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GCG Student Postmortem: 'Northeastern University's Shortfall Digital'

In this latest exclusive postmortem for Gamasutra sister site Game Career Guide, student developers Mark and Seth Sivak discuss Shortfall Digital, an edu
In this latest exclusive postmortem for Gamasutra sister site Game Career Guide, student developers Mark and Seth Sivak discuss Shortfall Digital, an educational game that incorporates engineering, automobile production, and innovation trees. Originally a professor-made board game, in this excerpt the students explain some of the unique challenges they faced in translating Shortfall into an electronic format: “Switching from a tabletop game to a digital one posed a number of unique challenges for us. These challenges, coupled with the fact that we were under a strict time constraint and did not have much experience with the platform (Adobe Flash), we had to change the design a bit to facilitate functionality. We decided early that a fully networked version of the game was simply too much for us to undertake in this independent study. However, we still wanted the supply chains to be able to compete against each other with the possibility of declaring a winner when the game was played in a classroom setting. We envisioned each team of six passing around a single laptop while taking turns playing. One of our goals was to not just make a single-use game, but a replayable one so students could experiment with different strategies. Our fix for this was to use an innovative feature that revolved around setting pseudo-random numbers for the market changes and the order of the current events. Each game is numbered, and the game number links to a specific set of data. Therefore, as long as each team plays the same game number, all teams will be essentially playing the same game and can compare scores at the end, enabling competition in the same classroom or across the country without requiring an internet connection. This dynamic also made it possible for people to play the game at any time. A group could play game number 6 and then a month later a different group could play the same game and they could compare scores. The groups do not have to play concurrently.” You can now read the complete postmortem, including more from the students on some of the additional triumphs and shortcomings faced in developing Shortfall Digital (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from external websites).

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