Random News: Molydeux, False Positives, Database Tweaks

Game Jam March 30th to April 1st

There is a new 48 hour game jam, called What Would Molydeux?, being held over the March 30th weekend. Similar to the Mojam Game jam from my transparent design post, teams of developers will will have just 48 hours to create a game from scratch to completion. This time however, there are several groups from all over the world taking part.

The hook for this game jam, is that all of the game ideas must be taken from the parody twitter account of Peter Molydeux. To anyone who isn't familiar, the real Peter Molyneux is a game developer in charge of Lion Head Studio, the team who created the game Fable. He is known for sometimes having overly ambitions and eccentric design ideas that never quite make it past R&D. The parody twitter account Molydeux takes this to a bit of absurdity by posting even more ridiculous ideas on the twitter feed, but with a pretty sharp sense of humor as well. The ideas range from the absurd to the overly emotionally poignant. Some examples:

  • Game in which you must comfort children on a plane who are afraid of flying, game mechanic is similar to spinning plates.
  • Try to imagine a game in which you have an imaginary friend who doesn't believe you are real, you must convince them that you are.
  • FPS War game, you control the teddy bear of a child who has just escaped a death camp. Help them find their mother using your wits

People taking part in the Molydeux game jam, which include the real Peter Molyneux in addition to other developers or meetups across the globe, will have to develop a game based on the concepts from this twitter feed. Some of these ideas are highlighted here. Anyone interested can keep up to date with the game jam, or watch the live stream at the site: http://www.whatwouldmolydeux.com/index.php

Also, here is an example of the only game to date completed on one of his ideas.

Frustration With False Positives

Working on my MITx homework last week, I was encountering significant frustration with getting stuck on a particular problem for several hours. I had completed and been given credit for the first few parts of the problem (on bias voltage), but no matter what I did I just could not seem to calculate the values for the incremental voltage in the last parts of the problem.

After taking my question to the MITx discussion forum, someone gave me a clue that led me to realize that the first part of the problem which had been marked correct was actually wrong! I had been trying to solve the last parts of the problem the same way I had "correctly" solved the first parts, and because of that it had kept me spinning in circles thinking my complex calculations were wrong when in fact it was just a simple 'rounding error' in my approach.

In order to deal with the question of how precise the students answers should be, which is to say how many decimal places should one round to for extremely small or large numbers, MITx implemented a 5% variance in its acceptance of automatically graded answers. The issue is that if you are dealing with significantly large values, in this case a Voltage source of 115 Volts, the final answer could differ by up to 5 volts! This could lead to situations where a student is actually learning the wrong way to complete a problem, if they have been given credit for doing it that way in the past.

It is an interesting design problem though, there must be some variance in acceptable answers but at the same time problems need to be designed so that taking a blatantly wrong approach can't lead to an accepted answer. Of course the system is still a work in progress, so there are bound to be changes before it is release 'out of beta' in the fall.

As an aside, I found this doubly interesting because I have just started reading a book titled "The Design of Everyday Things" in which this is one of the very issues it talks about. Specifically it mentions how often user-error is made to blame for things which actually end up being poor design issues, such as having a false positive feed back mechanism.

Language Comparison Syntax Project

This project went on hold in favor of the MITx review for a while, but I've finally started to get back into it. I've just recently created a whole bunch of scripts for creating and populating the database. As of now, most of the tables are set up and test data for the first two 'sections' are in. So hurray for progress!

It has become obvious that my quality of life would be greatly improved once I can develop some sort of tool to better organize data entry in the database. Once the number of "sections" and "minor categories" expand, it will be a lot harder to keep track of all the names for individual INSERT statements. In order to do that though, I am going to have to teach myself php.

There is not quite enough new news to report on for a project update however, so that will have to wait.

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