Blog Archives

Habitat launches in Canada

It’s Earth Day and the Royal Ontario Museum is launching Habitat in Canada! There will be five new Habitat pins to be found in the museum. Canadian players will be able to trade the local pins they find with other players around the world.

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Aaron Philips 

We sat down with Aaron Phillips from the Schad Gallery of Biodiversity to learn a little more about ROM and what they have planned.

Tell us a little about the ROM. How many kids come through a year?

  • The Royal Ontario Museum is one of the largest museums in Canada, and rather unique in that we have extensive collections encompassing not just art, nature, or history, but all three under one roof! It’s a little tricky to parse just how many kids come through – but I can say that in 2015-2016, we had 1.1 million visitors at the museum, of which 100,000 were students visiting with their classes. Add to that all the kids who participate in our camp programs, as well as all those who come in with their families through general admissions and membership, and it adds up to A LOT of kids!

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What have been some of your most popular exhibitions for kids?

  • We’ve found that children enjoy opportunities to interact with our galleries and exhibitions in diverse ways, whether through touchable replica objects, puzzles, costumes or technology. To that end, we have had great success with exhibitions featuring interactives geared towards children (and social media savvy adults) such as our recent Pompeii: In the Shadow of the Volcano and, currently, Out of the Depths: A Blue Whale Story.

What are you doing for Earth Day?

  • This Sunday (Apr 23) we’re having a building wide Family Funday program called “Earth Matters”, where we’re bringing in a number of ecology-, environment- and citizen science-oriented organizations to encourage our visitors to take action to better conserve and preserve our planet (which includes introducing them to Habitat the Game, of course!) it will be a great opportunity for visitors of all ages to learn more about environmentally-minded organizations and how they can themselves take action towards greater sustainability.

How will kids be using Habitat in the museum?

  • They’ll be using it as a new way to further explore and discover some of the iconic specimens in our biodiversity galleries and exhibitions. I’d also like to think that as they complete challenges, they’ll be thinking about how the sustainability of their actions relates to the biodiversity on display. I hopeful we’ll eventually see us finding ways to leverage some of the additional learning materials developed for classroom settings by adapting it to Canadian curriculum as well.

Why have you chosen Habitat as a partner?

  • Biodiversity programmes at the Royal Ontario Museum strive to help our public better understand nature and to prevent its loss through communications, research, citizen science, and community engagement. A very significant portion of our visitors are kids, and engaging them in meaningful discussions about ecology and environmental issues is a major part of our mandate. We can see that the team behind Habitat feel the same, and believe that Habitat will be an excellent addition to the means in which we connect with youth.

How do games and interaction fit in with your gallery?

  • Taking inspiration from our close working colleagues in the Hands-On Biodiversity and Discovery galleries, we know that facilitating inquiry-lead, hands-on discovery of our specimens and objects in the Life in Crisis: Schad Gallery of Biodiversity is an absolute must for meaningfully engaging visitors (of all ages).
  • Furthermore, over the last few years our gallery has also been proud to support our ROM Game Jam program by hosting the ROM Arcade. The ROM Game Jam sees roughly 100 video game developers invited into the Museum and, working in teams, building a video game inspired by some aspect of our research and collections. Each year, the ROM Arcade is the testing ground for a select few of these games, where visitors/players can critique and share feedback with the developers, collaborating with them on improving the games.

How interested do you think kids are about the environment/climate change?

  • In our experience, we’d say “very”! Most children have a deep-seated love of nature, of respect for wild creatures, and wonder at the “endless forms most beautiful” (and weird) that inhabit our world. And they also have very strong feelings about what is “fair”. And so as they become increasingly aware of the various environmental challenges we face as a global society, their desire to do something is strong.

 

Habitat launches curriculum materials

We have just launched our Sustainability Learning Guide, it is based on Habitat the Game, and has been designed to engage and inspire students, teachers and the wider community to play Habitat and take personal and community actions on sustainability. This guide is a dynamic and interactive resource that can be used to extend sustainability actions beyond time in the classroom and while looking at screens.

It has been created for years 3,4,5 and 6.

The methodology used to develop the Guide included collaboration from a wide range of stakeholders including teachers, students and environmental educators from Australia. It links to the National Australian Curriculum. Many of these activities have been inspired by existing materials created by the BBC, NatGeo, The Coal Loader Sustainability Guide and NASA.

Sustainability is one of the core curriculums in the National Australian Curriculum. Download the link here:
http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/crosscurriculumpriorities/sustainability

Habitat Unit plans

This guide can be used as a 10 week unit or individual plans. When using the individual plans it is valuable to download the whole learning guide below.

Habitat the Game Learning Guide – offers a full Version of the guide that includes all of the Lesson Plans.

You can see the individual unit plans on our main website at:

http://www.habitatthegame.com/teachers/curriculum-materials/

Meet the animators – An interview with Greg Hunsburger

We caught up with Greg Hunsburger who is the 3D Designer on Habitat:

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Tell us a little about your background?
I am 2D designer and 3D animator. I’ve designed and animated exhibition pieces for the Australian Museum and media for the Australian Maritime Museum among other fun and quirky projects. I am a nature enthusiast and natural born explorer.

What do you like about Habitat?
The Bear, the Park and the Heart of the project. It’s exciting to work on a game that puts an important message forward while making something really fun and engaging. The bears are ridiculously cute!

What kind of animation decisions have you been making?
I’ve been across the entirety of the project writing actions scripts and making sure the Bear’s character is really front and center. The decisions that I make are about making these Polar Bears lovable and where the animations all fit within a dynamic narrative. My hope is that Habitat the game is as much about meeting and getting to know the bears as much as playing games with them.

What have been some of the challenges for you?
Redesigning our work pipeline from 3D and 2D animation over to game building has been one kind of challenge. Making game play and reward decisions that stay true to the heart of our game while keeping it a fun experience has been a very cool and altogether new puzzle to solve.

What are elements of the game you have enjoyed building?
I’ve enjoyed designing and building the quirky Achievements and thinking about the way in which real world actions can be dynamically reflected in the game world and game play. When kids see our bear doing a belly flop after taking a trip down our crazy ice-slide they are going to go bananas. When they see the park ravaged by pollution and climate change they are really going to get poked in the feelers.

Tell us a little about the Team you are working in. They come from a range of backgrounds?
The team is full of passion and seems to boil over with ideas and solutions. The team is new to apps but Brian’s experience is helping us navigate the waters with a lot of confidence. We’re a funny, quirky bunch and we all collaborate really well. The heart and soul of the game is something we all believe in, so it’s been a project of passion from the start.

What future do you see for Habitat?
I see Habitat the game expanding into other earthly regions, exploring other animals; all the while making the link back to the player’s home and habits.

I see the brand bringing some really great tools that will help kids and parents understand their ecological footprints and how we can work together to get our planet out of this mess.

Interview with Brian Su – Lead Developer

Brian Su Habitat the Game's Lead Developer

Brian Su Habitat the Game’s Lead Developer

 

What is your role on Habitat?

I’m responsible for developing the Habitat game. I take all the art, music and ideas and translate them to an app.

Tell us a little about your background?

I’ve had a long history of being involved in the creation and coding of a wide variety of games. Prior to becoming involved with educational games, a large part of my work included producing games for PC and console devices. I’ve also worked on projects featuring simulated environments (both urban and natural). It was through working on such simulations that I first got interested in the game engine Unity, and have spent much of my free time over the last three years getting my Unity knowledge from the level of enthusiast to (hopefully close to) expert.

What did you find appealing about the Habitat project?

It is something completely new: a project that deals with ecological issues in real life and introduces them to a younger audience. Plus, I really like polar bears!

Has the integration of the real world actions been difficult?

It has been challenging but interesting to integrate real world actions. It’s never really been done in a game so I have nothing to base it upon and we also don’t know how players will react to it. It’s going to be an interesting experiment and involve a lot of testing and revising.

What are elements of the game you have enjoyed building?

I enjoyed creating the interactive bear because it’s a challenge to create an emotional attachment to a virtual character. I’ve learnt a lot working with the animators about the small nuances needed to create an expressive character.  Another part that was quite interesting was incorporating the reduction metrics into the game and seeing how doing certain real world actions can create an effect on many environmental factors.

Tell us a little about the Team you are working in. They come from a range of backgrounds?

It’s my first time working on a game with a television and post production team. I’ve learnt a lot of new things about design and animation from them and hopefully shown them a lot of things about developing games.

What future do you see for Habitat?

I see Habitat becoming a great tool for kids to learn about the environment in a fun way. I’d like to expand it with new continents, animals and new real world actions.