Revolution - Reflections from Matthew Weise

Matthew Weise - Part I
Lessons learned from a commercial engine for educational games

It’s been about a month now since the interview, in fact I interviewed Matthew Weise on the night of Thusday, March 15th. While I've been slow to write up our conversation, it is still very relevant. I continue to return to my conversation with Revolution game designer, Matthew Weise, as I’m looking ahead to future applications of video gamed in library education.

Matthew considered himself a gamer and game designer first and approached the project with that mindset. He used his “gaming compass” to determine if the game was fun. The advantages of this approach are evident in the flexibility of the design and creation process used to create Revolution.

The initial proposal for Revolution came out of a class where the project was to create a game to help teach about the Revolutionary War. The proposal was void of any technical constraints or requirements. Matt considered using either a commercial game engine or using middle-ware. Given the time constraints, modding a commercial engine was a better choice. Matt looked a at variety of genres and role playing games, with there traditional conventions of exploration, dialog, and interaction, were a natural fit for a game about Colonial American and the War. Matt also considered Warcraft III and other engines before deciding on Neverwinter Nights. The entire process itself took about 3-4 semesters to move from the design to a playable build for schools. The team was made up of a mixture of graduate and undergraduate students.

The main goal of the project was to create a believable simulation of colonial Williamsburg. Learning did not come with content packaged and delivered in the game, it came through playing. Matt commented that video games help teach history, not as a narrative, but as a process. Learning comes through playing and experiencing the game. One of the key gameplay elements of Revolution is the social and communication aspect. This gameplay focus is a direct result of the strengths of the Neverwinter Nights engine. There is a social “echo” effect that is built into the game, where there are consequences for actions. How the characters react to decisions the player makes and how that information spreads throughout the town. Matt was able to center the gameplay around the oral culture of the colonial time.

Photos from the Revolution page on The Education Arcade