A change to the codebase with thoughts toward the future

As developers on the Trails Forward project, we are very excited to explore the research and practice of using simulation design to provide unique learning opportunities. Working on a complex, multiplayer simulation that both runs quickly and looks appealing will test the programming and design skills of our team, the abilities of the software libraries we use, and the current best practices of educational technology creation and use. An exciting project for us as developers and researchers, we want the result of our work, and the work of those before us, to be widely accessible.  In part, accessible means that the we will prioritize design along with function in menus, game text and images, and other user-facing facets of the game.  We consider ourselves lucky to have a talented UX team member to make sure that we never lose sight of this goal.  Existing code, design documents, and play testing analysis make for a nice foundation from which to move forward, and we are grateful for all of the thought and effort that has been given to the project so far.  We look forward to expanding the existing codebase into a complete simulation that will encourage players to think about their interactions with others in the game environment and the world around them.

The goal of producing an intuitive, realistic, and thought-provoking simulation is one that we do not take lightly.  We understand that there will be a lot of hard work ahead with multiple failed attempts at implementing features, and countless revisions.  With our focus on the immediate tasks to be done, we nonetheless spend some time thinking about the future.  Through discussions about what we believe would give the game longevity and usefulness to others, we have set a goal for the simulation to open source and easily editable by end users.  We envision a future where the same Trails Forward client run simulations set in different locations and time periods, each with their own sets of flora, fauna, and player roles and quests.  To this end, we have decided that a lightweight, “dumb” web client paired with a modular server program is the best way to go.  After testing two JavaScript game engines, we are confident that Impact can be used to produce game visuals that are high-quality and efficient. We feel that the project’s codebase is still small enough, and the promise of an open-source web future bright enough, that the cost of a small delay now is worth the payout later.

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