The making of a Library Induction Game with RPG Maker MV.

I have been a busy little bee the past few months. Aside from the usual tirade of ALL OF THE THINGS to do (being mum to two very small and boisterous children, general life and sadly unexpected death, insane work commitments, writing all of the academic things), part of what I wanted to try and push for more this year, was creating things. Actual, playable things. Not just my usual, ‘oh I though up a cool project idea’, which I tend to do a lot, get distracted and then jump to something else.

So a few months ago, maybe four, we had a guest lecture from one of our Scarborough Campus colleagues, Mark Richardson. He gave a talk that showed how he had been using RPG Maker MV to develop some interesting games with learning outcomes for nursing students. Following this, he also gave a half day tutorial on how to get to grips with the basics of RPG Maker. I have to say, from here on out i was slightly obsessed. It was nice to find a tool in which much of the work had already been done (perfect for someone like me who gets distracted easily). It had pre-made art and the logic programming of it was simple to understand and use. now the nice thing about RPG, is that you can make all your own art and dive into Javascript programming if you want, as it supports all of that high-end stuff, but if you just want to make something relatively quickly and maybe don’t have those skills, bam… you have the power as they might say, because it has all that built in. As a side note – this has been great for getting me interested in Javascript, I think I might do a small course, time permitting of course.

Myself, Becky and Darren (Two of Coventry Uni’s Subject Librarians) had been talking about making a game for induction. To be honest, I’d wanted to work with the librarians for years since I’ve been at the DMLL, but as always there was never any time. But it seemed, that with this program we could develop something fairly quickly. There was much discussion at first on how and what we wanted the game to achieve, whether it should be a blend of digital and real world activities or did we want the students to play it at home. What we all agree though, was that the game should be story driven (I’ll get to that later).

So Darren and Becky went away to discuss what they wanted out of the game and came back with a series of learning objectives that we then prioritised with 1 being vital and 4 being nice to have.

Category Learning Outcome How?
Orientation IT Services Mini task – finding it
Orientation Sigma Mini task – finding it
Orientation CAW Mini task – finding it
Orientation Group Study Rooms (that they exist) Mini task – finding it
Orientation Rovers Podium Mini task – finding it & source of help
Orientation 2nd Floor Enquiry Desk Mini task – finding it & source of help
Orientation Subject Librarian Office Locating it, then more additional tasks
Orientation Mobile Shelving Include it if we can make it some sort of puzzle (mvoe the shelving to get to another location/NPC)
Online Orientation Library Basics Libguide Code on Libguide – should be an early task?
Online Orientation Libguides Code somewhere on a guide
Online Orientation Twitter page Codes hidden on pages
Online Orientation Facebook page Codes hidden on pages
Online Orientation Youtube Channel Codes hidden on pages
Online Orientation Document Supply
Online Orientation YouChose Place request for specific dummy book, reply with code?
Online Orientation Referencing Guide Code on Libguide
Library Skills Construct a reference in CU Harvard Making the reference provides a code (e.g. first letter of each part?)
Library Skills Find a book in the library Finding a book in the game’s bookcases
Library Skills Find an eBook Dummy eBook on Locate – code within book – also covers navigating an eBook
Library Skills Find an article on Locate Dummy article record on Locate
Library Skills Reserve a book Reserve a dummy book within the game, collect it later.
Knowledge Loan limit is 20 items Character giving quiz?
Knowledge Books can be borrowed for one or three weeks Character giving quiz?
Knowledge Fines “Character giving quiz? / X owes 60p, how late was he?”
Orientation Self issue machines Some sort of game/puzzle using the machines?
Online Orientation Accessing databases Dummy dragon -slaying libguide
Knowledge Support offered by subject librarians Interaction with in-game characters?
Knowledge Support offered at service desk and enquiry desk Interaction with in-game characters? (If you get stuck in the game you can always go to the enquiry desk?)
Knowledge Support offered by Rovers Interaction with in-game characters? (If you get stuck in the game you can always find a Rover?)
Knowledge SCONUL
Knowledge Postal Loans end game – i live far away

They had also given some suggestions on how this may be realised in the game which was really useful to me. as previously mentioned, we also spoke quite a lot about narrative, and they had both put down a lot of different ideas for style and genre, which we discussed and came to a decision – we were going to do a take on 2001: A Space Odyssey, but instead of a creepy Hal, the Coventry University library system ‘Locate’, would take it’s place.  This gave us lots of room for including many geeky references and above all, we really wanted to try and instil the game with a bit of humour (whether people get the humour is besides the point).

So, we three, started working on a Google doc to flesh out the narrative, adding information where needed and having meetings to discuss interesting ideas that the player could do for each of the LO’s. It was great to work on a live document that everyone could share and edit, very useful in the design stage.

I wont go too much into the dev side as it was mostly me swearing at RPG Maker when I wanted it to do something and obviously it wouldn’t (I had complex ideas). But 3 months later – yesterday in fact, the main functionality of the game is now complete, and I have to say, I’m pretty happy with it. Is it going to win game of the year? Probably not. Is it going to help students? Maybe… I’d like to think so. Here, take a look at some screenies.

Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 14.02.12

One feature on the dev side I will mention though, is that RPG Maker let’s you build in the function (quite easily) to open up separate resources like websites, videos or pictures. This feature has been really useful for allowing this game to support players navigating some of the library systems in order to solve puzzles to put into the game. See below for an example, where the player has been asked to go onto the computer in the game. Once the player interacts with it, it brings up Locate.

Screen Shot 2018-08-02 at 09.21.03

Very useful! Anyway I love it, and and and … we made a thing that is a real thing and will hopefully be live for September students. I’m so happy that I pushed myself to get it done in time, and it is not one (of the many) other projects waiting for my attention (there is not enough hours in the day). Currently it is now in play-test mode, getting people to break it and see where it’s maybe not intuitive. Hopefully, we will then put it out to Beta test as it’s especially important we have testers who are not familiar with the library and it’s systems.

Anyway, what I really wanted to say, is that RPG Maker MV is a great tool for creating quick and easy game-based learning applications, and even better it has a MASSIVE support community if you do get stuck in development.

I’m hoping to do many more games with it and use this as a test bed to show our lecturers the potential that this program has.

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