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educational benefits
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Poo Bear
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Joined: 14 Oct 2002
Posts: 4121
Location: Sheffield, UK



PostPosted: Tue Dec 08, 2009 9:13 am    Post subject: educational benefits Reply with quote

Someone wrote in saying they love the game, but it would also be great for their 6 year old as an education tool, but it's too hard even on easy and the words being used are too random and don't align with what is taught in school at that age.

Too hard - just need another mode even easier than easy, shouldn't need anything special, just give the player more time and do less damage in the AI attack?


Word selection - this seems trickier to me.

1. let someone enter their own text file word list. AI uses it too. It relies on people spending quite some time entering words, not sure that is practical.

2. let people select a maximum word size limit between 3->8 letters so both the player and AI are constrained i.e. with very young children you might only allow 3 letter words. Not sure how beneficial that might be, you can enter 3 letters words anway.

3. go through the massive dictionary (nooooo) and flag any word that might not be understood by someone at different age bands. This assumes people are watching the AI and are interested in the words it is coming up with. Again, not sure that's true.
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DogBoy
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Joined: 13 Mar 2006
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 08, 2009 10:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hm, you might be able to use an English frequency wordlist from a standard corpus to weight words by frequency of English usage. You'd probably want to force the AI to use only fairly well-known words, but allow the player to enter anything in the dictionary to avoid frustration.
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Poo Bear
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Joined: 14 Oct 2002
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Location: Sheffield, UK



PostPosted: Tue Dec 08, 2009 11:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

My thought was that the educational benefit was in just practising spelling really (any spelling) - I know my own spelling, eye hand coordination and vocabulary have noticeably expanded*. This request seems to imply that it's important to see what words the AI is using and that there is some benefit to constraining the AI to just use every day common place words or short simple words.

I thought it was important to see the AI words so you could judge why he was thrashing you (big valuable words) or why you were thrashing him (short weak words) and to help spot pirate words which are highlighted. I always thought the game was too intense for people to be really studying the AI word selection, and this request implied someone struggling to come up with words would have an eye on the AI and be taking in what they were doing.




*obviously I've played the game A LOT and I also recorded my performance over time (average word length, speed of entry, highest level reached, etc) for game balancing purposes. I was surprised to see it having a measurable effect i.e. I was getting better at everything. Now, with a normal game containing repetitive physical challenge or some predictable skill/strategy/tactic to be mastered then this would be expected, but those achievments are not real world and some would say of limited practical benefit. With this game however I'm learning to type faster, spot words in jumbled letters faster and seem to have a wider vocabulary. It would appear that those skills transfer more readily into the real world. Interesting, a few people have commented that this game could have real educational benefit.
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starscape junkie



Joined: 15 Jun 2003
Posts: 177
Location: The Thirteenth Colony



PostPosted: Tue Dec 08, 2009 4:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The problem lies with word complexity and common usage.

A 6 year old probably knows words like monkey and banana, but not something like queue or omega. There's also cultural issues, color vs colour or torch vs flashlight to consider.

Other ways you can decrease the difficulty is to increase the letter pool available to the player, make a turn based battle system and give the ships a speed, make player attacks interrupt the computer player, and have a guaranteed common 3 letter word show up.

Id say the best way to make the game educational(not that you'd want to spend the time to do this of course) would be to have pirates pull from a common word list, and on attack the word comes up on screen with its definition.
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DogBoy
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Joined: 13 Mar 2006
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 08, 2009 6:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well I imagine that a 6 year old playing the game might enjoy it less if the AI seems to be scoring hits with random sequences of letters (aka obscure words). It would just add an element of confusion to the game ("what just happened? what does skua mean?").

As an educational game, you might want the player to be exposed to words on the fringe of what (s)he would normally know - so 'algal' is too obscure for a 6-year-old but not a 12-year-old. There must be existing research on this, but I would think that frequency of word occurrence in an English corpus would be a reasonable guide to how complicated the word is. Estimating the player's vocabulary level would just be based on the words they form themselves.

I agree with SJ that a definition option would be a great addition to word games, especially in an educational context, but readily available dictionaries are written at a fairly advanced level - not necessarily suitable for children.
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punman



Joined: 25 Feb 2007
Posts: 54
Location: Chicago, USA



PostPosted: Tue Dec 15, 2009 4:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've thought about this problem before for a Scrabble playing AI. One idea I had was to have a word list generated from a corpus along with the frequency of the words. the frequency is used to generate a difficulty level for the word. On each turn the AI would get a random number to represent how difficult of a word it 'remembers' at that point in time and then plays the highest scoring word up to that limit.

Different flavors of AI could be generated by using different random number ranges and the source of the different corpuses (think chemist, historian, politician, Beatles fan...)

If the AI is playing with a reduced word list, any correct words that the player uses should be added to the AI's list.
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