eLearning Game Development Workflow Part 3

Step 3 of the Game Development Workflow – Develop the Storyboard

The third step in developing an online game is to represent the game concept in terms the programmer can interpret. This is achieved by preparing a storyboard of the game. The game storyboard is similar to the storyboard prepared for any e-learning development project. In this case you:

  • Write the ‘story’ of the game.
  • Write the questions or scenarios needed.
  • Describe the game mechanics.
  • Complete the storyboard.

Using the game concept for guidance, write the ‘story’ of the game to provide the context for the player. The story sets out the challenge, establishes the players’ roles, sets the goal and tells the players how they will be recognized.

If it is a question-driven game you will need to write a ‘pool’ of questions for each level described in the concept. It is a ‘best practice’ to make sure to validate these questions before they are programmed into the game.

If it is a decision-driven game you will need to write the scenario that provides the context for making those decisions. List all the knowledge items (dates, people, places, products, etc.) related to the scenario. Document the steps (information gathering, analyzing, deciding) in working out a solution. Write the ‘story’ of the game, starting with the first step and progressing through each step describing the need to collect information, interpret that information, and deciding what to do next. Write this first draft assuming the best results – the player makes all the correct decisions.

Write second and third drafts that outline the consequences of making incorrect (or not the best) decisions. The consequences typically require going back in the sequence of steps to gather more information and making new decisions. Draw a flowchart showing all possible paths for the scenario. The story drafts and flowchart become part of the storyboard.

The game mechanics need to be documented in the storyboard. The mechanics describe the environmental details of the game. The details will be specific to game represented in the concept. If it is a board game then specify if there is a single path, multiple paths or a grid. The rules need to spelled out for the player. The rules will cover the cycle of play, how rewards are achieved, and how to progress between levels.

The game mechanics also set out how chance will be implemented and how player identities are personalized.

With the story, question pool/scenario and game mechanics complete you are ready to prepare the storyboard. A few unique considerations for preparing the storyboard for an e-learning game include:

  • Games are typically media-rich. They can include:
    • Visuals (photos, graphics, video, animations)
    • Audio (voice, sound clips)
  • Quiz show games have one main screen and many possible interactions.
  • Board games must distinguish players and show their individual progress.
  • Scenario-based games need a screen layout/look for each decision point.
  • Simulations require graphic artists to sketch the environment using as many sketches as the programmer needs.

Step 4 of the Game Development Workflow – Build the Game!

Building the game is a programming task. Most e-learning games are Question- or Decision-Driven.

For these styles of games any e-learning authoring tool (Storyline, Captivate, Lectora, etc.) that supports branching and variables can be used.

For a Skill-Driven game you will need to program a simulation of the environment in which the skill will be used. This type of simulation requires a more sophisticated programming tool. A class of software called, ‘Games Engines’ (Unity3D, Thinking Worlds, Unreal Development Kit (UDK)) have been applied to the task of creating simulation-based, learning games.


Adding games to eLearning can motivate learners when the content itself is not very engaging. This four-step Game Development Workflow extends the traditional ISD methodology to include the unique steps required to produce interactive games that engage the learner and support the learning objectives.

Jim Sweezie
VP Research and Product Development