JumpStart’s School of Dragons Needs a Better Cirriculum

18 Jul

Welcome to the School of DragonsBy Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)

Despite the fact that the Summer is not yet over, fans of Dreamworks Animation‘s How to Train Your Dragon will soon be going to school. JumpStart launched an online educational product, School of Dragons, that will get young fans excited for science, botany and perhaps a whole lot more—namely Dragon Flight school. This MMORPG went live in June for beta-testing. As new players come in to check this game out, they will soon find out that there is a membership fee (starting at $9.95 USD per month) to access the game’s higher functions like customizing their avatar or earning free coins.

With this online game, players can explore this Hogwarts inspired world and learn that there are indeed lots of youth living on the Island of Berk. That has often been a weird case in both the movie and television series, since not a lot of young children are often seen. Gamers will become one of these merry youths who will find themselves required to hop on a boat to go to an island where their education will take place. Here, they will adopt, raise and train their new pet instead of going to the Dragon Academy that Hiccup uses to train his dragon Toothless.

One of the first tasks involve selecting a dragon egg, hatching the pet and playing with it. That’s the only part of the story that’s faithful to Cressida Cowell’s novels, but a few players will have to note that there are two species, like the Thunder Drum, that is not available to pick up right away. Players will have to buy the new Dragons: Riders of Berk DVDs to get the unlock codes. Afterwards, Hiccup will assign the student a few simple tasks like give an apple to the instructors at this school. Interestingly, that includes Heyrul the Headmaster. If this detail is no further clue, the Harry Potter influence might carry out later on while playing this role-playing game.

schoolofdragons

In terms of continuity, some astute pupils may wonder why Hiccup is not the Headmaster. After all, it was him who learned everything there is about how to train your dragon. For the most part, the real reptile training like flying and target practise may not arrive until children do their real world homework.

That is, if kids and fans alike do not get frustrated at how the game works. Some of the early ‘play’ content can get repetitive over time. That’s mostly to keep the pet serpent well fed and purring like a cat. Later on in the game, there will be lessons in science or botany, where the student will learn something new about the world around him or her. But strategy and time management will also be put to the test as well; gamers will have to make sure their dragon does not get hungry or bored.

But players should be warned: maybe a few lessons in fine tuning their computer will be required too. The rich graphics are more of a hinderence on machines not capable of quickly rendering the images. The system requirements are not too bad, but the game can run sluggishly when the servers are overloaded. Hopefully JumpStart has the server power to handle the influx of users signing up and trying out this game.

Fortunately, one gigabyte of free system memory, 64 megabytes of available video memory and a 1.5 Mps internet connection are the minimal requirements to play this web-browser based game. This game does not work properly in Google Chrome or on netbooks. On Safari, Internet Explorer and Firefox on desktop computers, this game seems to work fine. Players are advised to flush the cache of both the browser and the graphics rendering engine when the game constantly stutters.

Sadly, there are no additional options in-game to fine-tune the Unity engine that powers the graphics. If there was a way to reduce the polygon count or in-game screen resolution, then maybe the motion would not be so choppy.

Players are better off playing School of Dragons on a gaming machine than a general use one. Interestingly, JumpStart has plans on releasing this game on Android. An iOS version is released. For either device, hopefully JumpStart will optimize the graphics so the game can run smoothly without players needing to upgrade their gear.

School of Dragons Image

This game may have been rushed out the door to be ready for Dreamworks presentation at San Diego Comic Con 2013. If that’s the case, hopefully the network congestion that will no doubt be rampant at this show will not hamper the product display.

As for other users who haven’t upgraded their machine in years, plenty of hiccups will be experienced along the way. Astrid will not be around and there’s no lightning bug to help speed this game along. This game feels like its stuck in beta and the social media aspect of this game will be lost to children more excited to play with their dragon and explore. Not all MMORPGs are going to be successful in creating an online community. Older fans can balance their online activity with outdoor life. As for children, they are better off playing in a real world to interact with their school mates than to push buttons in front of a computer. The interface is well designed to make play easy, but the fact that computer games tends to isolate more than make sociable is a debate that will be discussed between child psychiatrists and parents for a long time.

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One Response to “JumpStart’s School of Dragons Needs a Better Cirriculum”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. A Dragon Fan’s Commentary: Breaking down the “Iron Gronckle” | Otaku no Culture - 2013-09-29

    […] for the astute is in how perfectly other products developed for this series is starting to tie in. The School of Dragons is an online educational game product that focuses on teaching its players scientific method, and […]

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