Funderstanding.com’s “Moon Modules” – In space, no one can hear Maurice scream.

High Jump

What is it trying to teach?

An understanding of surface gravity–characteristics and effects on different planets in our solar system and on Earth’s moon.

Does it work?

Hardly at all.

The good

The basic idea–trying to represent the concepts as a series of high jumps–seems like it could be relatively interesting and effective enough, not too complicated.

The bad–and suggested changes

First of all, this “game” doesn’t maintain nearly enough internal consistency. Maurice’s jumps don’t make much sense, ultimately, because the hang-time for each planet (or moon) don’t match the statistics given in the explanatory text. It’s also not supremely clear (and I think it should be) that Maurice is using the same amount of force to jump.

The visual presentation, overall, would not even hold up to standards from a decade ago. The movement of the jump itself is comically unnatural and unappealing. A mere one or two more animated character states (e.g. Maurice crouching, Maurice raising arms in triumph at the end) would go a long way. Representing Maurice’s jump as a proper arc, in addition to being more accurate (we are trying to teach kids about the properties of gravity, right?), it would also be a lot more appealing, more aesthetically pleasing. The high jump mat should show at least some give. (Maybe dusty planet jumps give off dust, gaseous ones gas, etc.?) And is the high-jump bar actually a wall? Or maybe a space phallus?

The “reward” text we get for making Maurice jump also should be much easier to read–bullets, not paragraphs. Every jump should give us the same statistic category. Each planet(/moon)/entry could have its own flavor text. And even if it’s not practical to show all the planets (and to scale) shouldn’t we at least somehow list all the planets in the solar system and/or tell users what’s missing?

If the creator went to the trouble of creating a backstory for this character (apparently–I couldn’t bring/bother myself to read about “Maurice on the Moon”), why not give us just a line or two (even if they’re nonsensical) about why Maurice is doing this? (Or maybe it’s just a dream–because Maurice is just supposed to be on the Moon, no?)

Sounds reflecting success (Maurice making it over the bar) and failure (Maurice slamming into the bar…or wall) should also have a presence. If you’re not going to give users the chance to actually play this “game” (as they must simply try different buttons to set in motion a pre-determined action or path), at least give them some feedback that’s going to make them want to try making Maurice jump again. It could be more fun to see him succeed (maybe even making more and more noise as he flies through the air) and/or funny to see him fail.

There are tons of simple physics games (i.e. something like dualing catapults, with variations like wind and elevation) out there that this “Module” could have users experiment with. I imagine they’d get a much better (and even more ituitive) sense of the differences the module is trying to teach that way.

Moon Phases

What is it trying to teach?

The phases of the Moon–their designation by the relative positions of the Earth and the Sun.

Does it work?

Not really.

The good

The slider tracking the days is fairly nice, as is the listing of the names of the phases (“waxing crescent,” “first quarter,” etc.) The colors and graphics are decent enough.

The bad–and suggested changes

What young learner (or not-so-young learner, for that matter) is really going to be able to get a real sense, or solid understanding of, the phases of the moon “observing the Earth from far above the north pole [sic]”? The visual representation we get should be paired with, or complemented by, a view of how it would look if you were actually standing at the North Pole, facing towards the Sun.

As with all the “Moon Modules,” there’s little to tie this module, visually speaking, with any of the other modules.

Was “Very Distant” really necessariy, would two more numbers–1) the actual (or maybe average or approximate) distance between the Moon and the Earth and 2) the actual (or average or approximate) the Earth or Moon and the Sun really not work here?

Once again, the reward/explanatory text display is very uninviting–there’s simply too much of it, the font is too small, and there are numerous punctuation and grammar mistakes!

Survival Hike

What is it trying to teach?

What a human would need to survive for 36 hours on the surface of the Moon.

Does it work?

Hardly at all.

The good

The basic premise is relatively interesting.

This module is actually a game (of sorts) and somewhat genuinely interactive.

The bad–and suggested changes

Do you have a spacesuit? Why do you have a friend with you? Does he or she have anything in their pack? (Do they have a spacesuit?) Why, if your pack has four pouches, can you only take three things with you? What the hell is “Gassendi LEX”? Why is this the first time we’re hearing of this place? (Is that where they make the high jump walls, or where the space phalluses were mined?) You might be able to assume that intended users of this module will know what “O2” and a “GPS Device” is, but “CO2 Scrubbers”? Why do none of the items have descriptions? And why are the scrubbers the only items without a realistic representation?

Items should show some animation state going into the pack (e.g. they become partially concealed as they are inserted into a pouch). As it is, users simply place the items on the pack, at which point the items are locked/frozen/stuck in place. Chaning your mind involves starting over from scratch each time. And why do you “Pack” to finish the action? Didn’t you already “pack” by placing the items in the bag? (Though, if they only went on the bag in the first place, I guess you could argue for “Pack”–but now we’re at a point of ridiculousness.)

Also again–no real visual, stylistic connections to other modules and crappy (unappealing, error-riddled) writing.

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