We’re almost done adding the polish to Spirit Lake. That’s polish, as in making all shiny and perfect, “polish your car”, not “Polish” as in sausage.
The first change you’ll see from earlier versions is that the introductory 2-D hunting scene is replaced by a really short 3-D game. As always this intro level is mostly to test if you can play the game. If you can’t figure out how to move around using the arrow keys or find the answer to 4 + 4 +4 then you will just be frustrated playing this game.
As I mentioned before, we made many, many cosmetic improvements, just to make the game more appealing. We continued to do that right up to our final changes. For example, tonight, I needed a picture of a guinea pig to illustrate the link to the pages on “Learning probability with guinea pigs.” I did not have a picture but I did have an actual guinea pig, so Lynnie was drafted into service as a model and rewarded with parsley for her assistance. I only wish everyone in the company worked so cheaply.
Spirit Lake is the first game we made and the one aimed at a younger audience. Most of our players are aged 10- 14, although we have a fair number of younger players who are advanced for their age and a lot of adults who find the Oregon Trail feel nostalgic. As well as home users, both Spirit Lake and Fish Lake are used in multiple subjects in schools, with some teachers using it in math class and others in social studies.
Our new release 5.1, addresses three requests we received a lot from teachers and parents. (Some kids asked for each of these, too.):
- More cultural activities in the game. We included these in a few different ways. One of my favorite is as Easter eggs. For example, an eagle circles slowly toward the earth and lands in front of you. If you click on it, you see a video clip that tells how the Dakota caught eagles in an eagle trap.
- Because Internet access is not always available, we received many requests for parts of the game that could be accessed off line. We are working on this and expect to do more in the future. The game ‘saves your place’ on your local computer now, so if you have access to get logged in and then your connection drops , you can keep right on playing. As long as the Internet comes back up at some point before you quit, your game state will be sent to our servers and saved.
- We had a lot of requests from parents and teachers for the ability to go directly to the instructional activities of the game. We added much more on the supplemental activities (those four boxes on the bottom). That way, if someone found a video helpful, say, on building a model to solve a problem, he or she wouldn’t have to play through the whole game again to find it. While we were at it, on the end of many quizzes, when you won, a video played. These weren’t just any videos, but lessons in Dakota culture ranging from the story of the woman and the wolves to how boys learned to become hunters to how a young woman might respond to a marriage proposal. Yet another way we got the cultural activities in there.
There were still additional enhancements we wanted to put in by the time the deadline rolled around, but those will have to wait until Spirit Lake 5.2 as we now turn our attention to updating Fish Lake.