One year ago, the educational game Ludwig was launched by the Viennese design studio Ovos. Many reacted with puzzlement, because prior educational games for the computer had generated little interest among children. The game, which was designed and programmed in Vienna, is based on the physics curriculum for grades 5 to 8 and was financed in part by Verbund. And has proved its critics wrong. The game generated enthusiasm not only in numerous Austrian classrooms, but also captured several international awards including the e-virtuoses Award 2012 in France, the Swiss worlddidac Award and the Developer Prize in Germany.
"Students and teachers have been won over by the fact that the game presents physics in general and the topic of renewable energy in a clear and effective way. Interest in these subjects has increased as a result of Ludwig," said Jörg Hofstätter from Ovos. Children can work with the content actively, and have fun while they do it. At present, 500 schools use Ludwig for teaching, and sponsor Verbund is awarding another 200 free licenses for interested teachers under its Stromschule campaign for this academic year, it said in the company blog.
Expanded gaming adventure
"We are extremely satisfied with the success we have had," said Jörg Hofstätter, one of the designers of Ludwig, in an interview with futurezone. The game has been refined and also localized in English over the past twelve months. The user interface was improved, and some bugs fixed. While Ludwig was launched with two episodes in the autumn of 2011 (hydropower and incineration), additional adventures with the robot are now available. After a focus on wind power, a solar energy adventure was added. The final version of the game, which has been out for a few weeks now, offers a total of eight hours of playing time.
As Ludwig is primarily a – well disguised – educational game, Ovos conducted a study on its educational effects together with Danube University Krems. This showed that the game offers an especially high educational effect when the teacher involves himself or herself actively. The game provides motivation to spend more effort and time learning about physics. If the teacher gets involved after game play and talks with the students about their virtual experiences, they learn the most. The study also showed that boys and girls show the same level of interest in Ludwig and that they have the feeling that they can learn a lot about physics using the game.
CD-ROM version for parents
After its success on the educational market, Ovos is now turning its attention to the leisure time market. While the game was previously only available as a download on the web site, it is now available on CD-ROM through retailers like Libro and Saturn (starting at 20 euros). "We want to reach parents who are looking for sensible games for their children," Hofstätter said. According to the designer, there is very little to choose from in this segment, and much needs to be done.
Work on Ludwig will continue in the coming months. According to Hofstätter, the Chinese version of the game will be completed at the end of the year. Distribution in Germany and Switzerland is being stepped up, and plans are in place to include the game on the world`s leading game platform Steam. Ovos is also applying the experiences it has gained with the educational game to other products.
"We have established broad competence in educational games over the past years, and are at the head of the pack in serious games," Hofstätter said. The company won an international invitation to tender from Germany`s Goethe Institute. An Android and iOS app will be launched for the German cultural institution that will allow users to learn and practice business German while playing an adventure game.
The Stromschule campaign
Game sponsor Verbund is using Ludwig as part of its Stromschule campaign again this academic year. In addition to licenses for the game, Verbund is also providing teaching materials and instructions for experiments for teachers so that students can learn more about electricity. Around 300 schools took advantage of the offer centered on the electricity expert Lizzy last academic year. Trips to Austrian hydropower plants are also being offered. Interested teachers can sign up on the Internet.