What is the FLAG Engine?
The FLAG Engine (short for flash game) is a highly flexible, Flash based game creation engine developed by Zac Zidik, Game Developer with Penn State’s Educational Gaming Commons. The engine, which supports the creation of both 2D side scroller (think Mario Brothers) and isomorphic (think Farmville) games is under development to support a wide range of future educational games, including our current project, EconU.
So FLAG is a Game Engine… But What is A Game Engine?
Think of a game engine like a platform for creating games, the same way Blogs@PSU (Movable Type) is a platform for creating blogs, websites, and eportfolios. Put another way, it is a single, standard code based that can be customized to suit specific needs, rather than built from scratch for every individual use.
Why Build an Engine for Game Development?
There are a number of significant benefits to developing and customizing a game engine, rather than made to order game design.
After collecting the educational needs of faculty across Penn State, FLAG was designed to be a multi-disciplinary educational gaming solution. Rather than build a highly specialized game for a single purpose, FLAG was created so that one code base can be customized to serve multiple needs, saving time and resources, while allowing us to create a richer more polished educational game experience which simultaneously can serve multiple faculty.
Divide and Conquer
The FLAG engine also supports an administrative interface to the game, which allows non programmers to edit the game’s numbers on the fly in real time. Before FLAG, any changes to a game, no matter how mundane would have to go through a developer, taking time away from other taks. With FLAG the numbers and forumla’s which drive the game, as well as the majority of its content can be added and edited by someone with no programming experience, freeing development resources to focus on the game’s core functionality. Not only does this distribution of effort make the process more efficient, it also allows for a more polished final product.
A Focus on Pedagogy
Because FLAG was designed up front to be a reusable solution, careful through has gone into the design of all of its core mechanics to insure they are polished and effective at conveying educational meaning. That means that conversations with our faculty can focus more on the learning that needs to be taking and less on designing a game – leading to richer, educational experiences.
Reusability doesn’t just help us make educational gaming more scalable, it also opens the door to entirely new opportunities for interdisciplinary learning. A player may start with a game focussed on economics content – but soon we hope to allow them to add in additional challenges which focus on different disciplines – energy, health policy, security and risk analysis, agricultural policy or biology. One game: multiple disciplines. That is the future we hope to enable thanks to the FLAG engine.
Creating an accessible product is critical for any educational materials, but unfortunately something few game developers take into consideration. The FLAG engine is different and has been specially optimized to ensure that every student can enjoy a rich game experience.
How Does FLAG Work?
For a more detailed technical explanation of how the FLAG engine works it’s magic, take a look at some of our developer documentation.