SURGE Symbolic is our newest game under development through the NSF EGAME grant.
Whereas earlier versions of SURGE focused more on layering formal representations over informal representations, SURGE Symbolic inverts this order, layering informal representations over formal representations while organizing gameplay explicitly around navigating and coordinating across representations. Play begins in the informal space without access to the Cartesian graphs. Initially, players only have the dot trace representation and vector arrows for force and velocity. Over play, the Cartesian representations of position, velocity, and force are incrementally introduced to provide the player with tools to exert greater levels of control and prediction over what unfolds in the world space. Moreover, increasing focus is placed on coordination across multiple graphs. Thus play shifts from the informal space deeper and deeper into representational space.
SURGE Symbolic research also focuses on leveraging dialog between players and non-player characters, with the goal of supporting players in externalizing and articulating elements of their strategy and the physics relationships underlying them. We have developed and are researching adaptive branching structure for the dialog. At the most basic level, this allows students' choices in one frame of the dialog to change what the student encounters in the next frame of the dialog. This is standard functionality in games. What is more novel is that we can also integrate game levels into frames of the dialog so that students can (And sometimes need to) work on navigation challenges as part of their response in a dialog frame. Furthermore, the response options provided to a student in a dialog gram can adapt depending on the student;s actions in the navigation portion of that dialog frame.