After you leave the ER, you take another microtubule “train line” to its destination, the golgi body, which is the central station of the cell. From here you will be able to take different tracks to all different parts of the cell.
Your vesicle fuses to the side of the station and you are dumped inside. Your next task is to correctly fit molecules coming out of vesicles into the protein that they bind in order to package them for the correct destination. This game will be a little like tetris.
Once you complete this task, you can choose from many vesicles ready to leave for the different parts of the cell (with the proteins you just packaged inside them).
This is as far as we’ve gotten for now. Once the demo is built through the first three levels, we plan to use it to apply for grants and other funding to continue!
After the mitochondrion, you get back on the vesicle and pass next to a large undulating organelle, the ER (endoplasmic reticulum). Once you pass it, you run into a section of track that has fallen into disrepair and you have to return to the ER and get off there.
Once inside the ER, you see though its translucent surface that some molecules are approaching (the ribosome). The molecules come together right above a pore in the surface and start squirting a long quivering chain into the organelle (see 1:58-2:03 on this animation). As it enters, other proteins coalesce around it and fold it into a specific shape.
At some point while you’re exploring the ER, you get another “emergency” warning that the person you’re inside just drank milk. Your cell needs to secrete lactase in order to break down the lactose in the milk. Another long molecule starts to be squirted into the pore and you have to help it fold in order to make lactase. This is a 3D puzzle where you have to bend the long chain into the correct shape.
Once you fold it correctly, you watch it go off to get excreted by the cell.
Next, onward to the Golgi!
Here it is! It took us only three weeks from conception to completion…
There’re obviously things we’re going to improve upon and a multitude of additions – gameplay elements, etc – but we feel that this demo is a good, uh, demonstration of the direction we’re going in.
We’re working on packaging it up for you all to download and try out (even if you don’t have a Kinect). Please let us know what you think!
After you’ve figured out how to travel in the cell, the first level of the game takes place in a mitochondrion. You leave the vesicle and float through the cellular fluid a short distance to the surface of a mitochondrion (here’s an animation of the mitochondrion and the surfaces on it- animation by Blair), the energy station of the cell.
You walk around on its surface, which looks kind of like the surface of the moon. On this surface there are lots of working proteins (large molecules that do the work of the cell) and numerous holes. You step into a hole to explore the inside of this organelle.
Inside is another surface with many busy proteins embedded in it. The surface is a highly folded membrane with many hills and valleys.
While you’re exploring the landscape, you receive a warning of the first of many “emergencies,” disease states in the cell that you need to fix in order to save the cell and ultimately the person. In this one, one of the busy proteins on the surface is malfunctioning and spitting out free radicals, which are harming nearby molecules. If you don’t stop the radicals, the cell will experience premature aging and die.
We are still discussing the detailed mechanics of this task, but you will have to reach out and grab each radical before it damages something near it. If you catch enough radicals in a short time period, the protein gets fixed and you save the cell! Otherwise, the damage continues to spread until the mitochondrion dies and the cell has to live with one fewer mitochondrion. If this emergency happens too many times and you are unsuccessful, the cell will die.
Stay tuned for more levels…
Here’s a sneak peek at our first try at colors. Everything looks a bit dull, but our intention is to really pull some bright, bright colors to the foreground elements and “main actors” in the scene. I just wanted to show everyone the kind of fidelity we’re looking at! It’s very exciting…
A little washed out, but you get the idea…
This video is already out of date! You should see what we’re working on today – we started adding some of the “prettification”! I’ll try to take a video later tonight.
Continued from Part One.
Once you’re inside the cell, your vesicle is transported along a track (microtubule) by a small alien-looking character who is actually a motor protein. You can look down and see its feet moving as it walks you down the track. Outside the vesicle you can see the huge, magical world that is the inside of the cell.
For you biology nerds out there, we will be using two motor proteins, dynein and kinesin. Both of them carry cargo on the network of microtubules, but dynein carries stuff from the outside of the cell in toward the nucleus and kinesin carries stuff outward. We like to think of them like trains moving in opposite directions. We’ve already animated kinesin (see the kinesin animation), and now we’re working on dynein. Dynein is tough because researchers are just now beginning to understand its huge structure and really weird gait. See an animation of Dynein by Harvard’s Janet Iwasa here. New data has been published since this animation was made, so we’re trying to integrate that into ours.
The system of tracks that kinesin and dynein travel on is the transport system of the cell and it’s the way you will travel to different regions for the remainder of the game.
As you go along the tracks, you get to stops where you can leave the vesicle to explore the sub-cellular compartments, called organelles, where all the important functions of the cell are carried out. These include mitochondria, the endoplasmic reticulum, the nucleus, and the golgi apparatus. At each stop, you have to complete an activity in order to move on to the next level and go deeper within the cell. You will also occasionally receive warnings that something is going wrong somewhere in the cell and you will have to travel to the right spot and play a game to fix the problem. These problems will be related to diseases and conditions that we all know about, like diabetes, cancer, aging, and lactose intolerance.
In the next posts, we’ll explain more details about the next stops.
Right now we’re working on programming the initial phase of our demo. We’re in the process of determining how the player should move their body to control various things in the game, like going forward, jumping in and out of a vesicle, or turning the camera to look around. We’d love to hear your opinions on this!
Here are a couple of our ideas. We’d love feedback on which ones you like or dislike. Do you think these would be fun? Would they get tiring if you had to do them for a long time? We’d also love to hear about any other ideas you have.
- Going forward: you could lean forward, march in place, put your hand forward, make a swimming motion…
- Turning the camera to look around: You could turn, or move your hand around…
- Accessing the world map: You could pull it down from above, or push it out from the side…
- Getting in or out of a vesicle: You could jump, or turn…
If you’ve played Kinect games before, do you have any favorite motions?