Finding of the week #32

The economy of small eggs

During my ongoing literature review I often discover interesting facts about things I’ve never thought about. Sometimes I can connect these facts with my own observations: The result is mostly a completely new idea why things are as they are. Maybe these ideas are new to you, too. Therefore I’ll share my new science based knowledge with you!

This week: This time, I highlight the fact that the economy in massively multiplayer online role-playing games works the same way as the economy in the real world. Observing these virtual environments can result in a better understanding of economy in the real world.

Due to lack of time to prepare this finding of the week, this article is a very short one. I just want to highlight an already well known fact: massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) like World of Warcraft and Runes of Magic do have dynamics that are almost analog to real world dynamics.

These game worlds do have the same economical principles as our real world. The factors of rarity and demand for a good are dictating the price for it. This becomes very obvious by observing the price development of certain goods under the aspect of being influenced by special events in the game world. Most of these goods are materials needed for crafting new items.

One good example for the event-driven price development is the price of small eggs in World of Warcraft. Small eggs are ingredients for several cooking recipes, that are mostly interesting while training the cooking skill. The resulting meals don’t have a good use for players at the highest character level. Eating food is mostly used for regaining health, mana or getting a buff of usefull stats. Small egg based food doesn’t provide high level players with a noticeable buff and even doesn’t restore much health anymore. Considering this, small eggs can be seen as useless in the current game and thus the price of them is pretty low.
However, during the christmas event in World of Warcraft, players are able to cook gingerbread cookies. These cookies are also needed to solve a quest during this event. One of the two ingredients of gingerbread cookies are small eggs. At this point, almost every player has a need for these small eggs. Around this event the price of the eggs rises significantly. Suddenly small eggs are a rare good and the demand is very high. However this high price period only lasts as long as the event is available in the game. As soon as the christmas event is over, the price of small eggs drops again until the next christmas season begins.

Another example is the price development of materials gathered in the hardest raid instances of the game. Almost every new content patch adds new crafting recipes to the game that require a special material mostly obtained in the freshly released instance. The new craftable equipment is in most cases an upgrade for the majority of the players and thus the demand for the new good is very high.
However, as soon as a new content is released, the price for the good drops because the new equipment is suddenly out-of-date. The event of a new content patch has changed the demand for the trading good and thus has a noticeable impact on the price development.

Observing the economy of MMORPGs is a good way to understand the basic principles of economy. The market reacts strongly to new events and thus becomes predictable.

Finding of the week #31

Creative thinking with space goo!

During my ongoing literature review I often discover interesting facts about things I’ve never thought about. Sometimes I can connect these facts with my own observations: The result is mostly a completely new idea why things are as they are. Maybe these ideas are new to you, too. Therefore I’ll share my new science based knowledge with you!

This week: This time, I cover the new gameplay elements of Kerbal Space Program added to the game this week. Now players are able to do science and unlock new technologies.

As I was writing this week’s article, Squad, the developers of Kerbal Space Program[1] (KSP), announced the release of a huge game update on october 16th. Version 0.22 added one major feature to the gameplay of KSP: science! I’ve already mentioned a lot how educative the space simulation is[2], so I decided to postpone my planned article this week and do a short coverage over the newest version of the game instead.

Kerbal Space Program isn’t just a sandbox game anymore. The new version of the game added the option to decide between two modes: sandbox and career. The sandbox mode works as before and is mostly unchanged. The career mode however relies mainly on the second new feature I’ve already mentioned: science!

In career mode, the player starts with only a few rocket parts available and thus can only assemble simple space crafts. To unlock all the other parts, the player has to do some science, earn science points and finally spend these points in a tech-tree. This is also helpful for new players of the game, because they aren’t overwhelmed by the huge amount of different rocket parts anymore. Now, new players gain new parts as their skill level, experience and knowledge rise.

Kerbal Space Program Tech-tree


Doing science is pretty simple compared to Take on Mars[3][4]. At the beginning, the player can only give some orders to their astronauts to do some reports. This can be done while sitting in the capsule or during an extra-vehicular activity (EVA). These reports are rewarded with some science points when they are transmitted back to the space center or when the astronaut returns back home to the planets surface. Over time, the player unlocks additional science tools that allow to do different experiments. The results are also rewarded with science points when they’re transmitted to the space center or brought back to the planets surface.

Kerbal Space Program Science

EVA – Doing science!

Transmitting data isn’t as good as returning home from space with these scientific results. The player has to face a loss of data (and thus science points) if the results are just transmitted back home. However, this can be still useful, if the player needs the science points or the space craft is somewhere stuck and can’t return anymore.

Even if doing science isn’t more than just pressing a button, it still has educative and creative aspects. The solar system now consists of several different biomes. Each biome has different conditions and thus each experiment can have different results. After doing an experiment in low Kerbin orbit, the player can start to think about what will happen, if the experiment is done in a high Kerbin orbit. What if the experiment is done on another celestial body? What if … ?
Suddenly the player starts thinking creatively almost like a real researcher: „What will happen if I … ?“

Kerbal Space Program Science

Scientific results of a mission

To wrap things up, the science and tech-tree update has added some goals to the game. Each game is still unique because the approaches of building a spacecraft are endless, but new players now have some aims and can try to achieve them without feeling lost in the humongous world and vastness of space.
The combination of science and different biomes allows players to think in a creative way and to ask some „research questions“. This is also supported by the openess of the game. There aren’t missions like „Land on the Mun and bring a surface sample back home“. Instead, players have to define these missions themselves and finally try to achieve them (and thus learn about space exploration in this process).

Finding of the week #30

Gaming and lifelong learning

During my ongoing literature review I often discover interesting facts about things I’ve never thought about. Sometimes I can connect these facts with my own observations: The result is mostly a completely new idea why things are as they are. Maybe these ideas are new to you, too. Therefore I’ll share my new science based knowledge with you!

This week: This time, I present my idea of increasing the motivation for a lifelong learning by playing games that allow two different approaches the same time: a more casual and entertaining approach and a more efficient approach that requires in-depth knowledge about the presented topic.

This idea is mostly based on my own observations by playing games like Kerbal Space Program (KSP)[1]. One major goal in todays educational science is increasing the motivation for a lifelong learning. I think that by playing such simulation games, people can get interested in learning more about the presented topic. Of course, at this point of the idea, it only includes specific knowledge about a certain topic, but a more wider approach could work as well.

The game itself hasn’t to be designed to present a clear learning goal. The core part of the game should have an entertaining purpose. Playing the game still requires the player to learn the control functions and to interpret the information presented over the user interface. As I’ve already pointed out by explaining the gameplay of KSP[2], the user learns a lot important facts about the presented topic just by playing the game. If these facts are based on real world facts, then the user learns even more than just playing and understanding the game: the game-based knowledge can be directly transferred to the real world.

My own idea to increase the lifelong learning starts at the point when the player has learnt most of the game functions and feels free to explore the environment with great confident. At this point, the game should allow two different approaches. On the one side, the game has to remain entertaining. Players have to be able to complete their goals just by playing the game for fun. On the other side, the game should offer a more efficient and elegant approach, if the player has a deeper knowledge about the specific topic.

These both approaches can increase the motivation for a lifelong learning. The game at its own is entertaining and motivates users to play it. They can complete the whole game on their own by experimenting or doing things inefficiently. However, if the presented topic has enough parallels to the real world and the players are hooked up by the easy and entertaining approach, they can start to gather more knowledge about the presented topic. By accumulating more knowledge, new approaches to play the game come to their minds and they get excited by doing things in a more efficient way. Over time, users are motivated for a lifelong learning to increase their own skills in the particular game.

To make things more clear, I like to explain my idea using KSP. The space program simulation allows players to explore a solar system by executing interplanetary missions. In order to land on a different planet, the space craft has to change the sphere of influence (soi). To leave the soi of the home planet Kerbin, a certain amount of energy is needed.
At this point, two options are available. The inefficient but still entertaining way is doing the whole burn in one go. The space craft will need a bit more fuel, but be in most cases able to leave the soi of Kerbin.
The more scientific way, that on the other hand requires a deeper knowledge about rocket science, is getting advantage of the Oberth effect[3]. Players who are aware of this mechanic are able to do more efficient flights to different worlds. In order to benefit from real world parallels players are encouraged to engage oneself in learning new facts.

Obviously, this lifelong learning by gaming concept needs to be improved, but the idea can increase the motivation for a lifelong learning. The major disadvantage might be the need for real world parallels that are mostly common in simulation games. However, tycoon games could rely on real world business concepts, historical rts games could require additional knowledge about the time presented in the game.

To wrap things up, I think that games like KSP can increase the motivation for a lifelong learning by presenting a real world topic in an entertaining way. By allowing players on the one side to just have fun and on the other side to apply additional knowledge they can benefit from, players might get interested in learning new things about the topic to improve their gameplay. Due to the fact that the freshly gained insights are real world knowledge, players improve their general knowledge the same time just by playing a game.

Finding of the week #29

Let’s explore the Mars

During my ongoing literature review I often discover interesting facts about things I’ve never thought about. Sometimes I can connect these facts with my own observations: The result is mostly a completely new idea why things are as they are. Maybe these ideas are new to you, too. Therefore I’ll share my new science based knowledge with you!

This week: This time, I take a closer look at the scientific simulation game Take on Mars. Players can discover the red planet almost the same way as NASA does and thus develop a deeper understanding of space science.

I’ve already presented Take on Mars several weeks ago[1]. Now, I gathered some first hand experience by playing it. In contrast to NASA’s Mars program, the player fortunately hasn’t to deal with financial problems and a shutdown[2]. Additionally, the player hasn’t to deal with short launch windows to be able to reach the red planet in an efficient way[3].

The role of the player begins with the landing on Mars and the exploration of it using landers and rovers. The rovers are landed on Mars as in the real world: small rovers survive the landing with huge airbags[4] and bigger rovers even need the help of a sky crane[5]. Finally, the player is in control of the rover’s function on the surface of the planet. The player can conduct scientific experience by solving different research mssions.

Take on Mars Rover

A rover similiar to Curiosity.

In the current version of the game (it’s still in the early access phase), most of the experiments are taking photographs of the martian landscape or analyzing rocks, sand or the atmosphere. For this purpose, the user can take advantage of scientific tools also used in the real Mars program like the Alpha particle X-ray spectrometer (APXS)[6]. The small rovers at the beginning of the game do have only a few tools that don’t need any manipulation. The APXS device only needs to be placed close to the desired target to allow the player to conduct an analysis of it.
More complex rovers are equiped with a robotic arm and a robotic „hand“[7]. The user now has also controls for each component of the rover. The player needs to drive close to the desired target and switch to the robotic arm controls. After some precise manipulation of the arm and the hand, the scientific tool is placed at the target and the player can start the analytic process. After a certain amount of time, the player gets the results of the analysis.



I don’t have any experience in controlling a real Mars rover, but playing the game feels quite real. It’s a complicated process of using a robotic arm and hand to finally analyse a small rock. Playing the game brings the science of Mars exploration closer to the players. The difficulty of the game ramps up very slowly and introduces new players in a fun way to the complex work of exploring a distant world. Additionally, the tools and rovers look and work quite similiar as the real world ones and are thus creating a realistic envirionment. However, the player has the luxury of playing a game: there’s no communication delay and the experiments are taking less time than in real world.

Players who get hooked up by the game develop a deeper understanding of the difficult work of NASA’s scientists and might also start looking up additional information about the Mars program. Maybe some of them will start a career in the field of space exploration. The game helps to bring science closer to the public and helps to explain how complex the work is.