Educational Game Implementation • User-Centered Design • Interaction Design
Interaction Designer | 01 - 04. 2018
Unity, Unity Fungus Plugin, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Premiere Pro, Lookback.io
What I Did
Generated Game Concept and Story, Designed and Created Graphic Assets, Implemented Game in Unity, Conducted User Research and Usability Testing
A Chinese International Student in the States: "There is no way that I can purchase fresh hawthorns within my neighborhood to make my favorite Chinese dessert - hawthorn jelly cake. Are there any resources to help with alleviating this struggle?"
Fresh Vegetables are Not Accessible for Chinese-Style Home Cooking, as expected
As international students from China in the States, our struggle of accessing to a wide range of fresh vegetables for Chinese style cooking is constant and real. Not every neighborhood has a grocery place where we can buy fresh vegetables to regenerate the tastes of traditional Chinese dishes - the taste missed by our Chinese stomach. Under this circumstance, most of us have to stick to a relatively limited range of vegetables available in the nearby grocery stores, or commute to Asian or Chinese grocery stores for a larger vegetable selection, which can be costly both money-wise and timewise.
Why the Game "Veggiezens" was Born
For me, games are the magical container that packs entertainment and education together via the power of immersive storytelling. I would like to embed this power in my game "Veggiezens" to share my vegetable cooking exploration with my peers in the States, not only to spread innovate home cooking ideas, call on healthy lifestyle, but to encourage them to stay open, curious, and adventurous about the unknowns when living abroad.
Game Learning Outcomes
Chinese living in the States can:
- Identify unfamiliar vegetable options that are more accessible in local grocery stores in the States, and potential recipes to expand Chinese style home cooking.
- Recognize the health benefits and nutritional facts of intaking various vegetables.
- Apply the cooking ideas in the game to real life home cooking.
Game Story Plot
One day, you (as the Player) receive an SOS letter from the Veggie Planet, which informs you that they need your help to rescue four of their Veggiezens kidnapped by their enemies from the Greasssy Planet. You are ready to fight with the evils and save your Veggiezen friends!
Player | A skinny, ordinary human being from the Earth
Rationale: I emphasized that the human being is skinny, because I would like to show a positive change in his physical build after he defeated the evils and rescued the Veggiezens. From a real-life perspective, I would like to imply that eating vegetables can bring people healthy benefits.
Four Veggiezens to be Rescued | Turnip, Leek, Rhubarb, and Bokchoy
Rationale: I picked these vegetables and sculpted the Veggiezen characters accordingly. These four vegetables are not highly recognized and widely consumed by Chinese, but they have great nutritional values, as well as the potential to enrich their Chinese style home cooking in the States. They are the great substitutes of four vegetables ingredients in Chinese cooking - Chinese Radish, Shanghai Bokchoy, Chive, and hawthorn.
Four Enemies to be Defeated | Instant Noodle (King of Processed Food), Boba Tea (King of Sugar), Pickle (King of Salt), and Chinese Donut (King of Fried Breakfast Food)
Rationale: By choosing these foods as the original model for the enemies, I would like to inform my Chinese peers how unhealthy these frequently consumed foods are.
Player | Idle, Walk, Run, Jump
Player | Fire, Jump Fire, Hurt, Die
Veggiezen | Turnip - The King of Vitamin C
Veggiezen | Bokchoy - The King of Potassium(K)
Veggiezen | Rhubarb - The King of Calcium(Ca)
Veggiezen | Leek - The King of Vitamin A
Greasssy Enemy | Chinese Donut - King of Oily Fried Chinese Breakfast
Greasssy Enemy | Boba Tea - King of Sugar
Greasssy Enemy | Salted Pickle - King of Salt
Greasssy Enemy | Instant Noodle - King of Processed Fast Food
Veggie King, the Stronger Player
Other Characters | Spike, Powerful Veggie Wings, Veggiezen Prison
Game Scene | Fighting with the Enemies
Before rescuing each of the four Veggiezens, the player needs to defeat one evil from the Greasssy Planet.
Game Scene | Rescuing Veggiezens
Each time when successfully rescues a Veggiezen, the player will get into an information section. During the session, the player will learn about the enemy he/she just defeated, as well as the Veggiezen just got rescued.
As a follow-up session, the player will be given a multiple-choice quiz question based off the vegetable described in the previous information session.
If the player answers the question correctly, he/she will be rewarded by gaining a nutrition power from the Veggiezen.
If the player doesn't choose the correct answer, no reward will be given. Instead, the Veggiezen will briefly repeat the content corresponding to the correct answer to the question.
The game and the whole story will be wrapped up with the plot that the player gets the ultimate reward from the Veggie King - a book introducing all the Veggiezens from the Veggie Planet.
The User-Centered Game Design Process
To make sure this is a real user problem, and further understand Chinese people's general experience with doing grocery shopping for vegetables in the States, I sent out a survey. I collected 12 valid responses within one day.
- 100% participants purchase vegetables for home cooking on a regular basis.
- 100% participants ranked Chinese dishes as their most frequent home cooking options.
[Translated] "I usually purchase zucchini. It has very similar taste and texture with Xi Hu lu, so I know it's ideal for Chinese style dishes."
[Translated] "I have a habit of, more or less, twisting the Western style recipes to better fit my appetite. Even when I cook Western style dishes, I feel most of them are still Chinese dishes, just with some Western style ingredients."
- Nutrition is an important factor that influences the types of vegetable participants purchase; however, they lack the confidence in knowing the accurate vegetable nutritional facts (as shown in the image below).
[Translated] "I prefer cooking with less amount of oil and salt. I guess by doing that I can best lock the nutrition and tastes of the vegetables."
- Most of the participants (11 out of 12) said that they limited the number of their frequently purchased vegetables under 5.
[Translated] "I only stick to the same variety of vegetables when I do grocery shopping each week for my fixed home cooking recipes."
[Translated] "More often, I will pick the ones (vegetables) I have tried before. It's hard to choose the unfamiliar ones, because I don't know any alternatives to cook those."
Initial Game Structure
I run 4 concept testing sections with potential users. I explained the flow of the game structure, while showing them the flow chart, and some key sketches of the game scenes. I also briefly discussed the story plot, the characters, as well as how their rationales point to the learning objectives of the game.
- 100% of participants questioned about the opening format of the game.
[Translated] "By only looking at the game structure, I feel the game will start very suddenly."
[Translated] "Will there be a menu at the beginning to inform the player to start the game? That's what I usually experience in a platformer game."
- 100% of participants questioned about the interactions happening during the information sessions.
[Translated] "I got you that the player will be required to go through a information session to get educated, but then what? Will they get anything else that's related to the gaming part? I feel there's a gap here."
Improved Game Structure
As a wrap-up of this project, I run five usability test sections to evaluate the final version of the game.
During each of the pre-test sessions, I showed the participant a list of vegetable pictures, and asked them to choose the ones they have knowledge in. The four vegetables in the game were included in the list. As a result, none of the four were marked by any participants as recognized.
Game Testing Sessions
All the participants were invited to run a complete cycle of the game on my laptop. While sitting next to them with a comfortable distance, I used Lookback to record their screens as well as audio, under their permission. As a result, 100% participants successfully finished the game, without asking me for any assistance.
Firstly, I asked the participants to describe their gaming experience overall, their rating of the immersive level during the game, as well as their favorite and least favorite aspects of the game.
Right after their briefings, I showed them the list of vegetables I used for pre-test sessions again, and asked them to re-mark the ones they knew. All participants 100% recognized the four vegetables in the game, and some of the participants also stated one or two things elaborated in the game about the vegetables. Two participants showed great interest in learning about more vegetables, and asked me to share with them some recipes how I cook vegetables.
- All the participants mentioned that the repetitive wording in the Veggiezens' introductions reduced the immersive level of the game. On top of that, 3 out of 5 participants suggested me to make a version in Chinese. In the current version, I have Chinese annotations for the key words, but several participants found them to be incohesive with the rest of the English texts.
[Translated] "Staring at those Chinese made me want to directly skip the English contents...You know, the power of mother language."
- Another major finding is that most participants would like to see more personalities developed for the characters, especially for the Veggiezens.
[Translated] "I really appreciate the rich contents, and the beautifully crafted graphic assets you generated for this game. Since it's a game, a form of art, I hope to distinguish these vegetable characters more easily through the tones they speak and how they act."