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Runner: A 2D platform game for physical health promotion

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Runner is a 2D platform game designed to be used for conducting research studies on health promotion. This paper presents basic features of the game and describes how contents are procedurally generated. Physical health promotion when the game is
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  Runner: A 2D platform game for physical healthpromotion Camille El-Habr a , Xavier Garcia a , Pujana Paliyawan b,c , Ruck Thawonmas b a  ENSEIRB-MATMECA, Computer Science Engineering School, France  b Intelligent Computer Entertainment Lab, Ritsumeikan University, Japan  c Research Organization of Science and Technology, Ritsumeikan University, Japan  Abstract Runner is a 2D platform game designed to be used for conducting researchstudies on health promotion. This paper presents basic features of the gameand describes how contents are procedurally generated. Physical health pro-motion when the game is played as a motion game is focused. We provideguidelines for future studies with two illustrative examples. The first exam-ple is on procedural content generation for promoting balancedness in useof body segments and increasing movement variability. The second exampleis dynamic difficulty adjustment (DDA) for helping the player achieve theirexpected amount of calories burned. This paper also presents a pilot studydemonstrating a DDA method that can significantly increase the amount of calories burned and positive affects of motion game players. Keywords:  Video Games, Physical Health Promotion, Procedural ContentGeneration, Motion Gaming 1. Motivation and significance 1 Games for health is a viral trend of research [1]. Nowadays, one-third of  2 children and adolescents are overweight, and the obesity rate has more than 3 quadrupled in adolescents in the past thirty years [2]. While only twenty 4 percent of American adults meet physical activity guidelines and less than 5 thirty percent of school-age children spend at least one hour of physical 6 activity every day [2], a half of Americans (155 millions) play video games 7 and about thirty percent of them are adolescents [3]. These statistics data 8 imply that video games can be a potential means for providing exercise to 9 mass people. 10 Motion gaming is powerful in promoting physical activity [4]. However, 11 the difficulty of games can frustrate their players and make them stop play- 12 ing. Dynamic difficult adjustment (DDA) is therefore needed to ensure that 13 Preprint submitted to SoftwareX May 31, 2019   the game is capable of adapting itself to fit players of any skill level [5]. 14 According to existing studies, DDA could improve player experience [6, 7], 15 make players play the game longer [6], and improve effectiveness of games 16 for health promotion [8, 9, 10]. 17 DDA can be applied to procedural content generation (PCG). According 18 to Togelius et al. [11],  PCG in games refers to the creation of game con- 19 tent automatically using algorithms  , where such content can be game levels 20 or stages. However, sometime what should be considered as PCG can be 21 unclear. They explained that, while the word “automatic” suggests that the 22 player’s input should not be considered by a PCG algorithm, in fact, some 23 input from players is typically required for the generation of content, and 24 therefore, they tentatively redefined PCG as  the algorithmical creation of  25 game content with limited or indirect user input  . 26 Based on the above description, we believe that DDA can be implemented 27 through level generation, namely, creating a game level with the difficulty 28 that fits each individual player whose gameplay performance is PCG input. 29 In addition, contents in the motion game can also be generated targeting on 30 improving health parameters such as balancedness in use of body segments 31 and variability in movement of the player whose movement data is PCG 32 input. To the best of our knowledge, while PCG is an emerging trend of  33 research [12], there exists no study on PCG for health promotion during 34 motion gaming. PCG and DDA for health promotion (PCG4H & DDA4H) 35 are promising trends of game research to be introduced and demonstrated in 36 this paper. 37 This paper presents Runner 1 (Fig. 1), a game platform for testing PCG4H 38 and DDA4H algorithms. This game platform is designed based on guidelines 39 for developing a benefit delivery system [13], say the game takes three im- 40 portant factors into account: (1) Benefit, as it can generate contents with 41 a target of improving health parameters; (2) Fun, as it can adapt its dif- 42 ficulty to fit the player, hence promote fun based on the flow theory [14]; 43 and (3) Resources, as the platform allows new features/objects/methods for 44 PCG4H/DDA4H to be developed and plugged to the game in a timely and 45 affordable manner. 46 2. Software description 47 Runner is an endless-running-type 2D platform game, in which the player 48 character is continuously moving forward through a procedurally generated, 49 1 https://youtu.be/Bcjr3USTPA4 2  Figure 1: Playing Runner with UKI, the underlying middleware. The game screen isshown on the left overlaying UKI interface that displays the amount of calories burnedand two health parameters in the middle. theoretically endless, game world. The objective of the game is to get a 50 score as high as possible, before the character dies, by collecting coins and 51 avoiding obstacles. Game controls are limited to making the character jump, 52 crouch, and collect coins by stretching arms. The game world features three 53 types of coins that are scattered around for the player character to collect to 54 gain scores and traps that instantly kill the player character when it touches 55 them. 56 Runner can be played by using either a keyboard or body movement. This 57 paper focuses on the latter one when the game is played as a motion game. A 58 middleware application named “UKI” [15] is used to facilitate integration of  59 motion control with Runner (Fig. 1 and Fig. 2); this middleware application 60 receives human skeleton data from Kinect, detects motions based on prede- 61 fined models, converts detected motions into keyboard and/or mouse-click 62 events, and sends such events to the game. 63 The game has mechanisms for DDA as a part of its PCG. It can change 64 the running speed of the player character and adjust a number of thresholds 65 in use for controlling generation of traps (e.g., reducing the frequency of trap 66 occurrences or increasing the minimum distance between consecutive traps). 67 The game can also receive health parameters from UKI and feed them as 68 3  Figure 2: Overview of the system (Runner & UKI). input to the PCG process (e.g., when it is found that the player has rarely 69 used the right arm, the game can generate more blue coins that the player 70 must extend the right arm to collect). 71 2.1. Software Architecture  72 Runner is coded in C# language, on the Unity3D game engine in the 73 2018.1.1f1 version. Free Unity assets were used for Sprites and Color Pickers. 74 Likewise, royalty-free music and sounds were used. It can be played as a full- 75 body motion game by using UKI, which captures movement data through a 76 Kinect device. UKI can be either run on the same computer to Runner or 77 another computer connected via a network. 78 2.2. Software Functionalities  79 This section introduces parameters and objects featured in Runner. How 80 the PCG process works and details on what game elements can be controlled 81 for DDA are described. Using of Runner for PCG4H and DDA4H is given in 82 the next section. 83 2.2.1. Game Parameters and Technical Terms  84 •  Distance:  One unit of distance is equal to one standard unit of Unity 85 distance traveled. 86 4  •  Platform:  A game level, or a stage, can be viewed as a series of  87 platforms that are connected horizontally to form a long path on which 88 the player character will continuously run from the left to the right. 89 •  Score:  A score is defined as ( distance  +  multiplier  ∗  coins ), where 90 distance  represents an accumulated distance traveled and  coins  is the 91 number of coins collected (regardless of its color). By default,  multiplier 92 is set to 1. 93 •  Speed:  In gameplay, the player character keeps moving forward with 94 a constant speed; the other objects always remain in their initial posi- 95 tions. This speed is adjusted dynamically as part of DDA. 96 2.2.2. Game Objects (Contents) 97 All kinds of game objects are shown in Fig. 3, which will be placed over 98 platforms. A platform is in general composed of more than one objects. For 99 example, a platform may consist of a ground (the 2 nd object from the right) 100 and a red coin (the 2 nd object from the left) on top of the platform. 101 •  Avatar:  The avatar, or the player character, has physical attributes 102 including mass, weight, and velocity. It has a collision box for detecting 103 collisions with the other objects except for environment objects. 104 •  Coins:  There are three types of coins. A yellow coin is collected when 105 the avatar touches it. The player may need to jump or crouch to collect 106 yellow coins. Red and blue coins are always on the ground. The player 107 must extend the right arm to the right to collect blue coins and the left 108 arm to the left to collect red coins. 109 •  Traps:  The avatar will be instantly killed when it touches a trap, and 110 the game will be over. There are four types of traps. The first two, 111 needle blocks and spinning saws, are floating traps that can be avoided 112 by bending down. The last two, ground needles and swamps, can be 113 avoided by jumping up. In addition, the first three types have a length 114 of one unit of distance while the last one has a length of two units. 115 •  Environment:  Scenery elements are also parts of the environment. 116 They are for visual aesthetics and do not affect the avatar. 117 5
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