Play free demo here: www.MolecularJig.com/Demo
***Anyone who pledges $15 or more to our project will receive one digital copy of Immune Defense and all future games ever released by Molecular Jig Games, as long as Melanie owns the company.***
We are brand tiny and new, you are making a big difference; you are backing the future of a company whose goal is to popularize molecular biology. No more handwaving when you explain vaccination or personalized medicine, no more ambiguity in arguments on evolution or pandemic infections. We will all have a shared example, shared understanding of cells, receptors, random diffusion and molecular behavior. You are helping us do a great thing. Thank you for joining our community, you are family now.
Imagine a tower defense game where the tower is alive and moving. Imagine enemies that change not just their shape but their very chemical composition to overcome defenses. Imagine facing an enemy so numerous that they grow exponentially before it can even be estimated how many there are. Except it’s real. And it’s literally a matter of life & death. Your body is already playing an epic strategy game, across a battlefield of unbelievable scope. Billions of soldiers are fighting against a horde of invaders, each clawing for a foothold inside your flesh, bringing innumerable forms of death & ruin. Immune Defense brings you down to the nanoscape where these battles are fought, giving the player an action packed lesson in immunology.
Melanie Stegman, Ph.D. was funded by the National Institutes of Health, to research what students learn by playing biology video games and create the prototype of Immune Defense. See her research here: MolecularJig.com/research. Melanie has started an independent game studio to develop Immune Defense into a popular game that reaches a broad audience. Molecular Jig Games is creating an exciting and engaging game detailing the functions of the human immune system with unparalleled accuracy. We're seeking your help to refine & promote this game as both an educational tool and entertainment.
Edutainment/Serious Games/Learing Games...
First, let it be said that there is no more horrible portmanteau than "edutainment". But the concept of an engaging game that also accurately conveys information is an undeniably worthy goal. How many people would have had any idea what dysentery was until they'd died of it on the Oregon Trail? Surely, Carmen San Diego's globe trotting exploits are the sole reason for many passing grades in geography. Let there be no doubt of the power of video games to convey not only information, but a genuine excitement about the nature of our reality. Immune Defense aims to use a top-down real time strategy format to not just take away countless hours of players’ lives, but give out powerful biology lessons in return.
Emphasis on the EDU
Immune Defense has been well researched: the science of immunology, cell biology and biochemistry have been carefully molded into an interactive interface that gives players great control over the molecular world by presenting a meaningful selection of cells and molecules. Very few liberties have been taken for the sake of game mechanics; this game is very accurate at the level of cellular and molecular behavior (the primary developer is a biochemist Ph.D. after all.) The learning we expect from this game is well researched; so far, our trials show that players remember both names and concepts learned from Immune Defense. They'll come away more educated, a little freaked out, and a lot amazed. Read more about our Research Based Design here on our Blog!
The first six levels will always be free.
Immune Defense will always be an educational resource, with a free version available on all platforms. We look forward to hearing from teachers at all levels. We'd love to see this game assigned as homework! We'd be proud to contribute to the future of the world's medical researchers and healthcare workers. Immune Defense teaches molecular biology in an intuitive manner, the game is the introduction to the abstract, invisible details. Teacher can build on the player's new concrete understanding of cells and their receptors. We have posted videos and will post more with lesson plans to facilitate discussions of the biology in the game.
Immune Defense is not an abstract concept or a starry eyed dream; you can play the demo right now! Seriously: check it out! The funding we're seeking is not to carve out a game from scratch, but to polish & perfect an already solid piece of software into something totally radical to the max. More importantly, our primary goal is to get this game into the hands of as many players as possible: tablets, PC/Mac, Steam, Web browsers (and possibly consoles, see stretch goals). The research part, the learning part, the accurate portrayal of immunology and all the science parts are done: all we need to do now is add more game play, more level design and more polish.
We are asking for enough funds ($50,000) for 7 months work to release a fun, polished game building on what we have already developed. We have two cell types, two antibody types, 6 pathogens, three beautiful environments and a wonderful soundtrack. This combination of good guys, bad guys, “weapons” and battlefields will create a solid game.
We have shown Immune Defense at several festivals and learning game conventions and gotten a great response from players (see our research page). We were chosen to present in the Indie Showcase at MAGfest in Washington, DC January 24. We have tested over 20 iterations of the game since the Summer of 2012. We know from extensive play testing that players enjoy the game mechanic, but see clearly that some tweaking of the UI and player feedback would make the experience more engaging.
Why we need you!
Despite having a game demo, there's a lot of work to do to polish the Immune Defense game play experience. We're seeking funding to pay developers to work many hours to bring the game to tablets, artists to create animations and visual feedback so players have a richer experience, and to create and balance more levels. Specifically, we're looking to re-wire the entire UI using the new Unity 3D 4.6 platform, with a focus on tablet processor performance (we currently use a much less efficient version). We want to add feedback so players know when bacteria are caught and how long they are taking to be digested by the Neutrophils. We want players to experience a feeling of control and mastery and for that we need time to iterate with various textual, colorful, animated feedback and instructions. Which cell to activate, how to minimize damage, how to kill staph vs e. coli... we want to make the player aware that these decisions exist. And timing - because who wants a slow game? And level balance, we would like some of that. Optimized player experience? Yes please very much!
All of that needs a rigorous development and QA process. It will need the contribution of artists & designers to achieve the best possible look & feel to the game. It will need a team of programmers to attain the maximum performance on any compatible device. It will need time & careful consideration before it’s ready to become the new Angry Birds*.
Assuming we meet our $50,000 goal, our tentative schedule is as follows:
February - March 2015 ---Optimize GUI for tablets (Unity C# Development, UI, UX) Add feedback, visuals, animations. Write/Balance/polish levels with the cells and pathogens we already have: Macrophages, Neutrophils, antibodies and E. coli, Meningitis, Streptococci and Staph.
March - June 2015 ---We plan on several cycles of playtesting, discuss results, and planning the next iteration. We look forward to working with our Kickstarter community online, as well as in Seattle and DC schools and community centers.
April - July 2015 ---Optimize for the various tablets.
June - July 2015 ---Prepare a free game with option to purchase full game
July 2015 ---Release final iteration of Immune Defense the basic game! Tablets, Mac/PC, and web browsers. First six levels free, with in game purchase for full game $15.00.
Should we exceed our goal, we have a host** of ideas beyond the basic game that we're looking at potentially developing. Our chart below shows the additional cells and pathogens we have planned for our stretch goals. T-cells, dendritic cells, B-cells.... viruses, cancer, auto-immune disease....
Who is behind Immune Defense?
Melanie Stegman Ph.D. is the game designer and lead scientist on the Immune Defense project. She's a biochemist whose indie game development gene was activated by a radioactive keyboard***. Her goal is to get people excited about the amazing world of proteins! Yes, really - it's incredibly exciting! Proteins are more than the chemical building blocks of all life, they work together at the sub-cellular level to drive every micro-function of every part of your body. Melanie is fascinated & excited to look into the tiniest components of our beings, and we hope that Immune Defense passes on some of that excitement to each of its players.
For more information, please take a look at the Molecular Jig Games blog, as well as the video above.
Thank you for watching & reading! Please promote & share this game across the interwebz: the bloggety blogs, the tweetin', the bookin', the 'gram', and Google Plus. We're especially happy to have a game demo you can try out & talk about! We love it! We're proud of it, and we're looking forward to your help in making it exponentially more amazing. Share this direct link to our Kickstarter campaign: www.ImmuneDefenseGame.com
* Please note that Angry Birds teaches nothing of either ornithology or anger management to those that play it.
** Please note that this obnoxious pun works for multiple definitions of the word "host”; potentially referring to the organism serving as a carrier for either viral or bacterial contagion, or to the large number of bacterial organisms present in every human body.
*** This did not happen. But it sounds a tad cooler than "Melanie is excited about science and feels compelled to promote education about the field of microbiology through video games."
*****Play our demo here: www.MolecularJig.com/demo ****
Immune Defense is a strategy game about molecular immunology for big kids and grown ups. In Immune Defense, players use various types of white blood cells to fight of real pathogens, using real surface molecules and signaling molecules. Immune Defense is currently on Kickstarter, looking for your support! The game is mostly finished, it needs some extra effort to get it onto tablets and some iteration of the tutorial and player feedback to make Immune Defense maximally engaging to a broad user base (ages 10+). The demo (polished up) will always be available to everyone for free. Your support helps us make that possible. You can help get the game out to everyone by spreading the word about our free demo and our Kickstarter.
Our heroes, the white blood cells called Macrophages and Neutrophils, eat pathogens. These cells are able to track, bind, eat and dissolve pathogens using the proteins and other molecules they carry with them or that they find in their environment. Basically they are talented, well armed and resourceful. They are also very specific they can only do what they are armed for. You can arm them. The bad guys, the pathogens, are able to avoid the Macrophages and Neutrophils by being difficult to track, bind, eat or dissolve. You can see where this is going, right? yes. Escalation. Escalation all over the place. The proteins and molecules that pathogens carry with them are the key to the pathogens' success. So this war is quickly revealed to be a war of who has the best equipment: who has the best proteins on board, in the best position, optimally activated... In reality, cells and pathogens carry tens of thousands of different proteins. But managing all of those would be a lot of work. So we limited your concerns to just the cell side of the battle and then just to three classes of proteins: those that Move the cell, those that do a Job and those that Activate the cell. These three classes of proteins allow the heroes to track (Move), to bind and to eat (Job) and to more quickly dissolve (Activation) the bad guys. So basically, we have a tower defense game with moving towers, that can be armed in a hundred different ways, and that can activate each other. We fight bad guys that can avoid us, infect us and then destroy us, and can cause damage to the area around us.
RESEARCH BASED DESIGN
Immune Defense is designed to be maximally instructive and to foster confidence. The design was based on research conducted by Dr. Stegman on Immune Attack, a 3-D first person shooter style game where a player uses a microbot to manipulate proteins. Immune Attack was a project under the the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) Learning Technologies Program and headed by Dr. Stegman from 2008-2013. Dr. Stegman directed the (FAS) Learning Technologies Program from 2010-2013 before she started a for profit company with the goal of creating a popular game from the Immune Defense prototype. Molecular Jig Games, LLC is the company. She continues to collaborate with scientists, teachers and gamers at www.MolecularJig.com. Additionally, she maintains the www.ScienceGameCenter.com, a list of all science games as a resource for everyone who wants to teach and learn more science.
Here is a video about T-Cells and game design.
Here I am talking about how to make a game out T cells and Macrophages. I am speaking with Alec Redwood, an Australian virologist and immunologist who was in Seattle for a few weeks. We discuss the interactions between Macrophages and the adaptive immune system and how we built a game around these molecular mechanisms.
The cool part is that the game and the biology both work out to a story about the great hero, Macrophage. Like the great Greek hero Cassandra, Macrophages can see danger. Macrophages have an ability that is greater than any other cell type in your body. They are built to respond, with receptors that specifically bind to molecules that are only found on bacteria and other pathogens. Macrophages, our hero, roams over the whole body watching for danger. And when they find it, Macrophages start communicating about the pathogen. However, unlike the hapless Cassandra, Macrophages also have the incredible power to get other cells to listen to them and make them believe what they say. Cassandra was left to cry alone, while men she tried to warn were killed as she predicted. But Macrophage, our hero, has receptors that grab onto T-Cells and don’t let go until the T-Cell is good and alarmed! Ah, the powerful Macrophage. Tracking, catching, eating, dissolving hundreds of pathogens and then alarming the rest of the cellular army… Pathogens are trying to avoid you at each of these steps! Will you be successful? Will you clear the field before inflammation does permanent damage to the body you protect? We ask the question immunologists have asked for hundreds of years: Can we help you, Macrophage? Will our technology be enough to rise to your sophistication, to fight beside you at last? May we join you in your epic quest for peace, can we fight with you in the oldest battle on Earth?
1. “Cassandra”. Mortal Women of the Trojan War. Stanford University. RetrievedMarch 24, 2014. Wikipedia, Cassandra
2. Macrophages were first discovered by Élie Metchnikoff, a Russian bacteriologist, in 1884. Wikipedia, Macrophage.
Risks and challenges
We have all the technical parts in place: we have cells, pathogens and molecules that function and that the player can interact with. We just need to build levels with the parts we have and we need to wrangle our user interface. We know we will deliver a game. Our prototype is pretty decent. What we want, however, is a super smooth, easy to pick up and play tablet game with super engaging gameplay.
First we need to make our User Interface coding more efficient (lower the number of draw calls) and this will take some time. Second, we want to polish the timing and feedback, and this requires iterations. We will have to make several quick iterations and work many hours a week, while maintaining day jobs, to accomplish our goal. But it is possible and it is in our reach. The game needs timing, level balance and player feedback. We think gathering some interested folks through Kickstarter can only help. Bending molecular reality into an engaging game is an interesting problem to solve and we welcome your input!
Our stretch goals are also carefully chosen to be attainable financially and time-wise. To create a vaccination level, we need a few more cell types and a significant amount of art. We have the menus, gameplay and code already designed, however. If you help us meet the $100,000 stretch goal: Vaccination! We will work for an extra 6 months, to create Vaccination. Vaccination will require Dendritic cells that eat pathogens and then make B-Cells and T-Cells available that are specific to that pathogen. We have started on this coding, but we will need some more coding, testing, playtesting and iteration to finish the "Craft your own antibodies = Vaccination" levels.
Our second and third stretch goals are similar, we have the design and basic code, we need to create the art, code specific cell and pathogen behaviors and playtest, iterate and polish. If we make these stretch goals, we will use the money to spend more hours on the game and therefore, we would decide upon a new release date.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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