eAdventure 1.5 released (and roadmap update)

We are eeAdventure Logoxtremely happy to have published a new stable version of eAdventure v1.5, along with a small redesign of our website (a major re-design is on the works!).

This new version is another major release on the eAdventure 1.x branch. You can see a full detailed list of changes on the release notes section.

In the meantime, we continue our hard work in eAdventure 2.0, with a radical redesign of the engine that will empower us to create great complex games with even less effort. We have tweaked our roadmap to facilitate the transition towards eAdventure 2.0. Our next scheduled release will be a transition release, probably branded as eAdventure v1.9. It will incorporate an experimental version of the eAdventure 2.0 engine, but still feature the “old” editor. The key aspect of this approach is that we will be making sure that games created with eAdventure 1.x run smoothly on the new engine.

Of course the new engine will be underutilized, although some of its key capabilities will be seen from day 1: HTML5 engine, smooth Android integration, improved perfomance, etc. However, we will unleash its full potential with the release of eAdventure v2.0.

When will it be released? Here we have adopted the traditional Blizzard motto: it will ship when it’s done!

Mobile features in e-Adventure 2.0

I have previously posted about our research regarding the applications of e-Adventure in the mobile space. We started with a port to J2ME, seeing this platform as an easy way to run e-Adventure games on a phone. It worked, although it wasn’t flexible enough.

In the last five years phones have advanced incredibly. The explosion of iPhones and Android phones have elevated what can now be considered a “standard smartphone” and that’s why we switched to Android two years ago. We are now seeing good results, and our Android-related tools are evolving quickly thanks to the work of our talented developers.

We have led the development in two different directions. One line is porting the e-Adventure engine to the Android platform, so that it would be possible to play e-Adventure games on an Android phone. Right now we have an e-Adventure app that can connect to the network, download adapted e-Adventure games from a repository and launch them on the phone. This Android-based engine can also use features that go beyond the desktop version: we can define effects that are not triggered by a user action, but by locating the phone’s position using the GPS. We can also scan QR codes and trigger effects in the game depending on the code. Unfortunately, games that use those features cannot be edited with the current e-Adventure editor.

We have a video showing the current prototype.

In parallel, we have been working on a mobile game editor. The key idea here is to allow both teachers and students to draft or tweak existing games on the go. Imagine going on a field trip and planning an assignment of making a photo-based game of the visited environment: You can create the game on the spot, using the phone’s camera to take the pictures for the scenes that form the game. Of course this mobile editor is limited, and doesn’t allow the same complexity and fine control as the desktop editor. But it is possible to create game drafts on the go and then open them on the desktop for further refinement.

There’s a video for that too.

After developing and testing those two prototypes as branches of the e-Adventure platform, we have already started working on integrating them in our release process. As I mentioned a few posts ago, e-Adventure development is now split in two lanes: maintenance of e-Adventure 1.2 and the parallel development of a brand new e-Adventure 2.0 written from scratch. In the last technical meetings we have been designing a game engine that supports parallel development for the desktop and the mobile version. And once we are done with the engine, we will start working on the editor, incorporating a new look and feel, new game authoring metaphors and exportation support for a variety of formats.

We are not sure when we will be publishing the first betas of e-Adventure 2.0 including the mobile features, but we are sure it will be great.

The future of <e-Adventure>

In my last post I mentioned how, after we released <e-Adventure> v1.0, we split our development in two branches.

The first branch was focused on short-term improvements and on adding new simple functionality to our existing model. This line included GUI improvements, general optimizations and new features such as “Drag and drop”, a revamped conversation system or new exportation profiles. As I said in that post, the result of that line of work is the publication of <e-Adventure> v1.2. We have already published a release candidate, which we expect to make final within the next few weeks.

This version marks the end of this line of work. Version 1.2 will continue to be improved and supported, with minor tweaks and solutions to emerging bugs. However, this also our feature-freeze point, and no new things are expected to make it into that branch.

On the other hand, this allows us to concentrate our efforts in what we internally call <e-Adventure> 2.0, which is our current research & innovation platform/sandbox. Among many things, these are the main lines of work within <e-Adventure> 2.0:

  • WEEV: Weev is the ongoing thesis project being developed by Eugenio Marchiori, proposing a new metaphor for game creation and visual languages to “weave” stories without thinking about flags and variables. The story of the game and the state changes can be defined with a high level of abstraction using the visual language, and these settings are automatically converted into an <e-Adventure> game with all the flags and conditions correctly configured.
  • Android integration: We already have the engine working in Android phones (see our preview) and the next step is to provide an automatic exportation profile to the editor. <e-Adventure> 2.0 will support reading QR-codes or using GPS data to trigger effects when the games are exported to an Android phone, and the editor will allow the configuration of these aspects (we need to do them manually right now). [Read more]
  • Accesibility: We have already invested a lot of effort in integrating accessibility features into our games. The next step is to make the editor as accessible as possible, and we are working in this line with Technosite.
  • Plug-in architecture for the editor and the engine. The key point here is to allow independent development of new features, affecting the engine, the editor or both.
  • New integration architecture, with new ideas and protocols for the integration with Learning Management Systems
  • New completely revamped GUI: We are working in the development of our own look & feel, giving a unified appearance to all our projects and (hopefully) solving our ongoing cross-platform GUI issues.

Each of these lines of work would deserve its own post describing it. I will try focus on some of them in the next few weeks.

<e-Adventure> 1.2 released

For the last year, <e-Adventure> development has been split in two main branches. On the one hand, we kept working on the current <e-Adventure> platform, solving bugs, adding a few new features and tweaking some things that we learned could be improved. On the other hand, we started a new development branch, which we internally call <e-Adventure> 2.0.

I will elaborate on what’s brewing for 2.0 in a future post, but today I would like to announce the first line has finally seen the light as <e-Adventure> 1.2. We have published a Release Candidate online and, as usual, we would like to hear some feedback about it. Among the major changes, I think that the “Drag & Drop” feature is the most novel, and covers an often requested improvement. We are excited about the potential uses for this new interaction.

Also, after our experiences with users at the Lab of Computer Science, we have added a new layer of flexibility to the conversations, and it is now possible to configure aspects such as waiting for a user click before changing text lines or having the option to display/hide the last line before a branch (so that we can ask questions and let the question remain onscreen while the student thinks about the answer).

Less prominent would be our new icon set, the performance improvements (both for the editor and the engine) and a reduced installation (which also translates in smaller applets when exporting for the web). Oh! And we also have community-contributed translations to Portuguese and German!

All in all, it is a great improvement, and we would like everyone to try it out. You will not be disappointed. Once we have gathered some feedback, we will release version 1.2 “proper”.

Teaching teachers how to teach with e-Adventure

e-Adventure was born with the objective of reducing the barriers for game-based learning adoption. As such, it was a platform that attempted to make it simpler for small development teams, or even individual instructors, to create their own educational adventure games without any programming knowledge.

Five years later, I believe we have been successful, and I’m proud of how e-Adventure is maturing as an open platform, at a rate of 300 monthly downloads, and with new features and usability features added on every release.

In the past three years we have been organizing courses at different Spanish education institutions, such as universities or high schools, with one clear objective: To teach teachers how to teach with e-Adventure.

So far the reception has been great. Teachers like the courses, enjoy using the platform and always give us back positive and valuable feedback.

The organization is simple: For two entire days (or three days with half-day sessions) we walk the participants through the constructions of a complete game using the e-Adventure platform. We usually start with a short motivation and context lecture, and then one of my colleagues (usually Javier or Ángel) go step by step through the construction of the game, while I walk among the participants bringing anyone who lags behind up to speed. This method works great, as it allows us to impose a reasonably high pace without being concerned (or interrupted) by people getting lost in the process. The pace of the class is enough to keep advanced students engaged, while the support by the second instructors is a relief for those who sometimes loose pace.

The course is very complete, and the by the end of the second session, the students have mostly completed the Fire Protocol Game (available at the e-Adventure website). The last day we give the students an empty version of the 1492 game, with all the scenes, characters and conversations, but without any connections or behaviors. That last day is usually fun and engaging. There is no new content (just a review of previously used features) and the students appreciate the rapid progress in the creation of the game (it feels like those books in which children can paste stickers to create their own stories).

Right now Javier and myself are in Puerto Real, having just completed the first day of the course. The participants seem interested and motivated, and rather capable from a technical perspective. I think this is going to be a great course…