Power in numbers: Student-led video game design in elementary school art class

Title screen of Island Adventure
Here is a screenshot of the game loading up on a Chromebook.

Multi-grade art project for students

Mr. Jerred wanted to have students create a massive video game project together. So he organized and facilitated a crazy experiment at school this year. All Lanigan 3rd through 6th grade students completed all ideas, maps, 3D height maps, artwork, music, animation, sounds, and testing.

The beta version of the game, called “Island Adventure,” is online now. We created it using the Unity3D engine. As students playtest the game and give written feedback, we will update and improve the game.

Looking to ideas for next year

Next year, during the 2018/2019 school year, Mr. Jerred will begin teaching C# coding so students can build their own games in Unity3D, with possible 3D design and animation in Blender software. During the development of this project many students have come forward and expressed an interest in learning how to create their own games. Students have a foundation of the concepts of coding through programs like Hour of Code and code.org which they participate in as part of their library and media classes.

Hoping to connect with other teachers

Mr. Jerred will also be reflecting on the overall feedback and results of the project to better streamline, organize, and facilitate the project next year. Part of this includes the idea of working with ongoing class subjects and school inititiatives-for example, a virtual Pyramid, an ancient Greek city, an American pioneer town, social stories for students with behavior plans, or PBIS welcome tour of our school.

How students worked together: Lots of little jobs, one big vision.

Animator demonstration
4th grade student demonstrates his ability to create stop motion animation for Island Adventure video game

Hundreds of students came up with ideas, which we voted on. They voted on  ideas in categories such as genre of game, characters, settings, and gameplay options. The results recombined and reincorporated several people’s ideas so a brand new game emerged from this project that no one student came up with.

Game Job lists
Students chose from a huge list of jobs that needed to be completed for the video game project Island Adventure

Next, students had to pick from hundreds of jobs that needed to be done-all of which were focused tasks. For example, a fourth grader wrote the introductory story based on the ideas voted on by the classes. Another example involved the flags in the game. Flags posted outside each building level serve as spawn points after completing a level. Therefore, ten flags had to be designed.

Game Mapping in class
Four artists work together to map out dungeon escape levels for Island Adventure video game
Concept artists
Concept artists use a variety of methods to brainstorm designs for game, including using ideas from existing architecture.
Production Art Sample
Here is a small sample of the artwork created by students for the game Island Adventure

Some students also chose “Project Manager” jobs, which involved a range of responsibilities which were largely self-driven. Managers mainly chose to help or encourage groups and students who were off-task or having difficulty. They also kept groups whose ideas were straying from the overall vision. Project managers also mapped the whole massive island and came up with the names of the geography.

Students creating sound effects
Students work alone and in groups using mp3recorderonline’s website to make various sound effects for the Island Adventure video game.
Mapping the world
Project managers also had to brainstorm names for the sprawling landscape of the Overworld island in the game.
Musicians at work
Musicians ventured down to the music room to collaborate and record pivotal parts of the Island Adventure video game score using actual instruments.

Artists painted and drew on paper, which we digitized using the old document camera in the art room. Our photographers searched high and low for textures to also use in the game. Students cut up and created stop motion animations of player character movements which are featured in the game.

Game writers
Game writers and cheat code planners are working hard with old fashioned paper and pencil based on ideas voted by the whole group.
Stormy sky painters
Island Adventure’s sky changes depending on time, and that includes random storms, so artists are busy painting stormy skies.

Sound and music

Students used microphones on their laptops, chromebooks and ipads to record sound effects and voice overs using GarageBand as well as mp3recorderonline’s website. For music, some students recorded their voices or played instruments, while some used digital instruments in GarageBand.

Wonderful resources

We shared our files via google Drive into a central location so Mr. Jerred could assemble all the pieces together in Unity. Mr. Jerred used Photoshop, Audacity, and Unity to put all the student pieces together. The HELPDESK at Fulton City School District was extremely helpful in providing access to great software and allowing us unblocked online testing of our game.

It’s called “Island Adventure”

In this game, you choose a character and find 10 buildings on the island. Within each, you need to locate a key before you can leave again. When you have 10 keys, you can unlock the huge gate in front of Creeky Lake near Watch Town. Behind the gate is a boat that you can use to escape and win the game. This is the earliest version of the game, so please write down any things you notice that need to be fixed at send them to Mr. Jerred at Lanigan. Thank you and I hope you enjoy the student’s hard work on this crazy game!

Try to beat it yourself, right now!

Click here – the game is online and playable here in your browser (not yet playable on mobile devices).

If you have any comments, questions, feedback, for if you’ve found a bug or glitch you want to report for the first big update, let me know!

Allfield Soundtrack Cover Art

Here is the album cover artwork for the newly-finished Allfield Soundtrack by Bert Jerred. It is from an early scene in The Girl in the Jar, part 1 of my series. Hope you enjoy it!

Allfield Soundtrack by Bert Jerred Cover Art

Track Listing (May change on release)…

  1. The Everthought
  2. Song of Ksmeth
  3. Lada’s Theme
  4. Main Adventure Theme
  5. Syet Village
  6. Noro
  7. The Fussit Brothers
  8. Orina (Where the World Began)
  9. The Jars
  10. Desperate Seekers
  11. Dowluk Parade
  12. The Wastelands
  13. Bonigan Pass (Friendship Theme)
  14. A Different Lada
  15. BONUS TRACK: The Observatories
  16. BONUS TRACK: Find Me In the Gipp Grass

Listen to a Preview of Allfield: The Girl in the Jar Music Soundtrack

Digital music production
Bert showing me a bit of his latest processes and thoughts as he reviews some soundtrack titles

I’ve always loved the immersion of fictional worlds, whether I’m reading great books or seeing imaginary stories being brought to life on screen. This is why I’m still working on Allfield-an idea I’ve been kicking around since I was tiny. And a music soundtrack is a large component of stirring the imagination and emotion and creating an imaginary world in one’s head.

Amazing technology allows ordinary people like me the ability to use tools and software which in the past were reserved only for big budget corporations. Now making music, video games, film and animation is possible for anyone with access to off-the-shelf computers and the internet. These behind-the-scenes posts will explore my experience getting the opportunity to play and build worlds of narrative artwork using these unbelievable tools.

Soundscape

I have always thought of Allfield as an umbrella of different, related things – a kind of creative project engine. Programming games-to play and for pre-visualization of artwork and animation-was what I wanted. In my vision I saw  cards, animation, and books. Today, there are many more branches of “what could be” in this project. But one thing is for certain-music is a vital component of transporting people to other imaginary places. And even more certain-I knew who had to create it.

I know a guy

My brother has been creating a huge catalog of an amazing variety of music for years and years. His music has been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times, and has been used on television in things like National Geographic, Brain Games, CNN and ThinkGeek to name a few. He is an educator and has a diverse set of projects and interests.

Here you can learn about and subscribe to his podcast about synth music!

For more information, his main website is bertjerred.dx.am, jamendo – here, archive.org – here, soundcloud – here, and if you search him on youtube you’ll see a zillion people making crazy videos with his music. While music is not his full time career, it is something he loves to do which shows in all of his work.

Touring the studio

So I wanted to share a glimpse into an amazing home studio Bert Jerred has been using for over 20 years. During that time he has been honing his approach and his tools. This guy constructed each piece of his studio from various computers and machines, and the wealth of (to me- overwhelming) array of software tools available.

Keyboard and Mic
Here’s a mix of modern with the kind of keyboard I remember from being a kid.

Between computers and microphones and synthesizers are records, guitars, basses, drums, and many other traditional instruments. Occasionally there are things I don’t recognize which could be the inside of a tablet or a time machine, I would not know.

Little piece of tech
I think this is a computer, but I have no idea!
Shelf
Books, instruments, records, and walls covered with pastel-chalk murals.

Creating the soundtrack

While he definitely has a few kinds of software he is using now, Bert doesn’t seem entrenched in any brand for its own sake, rather he has a fluid and adaptable approach. Fun, functionality, sound, and efficiency seem to be important aspects of his workflow-both in the music and what is happening under the hood of the tech.

Screen
Sequences of music composed into songs!

Bert uses a balance of purely-digital tools and live recordings, until its mixed and the distinctions are seamlessly blended together. Its a one man operation that sounds like a studio full of musicians.

Listen to some clips here!

Here are just a couple of short clips to songs from the soundtrack:

Lada’s Theme (30 second preview clip)

Song of Ksmeth (30 second preview clip)

Orina (30 second preview clip)

Hope you enjoyed this – let me know what you think and please share. Soon the full graphic novel, the full Allfield card game, and the entire music soundtrack will be available for supporting on Kickstarter.

Preview Decks – How I Prepared Mine So Far

Which Cards To Print?

Here is a glimpse into the process of how I made promotional preview decks of 60 cards.

The Allfield Storytelling Card Game is made up of 300 cards. While I want people to have the whole thing in their hands as soon as possible, it is too expensive a task to create them as promotional items. Therefore, I selected 60 cards for the print and play as well as a limited physical preview decks for reviewers, stores, and gaming groups. Picking 60 cards out of 300 I wanted to see printed and complete was a hard chore in itself!

I went with offset printing and printed them with Oswego Printing in Oswego, NY-which is only about 15 minutes away.

So many boxes of preview deck cards arrive
Boxes and Boxes and Boxes everywhere

Sorting Cards Into Preview Decks

I have room for storage but I wanted to spread out and collate some decks for boxing. This wasn’t going to happen in my studio, which I thought was big, but not for a project of this size. Therefore, I headed to Artistree Studios during Open Studio time and spent several hours making deck piles on the tables. Here the ink and uv varnish still smelled fresh on the cards.

Collating Preview Decks at Artistree Studios
There’s plenty of room to spread out and work at Artistree’s Open Studio

A lot of cutting and gluing!

Locally I don’t have many options for printing die cut packaging, so I braced myself for finishing the next step on my own: packaging. First I measured the deck’s thickness and other dimensions. From there I used pencil, paper, and my trusty ruler to design a box that would fit the cards. Another big step was designing and adapting graphics in photoshop. These are preview decks, so I am not thinking about bar codes or any of that yet.

I went with a big name office supply store to make some color copies on card stock. The next step was cutting, scoring, folding, and gluing by hand. I didn’t want to shrink wrap these so I bought some round removable sticker labels and used those to hold boxes closed.

Allfield Preview Decks ready to share
A small box of preview decks ready to go!

More On Allfield Cards…

That’s it! I have many, many more decks and boxes to put together, but I hope this was interesting, or helpful-either in terms of what I did, or learning from what I should do better next time!

If you’re interested in being a reviewer of Allfield and want to get your hands on a preview deck of your own, you can find and order them on the right side of this page! Soon I will be posting information on an upcoming Kickstarter to print the full 300 card games, release the full length graphic novel of part 1 in Allfield titled “The Girl in the Jar”, and even a full musical soundtrack by Bert Jerred. There will be digital assets for online gaming sites such as Roll20 or Tabletop Simulator, and even an in-browser Allfield game. Right now there is a preview of the comic on this site, as well as directions and a print and play for the game which are all now available to anyone. If you like what you are seeing here, please share it!

Free Print and Play & Directions for Allfield Storytelling Card Game

(updated 07/17/18 – Note, if you have downloaded a previous pdf of the print and play it is advised that you download the newer file as the directions on the pdf have not been updated in a while. They are different and hopefully worlds better!)

Allfield Game Box Cover for Directions Page

Allfield SERIES A: The Girl in the Jar
Online Directions

ALLFIELD is a versatile collector card game where the deck is the world, and you decide what to do-alone or in teams, collaboratively or competitively.

  • Connect with your team or turn against them
  • You create, you choose-full freedom of direction
  • Unpredictable adventure
  • Clear and simple rules and roles
  • Build worlds and characters that can persist from game to game
  • Add your stories to fanfiction library

Download the Print and Play, or Get Your Own Preview Deck!

  • Free print and play directions and cards in a pdf file that is about 13 MB in size:  (Note-if you have already downloaded the print and play before 7/17/18, it is advised you either download it again, or read the updated rules on this page, as the pdf directions are outdated.)
    Click here to download free Print and Play PDF now.
  • The preview deck is 60 full color cards in a simple tuck box locally printed and assembled. Get one now on the right side of this page for $15! The full 300 card game, 400 page graphic novel, and full musical soundtrack are coming soon to Kickstarter.

Please let me know if you have questions or feedback!

Overview

Allfield is appropriate for people of all ages. It’s got loads of cuteness and fun things to do, but it’s also full of mysteries, weird monsters, and troublemakers. You and your team must rely on your quick thinking and imaginations.

Why Allfield?

Most tabletop role playing games require extensive references and calculations, with only one person acting as a game manager who designs the overall experience. However, Allfield acts very similar to how children play pretend, with just enough structure to make it a storytelling game. This creates an exciting and unpredictable world while providing creative freedom and collaboration to balance story ownership between all players.

Objective

Use cards and your imaginations to create an adventure story that everyone participates in. Players take turns in three different roles: The Storyteller, the Allfielder, and the Teammate. The game is over when the players feel like the chapter or story has ended! It can continue for as long and for as many sessions as you want.


Ages 4 & Up | 300 Cards | 2+ Players | Time: about 30 minutes and up

Online Directions​:

  1. (Getting Started)
    The Dealer shuffles cards and deals each player 5 cards.
  2. Character Cards: If a player has a desired character card in their hand, they lay it on the table for everyone to see. This is their Character card. A player has one Character card at a time. A player can swap it out at any time if dealt a character card that the player prefers. Players can make up their own back story and even change their name if they want. But this has to be explained to the other players. (Players can also choose to use an Animal card as their player, which is fine. A player’s character card can be anything they choose, if they can make it work!) Players might not yet have a card they’d like to use for a character (see Missing a Turn, step 9).
  3. Mod Cards: Players can upgrade their character with Mod cards. The player can lay down up to 2 additional cards from their hand at any time which increase the capabilities of their Character. These “Mod” cards can be any card in the deck (Except Yaial cards, see Reviving Characters step 14). You can swap these out throughout the game as desired. A player can have a maximum of 2 Mod cards for their Character at any time. If a player has a character card as a Mod card, they cannot control that character, but instead benefit from the details and resources of that character.
  4. Introductions: As players lay down and introduce their Character and/or Mod cards, they need to be explained to the other players. Remaining cards are held in players hands for now (see Surprise Cards, step 7). If a player does not yet have a desired Character to lay down, the player holds on to their cards for now (see Missing a Turn, step 9). The first round is ready to begin. Play moves to the left of the dealer and counterclockwise through the players.
  5. (Gameplay Begins)
    Introducing a Story:
    The first player is the Storyteller. The Storyteller uses their imagination and an optional card drawn from the top of the deck to describe an opening scene in which all players are together. The Storyteller cannot determine what the players do or think. The Storyteller can describe what players see, hear, smell, and feel. The Storyteller assumes control of any non-player characters introduced into the story. The Storyteller can describe where players are and what is going on-or at least as much as the Storyteller chooses to reveal. Are you introducing a mystery or conflict, or simply a place to explore? If other players ask questions, the Storyteller chooses to answer as much or as little as they see appropriate. The Storyteller does not use their Allfielder card during their turn as Storyteller. The Storyteller is the manager for the turn and directs the story.
  6. Dealer Check: At the beginning of a turn an Allfielder needs 5 cards total (between what’s laid down and in their hand), so the Storyteller needs to deal them the number of cards to make that happen. An Allfielder may exhange any number of cards as well, and must be done at this time. The Storyteller deals up to once per turn.
  7. Action Begins: The Allfielder listens to the story. Two important things Allfielders can do during their turn is ask the Storyteller questions (exact answers are not guaranteed), and narrate what they want to say or do. This can include talking to or working with teammates. The Allfielder has whatever resources they discover in the story or in their Character and Mod cards (For example, a “Purdine” can light up a dark room, or “Quiet Command” lets you influence the behavior of animals). Allfielders may also draw upon help from their teammates. Teammates are the other players who are not currently a Storyteller or Allfielder during this turn. The Allfielder talks and asks questions and narrates actions they wish to attempt. Allfielders cannot determine any external activity or player outcomes in the game-only attempt things. The Storyteller determines outcomes (see Step 10).
  8. Surprise Cards: Teammates can throw 1 Surprise Card at any time into a round of play. Only 1 may be thrown per turn. Surprise Cards are not compared and decided on based on merit-whichever Teammate throws a Surprise Card first locks out the other Teammates for that round. Teammates may discuss among themselves but once a card is thrown it is final. The Surprise Card can be used to help or harm the active Allfielder, and must be incorporated into the story.
  9. Missing a Turn: If it’s an Allfielder’s turn and they do not have a Character card to play with, and after re-dealing up to five new cards, still doesn’t have an active Character card to play with, the Allfielder must forfeit their turn until the next time around and the play moves on. On their next turn they can attempt re-dealing again. However, it is legal for players to agree for a Teammate to swap a character card in from their hand so the Allfielder can play, even if the Allfielder has been re-dealt cards for that turn.
  10. Determining Outcomes-Simple actions: Some actions an Allfielder wants to take may be simple, and the Storyteller must decide the success or failure of the attempted actions, and narrate the details of those results. In these cases of minor storytelling choices, the Allfielder’s turn will continue. The Storyteller decides whether or not the attempt is a “Simple” one to judge.
  11. Determining Outcomes-Complex actions: Some actions may be a little more serious or complicated, and the Storyteller might require the Allfielder to roll the dice for an outcome. When the Allfielder rolls dice, the Storyteller narrates the details of the outcome based on the number that is rolled. At this point the Storyteller will announce the turn is over, and the next turn is ready to begin. (If the Allfielder rolls a 3, they get another chance, see table below)
  12. Rotating to the next Allfielder: When the turn is over, the Teammate to the left of the Allfielder becomes the the new active player Allfielder. The Allfielder whose turn just ended becomes the next Storyteller. The story continues, repeating steps 5 through 12 with players rotating through role of Storyteller, Allfielder, and Teammate. This continues from player to player for several rounds until the players agree to pause the story or the story reaches a conclusion and the game ends.
  13. Fair Play Considerations: The Storyteller for each turn also serves as final word and ruling judge in two types of situations: 1. player disputes and 2. after fair discussion, if a player is trying actions that are far beyond their ability and risk ruining the game (exaggerated abilities with no basis in story or card-defined resources). Having said that, judges are different for each turn, and imaginative problem solving is the heart of the game, as is fun. Players are encouraged to re-interpret the possibilities of what resources their cards describe, and use them in unconventional ways. Storytellers should not stop this. Also characters can cooperate in the game or decide to turn on each other. The judge needs to rule in terms of character resource, not whether or not a player is doing exactly what everyone else wants.
  14. Reviving Characters: If a player gets three strikes during a game they are out. Either the game is over for them and that character, or if an Allfielder or Teammate decides, there are currently two methods of reviving a character. 1 is an Allfielder using the Knowledge Card of Deadthought, which can revive the character as a ghost. The revived ghost can play again, but cannot use Mod Cards. 2 is when an Allfielder uses the Yaial Card, in which case the revival takes up the Allfielder’s entire turn, and the revived character comes back into the story with normal rules again. It is up to the members of each game and should be decided ahead of time whether or not revival is allowed as a matter of preference, but it is perfectly legal.

Directions for Dice or Spinner Number Results

(dice or spinner not included)

Roll a 1 – Strike: Your idea doesn’t work and you get a strike.
(End of turn. Receive 3 strikes during game and you are out-unless revived with a Yaial card!)

Roll a 2 – Complication:You tried but somehow made it worse.
(End of turn)

Roll a 3 – Second Chance: Your idea doesn’t work, but you get a second chance to try a completely different idea.
(Player gets another chance)

Roll a 4 – Changeup: The story takes a sudden and abrupt turn.
(End of turn)

Roll a 5 – Assist:Your idea will work if you can convince another teammate to help you by throwing a surprise card. If everyone refuses to help, player gets a strike.
(End of turn)

Roll a 6 – Success:Your idea is successful and you get to draw a card from the top of the deck as a reward. This card stays on the table as a “spendable” Mod card. If and when you use its resources-it is then discarded.
(End of turn)


Tips

  • Record your story as you play, then submit it to the Crideo Library at Allfield’s Wikia
  • Develop and experiment with new gameplay modes like Collector mode where players develop and master skills to build collections and knowledge of the world; Battle mode where players focus on combat and overcome obstacles, fight way through game and defeat opponent(s) or teams to win; Explore mode where players develop their characters to only to unlock and explore new places, charting a path through the world into new areas; Trade mode focusing on collecting and trading with one another; Hunter mode where players capture, defeat, tame, or catalog wildlife they encounter throughout the game. Come up with your own card game using Allfield Cards, then submit your rules and ideas for other players to try.
  •  “Place: Building” or “Place: Territory” cards can hold another card, boosting the amount of Mod cards to up to four.
  • Storytellers can adapt rules how they see fit, and teammates can talk freely, although Allfielder has player action control during their turn.

Allfield Graphic Novel: The Girl in the Jar

Graphic Novel Overview

The Girl in the Jar is a full-length, full-color graphic novel by Ben Jerred. It is part 1 of the Allfield Series, where Allfield is the name of the imaginary world where the stories take place. This installment introduces us to DOK-the Struggle.

Little Lada’s life is a string of disasters until she discovers a way to take control of her fate. She quickly discovers her choices have permanent and far-reaching effects on her world.

THE GIRL IN THE JAR’s story does not start at the beginning of the world, but with a question: Who are we, and where do we come from? This is the story of people emerging from a dark age. Turning away from their everyday lives, they start looking for bigger answers buried beneath their feet.

It all begins with an old jug floating up the river, leaking blue mist and whispering voices…

Cover Preview

Girl in the Jar Graphic Novel Cover Preview Image

Graphic Novel Sneak Peek

Here is about 15 pages of sneak peek content of the Girl in the Jar book. You’ll see glimpses of characters like Gane, Loja, and Wai. This is the original sneak preview, and coming soon will be replaced by the newest preview.

Comic Sneak Peek – PDF format ~ 23MB

More About Allfield

If you are interested in this or have any questions, then please let me know in comments or on my contact page. There is also an Allfield Storytelling Card Game with 300 unique cards coming soon. Here on the site you can read the directions so you can play as well. Coming soon will also be an interactive online database of Allfield characters, locations, maps, and information. If you’re an online RPG player, digital assets for online sites like Roll20 or Tabletop Simulator will also be available. You can now download a free black and white Print and Play with 60 preview cards, or find out how you can get an actual limited edition Review Deck to help spread the word about the full game’s upcoming release. As it gets closer to the full release, handmade physical Allfield artifacts will also be available in the shop.