Full Sail-made game ‘Plunder!’ competes at simulation conference

Full Sail’s pirate-themed educational game, Plunder was one of 21 finalists in the Serious Games competition of the I/ITSEC conference, which took place Nov. 28-Dec. 1. I/ITSEC (Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference), is a massive yearly gathering of modeling, simulation and training companies and departments of the Armed Forces.

Although they didn’t win, Game Studies Course Director Lester Frederick said the all-volunteer Plunder team is proud they were selected as finalists since it was the first time Full Sail has ever had a submission in the competition.

Plunder was begun a little more than a year ago, and has gone through several iterations. Faculty, staff and students have contributed to the game through research, design, programming, artwork, and writing.

“This is a major milestone,” said Game Studies Course Director Lester Frederick, who serves as the game’s project director. “It’s a privilege and an honor to be a part of it.”

Jared Geoffrey, a recent graduate of the Game Design Master’s program and the assistant producer for Plunder, described the game this way: “It is a third-person over-the-shoulder adventure explorer, where the player collects and learns about grammar and some English-language problem areas that are common to many students.”

The game currently has one 3D level but will eventually have four more 2D levels. The nearly completed “Haunted Homophones” level takes place in pirate caves infested with pirate zombies.

When players click on cave doors, a sentence appears. Players must choose between homophones (words that sound alike but have different meanings, like “too”, “two”, and “to”) to complete the sentence. If the user chooses the wrong word, a pirate ghoul emerges from underground, ready for a fight.

Future levels will work with players on comma usage, sentence fragments, run-on sentences and capitalization.

There are still some bugs to work out in the game and four more planned levels to be built, but team members say they have refined the production process after some initial challenges.

Game Studies Course Director Chris Keeling said the project has been a valuable experience, not only as it relates to the design process, but also in learning to how to work with a team of volunteers – most of who have limited time to invest. Recent graduates can now work on the project as interns.

“Students can defer their student loans by three months by working for us for the first three months after they graduate for 20 hours a week and get credit on the project,” explained Keeling, who is executive producer forPlunder. “We’re mainly looking for artists, especially 3D artists, texture and so forth, and animators. We’re also looking for programmers, especially those who familiar with Unity 3D.”

Ultimately, the goal is to make Plunder a well-developed educational game that supports literacy for incoming Full Sail students and students at other educational institutions, said Christopher Deason, an Education Media Design & Technology Master’s course director and a research lead, who is heading up studies on the game.

“The research team will be building assessments to make sure that there is learning,” put in Frederick. “Because if it’s just fun and there is no learning, then it’s really not effective. So we want to make sure that it is both fun and [educational].”

Want to join the Plunder team? Send an email to: plunder@fullsail.com. Also check out the website (still in beta phase) at plunder.fullsail.edu.