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A Note to the Reader: This post is incomplete because there are just too many options and strategies to cover short of writing a book. (The post is lengthy enough as it is.) That’s what you get when you work with such talented students. Oh yeah, kids wrote the code for Game On. And many teachers (along with their students) have driven its development with suggestions of their own. My thanks to all.

(re)Imagine is a companion post covering policies, expectations, and our edu-philosophy. The Game On page contains links to the plugin, our PLC, and dozens of how-to videos.

 

Show Me the Money!

Just for the record, Game On is not a game.

Game On is a WordPress plugin that offers a wide array of customizable, nuanced game mechanics. Our plugin might be used for any number of purposes but we’ve focused on two things: making it more fun and engaging for students to learn, and making it easier for teachers to develop self-paced learning environments.

Think of Game On (henceforth referred to as GO) as a GLMS—a gamified learning management system. You’ll learn more about how it works as we explore the features.

As for the money—loot, in gamer-speak—GO has five distinct flavors that you may rename to suit your purposes. Each may be employed in any number of ways. Here’s how I plan to use them this year:

Experience (XP): Earned via Quests (assignments). Used to level up.

Gold: Earned via Quests. Used to purchase a wide variety of items.

Minutes: Earned by working outside of class. Can be converted to Gold.

Honor: Purchased with Gold. Increases loot earned via Quests.

Damage: Classroom management tool. Decreases loot earned via Quests. Repaired with Gold.

GO keeps track of everything. Students have a record of every Quest they’ve encountered and all Loot they’ve earned via their Stats Panel. They can see the same data for every player in the game via the Leaderboard. Cheating, to a large degree, is self-correcting as students can earn extra loot during Hunters and Healers sessions (rowdy peer-to-peer assessment and mentoring). Because GO is not—repeat, NOT—tied to grades, the Hunted, be they cheaters, slackers, or simply victims of their own honest mistakes, pay for the corrective measures the Hunter applies during the Healing (mentoring) phase.

Just to be Clear: The Hunter may not touch the Hunted’s mouse or keyboard during the Healing phase of the encounter. All mentoring is verbal. No loot changes hands until the Healing is complete. If the Hunter violates this rule, the loot exchange is reversed: the Hunter pays and the Hunted reaps the benefits. This assures that students do their own work. I actually prefer that players learn from one another.

My role is kept to a minimum with one simple mechanic. If I’m called in to mediate a dispute and one party is obviously in the wrong—there’s no gray area, just sour grapes—all loot, paid and received, is doubled. Here how it worked via last year’s Store Items:*

*Prices ramp up over the course of the year. Costs/rewards were substantially lower early on. Changes made to Store Items are global. Edit the item and the price changes on any page, post, or quest the item may reside throughout your site.

In addition to access to the same data as the students, teachers have the Clipboard—the heart of our GLMS. With the Clipboard, a teacher can, among other things, add or subtract any form of Loot, send in-game messages to individual students, groups of students, or entire classes, and directly access any student’s Stats Panel and/or digital portfolio.

GO, in conjunction with the classroom culture detailed in this post, makes every day more fun and engaging for me as well.

 

Quests: Our Online Curriculum Delivery System

 

I’ve detailed the rationale for uploading policies, expectations, assignments, and resources in (re)Imagine. What I didn’t mention is that GO lifts those benefits of uploading to an entirely new level. The image (above) looks more complicated than it actually is. Let’s break it down.

A Quest—or Mission or Challenge or whatever you want to call it—is an assignment. The Stages—the four text fields you see in the Add New Quest image—are where you break the Quest down into manageable chunks. By default, a quest has four stages but you have the option of selecting three or five stages if that better fits the assignment. In addition, the fifth stage may be repeatable one or more times (I’ve abandoned repeatable stages for a new mechanic using Store Items). You may embed imagery, PDFs, Google Forms, videos, etc. in each stage. You may have noticed the Settings Options as well. We’ll get to those shortly.

By default, students receive XP (eXperience Points) upon encountering a quest for the first time. Adding XP to the first stage boosted my student click-through from the 60–80% range (pre-GO) to close to 100%. (Analytics are wonderful!)

Here’s a quick vid. Temp Link

Note: If you’re not logged in, you’ll not experience the game mechanics.

A few things not mentioned in the video…

All registered users are addressed by name via GO. Those not logged in are addressed as Visitor.

I mentioned the Progress Bar is green by default. Mine was blue because I’d earned X Honor, thus activating our “Super Modifier.” As previously noted, Honor boosts loot values (and that’s good). Conversely, X Damage reduces loot values and the Progress Bar turns yellow, orange, red, and dark gray depending on the number of Damage a player accumulates. Each tier—each multiple of X (set by the teacher) doubles the buff or nerf multiplier (gamer-speak for a bonus or penalty). Damage always overrides Honor so it’s in the player’s interest to avoid and/or repair Damage ASAP. Great classroom management feature.

 

Quests: Advanced Settings

Let’s just work from the top of the image (above).

Presets: Five different loot settings you can customize on the GO Options page. (Not in Advanced Settings but I hadn’t explained that yet. P.S. I don’t like my own presets and will be customizing them for next fall. Live and learn.)

Required Rank: Select any Level a player must reach in order to access the quest. If they’re not ready GO will display: You need XYZ more Experience to begin this quest.

Honor Filter: Establish an Honor threshold. If player hasn’t acquired enough Honor, GO will display: You require more than X Honor to view this Quest.

Damage Filter: Establish a Damage threshold. If a player has too many Damage GO will display: You require less than X Damage to view this Quest. Great for really fun quests that everyone wants to do. (Players scramble to repair Damage.) Monthly Pot o’ Gold drawing is one example.

IMPORTANT: The next three time/date filters depend on the Time Zone being set correctly in the WordPress Dashboard (Settings > General). Make it so.

Start Filter: Establish a date and time a quest will become available. If in the future, GO displays: Will be available at [time] AM/PM on [day], [date], [year].

Time Filters (Date): Expiration day/time for quests with optional modifier. Can be set for multiple days/times. GO displays the info. Very effective for deadlines. When used in conjunction with Store Items for loot with optional email notification on, you are notified when players complete quests and what they claimed for loot. I do not assign homework but every Sunday my inbox fills with notifications that students have completed their weekly documentation. Since it’s online, it’s easy for me to verify if their claim is valid (or not). More on this later.

Time Filters (Time): Countdown timer with modifier. Go displays: Time Sensitive Quest: After accepting you will have X [duration] to complete the quest or the rewards will be irrevocably reduced by X%. Any trickery students employ to fool the countdown timer are rigged to work against them. Very funny when they complain, “No fair!”

Profession Filter (mine reads Guild Filter): First created for teachers with multiple preps, offers a way to limit quests to certain groups of students. GO limits access to groups you’ve pre-designated. I use this for Guild apprenticeships. Long (interesting) story. Maybe more later.

3 or 5 Stage Quest: Changes the default 4 Stages to whatever you select.

These nuances are not found on any commercial gamification system that I’m aware of. Others may have prettier interfaces, but none give teachers the opportunity for such fine tuning.

 

Stage Settings

Working from the top of the image (above).

Experience, Gold, Honor: Amount awarded in each stage of a quest. (First field is stage 1, second is 2, etc.) As previously mentioned, I’ll not be awarding Honor as quest loot this year as I’m employing a new set of mechanics at the onset. When affected by the super modifier for Damage and/or Honor, the former overrides the latter. Nerfs (penalties) always round down. Buffs (bonuses) always round up.

Lock: I’m not sure why this isn’t called Password as that’s exactly what it is. Password is case sensitive. Student must supply password to move beyond this stage. You can set up some fun scavenger hunts with this feature.

URL: Student must supply a valid URL to move beyond this stage. The URL appears as a clickable link in their Stats Panel. Easy for Hunters and Healers (or even teachers) to spot pretenders.

Upload: Student must upload a file to move beyond this stage. Admin is notified by email when file(s) is/are submitted. Optional text field present. Additional comments are optional.

Test: The check for understanding demoed in the video further up the page. Multiple choice and multiple select options, with the obligatory loot/modifier options. Very useful for Hunters and Healers.

Badge: I’m changing this to Achievements this year. We’re working on a new way to display and interact with these items. At present, they can be awarded manually, at certain levels, within quests, or via the Store.

Caution: The Settings can be used in combo on each stage but besides being a nightmare for my coders to achieve, it’s horrible for usability as confusion usually reigns. I do not recommend combo options (i.e., Lock and Upload).

Unrelated but important…

Meta Boxes: Perhaps you’ve noticed the meta boxes in the right sidebar (scroll up to see most of them). Since I haven’t mentioned them, they’re used for organization and activation of features. They’ll make a lot more sense once you work a bit in WordPress.

Tags and Categories: Organizational. You’ll need to develop your own strategy for labeling your quests appropriately. I’ve used my Quest Givers as Categories with some success but I’m certain there are better strategies.

Quest Chains: A mechanism for creating a series of quests that must be completed in sequence. Good old-fashioned teaching strategy (that I’ve used in the past). Totally boring, constraining, un-motivating, and most likely counter-productive. I’m leaning toward suggesting sequence but offering choice. See P is for Purpose in (re)Imagine.

Guild (or Profession) Categories: Utilized if using the Guild/Profession/Multiple Prep Filter.

WARNING Occasionally Toxic: Quest Pods: An absolutely epic idea from another teacher that we implemented. Pods work perfectly until suddenly, without warning, the feature completely obliterates a user’s account. We’re hoping for a fix soon but we have absolutely no idea what could be causing the occasional fatal side effect.

 

GO Options: Naming Conventions

Remember this image (above) from way back at the beginning? I figure I can explain it now and it might make sense. You can customize any word or number in a text field. Working top down yet again…

Caution: When you’re done modifying the page, you must click the Save Options button (at the bottom of the page) to commit your custom settings. Also, unusually long names may cause formatting issues beyond our control.

Documentation Page: A link to this page with loads of rambling videos that I really, really need to rerecord. Also links to the GO Group on the Adobe Education Exchange, our latest releases on GitHub, and a peek at GO’s predecessor from years gone by.

Admin Email: Add your email here for real-time feedback options (highly recommended) and the ability to receive file submissions (absolutely, positively required if you want to use this feature).

Tasks: Tasks are your assignments, projects, etc. Name them what you will but provide both singular and plural versions because your names, like all custom names, are implemented globally. I will refer to these as quests from this point forward.

Stages: The individual segments of your quests.

Stage Buttons: What the player sees and interacts with below each stage.

Store: Where you create items for students to purchase or receive. A vital part of the game. If students can’t spend their loot, what’s the point of loot? Much more will follow as I’ve discovered new ways to utilize this feature.

Bonus Loot: A Stage 4 option to offer a rare drop (in gamer speak). Admin may set chance of drop between .01 and 99.99%. I’ll make a video to explain this one as it’s a great game mechanic.

Points: Used to Level Up. Most common gamer term is Experience, otherwise known as XP (eXperience Points).

Currency: Equivalent to money in the game.

Bonus: Works in conjunction with the Super Modifier. Used to make players more powerful (they earn more). It’s one of those hard work pays off lessons.

Penalty: Works in conjunction with the Super Modifier. Used to make players less powerful (they earn less). It’s one of those crime doesn’t pay lessons.

Minutes: Could conceivably be used for any purpose. Personally, I think kids have too much homework so I don’t assign any. However, I do offer quests that can only be completed outside of class. I use this feature as a time is money lesson. Conversely, you could use this as an exotic form of currency instead and sell rare goods in the store. (Sleep in Class, Text All period, Play games, etc.) This is a wild card.

Ranks: What I call Levels. If I were a science teacher, I might use the elements in the Periodic Table. A chance to get creative with your version of the game. WARNING: You run a risk of fouling the database by changing names and rank thresholds once the year has begun. Best to stick with one system for the year. Adding new ranks that students haven’t reached is no problem. Changing values that students have already achieved is potentially problematic.

Prestige: Serves two purposes. One: Protects against display errors when players exceed your max level (legitimately or otherwise). Two: Provides endgame bonuses for players who reach your max level (no XP but double Gold). You can always add more levels or provide extra content for those players who’ve earned it. Note to self: We need a Prestige Filter for quests.

Classification: Feeds the Clipboard—your ultimate superpower. I’ll add a video to explain this one.

Focus: Used primarily as a quest filter but has additional utility for gamers, guilds, and professions.

Stats: A panel that tracks player activity within the game. An epically important feature.

Inventory: A tab within the Stats Panel tracking all Store purchases, penalties, and awards.

Badges: A tab within the Stats Panel to display Badges or Achievements. Could be reimagined for another purpose.

Leaderboard: Just what it says. Each name is a link to that player’s Stats Panel and within the Panel is a link to the player’s documentation. Pretenders need not apply (unless they plan to be prey for the Hunters).

 

GO Options: Loot Presets

This seemed like such a good idea at the time. It still might be if I could think of a better way to apply the presets in a consistent manner. The idea was (and is) that our quests would fit into categories: some are easy, some challenging, some difficult. Some would take minutes, some hours, some days. Some would be… Well, you get the idea. Presets were (and are) intended to assign default Loot to a quest to save the admin time.

Working left to right, top to bottom…

Preset Name: Small, Medium, Large. Easy, Challenging, Difficult, Green Circle, Blue Square, Black Diamond. You get the idea. I eventually settled an the Tier system as you can see, and almost never use the default values.

Experience (or whatever name you chose for Points): Default settings for each Tier. GO only uses the values for the number of stages in a quest. (i.e., In a 3 stage quest, only the first three fields are applied.)

Gold (or whatever name you chose for Currency): Default settings. Same rules apply.

+ and -: Clicking adds or subtracts from the default number of presets. Are 5 too many? 3 too few? Customize to fit your needs.

Reset Presets: Just in case you experiment and are unhappy with the result. Clicking returns the presets to their default settings (which you see above… but are subject to change… if I can figure a better system.

Save Presets: Do you really need me to say that clicking the button saves any changes?

 

GO Options: Admin Bar

This was a great idea and a useful feature. I’ll explain top to bottom…

Display: When we discovered that some WordPress themes did NOT display the dark bar at the top of the page, the coders implemented this fix (which is on by default). Without the bar, GO is crippled.

User Redirect: When logging in, the default WordPress behavior is to take the user to the Dashboard (the back-end). When selected (the default setting), players are redirected to the homepage (the front end) because that’s where they’ll want to start 99% of the time.

Add Switch: Enables the user to make manual adjustments to their loot. Very useful for admins when testing features. Very frightening to offer students this superpower. And that’s we have…

Admin Loot: I prefer all of the options active. As mentioned, it’s very useful for testing features. (I’ll cover this in the next section.)

User Loot: In the past, I’ve allowed students to add time manually but I’m considering using Store Items next year. (More on this later.) We’ve provided the option to check all fields on the off-chance your students are as honest as the day is long.

 

Admin Bar: In-Game Messages

This section details GO customizations to the WordPress Admin Bar.

The box in the upper left-hand corner turns red and the number changes to indicate the number of messages in the queue. More useful than I can quickly explain for alerting students to news (good or bad). Can be used by admin via the Clipboard (one or more students at a time) or Stats Panel (Admin Hunting Superpower). Players may not send messages (intentionally not enabled).

 

Admin Bar: Progress Bar

Because every game needs a progress bar. The additional feature is the color of the progress. This works in conjunction with our Super Modifier (which we’ll get to a bit further down the page). In short…

  • Green: The default color. All systems normal.
  • Yellow: Student has X Damage. Loot reduced by Y%
  • Orange: Student has 2X Damage. Loot reduced by 2Y%
  • Red: Student has 3X Damage. Loot reduced by 3Y%
  • Dark Gray: Student has 4X (or more) Damage. Loot reduced by 4Y% (or more)
  • Blue: Student has X Honor. Loot increased by Y% (% Increases with each additional X Honor)

Intentional: The Dark Gray is the same color as the Admin Bar. Victims often claim the game is broken.

Benefit: Easy to see at a glance where students stand in relation to Honor/Damage.

Caveat: Damage overrides Honor. X Damage affects Loot and color no matter how many Honor a student might have.

Deactivate Button: Only on admin account. A legacy feature from when we used to overload the server’s database and we needed a way to pull the plug. Haven’t used this in years but we keep it around because, as the Little Prince says, “One never knows.”

 

Admin Bar: Add Loot

As previously explained, this is primarily used by admins for testing features. Last year my students had access to the Add Minutes option. In either case, a reason must be provided (in For field) or the loot is not increased/decreased (with minus sign). The reason? I want students to explain how they earned extra time (before school, at lunch, etc.)

 

Admin Bar: Stats Panel

Players have everything you see except for the See me text field, the Send button, and the Help tab (which launches a video for admins). If a player has not actually completed work they’ve claimed to have done, an admin may eliminate individual stages or entire quests simply by clicking on a stage then clicking the Send button. Enter a custom message if you want the player to receive something other than “See me.” Clicking on the first stage will eliminate the quest from the player’s Stats Panel. Players automatically lose ill-gotten loot and GO automatically generates a link to the quest that accompanies the in-game message.

The Stats Panel defaults to the Quests tab. The names of the quests are links. The stages are the rectangles. The dates, obviously, are when stages were completed. Light gray rectangles are incomplete stages.

Bonus: Hover over a stage to see the time stamp (hour + minutes). Very useful evidence when confronting pretenders (You claimed to have completed this quest in 2 minutes yet the video is 5 minutes long). We’ve even coded in two time stamps: First Attempt and Most Recent. Abandoning the quest does not eliminate the First Attempt data.

Not Shown: A light gray rectangle with a blue stroke around the perimeter is an incomplete quest stage requiring a link. A solid blue rectangle is a completed stage with link. Clicking the rectangle launches the link in a new tab. Very useful for tracking required documentation in Digital Portfolio.

INVENTORY | REWARDS | MINUTES | DAMAGE | BADGES | LEADERBOARD are links leading to records of respective items. We are trying to find time to refine and improve this panel. Maybe in the year(s) to come.

 

Admin Bar: Search for Quests

A search field for Quests, and nothing else. Quite useful.

 

Admin Bar: Custom Shortcuts

I asked the coders for custom shortcuts and they delivered. A real time-saver over the course of a year.

 

Admin Bar: Login Link

And our last but not least customization—the visible login link (upper left-hand corner).

Sure that’s a default WordPress feature, but remember, some themes intentionally hide the admin bar. Without forcing it to be visible, some folks might not see it. GO strikes again!

 

GO Options: Levels

I think GO generates 40 Levels by default. I’ve reduced the number to 10 so the image (above) would fit more compactly. I’ll explain left to right, and top to bottom.

Preset Name: Name your Ranks whatever you want. As previously mentioned, it’s a good idea to stick with one system through the year. Summers are a good time for change.

Experience (or whatever you call Points): The numbers are starting points for each level. THE FIRST LEVEL MUST BE ZERO! Sorry to shout but if you try anything except zero, GO will have conniptions. The same holds for the level progression—each value must be greater than the one preceding it. I know that’s obvious but you wouldn’t believe what some folks have tried.

Badges: You can automatically award Badges, Achievements, or whatever you want to call these when players reach Level X. Every image uploaded to WordPress is assigned an ID number (it’s a WordPress thing). Enter the ID number in the field and all player will receive the award as they reach that level. Badges are stored in the Stats Panel. (More on that later.)

+ and -: Clicking adds or subtracts levels. To reduce the default 40 levels to 10, I clicked the minus button 30 times. If you stick with our default settings, clicking the add button does the naming and math for you. If you change the level name and want to use numbers, stick with the two-digit system for 1–9 (01, 02, 03…). Just trust me on that one. If you want to use another system, feel free. Just plug in your own names and numbers (but follow the rules I’ve mentioned).

Reset Levels: Returns you to the default settings.

Save Levels: Saves your changes.

Fix Levels: Another legacy feature from the early days. Clicking it does a little database magic. I haven’t clicked it in years.

 

GO Options: Classifications (Seating Chart)

GO generates 7 Periods (1–7) and 44 Computers (01–44) by default. I’ve reduced the Computers to 10 so the image (above) would fit more compactly. I’ll explain top to bottom and have added the Clipboard to the next section so you’ll better understand how these two features work together.

IMPORTANT: You need to find a way to make this work for you. Unlike Levels, you can change these settings all year long. Fine tune to make it work. For me, because students work on computers in local accounts (that means they typically sit at the same computer every day), a seating chart-like system was the go-to solution. You can use any two classifications, but you need to use both!

Got it? The Clipboard uses these two fields to sort students for you. As you’ll see, the Clipboard is your gateway to every player’s Stats Panel, Digital Portfolio, loot totals, and much more.

Remember, you set Classification names in the Naming Conventions section on GO’s Options page.

Period: Since I teach 6 period a day I use this setting to sort all the players into their respective periods. Since many players are in more than one period, GO is configured to allow students to select multiple Period/Computer combinations. GO generates class lists via this setting after students select from a pull-down menu containing your settings.

+ and -: Clicking adds or subtracts Periods. Since this list is not sortable, there’s no need to us the 01, 02, 03… in your naming conventions.

Computers: As I explained, once students choose where they want to work, the computer number provides a unique identifier to be paired with the Period in the Clipboard (it’s a sortable, hyperlinked, data-driven spreadsheet). If your kids don’t sit in the same place every day, you need to determine another choice for this setting but it must be unique—well, it doesn’t have to be unique but it’s a shame to waste a perfectly good data field. It could be something as random as favorite color or month they were born.

+ and -: I bet you have this one down by now. If you use numbers (as I do for the computers in the room) be sure to add the two-digit 01, 02, 03… to the first nine numbers so everything sorts as expected.

 

The Clipboard

The Clipboard harvests data and summarizes for you. It enables you to add or subtract loot, send messages, and find a player’s deeper data with a few clicks. Let’s take it from the top.

Navigating to the Clipboard: The Clipboard link is nested under Game On in your WordPress Dashboard (shown in the left sidebar in the image above) but even better, it’s the first link in your Custom Shortcuts in the admin bar at the top of the page. Roll over your site’s name (mine is The Mac Lab) to access the menu from anywhere in your domain. Sweet!

It’s blank! Once the Clipboard loads, you select from the pull-down menu at the top of the page (I selected Period 3 in the example). By default, the Clipboard sorts according to the Computer Number (or whatever you choose to use for that classification). For me, it’s an instant seating chart. I don’t call roll. I just note the empty computers and record the data. You can sort by any column (ascending or descending) by clicking any name in the top row.

Loot Fields: When paired with the check boxes in the first column of the Clipboard, you are able to add or subtract loot for one or more students (depending on your selection).

Message: Like the admin’s Stats Panel, the default in-game message is “See me.” You can add your own message but keep it short. We’re working on a more robust messaging system and may implement it soon. Select the player(s) via the check boxes in the first column. For a class-wide message, click the box in the first row to select all before sending the message.

Message Archive: All messages are archived and may be reviewed via the Messages tab at the top of the page.

Add: Sends the message. If manual adjustments to loot were made, they are committed when clicking and the values update live in the Clipboard.

Fix Message: Another legacy button that soothes the savage database when messages go awry (which doesn’t seem to happen any more).

ID Number: I add students manually to GO. It takes an hour or two but saves many more hours of headaches. Others prefer to automate the process. Tech always seems to happen (to me, at least) so I play this one safe. More on that later. What’s important is that the WordPress Username must be unique. Once set, it cannot be changed. I use Student IDs for this purpose. You could use anything you like but it absolutely, positively must be unique. WordPress will reject duplicates. GO uses this field to automatically generate links leading to each student’s Stats Panel. Priceless!

Student Name: GO automatically adds the name in Lastname, Firstname format from the user profile (filled out by students in one of the initial quests—I ask them to use the first name they’ed like me to use). We can sort our sheet alphabetically with a click when the need arises. Plus, once students add a link to the Website field in their profile, GO automatically makes the name a link to their respective online portfolios. I can’t stress how helpful this is.

Display Name: All players are addressed by name—they select as their GO alias. We have built-in shortcodes (accessed via a custom GO widget in the WYSIWYG editor) so players can be addressed by their display name. Actually, GO also provides the ability to address players by their first, last, or first and last names as well but I don’t tell the kids that. I save that feature for times when I want to see who’s paying attention. In any case, if not logged in, users are address as “visitor.” Display names allow the players to maintain a certain level of anonymity. If you scroll down to the comments, you’ll see I’m identified as Boss. While I’m unconcerned with using my real name on the net, some students and parents are. Display names provide a safe and fun zone for online interaction. IMPORTANT: Long names can break formatting in the Clipboard and Stats Panel so I limit players to 13 characters.

The rest of the columns are self-explanatory, with the possible exception of Guild. If you remember back to the Naming Conventions, GO has a built-in optional method of limiting access to Quests (and Store Items—we’ll get to that) based on a player’s Focus (or Profession or Guild or Class, etc.). Admins can assign the Focus or allow the players to select their own via a Store Item. In the past, I’ve financed player’s Guild Apprenticeships (GO has an option for allowing a purchase with insufficient funds) which results in negative Honor. Since the Super Modifier does not penalize negative Honor, the player continues questing normally. Paying off the debt results in a special perk. (More on that later.)

 

Setting Up a New User

Sometimes taking a little extra time at the beginning can save a lot of time in the long run. Here’s how I add users.

Username: I copy the student’s ID number from the class roster, paste it into the Username field, press Tab, and paste it again. (Tab jumps to the next field on the form.)

Email: In our district, all students have an IDnumber@guhsd.net email address. Since I’ve already pasted the ID number, I copy and paste @guhsd.net immediately after the ID number. If you don’t know your students’ email addresses, you can fill in a generic one that they can replace when they login—but each one has to be unique (WordPress rules).

In a few seconds the required information is accurately entered. Ignore the other fields and click the Show password button (not shown in the example image as I’d already clicked it).

Password: By default, WordPress supplies a convoluted password that students will never remember or be able to enter manually. I replace it with something short and simple (though not 123 as shown in the example)—and I use the same password for every student. Why? Because I want every kid to login successfully and follow the instructions in the first quest (that part’s coming up next). Keep it as simple as possible or you’ll have chaos.

Confirm Password: Click the weak password box.

Send User Notification: Deselect this box. Seriously, do you want students checking their email on the first day?

Role: Leave it set to Subscriber (the default selection).

Add New User: Click the button and repeat the process.

Note: You’re free to use any method you want, but after all these years, I strongly suggest removing as many variables as possible to pave the way for a smooth start to your GO experience.

 

Player Profile (Include Screenshot)

Once logged in, a player need only mouse over their Username to find the Edit My Profile link (though clicking their name leads to the same place). It’s very helpful to include a screenshot (like I have) to help them find their way.

 

GO: Edit Profile

I’ve supplemented the image (above) with a video (below).

I use this introductory quest to gauge how well students follow instructions—and I make that purpose clear in the instructions. Since results show up on the Clipboard (page refresh required), the results are self-evident. Sometimes painfully so.

Ignore all fields except…

First Name: In this example, the player is named Stuart Dent, but he prefers Stu to Stuart. I want kids to use this field to indicate their preference.

Last Name: I ask for the actual last name as I want it to align with the roster. IMPORTANT: Ask that students not use diacritical marks in last names as they tend to muck up alphabetical sorting.

Nickname: By default, the Username is present in this field. I ask students to pick a name that does not include their first name, last name, ID number, is no more than 13 characters, and is school appropriate. The first Damage of the year usually goes to the boneheads who think I don’t know what 420 means. (And by the way, if you’re a WoW player, I lean Alliance, not Horde.)

Display name publicly as: Use the pull-down menu to change the default Username to your new Nickname.

For the rest, here’s a video (apologies for the rambling at the end).

 

GO Options: Professions

As previously explained, this feature was initially created for teachers using Go with multiple preps, Professions (or Guilds or whatever) offer a way to limit quests to certain groups of students. GO limits access to groups you’ve pre-designated. I use this for Guild apprenticeships but the functionality is wide-open to your imagination. The image (above) is from my site and features the Guilds from last year.

Setting: The box is unchecked by default and is the only visible option. Once selected, the next option appears.

Name: A blank text field awaits your designation.

+ and -: You know this one by heart.

My Guild Option Settings: 

  • Function: Coders
  • Form: Designers/Artists
  • Motion: Animators/Video
  • R&D: Special Projects
  • Form-Fu: Form & Function
  • Form-Mo: Form & Motion

IMPORTANT: Keep the names short and sweet. Do not assign multiple professions to students. Multiple names break the formatting on the Clipboard. The solution is to create dual-purpose Guilds (like Form-Fu) when necessary.

 

GO Options: Additional Settings

Here’s a quick rundown of our final optional settings.

Video Default: Our built-in HTML5 video player would be a great space-saver if kids could be depended on to click the links. Alas, embedding videos directly in the page seems a far better strategy. I no longer use this option for students; however, the video player is used by the question marks you may have noticed next to all the headings. Click one and maybe you’ll get lucky. I’d planned on recording a video for every feature and did so for a while then fell behind. The videos have way too much rambling and need to be rerecorded. One more item on the endless to-do list. Once complete, this will be an epic built-in help system.

Width and Height: The size of the video player.

From Email Address: GO has an epic optional notification system but when a few users reported issues with the feature, it was discovered that some hosting companies don’t recognize our default (bogus) email address. This field is provided for those who need to specify a different (bogus) address.

Store Receipts: Option to receive an email notification for each store purchase (off by default). If activated (as I’ve done) you may uncheck the notification box for individual store items. Conversely, if left unchecked, you may choose to check the email notification box for individual store items. Because I’ve been learning to use store items for self-assessment using multiple loot tiers, the notification alerts me every time a student makes a claim. Lots of emails but they keep you apprised of where players think they are. I consider this an epic, virtually untapped method to monitor students in real time.

Full Student Name: Teachers in Florida asked for this one. If left unchecked (the default setting), students are identified by only their first name and last initial.

Honor: When checked, activates the bonus mechanism to increase rewards.

Honor Threshold: Number of Honor necessary to increase rewards. It rounds up by default.

Damage: When checked, activates the penalty mechanism to reduce awards.

Damage Threshold: Number of Damage necessary to reduce rewards. It rounds down by default. It also overrides the bonus mechanism if both are active.

Multiplier %: Percentage of rewards awarded or deducted at each threshold.

Data Reset: Off by default. Typically used on test sites or by teachers after school year ends. I turned it on only to reveal its options (which only appear once the box is checked). DANGER: Leave unchecked unless you plan on wiping the GO tables in your database.

Loot Options: You may select individual items to reset.

All: You may select to reset all data.

Reset: DANGER! This button resets all selected data from players and admin. I’ll be resetting my data after workshops in mid-July. Your preferences, quests, store items, etc. are safe. Only user data is reset.

 

New Store Item

As previously mentioned, Store Items may be more useful than we ever imagined (and they were pretty useful to begin with).

Note: The screenshot (above) is from a test site running an experimental build because I wanted to show you a couple of new features.

Item ID: Works in conjunction with the shortcode widget. Aw, heck. Why explain when I can show you?

Visitor, get your Free Gold!

 

Cost: As explained in the video (above) an Item’s cost is entered in positive integers—with the exception of Damage. If the Item is intended to deliver damage a negative sign must precede the integer (i.e., -1). If damage is intended to be repaired, simply enter the integer. The best way to understand the process is to experiment. Reading instructions is helpful but hands-on experience is far more informative.

Limit: As explained in the video, leave blank for unlimited purchases or enter an integer to limit purchases.

Bonus Loot: Intended to add a bit of excitement when questing, Bonus Loot is only available in the 4th stage. Typically, Bonus Loot has a low probability of dropping. Create a Bonus Loot Item in the Store (i.e., X Gold) then assign a percentage in the 4th stage of a quest. An example may be seen on the image on this page.

Unpurchasable: Items that can be awarded but not purchased.

Penalty: Allows purchases with insufficient loot. Typically used for penalties. Also used for loans.

Filter: Limits purchase to minimum Level, minimum Honor, and/or maximum Damage.

Gift: Allows players to purchase Items for one another. The Gift Loot Fields are the inverse of cost. If, for instance, you want to offer the option to give 100 Gold to another player, you could enter 200 in the Gold field under Cost and 100 is the Gold field under Gift. Make it expensive. In the second semester I usually raise the ratio to 4 to 1. Hey, inflation happens.

URL: Award a link as a reward. Think about this. You can get lots of mileage out of this strategy. One example is a hidden quest. Others… I leave that up to your imagination.

Badge: Awards an unexpected Badge (or Achievement). A nice surprise for the player.

Profession: Allows players to purchase their Profession. As I’ve mentioned, I use this in conjunction with the Penalty option to “loan” enough Honor to purchase their Guild Apprenticeship. Once purchased, the Profession appears on the Clipboard. (The coders are geniuses!)

Profession Lock: Requires a specific Profession to purchase.

Send Receipt: Toggle on for email notifications when purchased.

 

Shortcode Widget

As demonstrated in the Store Items video, GO shortcodes are available in any of the WYSIWYG editors. Experiment to discover ways you might use the individual shortcodes for maximum effect.

Names: Displays respective user names. Can be used to great effect.

Video: As previously explained, embedded videos are more effective. Best use may be as a reward for students paying attention to detail. Say, maybe a video that reveals the location of a hidden quest. (Hadn’t considered that before. Will definitely try this in the upcoming school year.)

User Only Content: Opening and closing shortcodes automatically inserted. Anything between the shortcodes is only visible to players who are logged in. Visitors will NOT see the content.

Visitor Only Content: Opening and closing shortcodes automatically inserted. Anything between the shortcodes is only visible to those NOT logged in. No one else will see the content.

Admin Only Content: Opening and closing shortcodes automatically inserted. Anything between the shortcodes is only visible to admin who are logged in. Visitors and Players will NOT see the content.

Penalty: Allows purchases with insufficient loot. Typically used for penalties. Also used for loans.

Store Categories: Allows for self-populating Store Items by Category. Note existing Categories in right sidebar in image (above). The drawback—and it’s HUGE—is that Items cannot be reordered. A seemingly great idea that I no longer use.

Store ID: As demoed in the video, the shortcode for displaying individual store items by title.

Get Category: A method for displaying Quests by category. As with Store Categories, quests cannot be reordered. I no longer us this either as the admin has no control over sequence (unless you make every quest in perfect order and forget nothing). They fall on the page according to publication date.

Task Pod: WARNING: Occasionally toxic. Do not use until we determine what is causing the randomly occurring fatal issue.

 

Send in the Clones

One day I asked the coders if they could make a Clone feature work. As usual, research ensued.

Yes.

Can you make it a global feature? Not only Quests and Store Items but Posts and Pages, too?

After more research came another yes. Then came the feature itself.

I cannot begin to count the hours this little button has saved me since its implementation. I wonder how many of the over 2,500 pages, posts, store items, and quests began life as a clone.

How It Works: Navigate to any of those four existing items and click the edit button in the Admin Bar. Then click the Clone button (to the right of the big red arrow in the example. A new page, post, whatever is generated with all content and settings intact—sans title—and all you need do is give it a title—the cursor is conveniently flashing in that field—edit the content and/or settings, and click the Publish button.

A gift from the (code) gods!

 

Important: I’ve published, but not completed this post. It, like Game On, is a work in progress. Check back for updates. I’ll be writing and updating most every day. Since I’m dyslexic, you’ll undoubtedly encounter grammar issues (and other confusion). It usually takes me 20 or 30 read-throughs to catch most of ’em.

Coming Soon: Although there’s still a lot of proofreading to do (and a few features to yet explain), I’ve begun working on the sequel to this post, Game On: Evolving Strategies, which is itself evolving and nowhere near complete. Ah, working without a net is so invigorating!

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