Novicraft HRD game

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EngineUnreal engine 2
Platform(s)Microsoft Windows
Genre(s)Serious game

NoviCraft[1][2][3] is a serious game which supports business customers in social excellence, in learning to construct shared understanding together with different people in changing contexts. It is a total conversion mod for Unreal Tournament 2004 developed by LudoCraft ltd. and TeamingStream ltd and was commercially released in 2008. The latter has received many awards in several games development competitions, and Former company has been selected among the 25 most interesting IT start-ups in Finland by Tietoviikko.[4] Despite the young age of the serious game itself, the history of NoviCraft game goes back to the year 2002, when the first generation of the game[5] was developed for research purposes at the University of Oulu, Finland to find out whether computer games could be used for learning [6] [7] . In 2009 NoviCraft game was granted with the best e-learning solution of the year –award in Finland's E-learning Center's competition (E-oppimiskeskus)[8]


NoviCraft is a serious video game using Unreal Engine that puts teams to solve problems together through a virtual adventure placed on a prison island. The problems are solved precisely through the joint conversation and coordinated activities, where every puzzle requires all participants’ activity and part taking into the conversation. Through game experiences NoviCraft supports business customers in social excellence, in learning to construct shared understanding together with different people in changing contexts. Furthermore, players will learn the meaning and importance of

       * Communication
       * Leading and building of psychological safety, giving and receiving help
       * Coordination, and goal orientation
       * Think-aloud; Sharing existing knowledge
       * Challenges with working in distributed virtual teams, strategy creation, and risk taking
       * Planning your work and executing according to the plan

Due to the immersive nature of 3D games, the players are quickly engaged and behave in the way most natural to them since it is very hard to keep up a different role in the intensive game situations. The design of game requires active participation and demands the team members to negotiate and make decisions. It has been found that each player's avatar reinforces the active participation and gives new possibilities to share knowledge and monitor the stage of the other players.

The game turns into an experience, which makes it a fruitful reference for further discussions concerning the players’ way of communicating, acting in new and surprising situation and making joint decisions. By discussing about those experiences we stimulate people to be aware of their own behaviour as well as to understand better the challenges of group dynamics of their work community, teamwork and leadership

What is behind Novicraft game?[edit]

The goal of the NoviCraft team training is to give the team a collaborative learning experience of a shared distributed problem-solving situation. The tasks in the NoviCraft game have been scripted based on several years of scientific research to promote every participants‘equal participation to the problem-solving activity. The tasks are built to launch the key mechanisms of collaborative learning, such as asking questions, helping others, explaining and listening. Through equal participation to the joint activity, the team has best chances for constructing shared view of situations, which nowadays is a key skill in every day work situations.

Constructing knowledge in teams[edit]

In order to be effective and successful in the solving of problems collaboratively, it is crucial that knowledge be continuously shared and constructed in teams. In practice, while team members search, collect, and share resources relevant to their problem solving, they construct knowledge that is shared between them. In successful collaboration, the team members echo and engage in the ideas of others by adding to each other's ideas rather than ignoring or rejecting many contributions.

Awareness of the team skills[edit]

Through the NoviCraft training, we aim to increase individual's awareness of the social aspects of teamwork. Promoting awareness of team processes is essential, since there is more to learning than content knowledge. People may not learn to interact in productive ways just by doing collective work—many times, coaching in how to participate in effective collaboration and problem-solving is needed. It has been found that language plays a crucial role in learning, and for effective learning it is important to encourage participants to engage in certain ways of discussion and collaborative talk.

Building shared understanding[edit]

In practice, the team's construction of shared understanding in their knowledge-construction process is contextually tied to situated activities. For success, it is essential that in all collaborative situations, the group builds a shared solution in their discussion. Both the content and the process of the common task have to be continuously coordinated, which sets demands on learning and presents challenges for enhancing the collaboration skills of all who work in teams.

Game procedure[edit]

Goal setting[edit]

Discussions concerning the participants, goals and schedule of the training.

Team training pre-questionnaire[edit]

The participants fill in the pre-questionnaire concerning the team skills, current situation and development areas.

The Novicraft Game[edit]

(The actual game lasts about 4–5 hours) The game design is intended for inexperienced players, and the aim is that the playing of the game was not dependent on the participants’ previous gaming experience. In the game, each participant is represented by an avatar figure and the discussion takes place through headphones and microphones with TeamSpeak software. The participants’ individual and team game behaviour and performance can be monitored enabling detailed analysis, evaluation, retrospection, and recommendations for further development.

The Novicraft could be described as a social-action adventure. The game's concept involves an escape story, where each team had to flee from a prison island by solving five interactive puzzles together. The players experiences their surroundings by using modifiable avatars, which they are able to choose from a set of options presented at the beginning of the game. Before the game, the participants practices the basic functionalities of the avatars in a tutorial field that lasted for five minutes. Before the game, the participants are also told to collaborate in order to solve the puzzles in the game. As part of the game, a short frame story appears on the computer screen before the tutorial field. In the story, participants are told that they are prisoners being held on an island, and one of the senior prisoners has heard of possible ways to escape. If they would follow the instructions of the senior prisoner as a team, than they would have a chance to escape.

In the game, the participants has to accomplish five tasks that appears to the players in a certain order. After each task that they manage to achieve, a gate to a new field opens. The structuring of the game is purposefully designed to minimise pointless running and looking around in the environment in order to focus players’ attention on teamwork and negotiation. The tasks in The Gate involves barrels, smoke signals, burner oil, dog fields, and balloons. Specifically, the tasks are as follows:

  1. Task: each team member has to pass a gas field in a barrel with the help of others' instructions (Giving and receiving help, building psychological safety for teamwork, establishing communication and goal orientation)
  2. Task: members has to send different coloured smoke signals in a certain order (Planning and coordination of tasks and actions to achieve a goal)
  3. Task: members has to prepare an oil mixture from some of the ingredients given to them (Using creativity, experimenting and exploring as a team, sharing existing knowledge in joint problem solving)
  4. Task: the team is split into two pairs who had to pass through a field while building fences to ward off angry dogs (Splitting the team into two sub-groups, both groups success needed to complete the task, innovation, risk taking)
  5. Task: with the burner oil and tools gathered from the earlier tasks, the team has to build a balloon to escape from the prison island. (Complete the task together within the shared frame of reference created during the game experience)

At the beginning of the game, each player receives different instructions called “parchments” (virtual papers with some instructions for one of the tasks).

Personal reflection[edit]

Immediately after the game each participant fills in a brief questionnaire as an individual level reflection of the game experience. Everyone's answers are collected together in the game report produced automatically through the game software.

Team reflection[edit]

After the game experience the NoviCraft facilitator guides the team through a shared reflection concerning the game activities. The goal of the reflection carried out through group discussion is to help the participants to find the strengths and development themes of their teamwork on individual and team level. The activities are at first reflected based on the game, but deepened to the everyday team situations and roles towards the end.

Team-training feedback questionnaire[edit]

About one week after the participants fill in the feedback-questionnaire concerning the NoviCraft-training to continue to reflect their learning experiences.

Use cases[edit]

  • Team building
  • Multicultural teams
  • Leadership training
  • Transforming culture


  1. ^ "NoviCraft testing the functionality of groups. A solo effort is enough neither in a game or in life itself" (PDF). Oulu Games Cluster. 1 January 2010.
  2. ^ "NoviCraft: virtual world team building". The Metaverse Journal. 22 February 2009.
  3. ^ "Novicraft – game space meets business training". Eduworlds Knowledge. Ideas for learning. 30 September 2009.
  4. ^ Tässä ovat Suomen 25 mielenkiintoisinta it-startupia, 6 February 2010;
  5. ^ Manninen, Tony (2005). Designing Puzzles for Collaborative Gaming Experience – CASE: eScape (PDF). DiGRA Conference. Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
  6. ^ Bluemink, Johanna; Hämäläinen, Raija; Manninen, Tony; Järvelä, Sanna (2009). "Group-level analysis on multiplayer game collaboration: how do the individuals shape the group interaction?". Interactive Learning Environments. Informa. 18 (4): 365–383. doi:10.1080/10494820802602444.
  7. ^ Bluemink, Johanna; Järvelä, Sanna (2011). "Elements of collaborative discussion and shared problem-solving in a voice-enhanced multiplayer game". Journal of Interactive Learning Research. 22 (1): 23–50.
  8. ^ NoviCraft is the best eLearning product 2009 - TeamingStream's training game wins award

External links[edit]