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Teaching UE4 With Quest Based Learning Dr Cynthia Marcello
GDC | 2016
ENGINE 4 USING QBL
Dr. Cynthia V. Marcello, SUNY Sullivan (State University of New York)
About This Session
• Introduction to Quest-Based Learning
• Using Quest-Based Learning to teach Unreal Engine 4
• Introduction of additional development team members
• Demo of the QBL plugin prototype (currently under
development with expected release for Fall 2016)
• Q & A
Why do my students struggle?
• Tech-savvy students may get distracted with all
the features of UE4 – “Where do I start?”
• Teachers may struggle with acquiring the skills
needed to teach UE4 – “I am overloaded!”
Solution: Develop a method of teaching that
fosters a learning environment of exploration and
immersion through engagement, a.k.a “time in the
Quest-based learning is the solution!
Impetus for Quest-Based Learning
Learning environments that successfully integrate technology afford
students greater opportunities to create and construct knowledge through
applied ‘hands-on’ real world applications; they also provide instructors
with multifaceted resources to aid in the differentiation of curricula.
Student Retention = Engagement (Motivation) + Experience (Questing
Time) + Efficacy (Measurable Results)
UNREAL ENGINE 4 and a modular approach lends itself to Quest Based
Learning because learning pathways and challenges can be tailored to
the learner choices, needs, and learning style!
What is Quest-Based Learning?
An instructional design theory that leverages game mechanics and gamer-like
learning communities to support student choice within a standards-based
Uses a non-linear approach to learning in that students can pick the path that
suits them (based on faculty-provided quests and navigation pathway).
Instructor maintains control over available content options and dependencies
beween quests. As the student demonstrates competency, he is rewarded with
new quests which serve as motivation to engage in learning even more.
Understanding Quest Mission Dynamics
Systems Thinking – How does this quest relate to the whole picture?
Play Design – What can I do in this quest (game, model, simulation, story) and how do I
relate to other entities or objects in the system?
Intelligent Resourcing – Where can I get this (tools needed for quest) and can I make a
case for why I need this resource?
Attribution of Meaning – What does this quest mean for me and others in the world?
How can I express myself to others using creativity, expression and innovation?
Experimentation Mindset – What will happen if…and why does this matter? What are
good research questions?
Why Use QBL and Unreal Engine 4?
• Fosters student problem-solving and investigative inquiry
• Supports project-based learning and interdisciplinary learning
• Facilitates collaborative student work (group projects)
• Encourages reflective practices.
• Promotes high levels of student engagement and ownership in the
learning process; therefore learning has meaning.
• Includes formative and summative assessment of student learning
How Does the Student Perceive QBL?
Students can and will persist to progress to the next level while
moving at their own pace and choosing their challenge pathway.
Students engage in ongoing reflection into their learning process
while providing input as feedback to the instructor
Students learn that failure does not have to be permanent – they
can try again to conquer the challenge if they are willing to put
forth the effort! Faculty use quests as formative assessment and
capstones (boss-level) as summative assessment.
Students engage in healthy competition with their peers, share
their progress, and encourage peers to “uncover” quests they have
Quest Design – Where Do I Start?
All quests (challenges) should be designed to get students to:
Reflect on what they know how to do now and decide what
they still need to learn how to do in order to complete the
(quest) challenge successfully.
Gather data and manipulate resources.
Create inferences base don relationships between concepts.
Theorize and generate solutions to problems.
Evaluate results and refine as needed.
Understand process and workflow so success can be replicated.
QBL Pedagogy Step-by-Step
1. Define course learning outcomes (from course outline or syllabus).
2. Define any informal learning outcomes (ad hoc).
3. Create a list of quests or challenge-based problem sets (units of study).
4. Create discovery missions made up of a series of 4-10 smaller quests
(subunits of the units of study) that vary in length and complexity (quests
can be individual or small groups).
5. Each subset of study units align or map to a difficulty level in UE4.
6. Decide which quests are formative and which are summative (capstone
or “boss-level”) assessments.
7. Decide how many points are needed to “level up” or change rank,
making sure student has demonstrated mastery in learning outcome.
QBL Pedagogy Best Practices
• Create boss levels (capstones or mini-capstones) that are required and
preferably collaborative or group project-based (note: students must have
minimum XP to level up to boss)
• NOTE: Summative assessments typically do not allow for resubmission to
assess extent of retention of concepts.
• Remember that formative assessment feedback is the key to assisting
the student in learning (and not failing) from their mistakes! Make sure
you know what the learning outcomes are for each quest! Create set
of worked examples if possible.
• Divide semester into two parts (challenge levels and boss levels) and
decide on general ratio (typically 2/3 or 10 weeks for challenge levels and
1/3 or 5 weeks for boss levels) - note: these are estimates!
Best Practices for Group Projects
Divide Group Project phases into summative quests (Phase 1, Phase 2…etc.)
Require that a minimum level of XP has been earned by a specific date to “get into
the guild” or earn a place on the development team handling the group project.
This demonstrates that the student is motivated, creates a healthy sense of
competition among peers, while ensuring that the student will have acquired a
learning foundation necessary for being productive on the team.
Make a Group Code of Conduct the first quest for team members
Benefits of Group Projects
Quest Diversity is Important!
Collect Quest - Goal is to collect/harvest x resources.
Puzzle Quest - Goal is to solve a problem
Share Quest - Goal is to share x resources.
Drama Quest - Goal is to enact a system or behavior.
Conquest - Goal is to capture a territory or resource.
Grow Quest - Goal is to increase the number of resources in a system.
Maze Quest - Goal is to find a way through a space (about navigation).
Quest Diversity is Important!
• Design Quest - Goal is to make something to be used in the Quest.
• Seek and Destroy Quest - Goal is to eliminate something (e.g., eliminate
all misspelled words from a document).
• Spy or Scout Quest - Goal is to observe and gather information and
• Research Quest Goal - Research a question and return with the answer.
This research might take any number of forms, from questioning friends
and teachers for viewpoints to reading books in a virtual library to
deciphering runes and hieroglyphs.
Quest Diversity is Important!
•Apprentice Quest - Goal is for a player to assume the duties of an expert
character in the game after having learned about what this expert does.
•Tracking Quest Goal is to track something and report back on its
movement or change.
•Experiment Quest Goal is to find the results of a scientific experiment.
•Story Quest - Goal is to create a story.
•Delivery Quest - Goal is to deliver x resources.
Quest Design in General
• An interesting name
• A clearly stated goal or objective
• The number of experience points (XP) quest is worth
• A clear description of the quest instructions and the submission
• Clear feedback provided to student when quest is returned for not
meeting the stated goal or objective
• Clear and logical pre-requisites (if applicable)
• Clear deadlines (if due date is applicable)
Planning Quests in a Spreadsheet
• Course Outline
• Verify your learning outcomes (use Bloom’s Taxonomy)
• Add learning outcomes to Excel (Learning Outcomes tab)
• List quests in Excel (Quests tab)
• Make sure each quest aligns to one or more learning
• Mark approval or not
• Mark XP value for quest
• Identify pre-requisites (quests, levels, XP, etc.)
Planning Quests in a Spreadsheet
• Enter type (video, research, etc) for tracking diversity
of quest offerings
• Enter category (badge level) for the quest
• Enter learning outcome(s) the quest aligns to
• Add details as desired
• Add URL links or embed code if applicable
• Add submission requirements
• Total (sum) level XP
• Enter XP or badge level needed to unlock level
•Assessment & Grading - Make sure students know how XP converts to a
•FAQs - Provide a frequently asked questions page
•Resources - Provide a folder of resources that is accessible without having
to level up to a specific rank
•Quest-Specific Resources - Provide a folder of resources at the mission
level (each rank)
•Encourage - Remind students about importance of time management
•Engage & Motivate - Tell the students that there are “Easter Eggs” (high
XP value quests) somewhere in the set of missions they need to accomplish
• Check quest queue daily (several times a day) – this benefits you and your
• Award full XP if all requirements for the quest are met OR return with a
clear explanation as to what needs to be addressed (formative assessment)
• Provide motivational feedback that encourages students to keep
progressing, regardless of level.
• For students that are struggling, provide positive reinforcement (award
badges for exceptional behavior) and negative reinforcement (discourage
cessation of questing to avoid losing out on special quests that may expire)
• Monitor all students’ progress and ask for feedback in class. Make sure
they understand what progress means (quantitatively and qualitatively)
Managing Student Progress
• Determine ideal XP milestones at typical interval points in the course,
e.g., 3-week, 5-week, midterm, etc. and share those with students
• For example, my evaluation is Quests = 60% and Final Project Quests =
40% (1500 XP + 1000 XP, respectively)
• 15 week semester could be divided into a “slow ‘n steady” pace of 100
XP a week + completion of the required Final Project Quests (Phases
due on specific dates, else XP is forfeited)
• Balance quests by including expiration dates for foundational learning
concepts or course materials that need to be front-loaded early on
Best Practices – Teaching UE4 using QBL
• When creating learning outcomes, remember difficulty levels!
• Know your limitations but maximize learning opportunities!
• Teach importance of project file management early! Use GitHub for
project version control and file sharing.
• Teach the importance of workflow to instill consistency throughout
game development process. Use Trello for project management.
• Take advantage of the numerous resources available online!
• Do not underestimate the power of the Game Jam!
What Students Are Saying…
“Let us do quests that allow us to create a tutorial that others can
“We like the flexibility quest-based learning provides.”
“This class taught me that time management is important. “Even
though I got a slow start due to procrastination, I can get it together
and still succeed.”
“It makes me want to start before the semester even starts!”
Teaching Resources Available Here!
Every truth has four corners: as a teacher I give you one corner, and it is for
you to find the other three. - Confucius