Game Development Reference
Plot. PAST is a high-fantasy MMO full of spells and magic. It takes place in the
Realms, which consist of human, dwarven, and elven worlds, along with a mysterious
land known as Now-Here. From these locales, the player can travel backward and
forward in space and time—hence the game's name, PhysicsAdventuresinSpace-Time ,
or PAST .
Physics is a lost “art” in this world, and its rediscovery is an integral part of the
plot. In order to fight the Disruptures, the player travels through time and space
to find Ary the dwarf (based on Aristotle), Galy the elf (based on Galileo), and Iza
the human (based on Isaac Newton), the legendary experts of this lost art of physics.
Ary, Galy, and Iza actually correspond with planned sections of curriculum on intro-
ductory math and trigonometry, kinematics, and dynamics. Although the player can
ignore the physics component and still advance in the game through guesswork, the
player who learns physics will have a definite advantage. After contacting Ary, Galy,
and Iza, the player discovers the true nature of the Disruptures.
In the meantime, the Disruptures have increased in frequency, and the mag-
ical leaders of the Realms fear they must act now before the situation gets any
worse. The player must convince each leader that their plan will actually worsen
the problem and destroy the universe! Since each magical leader represents a com-
mon physics misconception, the player must then present evidence to combat the
Now united by the urgency of their mission, the magical leaders and the player
look for a permanent solution to the deadly Disruptures.
Merging Pedagogy with Design
The design of PAST was very much influenced by the pedagogical concerns. The
quest design, too, reflects these concerns. Throughout the story, the player is asked
to engage in the scientific method to investigate the Disruptures. Encouraging player
analysis and action presents a big departure from previous offerings in educational
software that would ask students to read about physics or play a simplified game.
Figure 15.1. This projectile cannon drawing mock-up is based on the Force Concept In-
ventory test, which measures a student's physics conceptual knowledge. Diagram courtesy of