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    Design Document for:


    Environmental Detectives

    All work Copyright ©2002 Comparative Media Studies Department, MIT / Microsoft Research

    Written by Kurt Squire, Kevin Johnson, Walter Holland, and Zachary Nataf with Eric Klopfer

    Version # 1.00

    Monday, May 27, 2002

  • Copyright (C) 2000 Your Company Name – All rights reserved – Run away!

    Confidential Page 5/27/02 2


    DESIGN HISTORY _____________________________________________________3

    GAME OVERVIEW ____________________________________________________6

    SINGLE PLAYER GAME_______________________________________________14

    MULTI-PLAYER GAME _________________________________________________

    GAME CHARACTERS ___________________________________________________

    TECHNICAL INFORMATION __________________________________________20

    USER INTERFACE ______________________________________________________

    WORLD EDITING_______________________________________________________

    “USER INTERFACE APPENDIX”_________________________________________

    “NETWORKING APPENDIX” ____________________________________________


    “STORY APPENDIX” ____________________________________________________

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    Confidential Page 5/27/02 3


    Version 1.0

    Version 1. 0 includes Eric’s material from the walk through of Environmental Detectives, and our previous work on the game.

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    Confidential Page 5/27/02 4

    AUGMENTED REALITY GAMING At 12:35, the last students in MIT Course: 1.725J (Chemicals in the Environment: Fate and Transport) enter the classroom. They’re each handed a PDA running Environmental Detectives, equipped with GPS and BlueTooth. Students have been divided into 5 groups that represent the following interests:

    a) The EPA b) An environmental health unit at a hospital c) a manufacturing facility d) a high tech firm e) an environmental organization.

    As groups launch their PDAs, they are presented with a unique cover story, customized to their roles. The story begins with a group of citizens concerned about the recent rise in health problems in their community. Their cause is then championed by environmentalists who begin to begin to publicize the rash of illnesses. A hostile press learns of this catastrophe, and immediately implicates a manufacturing plant near the watershed. Scientists hired by the industry deal with angry Emails and Instant messages from and concerned citizenry.

    Each briefing contains some unique information and a few common facts. There are scattered reports of unexplained illnesses in nearby Cambridge. Through gathering field data, processing data, and interviewing virtual witnesses, players learn that this calamity has been caused by illegal dumping of trichloroethene, a hazardous material that is used to clean machinery. Trichloroethene is extremely harmful, leading to cancer and liver disease. Time is ticking, and players need contain the spread of this harmful chemical throughout the Boston area.

    Each player has a specific goal. EPA workers need to contain the disaster, and prevent further human injury and hopefully identify the perpetrators. The environmentalists want to see one of the corporations tried, and public support for more regulations increase. The corporations each want to defend their own interests.

    Each team must choose how to use its limited time and funds. Where should they collect data to identify the source of the pollution? Should they set up probes up and down the Charles River? Where should they drill wells to probe the groundwater and how many should they create given their resources? Should they pay to have informants taken to the doctor? Which symptoms should they pay attention to, and which ones should they ignore? Which communities seem to have statistically significant increases in disease? Red herrings in the form of other environmental contaminants, and people sick with other diseases will obscure their efforts.

    Environmental Detectives combines the dramatic appeal of Erin Brokovich with the pedagogical value of inquiry-based learning exercises. Further, Environmental Detectives allows players to experiment with dangerous toxic, radioactive, or volatile which would be dangerous to do in most classrooms.

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    At the end of the game, players must try to remediate what they think are the causes of the pollution. After they put their efforts into place, they are given several forms of feedback. They learn how many people continue to get sick, what the pollution levels are, and what public opinion toward them is. The winner of Environmental Detectives may be chosen by a classroom vote, a mock simulated vote of public opinion, or other measures of success. Players themselves will need to decide what they think caused the increased levels of tricholoethene and where it started.

    Through playing this game, players will learn more about the specifics of tricholoethene, one of the most dangerous and prevalent forms of pollution in the United States. Players will learn about the chemical properties of tricholoethene, and how it moves through the environment in different forms. As such, players learn about global geo-chemical processes, which are core ideas in environmental science.

    Environmental Detectives is designed to be used in an environmental education context. Students learn basic investigative skills (observation, hypothesis testing, data gathering, data analysis, and data reporting) that are a part of any environmental education curriculum. In addition, there are opportunities for students to learn how chemicals are transported through the environment, how global chemical systems work, and how environmental toxins are neutralized. The solutions that they must put into place also require them to learn about designing engineering solutions.

    Unlike traditional handheld models our augmented reality simulations use the power of the handheld to not only gather data, but to process information, visualize data, and engage the user through narrative and drama. Players search databases of information and design their own experiments to test what may be causing health problems in their communities and design appropriate solutions to fix these problems. In addition to the scientific simulation of tricholoethene transport, is the game of public opinion, and players must carefully consider how they conduct their investigations, what tests they run, how they interact with the media, and how they interact with each other. In addition, the real world context of the game that the players must move around in fosters spatial data visualization, mapping, and social constructed knowledge.

    We think that Environmental Detectives will be a fun, engaging, and educationally powerful game. However, its greatest value may come not through playing this particular augmented reality simulation, but in the scenario editing tools that are shipped with the game. Players will have the ability to create their own simulations of environmental disasters, setting the type of contaminant, the effects of the contaminant, the rate of spread of the contaminant, and the potential effects of its interaction with the public.

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    Confidential Page 5/27/02 6

    GAME OVERVIEW Backstory It’s the current day and age, and you’re a constituent in your town. The class has been divided into 5 groups that represent the following interests:

    1) The EPA 2) An environmental health unit at a hospital 3) a manufacturing facility 4) a high tech firm 5) an environmental organization.

    There is a rash of health problems in the community, tied to the presence of tricholoroethe in the environment. Players are each given a unique briefing.

    EPA workers. There has been an increase in reports of dead fish found along the shores of the tributaries leading into the Charles. EPA workers are given a backlog of data recorded from local rivers, including ph, and the presence of microbes, toxins, and chemical levels (Nitrates, etc.). EPA Players are also given a database of EPA resources they can look through in trying to identify the toxin.*** THIS REQUIRES SOME RETHINKING Perhaps they have some historical records of levels of tricholoroethene in drinking water. OR they have been alerted to health problems of people working on or near the river.

    Environmental Activists. Environmental activists learn of this problem through some outraged citizens who have noticed that many of their friends and family have fallen ill.

    High Tech firm. The high-tech firm workers learn of the problem through a corporate memo. The memo highlights the firm's innocence, as well as the importance of preserving trade secrets.

    Traditional manufacturing facility. The traditional manufacturing firm (textiles, perhaps) sends a memo to a team of environmental engineering consultants whom they have worked with to streamline their production processes and minimize the amount of contaminants they produce. The players learn that the company has a history of producing toxic chemicals, but has been committed to "cleaning up their act" recently.

    Hospital workers. The hospital workers are ini