Perry McDowell is a former Naval Nuclear Power officer. He has been on the faculty of the Naval Postgraduate School since 2000, where he teaches computer science and does research in virtual environments and training for the Modeling, Virtual Environments, and Simulation (MOVES) Institute. His research has been primarily focused on training in virtual environments, and he is the Executive Director for the Delta3D Open Source Game Engine. He is currently conducting research for his PhD. He graduated with a B.S. in Naval Architecture from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1988, and M.S. (with honors) from the Naval Postgraduate School in 1995.
Delta3D: An Open Source Game Engine Designed for Learning
Using games as a media to teach and/or train students is still a discipline in its infancy. There have been many attempts to use games as learning devices and while there is much anecdotal evidence that such game based learning is highly effective, there is little rigorous research. Without such research showing the advantages of game based learning, program managers are reluctant to fund expensive ventures in this field; however, without funding, it is difficult to produce effective research proving its value.
In addition to proving the worth of game based learning, there is still a significant gap in our knowledge of how to teach effectively using games; the rise and fall of "edutainment" products attests to this. Significant questions remain, such as: What subjects are best taught using games? How do games best fit as one of multiple modes to teach/evaluate students? How should games interact with learning management systems?
In order to investigate these questions, there must be a low cost alternative developed expressly for game based learning. We at the MOVES Institute at the Naval Postgraduate School have created the Delta3D open source game engine to fit this need, both in house at MOVES and by researchers at other institutions.
Our approach in building Delta3D was to use the "best of breed" of previously existing open source software as building blocks for our open source game engine. We have tried to keep Delta3D extremely lean and have begun by adding only those features that are required for most applications. In choosing which projects to use as the modules of Delta3D, we had two criteria: a project's technical merits and its user support base. The rationale for choosing projects upon their merits is obvious, and considering a project's base has allowed Delta3D to gain a large group of developers who improve the engine by improving the component projects they work on. The initial features, along with the projects we used for them, are as follows:
. Visualization . Open Scene Graph (OSG)
Because this engine is specifically planned to build training and education systems, it is integrated with a learning management system (LMS). This allows many new avenues of research into what information should be transferred between the LMS and game and how best to transfer that information.
Because Delta3D is designed especially for the serious games community, it offers developers and researchers unique abilities to build and test games for education. Because it is open source, developers can modify it themselves if necessary to meet their needs. Delta3D is an excellent choice to easily and quickly build games to educate.