Biology flash game (Done!)

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Leumas13
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Biology flash game (Done!)

Postby Leumas13 » Tue May 25, 2010 5:50 pm UTC

Hey guys,

I'm a physics student at Wake Forest, and we're working on a flash game designed to teach kids about cell biology. We do this mainly through tutorial screens and encyclopedia entries, but behind that is a real time strategy game set on the cellular level that's actually really fun. I feel like xkcd readers will appreciate it as much as I do, science and gaming combine! The game actually gets really challenging as it gets difficult to neutralize free radicals, recycle old organelles, build up your cell membrane all the while fighting off viruses.

Anyway, I'd love to hear what you guys think as we get close to release! here's a trailer link

and there's a blog which has links to some sites including a Facebook page.

And here's a link to the Kongregate page where you can play it.

Anyway, I would appreciate criticism, questions, worries, impressions, or simply "that's cool" :) But ST haet replies of "that's cool" and nothing else! ST also talk of ST in third person! ST SMASH! - ST
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Re: Biology flash game (not finished)

Postby el_loco_avs » Tue May 25, 2010 11:35 pm UTC

Woah. That looks like it gets pretty complex as you advance. Cool beans man. Do update when it's done!
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Re: Biology flash game (not finished)

Postby Tristancp95 » Wed May 26, 2010 1:14 am UTC

Wow, looks rather nifty. I would love to help... well, that is if I knew how to program, but if you need someone to play it, I would love to! I do have some questions however. How often do you get attacked by viruses, and if one gets to your nucleus, do you lose and have to restart the level?
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Re: Biology flash game (not finished)

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed May 26, 2010 1:32 am UTC

This looks amazing. I wonder what level of complexity you hope to reach, and what the 'goals' will include. Are you evolving towards something? Are you competing for resources? Will multicellular support be included?
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Re: Biology flash game (not finished)

Postby frogman » Wed May 26, 2010 4:18 am UTC

This looks amazing. I'm certainly looking forward to its release and I'm going to play it as soon as possible! Having just studied cellular structure and function in biology it'll be interesting to see how it plays out in video game form.
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Re: Biology flash game (not finished)

Postby Josephine » Wed May 26, 2010 7:18 am UTC

This looks great. I wonder how it would go over in a biology class...
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Re: Biology flash game (not finished)

Postby 4=5 » Wed May 26, 2010 11:46 pm UTC

it looks interesting and possibly fun. The centromere icon strikes me strangely, but I can't say much until I've played it.

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Re: Biology flash game (not finished)

Postby Leumas13 » Thu May 27, 2010 4:13 pm UTC

To answer everyones questions (i hope)

No there aren't other cells, but the resoruces are limited, and the time you spent hunting for them while you're being attacked is time you're not defending your cell.

Goals include fending off virus waves (which comes fairly frequently, and increase in difficulty and virus variety), producing levels of a certain enzyme or overcoming various obstacles (as in, "oh no! that mitchondria is producing free radicals!)

As for how to lose, you can lose by running out of ATP (which is used up when you make things or move). Viruses damage your nucleus and hurt your membrane by going through it. You can repair both (by making DNA repair enzymes or making more membrane). Both of these have a "health bar", and you can modify these in various ways. For instance, making more membrane can increase that health bar, and producing defensins to embed in it can decrease the amount of damage viruses do by puncturing it.

intial tests in the classroom have gone over well. Studnets say the ability to experience, or watch these cellular processes unfold makes it easier to understand.

The centrosome doesn't play a huge role. Since we as a scientific community don't quite understand it as full as we'd like. it's mostly there jsut to teach what we do know in all honesty.


I'm planning to upload some screenshots to the the blog today and tomorrow, as well as to facebook. Thanks for the interest and questions guys! I really appreciate it as I'm really excited about being able to work on this!
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Re: Biology flash game (not finished)

Postby jahwn lemonjello » Thu Jun 03, 2010 9:01 pm UTC

Wow that sounds amazing. I love resource management R.T.S. games; a biologically accurate one should be better.
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Re: Biology flash game (not finished)

Postby Whelan » Fri Jun 11, 2010 7:21 pm UTC

I think..Yes I want to play this.
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Re: Biology flash game (not finished)

Postby Sartorius » Fri Jun 11, 2010 9:10 pm UTC

This is way cute. I'd totally like to play.
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Re: Biology flash game (not finished)

Postby bigglesworth » Sat Jun 12, 2010 11:38 pm UTC

This looks really impressive. I just 'liked' it on Facebook.
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Re: Biology flash game (not finished)

Postby Vox Imperatoris » Sun Jun 13, 2010 8:34 am UTC

Haha, I like how ATP is the currency. Sounds interesting, and I hope it turns out fun.
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Re: Biology flash game (not finished)

Postby jahwn lemonjello » Fri Jul 09, 2010 8:32 pm UTC

It's done. I saw it published on Kongregate.
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Re: Biology flash game (not finished)

Postby bigglesworth » Fri Jul 09, 2010 8:40 pm UTC

Also, it is fun.

I think the mods should change the title. :mrgreen:
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Re: Biology flash game (Done!)

Postby Whelan » Fri Jul 09, 2010 10:35 pm UTC

Confirmed. And since it went up, it's the second best game of the month.
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Re: Biology flash game (Done!)

Postby Josephine » Sat Jul 10, 2010 4:47 am UTC

And I'm apparently not very good at it. The first level in space is stumping me. I can never seem to pull enough resources together to fight the invader virii.
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Re: Biology flash game (Done!)

Postby Xanthir » Sat Jul 10, 2010 4:50 am UTC

Man, me too. The second wave wipes me out.
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Re: Biology flash game (Done!)

Postby Josephine » Sat Jul 10, 2010 5:46 am UTC

I was told there would be glucose. all I get is amino acids.
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Re: Biology flash game (Done!)

Postby She » Sat Jul 10, 2010 2:40 pm UTC

I just beat it, took a few tries on the later levels (even if most of it was having to restart due to bugs, I did die a few times too). I really enjoyed it.
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Re: Biology flash game (Done!)

Postby Whelan » Sat Jul 10, 2010 2:42 pm UTC

I got about a half dozen levels in before I realised it was 1am and time to sleep. I'm gonna carry on at some point.
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Re: Biology flash game (Done!)

Postby Patashu » Thu Jul 15, 2010 12:06 pm UTC

I played this! It was awesome. It was entertaining to both learn, to listen to the dialogue and plot unfolding and to play through - there were constantly new things being added. One thing it wasn't, though, is long or hard. It's that kind of feeling that makes you want to see greater and greater strategical considerations placed upon you - but I can't say what, because (for instance) demanding micro from the player the way the game is currently set up would be very awkward.

Anyone else have thoughts on how the game could be extended, barring implementing more and more difficult to implement mechanics ad infinitum? It could be as simple as a 'hard mode' or 'difficulty slider' to make resources harder to get, viruses more annoying and whatnot. Maybe a 'stupid mode' where slicer enzymes and lycozomes don't move unless you're told to, haha. Perhaps viruses that could damage or otherwise ways to get damage to the mitochondria/etc so you'd need to cope with more kinds of loss.

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Re: Biology flash game (Done!)

Postby bigglesworth » Thu Jul 15, 2010 12:16 pm UTC

I found it hard enough. :shock:

Perhaps a version where you have to organise not just one cell but a small slime mould... intracellular signalling in order to control the mould as a whole.
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Re: Biology flash game (Done!)

Postby Vapour » Thu Jul 15, 2010 12:23 pm UTC

Oh, I came across this last night on Newgrounds, it is rather good. Certainly worth playing through once.

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Re: Biology flash game (Done!)

Postby Patashu » Thu Jul 15, 2010 1:24 pm UTC

bigglesworth wrote:I found it hard enough. :shock:

Really? I didn't fail a single time. (I did manage to freeze the game once, however. I sent off a bug report for that one :mrgreen: )

Perhaps a version where you have to organise not just one cell but a small slime mould... intracellular signalling in order to control the mould as a whole.

This is the kind of thing that would be cool but also a heck of a lot of effort, which I'm trying to steer away from unless you happen to get another grant I guess.

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Re: Biology flash game (Done!)

Postby Coin » Fri Jul 16, 2010 10:31 am UTC

A problem I found was the lack of information in the encyclopaedia. Things like how many lysosomes are required to break down different organells would be nice to be able to look up. I'm suspecting that it's one for every fatty acid used in the construct, but I'm not sure.
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Re: Biology flash game (Done!)

Postby SirMustapha » Fri Jul 16, 2010 12:13 pm UTC

I played this game about a week ago and I was amazed. The part of "learning" was engaging and didn't feel patronising and annoying, and it was really integrated into the game. I loved how the idea of "evolution" and "gradual complexity" can be used in a game as a tool for teaching things like that. AND the game was fun as hell. I can't praise it enough.

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Re: Biology flash game (Done!)

Postby Vapour » Fri Jul 16, 2010 12:47 pm UTC

Was playing it last night, got further this time. (had more time to play it)

Spoiler:
Got to the crocadile, then got destroyed by the 2nd wave of virus'

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Re: Biology flash game (Done!)

Postby frogman » Fri Jul 16, 2010 5:29 pm UTC

Vapour wrote:Was playing it last night, got further this time. (had more time to play it)

Spoiler:
Got to the crocadile, then got destroyed by the 2nd wave of virus'


Spoiler:
I actually found the crocodile easier than most of the rest of the game. The hardest part for me was the time in the lab where I had chloroplasts, and he turns down the lights. I wasted all my ATP pseudopoding around trying to find glucose, and then realized he was probably just being a dick and lying about sprinkling glucose into the petri dish. Or something.
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Re: Biology flash game (Done!)

Postby Cecilff2 » Fri Jul 16, 2010 6:28 pm UTC

Got to the last level. Wiped out every virus wave with ease. Not a single virus managed to replicate itself.

Spoiler:
Constructed lysosomes quickly, and recycled one of the chloroplasts. Quickly made a bunch of slicers(To the max of 50) and defensins(These are extremely helpful guys, be sure to make them) Moved around collecting AA and glucose, and eventually maxxed out lysosomes. Every virus wave provides you with Fatty acids(though disabling one of the mitochondria and collecting glucose also helps). Refill your slicers as needed, and continuously produce toxin and collect glucose. Doesn't take long at all.


Fun game by the way. Should make a sandbox level, where the sun goes up and down. And you get virus waves every now and then.

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Re: Biology flash game (Done!)

Postby psion » Sun Jul 18, 2010 12:08 am UTC

frogman wrote:
Vapour wrote:Was playing it last night, got further this time. (had more time to play it)

Spoiler:
Got to the crocadile, then got destroyed by the 2nd wave of virus'


Spoiler:
I actually found the crocodile easier than most of the rest of the game. The hardest part for me was the time in the lab where I had chloroplasts, and he turns down the lights. I wasted all my ATP pseudopoding around trying to find glucose, and then realized he was probably just being a dick and lying about sprinkling glucose into the petri dish. Or something.

Same, that's the only one I had slight trouble with. It's a bit of a balancing act between ATP and glucose.

I'm not sure if this game has gotten much exposure, but it really should be both praised and imitated. There's an unfortunate lack of games that are both fun and educational. There are so many sciences that could even fit the same formula of this game that I'd love to see. I'd especially like to see stuff like what Spore was going to be, so hopefully it'll be proven that there's a market for these types of games.

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Re: Biology flash game (Done!)

Postby Idhan » Mon Jul 26, 2010 10:00 pm UTC

This game is great. The platypus people are fun.

Personally, I don't understand why people prefer "we seed some alien planet with our genetic pattern (without actually rescuing any of us as individuals), and then an asteroid wipes us out in a horrible life-ending collision" to "an asteroid wipes us out in a horrible life-ending collision" tout court, but given that a lot of people do prefer the first scenario, I'm not objecting to such a project being funded as an element in the storyline, assuming anthropomorphic platypodes are psychologically similar to humans.

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Re: Biology flash game (Done!)

Postby Odd_nonposter » Tue Jul 27, 2010 8:09 pm UTC

I found this game quite fun. I'll admit, I got stuck for quite a while on the first space mission (lvl 6?) because of that damn lying robot. Couldn't make enough lysozymes and slicers and eventually got killed every time.

Spoiler:
Then I found out that defensins are nothing short of magical when it comes to later invasions. Build those quickly in the later levels, then focus on lysosomes, and right when the invasion starts, storm the place with slicer RNA


I'll definitely have to show this to my old Bio teacher. He'd love it. :D
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Re: Biology flash game (Done!)

Postby Idhan » Thu Jul 29, 2010 8:16 pm UTC

One thing: I think that the drag-and-drop style pseudopod movement interface is a little bit clunky. I think it would be nice if there were some other option, like an "extent pseudopod" button, and then you'd just single click on the target you want the cell to move to without any dragging.

I don't know whether anyone else has any problems with that particular bit of interface or whether it's just my personal issue, though.

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Re: Biology flash game (Done!)

Postby New User » Sat Jul 31, 2010 1:36 am UTC

It's a fun game, I enjoyed it. I didn't find it difficult, I only died once and that was on the final level. There seems to be some buzz about this game being creationist propaganda though.

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Re: Biology flash game (Done!)

Postby Xanthir » Sat Jul 31, 2010 3:26 am UTC

A little from column A, a little from column B, it seems.

One of the "advisors" for the biology was DeWitt from Liberty University, a school that offers a degree in Creationist Studies (which DeWitt teaches some classes for). Apparently he was brought on as a personal friend of Macosko, who was helping with the game and appears to be a creationist as well.

The game's author responded several times in the Pharyngula thread. He seems genuine. Reading between the lines in his responses, it seems like he was genuinely trying to produce a good biology-teaching game, but was swayed by the creationists that it would give his game a broader appeal if he left out all mentions of evolution. That's precisely the wedge strategy of creationism, unfortunately, but I don't believe the game creator did it with any intention to further a creationist agenda. That goal just got smuggled in by his unfortunately badly-chosen advisors.
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Re: Biology flash game (Done!)

Postby New User » Sat Jul 31, 2010 6:33 am UTC

Yeah all that stuff is way over my head. It's a game about extraterrestrial monotremes that send a microorganism to earth to escape their species' destruction (which they apparently are able to escape anyway). Which is kind of funny. Also platypuses on earth don't have chloroplasts... take that intelligent design conspiracy theorists!

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Re: Biology flash game (Done!)

Postby Diadem » Sat Jul 31, 2010 2:24 pm UTC

Xanthir wrote:A little from column A, a little from column B, it seems.

One of the "advisors" for the biology was DeWitt from Liberty University, a school that offers a degree in Creationist Studies (which DeWitt teaches some classes for). Apparently he was brought on as a personal friend of Macosko, who was helping with the game and appears to be a creationist as well.

The game's author responded several times in the Pharyngula thread. He seems genuine. Reading between the lines in his responses, it seems like he was genuinely trying to produce a good biology-teaching game, but was swayed by the creationists that it would give his game a broader appeal if he left out all mentions of evolution. That's precisely the wedge strategy of creationism, unfortunately, but I don't believe the game creator did it with any intention to further a creationist agenda. That goal just got smuggled in by his unfortunately badly-chosen advisors.

Well on the Kongegrate forums the game creator says that he didn't include evolution because it is a controversial subject. That's pretty bad, coming from a biologist. Maybe he's not a creationist, but if he isn't, he fell for their propaganda hook, line and sinker.

But the game is still fun. It just gives an incomplete picture. But the things it does teach are correct.
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Re: Biology flash game (Done!)

Postby uncivlengr » Sat Jul 31, 2010 2:56 pm UTC

It's a neat way to teach the functions of the different organelles, but the "plot" definitely leaves much to be desired.

I'm not sure if I was doing it wrong or if it was a glitch, but at one point I was generating those "slicers" to combat a virus, but they just continued to flock to a single virus without killing it... I had 50 slicers out before I hit the max and gave up.
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Re: Biology flash game (Done!)

Postby Xanthir » Sat Jul 31, 2010 8:08 pm UTC

Diadem wrote:
Xanthir wrote:A little from column A, a little from column B, it seems.

One of the "advisors" for the biology was DeWitt from Liberty University, a school that offers a degree in Creationist Studies (which DeWitt teaches some classes for). Apparently he was brought on as a personal friend of Macosko, who was helping with the game and appears to be a creationist as well.

The game's author responded several times in the Pharyngula thread. He seems genuine. Reading between the lines in his responses, it seems like he was genuinely trying to produce a good biology-teaching game, but was swayed by the creationists that it would give his game a broader appeal if he left out all mentions of evolution. That's precisely the wedge strategy of creationism, unfortunately, but I don't believe the game creator did it with any intention to further a creationist agenda. That goal just got smuggled in by his unfortunately badly-chosen advisors.

Well on the Kongegrate forums the game creator says that he didn't include evolution because it is a controversial subject. That's pretty bad, coming from a biologist. Maybe he's not a creationist, but if he isn't, he fell for their propaganda hook, line and sinker.

But the game is still fun. It just gives an incomplete picture. But the things it does teach are correct.

The game creators aren't biologists - they're physicists and programmers. I've read some more, and it's pretty obvious what happened now.

Macosko and DeWitt are the ones that actually wanted to make a game. They grabbed the actual game creators to be project leads so they could get in on a grant targeted toward younger people.

The game creators have no more than high-school biology knowledge. They depended on M&D to help with the details of the biology. M&D are creationists, though, which means it was pretty easy to just... not really mention evolution, and thus produce a biology game with only a single reference to the concept (in one of the encyclopedia entries, written after the game itself was basically complete). That fits in precisely with the standard creationist schtick - emphasizing the complexity of biology without mentioning evolution is a common tactic, as it leaves people open for someone else to fill in the "why" of the complexity.

So, yeah, based on everything I've read surrounding the issue and written by the game creators themselves, I think they're at fault for nothing more than naivete and the bad judgement call of trying to do anything biology-related with a creationist.

The game's still fun, though.
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