Category: Blog

A Commitment to Learning for All

As an educational gaming company, our goal is to help kids learn—and to help them discover a love of learning. We know that every child is different and that what works for one child to learn may not work for another. Sometimes barriers get in the way; a number of factors—from learning disabilities to struggles outside of school—can influence how a child performs in the classroom. We strive to incorporate features within our games that encourage struggling students to persevere and continue playing.

That’s why, when we heard about Dyslexie, a revolutionary font that helps individuals with dyslexia read with ease, we reached out.

Dyslexie ensures that each letter and character has a distinct form, so that it is simple to distinguish individual letters from others. Text often confuses students with dyslexia; letters are jumbled or turned around because of their similarity. Dyslexie simplifies the text and helps readers make far fewer errors than they would while reading a regular text.

With that in mind, we made the conscious effort to remove this barrier for our players. We released 3 Digits ™ last month—the first of our apps designed exclusively with the Dyslexie font. Dig-It! Games™ is committed to using Dyslexie across all new products and will revisit previously developed apps for updates to incorporate the unique font. The use of the Dyslexie font opens up our games to a whole new group of students—and we plan to make learning fun for each one of them.

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Great Games, Good Friends: Celebrating Roman Town and 3 Digits

Last week, the Dig-It! Games™ team invited family and friends—including our Ambassadors—to stop by Redwood, a local restaurant, and celebrate a belated launch party of both Roman Town™ and 3 Digits™.  With a spread of delicious appetizers and fabulous Dig-It! Games swag, the party was an absolute blast! We kicked it up a notch with an intense 3 Digits competition.

Amecia with Cynthia GRRLTech

Dayle with Someone

Suzi with Teacher

Interns, Ambassadors, and guests had a chance to try their hand at the app to compete for the highest score in a variety of categories. We didn’t go easy on these players—all categories were at the medium or expert difficulty level.

Interns Competition

Ford

We’re proud to officially announce the winners:

Expert Difficulty Aged Under 16

Matt Schneider – 471,982

Medium Difficulty Aged 16+

Marcelo McAndrew – 3,372

Expert Difficulty Aged 16+

Greg Frock – 152,183

One of our competitors discovered a bug in the game (it has since been fixed and resubmitted to Apple). Unfortunately, during play, his score was negatively affected. His score—at the time of the bug—was high enough that he may have won the contest had the bug not appeared.  Therefore, we’re also considering Fordon Miller a winner.

Each winner will receive $20 in Apple gift cards.  To collect prizes, please email our producer, Dayle Hodge, at dayleh@dig-itgames.com to arrange pickup.

Food

Dayle with Kid

Swag


Happenings in the Studio—Ready to Game?

Happy Friday! It’s a holiday weekend—the last one before school’s out for summer—and we’re so excited to share with you a little bit of what’s happening here at Dig-It! Games. First, our intern Bo (you may have noticed his icon in the credits of Roman Town and 3 Digits) has finished up his semester with us. It’s been fantastic to have him with us, sharing his talents with the team! Second, we’re getting ready to head to Content in Context from June 1-3, where Mayan Mysteries is up for a REVERE award. Plus, our team is already hard at work on our next project (hint: science) and planning for Summer Learning Day in June.

Bo Team

If you’re looking for fun this weekend, check out our newest app 3 Digits—here’s 3 reasons why:

  • Players can adjust the game for their individual difficulty level.

When it comes to math, second graders are just starting on their multiplication journey while eighth graders have mastered mental math skills and are beginning to wrestle with algebra. With 3 Digits, students must translate numbers into Maya glyphs using skills like addition and multiplication. The higher the number, the more difficult the translation.

For younger players—or players just getting started—the easiest level only goes up to the number 19. For more experienced players—or those looking for a challenge—the most difficult level introduces numbers up to 150,000. How high can you translate?

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  • Discover artifacts of the ancient Maya culture as you go.

3 Digits isn’t just asking players to think differently about math; the game also encourages exploration of the Maya culture. As players earn points and complete levels, they unlock different artifacts found in archaeological sites like Tulum (where our first Loot Pursuit series game is set) and can learn more about each item. The more problems players solve, the more their collection grows!

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  • Teachers can easily implement 3 Digits as a classroom resource.

Whether students are learning about the Maya or reviewing multiplication skills before an exam, 3 Digits allows players of all ages to consider math differently. Because the Maya used a base 20 number system, 3 Digits encourages kids to think outside the box, problem solve, and grow their mathematics skills. It can be played for just a few minutes, or can be practiced for a longer period of time—it’s perfect for a brain break or use in a center rotation model.

So take out your iPad, visit the App Store, and download 3 Digits for free today!


Teachers, Partner with Us for Student Success

Being a teacher is not an easy job. Days are spent on your feet, nights are spent grading papers, and lesson planning usually happens on weekends. It is also an emotional job—connecting with students, learning about their lives, and building trusting relationships.

But being a teacher is rewarding. Check out this recent survey reported by T.H.E. Journal in which 1,002 K-12 teachers were polled about their jobs. Nearly three quarters (71 percent) said that seeing students grow is what they most enjoy about the job. More than half (68 percent) of those who entered the field in the last 10 years said they would recommend the profession to others.

As the field of education continues to change in vast ways—including the integration of technology and play in the classroom—Dig-It! Games wants to recognize educators for their work and ask them an important question: What do you want?

Image Credit to Clip Panda

Image Credit to Clip Panda

At the recent Games for Learning Summit, U.S. Department of Education Director of Educational Technology Richard Culatta discussed the future of gaming for education. “Part of the message we are trying to send here is, if you’re building and designing games for learning, you have to connect and work with teachers and with school leaders to make sure you are building games that are meeting the needs,” he said.

We deeply care what educators think of our games. We invite teachers to Open House events or welcome them to stop by the studio to test our products. We’ve incorporated their feedback into games you see in the App Store today.

Our website offers lesson plans for both Mayan Mysteries and Maya Numbers. We are also preparing to launch a Pinterest page that we hope will make it easier for teachers to implement game-based learning in the classroom.

Last month, we hosted classes from Wheatley Education Campus in our studio. We taught game design to these students and had the chance to speak with their teachers. We would love to have other classes visit (just let us know at info@dig-itgames.com) to help them collaborate, learn about educational game development and build their own apps.

Now, we want to know what teachers are thinking; how they would like to use our games in the classroom; what games they’re looking for in the market. We want teachers to help us design the games we create—not just test them. We want to talk with teachers about the content within our games, to emphasize its accuracy and that our games meet the standards that teachers are looking for.

If you are a teacher, we thank you for all you do to encourage students to love learning and become critical thinkers and problem solvers. That’s our mission, too. We value your perspective, so contact us—let’s get together to help our students succeed.

In the meantime, we know that 91 percent of teachers spend their own money (NPD Group) on supplies and resources in the classroom. For Teacher Appreciation Week, we’re offering some of our most popular educational games at a discount. If you visit the App Store today through 5/15, you’ll see that 3 Digits, Roman Town, Mayan Mysteries, Loot Pursuit: Pompeii and Can U Dig It! are all $0.99 for the full app—including all in-app purchases. Help blend fun and learning for your students!


Translate Maya Numerals and Think Differently About Math with New App from Dig-It! Games™

Today, we’re excited to release a new game for all ages, 3 Digits: Translate Maya Numerals And Think Differently About Math!TM The new app challenges players’ critical thinking and math skills while teaching the ancient Maya’s revolutionary number system.

3 Digits turns math skills-building into a fun, fast-paced learning game that encourages players to think outside the box using addition, subtraction, and multiplication. The app, free to download via the iTunes App Store, immerses players in the base-20 Maya number system. A detailed tutorial introduces glyphs used for the three Maya digits: a shell for zero, a dot for 1 and a line for 5. Players can choose from four levels of difficulty based on their experience and the age of the player. At the easiest level, players only receive numbers up to 20. At the most challenging level, the numbers will reach 150,000.

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“Games like 3 Digits allow players of all ages to hone skills and discover new information in a way that blends both fun and learning,” said Suzi Wilczynski, founder and president of Dig-It! Games. “A first grader, middle school student, and an adult can each play 3 Digits at an age-appropriate difficulty level, allowing for a family-friendly educational experience that challenges its learners to think differently about our number system.”

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In either timed or untimed mode, players are presented with randomly generated numbers to convert into ancient Mayan glyphs. 3 Digits offers children and adults the unique opportunity problem-solve using place value, inherently testing and improving their math skills. Designed exclusively for the iPad, this companion app to Dig-It! Games’ award-winning Mayan Mysteries™ game provides an entertaining and educational experience.

Meant to be played casually or used as a fun, engaging classroom supplement, 3 Digits is the latest app from Dig-It! Games to address the educational needs of students and is free to download on the iTunes Store. Roman Town™, Artifact Snatch™, Loot Pursuit: Pompeii™, Loot Pursuit: Tulum™, Mayan Mysteries, and Can U Dig It! ™ cater to the learning needs of middle school children. All six iOS apps are free to download through the iTunes store. Maya Quiz™, a companion to Mayan Mysteries, is available for purchase on the iTunes store.


5 Reasons to Play Roman Town™

Five years ago, we released on CD-ROM our very first educational game, Roman Town, which received critical acclaim from parents, educators, and students. On Tuesday, we celebrated Rome’s 2,768th birthday with the release of a new modern version of the game, now available for free download on the iPad.

Game development has come a long way in five years, particularly as technology has continued to evolve in education and tablets have become more mainstream (almost 40% of educators use tablets for game access, according to the Joan Ganz Cooney Center)

Whether you’re in the classroom or at home, the team at Dig-It! Games is excited for you to play our newest app, and here are our top five reasons why:

  1. Roman Town brings history to life.

History is not about fact-memorization and dates; it’s about the culture and learning how people lived in the ancient world. Roman Town is a part of our goal to make history come alive for students, and with its basis in accurate and detailed information, the game allows for players to become immersed in the culture while being entertained. Through conversations with characters, players will learn facts and accurate information about the ancient Roman culture.

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  1. Don’t worry teachers, it’s aligned to standards!

Roman Town’s completely authentic content aligns to National Council for the Social Studies Curriculum Standards, World History Standards, and Common Core State Standards for Language Arts and Mathematics. If you’re an educator planning a unit on Romans, this game is perfect for your students. It can be played through in just a few hours and can be assigned as homework or weaved into your lesson plan as an in-class activity. Learn more about standards here.

  1. There are 11 different games, and two of them are based on real games the ancient Romans played.

Have you ever played Jacks or Connect 4? That’s what Knucklebones and Calculi are like, just the ancient versions. We’ve made it a little more challenging. In Calculi, you aim to get five in a row before your opponent. In Knucklebones, a game of probability, you guess your future sum and roll the dice marked with Roman numerals to determine the total. If you guessed right, you win the round. Additional games include Artifact Identification, Dots and Boxes, Roman Numerals, Concentration, Code Breaker, Jigsaw, Pipes and Maze.

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  1. Play as either Fiona or Charlie to explore the ruins of Pompeii—the games you play will match the character’s personality.

Fiona is adventurous and fearless, always in a hurry to move to the next challenge. Catching looters and beating them at their own game are Fiona’s favorite hobbies. It’s no wonder that the games Fiona plays are timed—she’s impatient and ready for what’s coming next. Charlie is thoughtful and meticulous. He likes to take his time and think things through. When playing as Charlie, you’ll need to beat puzzle- and logic-based games. You must play as both characters in order to reach the end of the game.

  1. Collect clues with Team Q to discover the location of Ladrone, the notorious thief from Mayan Mysteries.

Each tourist holds a clue left behind by Ladrone, but they won’t give it you easily. In order to earn the clue, you—as Fiona or Charlie—must beat the mini-game the tourists present. If you don’t win, you can try again. As you collect clues, the picture will become clearer to identify Team Q’s next mission. Where is Ladrone headed? We’re not telling; play Roman Town to find out!


History Meets Game-Based Learning in Highly-Anticipated Roman Town™ App from Dig-It! Games™

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On the legendary birthday of the ancient city of Rome, we’re thrilled to officially release the brand new version of the original, award-winning Roman Town game. Roman Town™, now an app for iOS 8 devices, is a social studies-based, problem-solving game that guides players through the ruins of the archaeological site of Pompeii to play challenging mini-games, discover clues, and explore the ancient Roman culture.

The interactive educational game engages middle grade students in the ancient civilization through conversations with characters, exploration of the ruins, and artifacts woven into its mini-games. Designed primarily for players 10-15 years old, Roman Town creates a deeper learning experience that features:

  1. Detailed factual information about Roman history, culture and artifacts;
  2. An active, engaging storyline for immersive learning;
  3. 11 interactive mini-games, including Knucklebones and Calculi, which are based on real games the ancient Romans played;
  4. Beautiful, realistic graphics that transport players to Pompeii;
  5. Download for free on iPad.

“History is not about fact-memorization and dates; it’s about the culture and learning how people lived in the ancient world,” said Suzi Wilczynski, President and Founder of Dig-It! Games. “Roman Town is a part of our goal to make history come alive for students, and with its basis in accurate and detailed information, the game allows for players to become immersed in the culture while being entertained.”

In this educational game designed exclusively for the iPad, Fiona and Charlie—the popular characters from Dig-It! Games’ series of top-rated games—partner with players to collect clues leading them ever-closer to the location of Ladrone. Featuring two play modes, students must beat both timed and untimed mini-games in order to earn clues from tourists in the ancient Roman city of Pompeii.

Anna, the winning character of the Mayan Mysteries Drawing Contest, acts as a guide to Fiona and Charlie, with the objective to keep the pair out of trouble.

Released five years ago to acclaim for parents and educators, the original CD-ROM Roman Town won several awards including Creative Child Magazine Game of the Year, National Parenting Publications Awards Honors, Common Sense Media On for Learning Award, and the National Parenting Center Seal of Approval.

 


HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ROME!

Tuesday, April 21st is the 2,768th anniversary of the founding of Rome! We’re celebrating with the release of our newest game, Roman Town™. Latin teacher and archaeologist Kate Sheeler sets the stage for this exciting event with this fun blog post about a love of all things Roman. Read on to find out how Kate fell in love with Latin and Roman history and why she’s excited about the Roman Town launch. RT_thumb

I am in a seriously committed relationship with Latin and Roman History that started as a crush in the 5th grade. I met Latin through reading Roman and Greek mythology (I still own my very first copy of Edith Hamiliton’s Mythology), and, when given the opportunity to study Latin in 7th grade seized upon it.

In fact, my middle school Latin teacher, Maureen O’Donnell, trained us to compete in local Virginia Junior Classical League (VJCL) certamen tournaments (I was the team member responsible for knowing every state motto, all Latin phrases, and a collection of very random facts about Roman culture and civilization). In addition to certamen, I was fascinated by Latin grammar and competed at state and national Junior Classical League conventions in that subject area. I took the National Latin Exam (NLE) the first year it was offered and fell in love. Latin has been my “significant other” since I was 11. That makes it a 40 year relationship.

In 1988 I began working as an archaeologist at the site of Caesarea Maritima, combining my love of Latin and Roman History with classical archaeology. Working at Caesarea allowed me to explore various aspects of Roman history, culture and civilization: trade routes, politics in the provinces, water systems/engineering, art/architecture, and city planning. I saw first-hand the gleaming white columns Josephus mentions in his description of Herod’s capital city. Over the years, I have also excavated in Italy and Greece, though most of my summers have been spent in Israel, exploring the Romans in the Ancient Near East.

I started teaching in September 1990 and am currently celebrating my 25th year in the classroom. I teach at the National Cathedral School in Washington, DC, the same place where Suzi Wilczynski, the founder of Dig-It! Games™, went to school. Though I never taught Suzi, I met her while she was in college, studying archaeology. During a semester away from Dartmouth, Suzi worked with me, developing projects and designing lessons on Roman history and archaeology for my Latin students. Our friendship led from the classroom to the field where Suzi and I excavated together at sites in Israel and Greece. We both love all things D.I.R.T. – Digging In Roman Towns.

Suzi Archaeologist

It’s no wonder we’re both excited to celebrate April 21st, the legendary birthday of Rome: Suzi with a great new game on Roman history (click here for a sneak peek of Roman Town!) and me with my students. In my classroom, we will be celebrating this auspicious day by wearing togas, and retelling the story of Romulus and Remus: the ancestors of everything Roman. Abandoned at birth, the twin brothers were nurtured by a she wolf until a kindly farmer found them. The farmer and his wife raised the boys, always telling them that they were destined for greatness. In time, the boys reclaimed their birthright: they were the sons of Mars, the god of war, and the rightful heirs of a small kingdom. The boys returned “home” and fought each other for the right to be King. Romulus won this fight and named his kingdom Rome.

The best way to make the Romans come alive for my students is to share my experiences from the field. The children I teach come to understand that I, too, am a student. My fieldwork and research in the summer complements my teaching in the classroom. The Ecce Romani textbook series we use focuses on a family living in Rome in 80 CE. Mt Vesuvius has erupted, destroying Pompeii and leaving one of the chief characters motherless. The Emperor Vespasian is building the Flavian Amphitheater with slaves captured during the Jewish Revolts in the province of Judaea. Having traveled to Pompeii and Herculaneum, and having worked at Caesarea Maritima (part of ancient Judea), I can not only put my students’ studies into historical context, but I can also share with them what it is like to walk the streets of an ancient Roman city and examine the material culture left behind by Romans of every social class.

Pottery sherds, a portion of a mosaic floor, murex shells (murex snails are used to make “royal purple” dye), and pieces of ancient glass from my fieldwork bring Latin out of the textbook and into the hands of my students. Games like “Roman Town” enhance what I do in class, allowing my students to travel back in time. Students can experience the history of a place while playing the game. They are immersed in ancient culture, exposed to important facts and given a hands-on opportunity to “be” Roman. This sort of game based learning offers students the chance to explore, while strengthening critical thinking skills. The Romans become real, history becomes an adventure, and my students get to start their own meaningful relationship with Latin and Roman History.

kate sheeler photoKate Sheeler earned a BA in Latin from the College of William and Mary and a MAT in Latin from the University of Virginia. During the academic year, she teaches middle school and high school at the National Cathedral School in Washington DC, where she has taught Latin for the past 24 years. Kate combines her passion for teaching Latin with her interests in archaeology, spending her summers working on various archaeological excavations. Kate’s experiences have inspired her former students to join her in the field, as well as to pursue Classical Studies in college. Since 1988, Kate has worked at various sites in Israel, Italy, and Greece. Currently she is a senior staff member with Hesi Regional Project in the northern Negev in Israel.


Ideas and Imagination: What It Takes to Design a Game

This week, we’ve had the pleasure of welcoming to our studio three classrooms from Wheatley Education Campus, a middle school in Washington, DC. We’ve met their sixth graders and half of seventh grade, and are looking forward to inviting the remaining seventh and eighth graders once they return from spring break.

Class PicThese students have surprised us and exceeded our expectations, asking tough questions, and ultimately designing games that are not only difficult, but more importantly—fun.

You may be asking—what happens during a field trip at Dig-It! Games? Well, read on!

The artists and programmers rehearsed the general framework almost six times before students actually arrived. Like all good teachers, they planned what they would say, what resources they’d use, and had everything printed and ready to go come Wednesday morning.

The students filed into the studio rather quietly, hung up their jackets, dropped off their lunches on a table, and sat on the floor in the main area of the studio—where Dig-It! Games founder and president, Suzi Wilczynski, was waiting.Suzi

“What games do you like to play?” Answers ranged from Madden Football to classics like Sonic and Kirby. “What goes into making a game? How do games like Angry Birds and Crossy Road come to be? What’s the process that designers go through to create a game? Who are the people that are involved in that process and what are their roles?” Suzi peppered the students with questions and they were eager to volunteer their answers.

BrainstormFollowing a quick introduction to the vocabulary of game design, the students broke off into three groups working with the producer, artists and developers to brainstorm their own prototypes using a simple goal format. As teams, they chose their backdrop, their character, the starting point and end goal of the game, and then were able to place walls and traps throughout the character’s path. They picked how players would move through the game—by tilting, by tapping to jump (Mario, anyone?) or swiping. They asked whether they should include a timer.

With a good background on how game design begins—simply, with an idea—they began rotations through production, art and development, learning hands-on with the help of the Dig-It! Games team. A pair of students created a volcano cone in 3D art. Another group of students quickly worked through the coding of a maze game similar to what they had brainstormed as a team. One boy tested their product to see if the game was solvable. Taking on the roles of level designers, producers and beta testers, students worked through the process of production.Art Intro Mash UpThen they had questions for us: “Can I test your games? How did you get to be a game developer? What’s it like to be a producer? How did you become a 3D artist? Can I work with you? Can we have more time? Can we do this again?”

As students interacted with the rest of the team, developer Jessica Dommes was hard at work bringing the students’ ideas to life. She built out the Fantastic Four’s app—“Astronaut Destroy”—in which their spaceman has to beat the obstacles (without floating into the traps) to capture a planet. In team Fast & Furious’ “I’m Free,” players had to tap to make their character jump onto different levels to get to its goal. In “Get the Moon,” students built walls into the game to make movement difficult for their spaceman, and players had to tilt the iPad to make their spaceman move towards his goal.Final GameBy the end of the day, our team was exhilarated, the teachers were thrilled, and the students were genuinely excited about what they had learned and created. They had discovered that the most powerful tool in game development is your imagination—because in the world of game design, everything is possible.

Coding Plan for Game Art at Work Good Listener Coding Joy iPad Testing Production Group Art Kids


Drawing Players In: The Art Behind Roman Town

We released the original Roman Town™ five years ago to critical acclaim from both educators and parents. That may not seem too long ago, but its technology fit for its time—still in a CD-ROM format, parents and educators were able to load Roman Town onto a computer for students, and they loved it.

Technology has changed more than we ever thought possible in just those five years. The students we now seek to serve – Middle Schoolers – were just starting on their educational journey. This generation of students has grown up with smartphones and tablets at their fingertips. Now, the tool many educators are using in the classroom is the iPad. For us at Dig-It! Games™ , that meant a complete redesign of the original Roman Town in order for it to become a modern, kid-friendly app for this tech-savvy group of students.

It takes months of planning to develop a digital learning app and to really get it right. The very first thing to consider is what an app hopes to accomplish. Will it be aligned to educational standards? What will the student walk away knowing? With the new Roman Town, the game aims to engage students in an ancient Roman culture. The goal is for students to immerse themselves in the world of the archaeological site of Pompeii.

One of the most impactful ways to do that is through art—it has to be realistic. Mikel “Menty” Wellington joined the Dig-It! Games team in October 2013. Since then, Menty has been focused on developing concepts, characters, and worlds that illustrate real life to spark excitement about education.

Consider this—when you are searching for an app via the App Store, the first thing you see is the logo, so we knew we wanted it to make an impression. Below you’ll see Menty’s original ideas, which stemmed from the very first Roman Town logo, to create what we called the “Roman Town 2.0” logo.

Roman Town Progress

Another important aspect of the game is the artifacts within Roman Town. Dig-It! Games is committed to complete authenticity in the factual details of its games, so we make the artifacts utterly realistic—not only should they apply to Roman culture, but they should be authentic to the site of Pompeii. Players should know that the artifacts are items they would see in a museum or discover on an excavation site. The objects should seem touchable, as if the player can pick them up. To do this, Menty begins with an image—a photo of a real artifact. In the mini-game Jigsaw, for example, players are asked to put together a puzzle of a mosaic. Menty had to start by considering the puzzle itself—how it would be shaped, how many pieces there would be—before he could begin additional artwork. This not only included the puzzle itself, but the table that it’s sitting on, and the other items on that table. All of these pieces come together to create an authentic experience for the player.

Jigsaw Progress

Have you ever played Cypher? Your opponent picks a 4-digit number, and you have to guess what it is. Based on your response, your opponent can tell you that a digit is in the right place, in the wrong place and should move, or does not belong to the number. You only have a certain amount of tries to beat your opponent. You can see the progression from Menty’s original sketch to the addition of more complicated buttons in the final product.

Cypher Progress

Players sometimes take their experience within a game for granted. They’re often focused on the finish line and forget to appreciate the graphics—but that’s the point. If the experience didn’t seem real, they would focus on the little things instead of having fun while learning. Because of artists like Menty and his team, players can concentrate on the content and immerse themselves in the world of Roman Town (Coming Soon!)