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DreamLight Insight #08: KeyQuest CD-ROM


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20+ Years of Award-winning Multimedia, 1987-2007

Conceiving a New Genre of Educational Multimedia with the Award-winning KeyQuest, a Typing Adventure

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Point of Departure


When Thomson Learning tools first approached us with this project all they had was a conservative text book titled Micro Mastery: Keyboarding and Word Processing Applications. The pedagogy of the text was sound, but it was composed of page after page of rather dry typing drills. Not exactly a book that gets students excited about learning to type.

Rather than limiting the product’s scope to schools, they wanted to break into the home edutainment market with a strong entertainment oriented theme. They gave the textbook to DreamLight Interactive and asked us for a new creative concept. We had to create a multimedia product that would make keyboarding entertaining and fun for students while building upon the existing text’s pedagogy.

The State of Educational Multimedia

Most educational multimedia to date fails to fulfill the full potential of this new and exciting medium. Most products I examined were nothing more than a regurgitation of traditional text or reference books on CD-ROM. They were typically produced with the ill-conceived idea that if a printed book was successful, a multimedia version of the same book would also be successful. Usually the original content would simply be transferred onto a CD-ROM with some sound, animation and games randomly thrown in. The products were generally disorganized, confusing and unfocused.

What these products fail to recognize is that interactive multimedia is an entirely new medium with its own unique possibilities and limitations. You can’t just dump a text book onto a CD-ROM, add some “multimedia elements” and expect it to succeed any more than you can make a successful motion picture straight from an encyclopedia. The old content must be redesigned to work well in this exciting new medium.

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Core Concept


Rather than simply dumping the text onto a CD-ROM with a few multimedia elements sprinkled in, I wanted to create a brand new multimedia experience that taught typing with the same pedagogy of the text. To accomplish this I needed a strong central theme to serve as a foundation upon which I could build the entire user experience.

Students typically regard typing as one of the most boring subjects available. They traditionally associate typing with secretarial duties. I needed a theme to vault over these traditional hurdles.

We live in a world where technology is rapidly changing every aspect of our lives. Computers are quickly becoming everyday tools, but it goes deeper than that. An entirely new world is being created in cyberspace on the Internet. The point of intersection between the real world and cyberspace is through the computer and more specifically through the keyboard. Today the keyboard is where a user interacts with and actually “touches” cyberspace.

The keyboard is no longer simply a device to type letters but has now become a gateway into this exciting new cyberspace. It is a magnificent control panel that enables us to access and navigate through cyberspace. It holds the keys to unlock cyberspace...

Initial Keyboard Control Panel

Now I had the core theme upon which to build a new multimedia experience. We would build a cyberspace ship around a glowing keyboard control panel. This control panel would enable the user to access and navigate through cyberspace. The experience would be structured so that the user “discovers” that the keyboard has these powers and through mastering the keyboard they unlock and navigate cyberspace. The keying lessons will be tightly woven into the adventure and become the mechanism with which the user advances through the story.

Rough Storyboard


Once I had settled upon the core concept, I made some rough conceptual sketches. I used Painter and a pressure sensitive stylus on a Power Macintosh to freely rough out the concept and create the beginning of a story line. This rough storyboard was then used to present the entire concept to the publisher before we went into full scale production. Though these were very rough scribbles, you can see that the embodied concepts survived into the finished artwork on the following pages.

System Crash

You start what appears to be a rather typical, boring, typing program. The system crashes while loading the first exercise. This doesn’t appear to be a good sign...

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Entering Cyberspace

The system crash destabilizes the cyberspace continuum and pulls you into cyberspace. You careen through a glowing beam of light that threads its way through cyberspace toward a distant node.

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Reaching the End of the Line

You finally come to rest at the end of the glowing beam. You are standing on a platform with a curtain of light extending all around you. A strange landscape can be seen through the light veil.

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Barren Landscape

You emerge through the curtain of light into a barren landscape. There is a strange structure off in the distance. With no idea how to get back, you have no alternative but to explore these strange new surroundings.

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Discovering an Alien Structure

You soon stumble upon a foreboding alien structure off in the distance rising high above the landscape. It looks as if it could be a monument or temple of some sort. You reticently walk toward it.

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Entering the CyberCruiser

As you approach the strange structure a glowing door seems to beckon you. You apprehensively enter the structure and realize that it is some sort of space ship.

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Exploring the Ship

Upon entering the ship you come across a number of doors in the dimly lit passageway. Examining each of the doors reveals them to be locked. You then discover a ladder leading to an upper passageway.

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Discovering the Control Room

Upon reaching the top of the upper passageway you discover the ship’s control room. There is a swivel chair located in the center with a tri-screen console wrapping around it.

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Taking the Helm

You sit in the chair and notice that it can swivel to face each of the three console views. Each console has a glowing keyboard control panel. A view screen extends around and above you creating a large overhead canopy with a panoramic view.

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Discovering Digit

As you examine the console you are soon interrupted by a fidgety little alien. It introduces itself as Digit and begins to tell a tale. Digit’s stranded here and needs your help to operate the keyboard and fly the ship home.

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Digit’s Help

Digit tells you how to start the computer and activate the control panel. Digit offers help, encouragement, and tells you more of his tale between lessons.

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CyberCruiser Command Computer

You start the computer which introduces itself as C4 and takes you through the keying sequences needed to activate the control panel. Mastering a key activates that key on the control panel. Activating all the keys on the control panel brings the control room on-line.

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Level 2 Access

Completing all the level one exercises activates the control room and grants you level 2 clearance. Level 2 gives you access to the other rooms of the ship that were previously locked.

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Returning to the Back Rooms

Once granted level 2 clearance you may return to the back rooms which were previously locked. The passageways are now brightly lit and the back rooms are unlocked and accessible.

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Auxiliary Compartments

In each room you find another C4 terminal with instructions on how to bring that room’s systems on-line.

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Auxiliary Systems

Completing all the keying sequences on a room’s terminal brings that room’s systems on-line. Bringing all the systems on-line prepares the ship for flight and earns you level 3 clearance.

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Returning Upstairs

Once granted level 3 clearance you may return upstairs to the control room.

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Returning to the Control Room

You return to the control room to access the navigation systems.

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Level 3 Access

Once granted level 3 clearance, C4 will help you navigate the ship. You recharge the jump cells through a series of keying sequences which enables you to make a CyberNet jump to another node in the net.

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Taking Digit Home

Jumping to each of the CyberNet nodes will finally bring you to Digit’s home node. There Digit will return to his people and tell you how you may return home yourself.

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