Today I’ll talk about our experience in such a diversification of multiplayer game mechanics and their adaptation for children from seven to eleven years, using the example of the new online game “Formula 1 + 1”. For several months of work in test mode (the game is available only to 10% of platform users), 95 thousand players took part in it, and the most persistent spent more than 100 hours in it, that is, more than 6 thousand games. I will try to show how we implement lerification – a process when we are not trying to make learning interesting, but rather – we add a learning element to the game.
The game “Formula 1 + 1” is a multiplayer race where the speed of a car is influenced by the decision of examples of oral counting: the faster and more correct answers a player gives, the faster he will go. For winning the race, the player receives experience (rises in the ranking) and coins for which you can buy new, more powerful-looking cars.
What goals did we set
When the game was conceived, we wanted it to be really interesting for children and at the same time develop skills from the school curriculum of grades 1–4.
Take into account the characteristics of children’s perception
The game is intended for primary school students, and at this age it is difficult for children to stay focused for a long time. And the competition itself with the rival in children is much more emotional than in an adult, which means it takes a lot of energy. So that the child is not tired too quickly and does not “burn out”, we took into account the counting speed for each class, made the races short, and added several elements of motivation.
Show value to adults
The success of the game in children largely depends on their parents, because it is they who usually decide how much time a child is allowed to spend at a computer or smartphone. The game should appeal not only to the child, but also to his parents, proving their usefulness and harmlessness.
On the main screen of the game, we placed a button leading to the section with personal statistics of the “rider”. It reflects the successes for each type of race – the number of victories and the correct answers in percent. These data clearly show the parent what his child has succeeded in and what is worth pulling up.
Security in terms of authorization is provided by the Uchi.ru platform. The game also has no ads, the mechanics of lootboxes – all improvements are available only through in-game currency.
As a basis, we took the mechanics of the game, popular among children on our platform: solving arithmetic examples for speed. Added generation of arithmetic examples – each time the player sees a new task. This makes the game much more fun and increases replay value, which means that players improve their counting skills.
In favor of multiplayer is our successful experience in conducting various competitions on the portal and an abundance of successful multiplayer mobile games on the market: Brawl Stars, Clash of Clans, Clash Royale and the like. So we got a race where in an online race two students compete in who will reach the finish faster.
The letters of users in which children often asked “to make a game about cars” prompted us to choose the genre of online racing.
Racing races are short-lived – only five arithmetic examples with three answer options that are simultaneously shown to both players. The whole race takes about a minute and a half.
Choosing the right answer, the player advances his car to the finish line. The dial on the left shows the number of the current question, on the right – a timer that counts the time allocated for the answer.
It is difficult to influence the arithmetic abilities of a child if he quickly loses interest in the game, becomes reluctant to play it, or even abandons it. We must keep him in the game long enough and motivate to improve the results. For this, the game provides several tools.
To add variability to the race (read replay value), we came up with a bonus for quick answers. If a player gives correct answers twice in a row faster than the opponent, his car moves forward a little more.
Arrivals can be carried out on different tracks. There are five of them. Each has its own type of arithmetic examples: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and mix, where all the examples are found.
In each category, questions are generated during the game. Unlike pre-written examples, this method not only greatly expands the number of tasks that the student can meet, but also gives us the opportunity to adjust their complexity depending on the class. We have identified four difficulty levels that meet the standards of 1, 2, 3 and 4 (and higher) classes.
For example, 1st grade students can only count within 20, and in 4th grade children solve examples with three-digit terms and going over one dozen. Not every adult can cope with the tasks of the last level without a calculator – only ten seconds are allotted for one example. Try right now, quickly complete the addition task with two transitions across dozens: 574 + 349.
The opponent can be a player with comparable successes, selected using the algorithm from among the students online, or a friend who is previously added to a special list.
Although the portal has a huge audience of 8 million students, players may not have enough opponents online. In order not to force children to wait a long time for a suitable partner in the game, we introduced bots into the game. A rival bot looks like an ordinary player. Based on the player’s rating, the bot is assigned the ratio of correct and erroneous answers: strong players get a strong bot, weak players get a weak one.
To avoid contractual matches, we do not give rewards for races with friends.
Character: details and nuances
Three constituent player character
Children love to imitate parents; they like the attributes of adulthood. We tried to take this into account, therefore, at the first entry into the game, each child receives a game car license. Filling them, the player creates his character: selects an avatar, game name and car number for in-game identification.
The name can be selected from the drop-down list of adjectives and nouns. This was not accidental. Firstly, because it would be incorrect to display the real name of the child in the game – the game name allows you to remain anonymous. And secondly, imagine what would happen if you let the children show a sense of humor and come up with a game name themselves. At a minimum, we would have to introduce moderation of names, which would greatly complicate the process for everyone.
The car number consists of the initials of the game name, as well as numbers and the region code, which the player can select manually or generate automatically. For children, the choice of the number and region code becomes a game in the game: some seek to pick up a beautiful number, others – similar to the parents’ car number.
The game lives on our main platform, so authorized users come to it. This saves us from the difficulties regarding the personal data of the child, but gives us information about his class and school.
1. Reward for the game played
At the end of the race, the student always receives rewards – experience points and coins. Experience points are needed to increase your level. This is the easiest motivation tool. The more you play, the higher your level, and it doesn’t matter if you play well or not. For coins you can buy new cars, cooler and more beautiful.
By the way, when we tested different models of cars with children, they called the coolest not supercars and not new cars, but the models that they saw in the family.
2. Pumping in several directions
Improving your personal fleet is not limited to buying a new car. After completing certain tasks, the player can repaint the body or add other visual effects. Some tasks encourage the number of correct answers or a series of victories, while others motivate you to regularly enter the game and spend more races per day. Thus, the machine becomes a showcase of student achievements, which other players constantly see.
3. Personal rating
Another tool that adds interest, depth and motivation, and also allows the student and parent to evaluate the level and dynamics of arithmetic abilities, is the rating. It becomes even more interesting to play when, for example, a second-grader can look at his place among the other second-graders, observe the dynamics and try to climb to the very top.
To calculate a player’s rating, we use the Elo coefficient, which is often used in sports (chess, football, tennis). Children’s abilities vary greatly, not only from year to year, but also within the classroom. Someone learned to count even before school, and someone in grade 1 only gets acquainted with numbers. Therefore, we must select opponents, taking into account not only the player’s class, but also his abilities. Otherwise, a weak child will be sad to play with strong players, and a strong child will quickly get tired of constantly winning.
Elo rating – a method for calculating the relative strength of players in paired games. All new players receive a starting rating value. After a race with an opponent, the rating of both changes depending on the winner and the ratings of both players. If a child wins against a partner with a higher position in the ranking, his rating will increase more than if he won against an opponent in a lower position. Thus, a strong player, constantly winning, will increase his rating until he reaches equal to him, and the chance of winning is not 50/50.
Players with a lower level may be higher in the ranking.
4. Class rating
As our experience shows, children are happy to compete with entire classes, so we added a class rating to the game. To solve the problem of different numbers of classes (from several students to 35) and excessive zeal for the first places, we developed a separate system for calculating the class rating.
- A player receives points for a class rating only for the first five races per day in the Mix mode.
- The number of points obtained depends on the size of the class. If each child in each class will participate in five races per day and win, then these classes will gain the same (maximum) amount of class points, regardless of the number of students. This amount becomes the basis for calculating rating points for all classes in the game.
- This maximum amount should be well (without a remainder or with the smallest remainder) divided by the number of days in a month, five races, a different number of children in the class, and three (for the loss, ⅓ of the gain is relied on). This is important because students in grades 1–4 do not yet know fractions.
- To select the best value for this maximum amount, we wrote a script that sorted through several hundred thousand values and chose the most suitable number – 890,100. The amount of the reward for the race is obtained as an integer, but not cumbersome. For example, in a class of 30 people, for winning a race, a player will receive 198 class points.
We got a game that is very similar to a regular online game, but with a real educational effect, while adapted for children 7-11 years old. The main mechanics of the game is to improve the skill of counting in a child. The first results show that children are ready to spend a huge amount of time in it: at the time of writing this article, we counted more than 95 thousand active players (despite the fact that the game is still in test mode and only 10% of Uchi.ru students are available). The reaction of parents to the “Formula 1 + 1” is also positive.
The most difficult and interesting thing in the development of the game is ahead. We have to understand in more detail what exactly made the game popular and what was unnecessary, to study the data of many metrics and conduct interviews with children, parents and teachers.