

Our drop-dead date for the beta of Fish Lake is January 19th, since that is the day I have to do the first orientation for schools in North Dakota. We will make it, but we’ll be working every day from now until then.

Happy New Year!

How do I know we will make it? Because there are really two kinds of programming problems – the kind you know how to solve but just need the time to sit down and do it, and the kind you need to figure out. The only kind we have left between now and January 19th is the first kind.