What is The Black Box?
The Black Box is an action-puzzle/RPG in the tradition of Bookworm Adventures and Gyromancer. It teaches and reinforces the fundamentals AP Biology principles through Final Fantasy-style combat systems. The Black Box utilizes a strong, branching narrative, and exploration elements through a large fantasy overworld.
The core design goals surround the idea that players of games like Pokemon or Minecraft memorize massive lists of names and combinations of "craft" components. If these actions were tied to educational content, players might be able to utilize a game's unique ability to impart large amounts of information to a player to help students study.
The Black Box was created with a very small team. I pitched the initial idea, and worked as the project manager, lead designer, writer, and coder for the game. I work on art assets, did the sound design, and lead the two other team members who contributed lesson plans and art. As such, I did a lot of organizational work, held meetings with team members, and dealt with a great variety of tasks, from coming up with creative solutions to problems in the game's code (written for Unity in C#), to delegating tasks among team members, to drawing and editing art assets.
In the Southside of Chicago, Kyla, a bright teenager on a school field trip to the zoo, sees a group of masked soldiers seemingly harassing a pigeon. Stepping up to defend the helpless animal, Kyla is sucked into a portal to another world, where she discovers a plot by Dark Elves to steal from the biodiversity of Earth in order to save their own dying Otherworld.
The action in Black Box surrounds fighting with animals that have had their evolution altered using time magic. Using the player's knowledge of dominant and recessive genes, or the makeup of a cell structure, players alter their animals in battles that combine the combat systems of traditional JRPGs like Final Fantasy or Dragon Warrior with minigames reminiscent of Bookworm Adventures.
An overworld map and dialogue-driven narrative reminiscent of Final Fantasy engages players in a shadow world in which real-world concerns are mirrored and twisted. Players fight the Otherworld for control, utilizing biological principles in order to craft attacks. This conflict is resolved through a number of minigames, each of which applies to a biology lesson.
Concept, Writing, Gameplay Design, Level Design, Sound Design, Graphic Design, Programming, Learning Objectives, Art, Team Lead: Keith S. Wilson
Art: Anna Atkeson, Keith S. Wilson
Background Art: Casey Bradley
Learning Objectives, Writing: Megan Macklin
Champion: Philip Ehrenberg
Shadow Advisor: Ashlyn Sparrow
Special Thanks to Game Changer Chicago