Gnometilus

What: Concept for an educational game (topic: fish locomotion)

Where: Knowledge Media Research Center Tuebingen, Germany

When: Fall semester 2007/08 (Internship semester)

In fall 2007/08 I was fortunate enough to get an employment at the Knowledge Media Research Center in Tuebingen for the internship for my communication design degree. I was tasked with devising an educational game with the specific topic of fish locomotion, which was then intended to be used to study the potential of digital games for the purpose of knowledge transfer. As there was no specialist for game development at the Knowledge Media research Center, I was given full creative control over what form that game would take. I eventually decided that a metroidvania style side scroller would be a good approach. The result was the concept for “Gnometilus” (or “Gnomtilus”, in the original german, though the title sounds much better in english).

gameconcept

The first area map, including some descriptions of the game system.

The intent for this game was to convey knowledge about the various forms of fish locomotion. It had always been my firm belief that players will naturally learn and memorize information that is relevant to their gaming experience, so I came up with a concept where a selected number of different forms of locomotion are central to the gameplay.

The player starts with a generic submarine, but after collecting a specific type of fish the submarine propulsion is upgraded to mimic that particular form of locomotion, and benefits from its traits.

propulsionforms

The different propulsion upgrades of the submarine.

In the classic metroidvania style, the upgraded propulsion allows the player to access new areas of the map that he could not previously enter, and the different forms of fish propulsion are thus essential to the progression in the game.

With the original propulsion or the first fish propulsion the player cannot get past the snap-traps.

With the fast acceleration ability of the second fish propulsion, the player can get past the snap-traps and enter previously inaccessible areas.

The plot is centered around an adventurous group of approximately 5″ tall gnomes (hence the title) who are searching for treasures in an underwater cave labyrinth. Their submarine, the eponymous “Gnometilus”, is periodically upgraded by a friendly gnome scientist, who also occasionally provides exposition on their maritime findings.The goal of the player is to explore the underwater environments and to collect pieces of treasure and new types of fish.

The group is occasionally opposed by a gang of gnome pirates in their own submarine, the “Black Shark”, which culminates in a number of boss fights throughout the game.

The second fight against the Black Shark. Each encounter offers a different challenge.

The eponymous “Gnometilus”, with interior.

 

Overall it was a very interesting and enjoyable project to work on, and even though I was not under supervision by professional game developers I learned a lot about the processes of game design, including my first attempt at writing a design document. I had been working closely with postgraduates in both psychology and biology to devise a concept that would meet their requirements.

After my departure from the Tuebingen Knowledge Media Research Center at the end of that semester, the concept I had written was handed over to a group of students at the Stuttgart Media University to be realized in Flash within the following semester. However, with myself no longer being involved, the project group at the Stuttgart Media University decided to only keep some of the basic plot elements (like the environment and the submarine), but changed the game system from my envisioned adventure game to a more linear, stage based maze game. The resulting game, sadly, has not been used by the Knowledge Media Research Center for further research.