Give us your opinion on game design 6

Often, we have differences of opinion within our team on how games ought to be designed. Here is one discussion we are having right now and I did not have a strong opinion one way or the other so I decided to crowdsource it (which sounds way more intelligent than “ask random people on the internet”).

The image below shows the spot in the game we are discussing.

picking herbs in woods

Here is the story at this point in the game.

You have come into the camp and found no one around. Entering a tipi, you find your family is all sick. Your mother sends you out into the woods to find purple coneflowers, used to make medicine. You need 3 for each of the 8 sick people. On the way, you are attacked by rabid wolves who chase you up a tree. You need to select the correct number of arrows (five for each wolf, since you aren’t the best shot and you sometimes miss). Once you arrive at the spot in the woods where you pick the herb, you need to identify the correct kind of herb and then you are asked the number you need. That number flies into the basket.

What happens next

When you get back to the village, if you have the wrong number, you see people puking (if there are too few) or your mother throws the excess amount in the fire and scolds you. Either way, you get sent back out in the woods.


You can play Spirit Lake here. Download if for $9.99 


The suggestion

One improvement here is that once you pick your herbs you cannot change the amount you picked. For example if you accidentally hit 23 instead of 24 herbs, you can’t do anything about it. You have to proceed through the game, fail it purposely, and then redo the entire wolf and herb scene. I feel we can have an option saying “Would you like to pick more herbs/leave herbs behind?”

The argument against

One of the things we want to teach kids (or anyone who plays the game and is learning math) is to STOP and think. One of the standards of mathematical practice is that “Students will identify what is required in problems and persevere in solving them.”  The reason much of our game is set in actual problems as opposed to “Quick! Shoot at the number that matches 4 x 6” is that we think the way math really happens is you think about a problem and solve it, not reply as quickly as possible to problems shouted at you.  Also, teachers have told us they hate games where kids can just guess over and over without learning anything. Finally, asking players after they gave an answer may cause them to think they are wrong and second-guess themselves.

The argument for

A player may have just typed the wrong number. We give them a second chance on some of the other problems, so why not on this one? Currently, if they realize immediately it was wrong they still have to go through the whole sequence – walk back to the village with the wrong number, come back through the wolves, pick the herbs and go back to the village again.

Give us your opinion in the comments.  

If you don’t have $9.99, you can download a free demo of the first level here.

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6 thoughts on “Give us your opinion on game design

  • Jonathan Murray

    I believe it’s right to ask for confirmation. I do believe that the confirmation of the answer should be asked regardless if they are initially correct or not. This puts the emphasis on someone checking their workings.

    I believe making someone repeat something over and over will make the lesson tedious and you are more likely to get someone guessing to just get it out of the way.

  • lisa

    A confirmation button with a freeze on the number of tries will make sense, to prevent kids from randomly guessing. After maybe 3 tries, the game should send em back to the village.

      • lisa

        That’s even better, because if you submit yes and then realized you mistyped a number it will teach you to be more careful – so many computerized exams work that way!

  • Regina

    As a gamer, I despise having to start all over at the beginning of a level especially if you are half-way through or for just one minor detail/obstacle. Maybe give the player the option after failing to pick the correct number of herbs; to start at the picking of the herbs, instead of being attacked by wolves again, since you just fought them off with the arrows previously. But they would still have to pick the correct number of herbs and take it to the village.