Learning Objects and Unity Import Test

Since writing my conceptual analysis on how to structure narrative in 3D digital game-based learning (3D-DGBL) environments in support of second language acquisition, which is scheduled to appear in the upcoming issue of The Foreign Language Annals, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to make my design recommendations an instructional reality. In the analysis, I basically describe the unique problem that 3D-DGBL environments pose for the instructional designer, that of player/learner agency, and posit that a learning object/object-oriented approach might be a way to manage this agency. Each game resource could potentially present an opportunity to learn for the player/learner and should be designed as a complete unit of instruction, addressing areas of language, society, culture, and overall gameplay.

Although I think my conceptual analysis is a step in the right direction, a move away from abstract theory toward practical application, I still am wondering how these design recommendations will actually be coded into the game. Case in point: The tower I have been working on for the last few weeks. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to make it look realistic, but how do I I move it out of the realm of “eye candy,” so to speak, and into the realm of valuable instructional object? And how do I do so in an unobtrusive and interactive manner? Some of these questions, I think, will be answered in the coming weeks as I work in Unity and discover its strengths and limitations. Some of the object-oriented design that I propose in the article may need to be layered onto the game (e.g., code that causes a certain event to be triggered when a player is in the vicinity of the tower) instead of being included directly in the object in true object-oriented fashion. This insight leads me to believe that the pedagogy of the future will be strongly defined by its tools and player interaction with the products of these tools, rather than solely by theory which prescribes how these tools should be applied. Effective instruction may arise at the intersection of tools, theory, and practice, which in my mind highlights the importance of language instructors of the future being proficient in numerous technologies and programming languages. Anyway, just some thoughts as I work on the game.

I took Unity and Blender for a test ride yesterday, wanting to see how easy (or difficult) is would be to import models from Blender into Unity. Initially, it did not look so good as the first model I imported (into the demo game that ships with Unity) had a lot of shadowing on the meshes:

After consulting Unity Game Development Essentials by Will Goldstone, however, I discovered that I was importing the models incorrectly. That is, I was not making the appropriate settings in the Meshes section of the Inspector component. Once I checked the options for calculating normals, smooting angles, splitting tangents, and swapping UVs, I got this much cleaner import:

So much nicer! And I really like the effect of having a medieval tower on a tropic island. Some aspects of the import could still be improved upon, such as how to get the bumpmap applied and getting the lighting just right, but otherwise the process of getting it imported was very easy. Here’s the screen capture illustrating how I did it:

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