Graduate Students Mentored: Matthew Bird, McKay Perkins, Thomas Ellsworth, Brice Colby, Jeff Peterson
Undergraduates Mentored: Nathan Munk, Jansen McQuivey, Stephen Ashby, Steffanie Septon, AJ Gudmundsen, Cameron Harris, Matthew Harris
The goals of this project were to bring students from various disciplines across campus to create a digital game for beginning Arabic learners. The initial expectation of the project was to implement the game in an Arabic 101 classroom on BYU campus and evaluate it for further development. An initial conceptual prototype was evaluated in a summer Arabic course (Star Talk Arabic Language Camp). Due to changes in client expectations, an advanced prototype of the game was then created for online users. Dr. Rich worked with Matthew Bird, an IP&T doctoral student, who in turn mentored students in several disciplines on the game design and development. Many challenges were anticipated and resolved throughout the project, ultimately resulting in an advanced prototype that was presented to the client as a proof-of-concept.
The primary result of the project is a working prototype of the game available for use at avicennastrolabe.com/proto. It consists of a functional website with login, navigation of the game’s locations and menus, and a speech recognition component through which users can converse with computer characters in Arabic to achieve the game’s objectives.
All expenses on this MEG grant went toward (1) paying graduate and undergraduate students hourly wages to design and develop the game and (2) purchasing digital products needed for the game’s digital animation. On average, Matt worked for 10hrs/week on the project, though at times he withdrew from receiving this hourly wage as he maxed his allowable time working with Arabic faculty and courses. Other students (e.g., illustrators and programmers) worked between 5-20 hours/week for short periods of development (e.g., 3-5 months). One graduate IP&T student, Brice Colby, worked without pay for 2 months due to already working at BYU’s allowable maximum hours in his other employment. He received internship credit for working on the development of the project as compensation.
The project was carried out in four phases: front-end analysis in Winter 2015, design during Spring/Summer and Fall 2015, development starting in Fall 2015 and finishing Spring/Summer 2016, and evaluation during Fall 2016.
- Front-end Analysis
In consultation with Dr. Rich and Dr. Kirk Belnap (Arabic), Matthew Bird conducted an initial literature review, learner analysis, competing product analysis, and task analysis to inform the design process. A scope and sequence was also created with the help of an undergraduate student from the Arabic program.
Dr. Rich and Matthew Bird led a design class with a small number of students in which
they reviewed the game’s instructional content, taught game design principles, and wrote
the game’s story with the help of Dr. Belnap and Dr. Glen Cooper, a Middle Eastern
history expert. Based on the results of the design class, Matthew worked with other
students during Summer 2015 to produce a design prospectus including an outline of the
game’s story and design. As the design came together, Matthew and other students
prepared an initial prototype of the game for use in BYU’s Startalk Arabic language
camp, where they playtested various game mechanics and received feedback on the game
narrative, structure, and student appeal. The story’s details continued to be added to and
modified throughout the development process, depending on the limitations of the
During Fall 2015 a graphic artist from BYU’s animation program was hired to create 3D game environments using Unreal Engine 4. The animation process continued through Winter 2016 while other students designed and built the web server on which to host the game. As the game’s design called for the merging of certain technologies in new ways, developers focused much of their effort troubleshooting and researching technological problems, until finally resorting to fleshing out a functional, but not complete, prototype during Spring 2016.
The game’s design and development process was evaluated progressively by Dr. Rich and Matthew in order to direct its progress week by week, but the game was also formally evaluated twice: a design prospectus evaluated and modified the design in Summer 2015, and the project culminated in a full design project report written in Fall 2016.
- Avicenna’s Astrolabe Prototype Game (avicennastrolabe.com/proto)
- PhD Design & Development Project