Designed a prototype MVP for an obsolete educational video game

Role

UX Researcher, Product Designer

Time

7 months

Deliverables

High fidelity prototype, Competitor analysis, Literature review, Feedback artifacts

About Cool School

Cool School was an interactive, flash-based animated game for children aged between 5 and 7 years (grades K-2).

It served as an educational platform with the primary objective of helping kids learn and develop conflict resolution skills skills in a fun and engaging manner. It became a huge success often being played by 4,000 to 6,000 people at a single time.

Unfortunately, it became obsolete with Adobe Flash.

Kickoff Research - Problem definition

The goal of this year-long capstone team project was to assist our client, F.J. Lennon - game design expert, in his quest of bringing Cool School back to life by designing a MVP that would be used to secure funding for future development.

He wanted the new Cool School to feel modern, be more inclusive, and have higher replay value than before.

Enhanced replayability

Testing feedback for the original game revealed kids enjoyed its positive aspects, motivating them to play, which informed our redesign process to enhance replayability.

We added customizable avatars, allowing players to personalize them with their favorite animal sounds and accessories from the in-game shop, creating a sense of identity and fostering player association with the main character's actions.

We implemented a leveling system that rewarded players with new locations, accessories, and achievements as they advanced through the game, keeping them motivated to continue playing.

We incorporated NPC interactions and challenges across various locations in the game to enhance enjoyment and encourage exploration, making it more enticing for repeated play.

Modern solution

The game's look and feel evolved over the sprints, informed by testing feedback and competitor research.

We designed a fresh art style for characters, along with modern assets and animations that give a contemporary look and feel.

We ensured inclusivity in the game by using shapes for most in-game characters, including the player's avatar, and representing voice options with emojis instead of gender labels.

We conducted expert reviews to validate our work and gather ideas for future development.

We collected feedback from game design and research veterans.

They praised the enhancements, noting they draw players closer to the content and approving the art style, open world experience, rewards, and avatar customization system.

They suggested increasing the game's pace to match kids' energy and fostering curiosity, while emphasizing the importance of not underestimating their ability to engage with complexity.

They also identified new learning opportunities, enhancing map exploration, and expanding avatar customization options.

The process/re-designing the game

The original game included rewards, NPC interactions, and exploration. They heavily inspired our first prototype.

KidsTeam feedback guided us through sprints, offering likes, dislikes, and new design ideas, along with detailed feedback on visuals, sound effects, interactions, and competitor-inspired suggestions.

We filtered insights from KidsTeam feedback using market research and research papers, collaborating with our client F.J. to set sprint goals.

Reflection

I learned the importance of adapting design sprints to our constraints for success during this project. We adjusted roles, timelines, and workflow in each sprint to address previous challenges and optimize for current goals.

I believe that allowing teachers to incorporate personalized conflict scenarios can further enhance the game's immersion and effectiveness for a more engaging learning experience.

Also, the game has great potential for a multiplayer mode. Observing fellow players' experiences can increase engagement and attract more players, fostering motivation to explore and interact within the game.