Category: Roterra

Game Development Blog: What Inspired Roterra?

Welcome to the first of many Roterra-specific game development blogs coming up! Currently, we plan to release a series of blogs on the world, the characters, and the process of making the game itself. Tell us what you want to know about by sending us a message or finding us on social media.

Roterra did not spring from nowhere. When conceptualizing and refining ideas for our next game, our design team took inspiration from many sources. While Roterra has evolved into its own beast, we wanted to look back down the line to see where some of its now-core concepts sprung from.

Inspiration 1:  MC Escher & Beautiful Puzzles

Balcony MC EscherOur discussions around creating a game environment where the ground literally moved under a character’s feet brought immediate connections to M.C. Escher’s work. Among his many drawings, we especially looked to “House of Stairs.” Recent games have popularized this aesthetic in mobile gaming, applying his unique and mind-boggling landscapes to puzzle designs and more.

However, do “beautiful” puzzles, mean great user experiences? Some puzzles in games aren’t very difficult. In our game, we plan to allow the player to feel awe but also to be challenged. We want players to have to think about how to get their characters where they need to go. Soon you will know if we have found the right balance.

Inspiration 2: Orlando Furioso and Fractured Fairytales

Orlando Furioso by Gustave DoreRoterra’s story sprung from a confluence of art and literature. From the Odyssey to Shakespeare, folk tales from throughout history showcase the hero’s journey to control the chaos around him. 

For Roterra, the most influential of these classic stories was “Orlando Furioso,” the epic poem from Ludovico Ariosto. In the story, stereotypes are turned on their heads as wizards and magical creatures share the scene with knights and princesses. The journey matters, not the destination. Angelica, in particular, draws inspiration from the protagonist of Furioso who takes fate into her own hands.  

Roterra’s continual perspective shifts reflect Furioso as well. Themes are woven throughout Furioso that repeatedly force the reader to question what they believe to be true. A story told from one perspective turns out to be remarkably different when seen from another character’s point of view. The line between hero and villain is constantly in flux. Our designers internalized these forced shifts of perception as they created a world where orientation changes at the push of a switch, things are rarely as they seem, and the correct path is not the obvious one. 

Inspiration 3: Our History with Game Development

Get your students into archaeology with Excavate! Our experience with educational game development informed our work on Roterra

Prior to beginning work on Roterra, Dig-It! Games was primarily an educational game developer. We still dedicate most of our time to working on educational games and tools and enjoy it immensely. However, our experience with these educational games have given us understanding of how player learn through games. In games like Excavate!, we want players to learn facts and make connections. In Roterra, we want players to learn mechanics and apply them to puzzles. This is the same basic process, with one being applied to getting better at school and one being applied to getting better at the game.

Through working so much with education, we know how to challenge players without frustrating them. Communicating mechanics is hugely important, and we’ve taken that in consideration in our level designs for Roterra.

Don’t forget to follow Roterra on Twitter and sign up for updates on the game page to keep up with all the development.

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Fractured Fairytales: Twisting Up Familiar Stories

We all love fairy tales. The sheer number of beloved Disney movies based off these ancient stories can attest to that. We love to see the heroic prince slaying dragons or the plucky princess pursuing true love. Sometimes though, we wonder what if. What if Cinderella had been more rebellious or Red Riding Hood more observant? Because of that curiousity, we make fractured fairytales.

What is a Fractured Fairytale?

At its most basic, it’s a rewritten fairytale. Simply put, a fractured fairytale takes an existing story and, literally, fractures it. Instead of following the plot to the letter, the rewritten story changes point of view, certain events, time period, or even the ending. Fracturing the fairytale provides new perspectives on the story through considering how else the story could have gone.

Examples of Fractured Fairytales

The video above comes from a segment of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show (19959-1964) dedicated to fractured fairytales. On the show, everything from Rapunzel to Little “Fred” Riding Hood to every pun on Sleeping Beauty you can think of is covered. Despite its age, the charm and comedy remain timeless. Collections can still be found online or single episodes can be found on YouTube.

For more literary examples, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs transforms the Big Bad Wolf’s story into a true crime drama (for kids). However, all it takes is a quick web search to find a copious amount of other delightful examples.

Fractured fairy tales fit well into many language arts curriculums, particularly in elementary school. Read Write Think has several great ones, including this resource which walks groups through analyzing the common elements of a fairytale. Then, groups use that information to make their own fractured stories. Education World and Teachers Pay Teachers also offer a selection of different ideas for teaching these offbeat stories. These include both reading and writing exercises.

Roterra: A Fractured Fairytale Puzzle

Roterra is inspired by fractured fairytales among other influences

Roterra eschews the traditional structure of the fairytale. Princess Angelica takes destiny into her own hands instead of waiting for a huntsman or fairy godmother to give her a hand. While it’s not a true fractured fairytale, since it doesn’t retell any particular story, it retains the ethos of giving more agency to the heroine. A better term might be “flipped” or “upside-down” fairytale. It gives Princess Angelica a role she might not usually fill in other fairytale stories.

You’ll be able to step into the role of Princess Angelica this year when Roterra releases. Until then, keep yourself up to date with the development by signing up to the newsletter on the game page or giving the teaser trailer a watch. We’re very excited to be giving you an awesome female protagonist in a fairytale setting. If you want to know more about the development of Roterra, keep an eye on the blog! We’ve got some inside looks into the world, characters, and development process coming up!

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Educational Escape Rooms: Benefits, Examples, & More!

What is an Escape Room?

It’s pretty likely that you’ve at least heard of escape rooms. Companies that run escape room puzzles have begun to crop up everywhere across the country. Nowadays, nearly 2,000 escape rooms exist, compared to twenty-two at the end of 2014, according to Room Escape Artist. Generally, these puzzles limit themselves within physical spaces where players must work together to escape from the locked enclosure. Players find pieces, move contraptions, solve riddles and more to make it out.

However, all the fancy mechanisms simply make up the aesthetic flair. Actually, creating an escape room or escape room-style puzzle is easy. All you need is something to unlock and some puzzles that players must solve that will help them unlock that something. While it may not end up as fancy, anyone can make an escape room around any topic. Including teachers! And including you!

Educational Escape Room Benefits

educational escape rooms are great in classrooms

Escape rooms teach valuable life skills that are highly applicable to education. A student needs to practice teamwork, time management, problem solving, focus under pressure, and respect. Escape rooms encourage all these valuable traits. Additionally, the puzzles that make up an escape room can be created around a theme which correlates to the class it’s presented in.

Of course, the implementation itself proves challenging sometimes as teachers must grapple with standards, classroom size, and class period length. Yet, there are a number of ways to combat this through using boxes instead of the room itself or using pre-made escape rooms from educational escape room companies.

“The concept of meaningful gamification is not to provide external rewards, but rather to help participants find a deeper connection to the underlying topic,” writes Scott Nicholson, a professor of game design and development at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, Canada. Escape rooms provide motivation and give students a reason to try and understand and connect with the material.

Find Resources for Your Classroom

For making your own escape room, try out this advice from Classcraft. It has tips about how to use the physical space, how to make puzzles, how to order puzzles and more. Some subjects are harder to design than others since math has a lot of opportunities for puzzles and social studies less. However, it is possible to design for any subject.

Many companies also offer pre-made escape rooms that can be easily implemented into classrooms. Breakout EDU (which we talked about on a blog post before) is a great resource for finding games that can be brought to any subject, complete with provided locks and boxes for students to work with. The Escape Classroom is another option (they also have a mystery-style workshop!) and Lock Paper Scissors has simpler printable guides to use for easier set-up.

Educational Games Are Great Too!

Escape the room or catch a thief

Our educational games were designed with C3 standards in mind for math, social studies, and STEM classes. While not as physical as escape rooms, bringing game-based learning in to the classroom is also a great way to give students motivation and engage them with learning. Our upcoming game Roman Town 2 casts the player as Team Q. They collect clues and solve puzzles to track down a thief rather than escape. However, the concept of solving problems remains the same!

If you’d rather get something for yourself, make sure to keep an eye on Roterra, our upcoming map-traversal puzzle game. Roterra will challenge your own mind and keep your brain working. Follow along with its development by signing up to be a beta tester on the game by going to the game page.

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Puzzles and Their Positive Effect on the Brain

Do you start each day with the newspaper’s crossword puzzle? Or do you prefer putting together jigsaw puzzles with your kids or with family members on vacation? Have you ever thought about why you enjoy challenging yourself in that way or how it might be helping you? Puzzles serve a very important purpose when it comes to brain health. Due to our love of problem-solving, it’s no wonder that puzzles have been around for so long.

History of Puzzles

Puzzles and puzzle games

 

Logic puzzles likely stretch back thousands and thousands of years through human history. Certainly, humans have always been figuring new things out- from how to make fire to how to shoot a rocket into space. However, the first jigsaw puzzles appeared in the 1760s as mapmakers cut up maps and pasted them on to wood. This history of puzzles takes you through the growth of the jigsaw puzzle industry.

Recently, puzzle games have grown popular, from escape rooms to video games. In a poll conducted September 2017, over 60% of frequent video game players stated that they regularly played puzzle video games. Strategy video games followed close behind with the next genre being adventure at below 50% of players. Escape rooms have also begun cropping up all over the United States. Compared to only 22 companies at the end of 2014, now enthusiasts can find nearly 2,000 according to Room Escape Artist.  In fact, educators even use escape room-style lessons to help engage their students in a variety of material in different subjects.

Why do we love puzzles so much? Also, why are they so helpful in education for both kids and adults? Keep reading to discover the appeal of puzzles and how they can help our brains grow.

Challenge and Satisfaction

puzzles and puzzle games

 

Humans have always been problem-solvers, so it would be fair to say that the desire to put together “puzzles” has always been inherent to humanity. In fact, engaging in puzzle solving may even be good for long-term cognitive health.

Studies show that completing crosswords could delay the onset of early dementia by two years. Additionally, taking part in various kinds of cognitive activities, including puzzles, can lessen the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s. It seems to be the combination of activities that is key. By providing our brains new challenges, we are able to keep our brains healthy and functioning for longer periods of time.

Of course, it is nearly impossible for studies to narrow down the sole cause to puzzle solving, but it can’t be denied that it can’t hurt!

Puzzles can also help young children with physical, cognitive, and emotional skills. With a jigsaw puzzle, kids practice hand-eye coordination and motor skills. Also, puzzles help kids with memory, problem-solving, and shape recognition. Finally, emotional skills include patience and setting goals. All of these are vital skills for kids to practice early in life. Puzzles help a lot with that!

The Puzzling World of Roterra

Roterra: A Puzzling Fairytale

 

Our upcoming game Roterra makes use of manipulable cubes and rejects the laws of gravity to craft a challenging experience for puzzle lovers. The versatility of the world and the puzzles it presents makes sure that players never grow bored. We only recently announced Roterra to the world, and we’re incredibly excited it.

With satisfyingly tough games in such high demand and showing such great benefits, we hope that our game finds a home among puzzle lovers. Stay tuned for updates coming soon on the iOS title right here or on our social media. We’ve been using our background in educational games to make a satisfying experience for all players. If you’d like to get behind-the-scenes access, make sure you sign up to be a possible beta tester on the main page at http://playroterra.com

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