What’s next? Colonize.

It’s been awhile since my last update, but things have been moving along in our research study. Unfortunately, I’ll have to consider Escape from Zargnon as only a partial success.  In the end, I did get several thousand people to play the game, and complete most of the early levels.  But, once I removed participants who were under the age of 18, and those who declined to let me use their data, I was left with 100-200 participants, few of whom completed the game.

If even 100 people had finished the game, I think the game would have been a success: that would have provided more than enough data for me to test my main hypotheses.  But as it is, I think that EfZ was simply not strong enough as a game (in terms of being engaging enough that people would work to finish it) for this project.  I am still looking through the data that I’ve collected, and I hope to be able to summarize it sometime this fall, but at the moment I’m thinking about what to do next.

In addition to the small sample size, another problem with EfZ was that it was simply too complicated: people were running through levels, chasing enemies, attacking, looking for power-up, etc.  As I looked to control for these various conditions, I found my sample size (for events) dwindling to a handful of cases per person.

So, now I’m working on a new game (tentatively titled Colonize) which addresses the same fundamental research question but which uses a simpler mechanic, and is hopefully more fun to play!  The basic idea comes from Conway’s Game of Life (not to be confused with the board game!), a famous cellular automaton where “cells” grow and die over time according to simple rules.  In Colonize, people will be introduced to the basics rules of Life (in the form of puzzles).  To make the game more interesting, several play modes will be included, such as defense modes, where the player must clear out toxic cells, a sandbox, the ability to share their creations, and a multiplayer mode.  Also, the game will be cross-platform, and once you start a game, you’ll be able to continue it on other computers/devices.

Colonize will certainly not be the first game/app out there based on Conway’s Life.  You can find a large number of Life simulators (which allow you to play around with Conway’s Life and related automata), and you can find a few games based on Life (probably my favorite is the irRegular Game of Life).  But, I hope Colonize will stand out, with an extensive number of levels, a strong multiplayer mode, and an easy way to share your work in the game with others.

If you’d like to try the current beta version, I have a version posted here.