TECFA discovery

A game to discover the TECFA server

Antonella Krige, Hans-Peter Heeb

This project aims at building an activity room to assist the novice user of TECFA electronic facilities in the task of discovering the services provided by the "TECFA.UNIGE.CH" server.


  1. Make a novice TECFA user acquainted with the TECFA.UNIGE.CH services: FTP, WEB and MOO.
  2. Provide a spatial representation of the filing system in the TECFA server.
  3. Test the user’s knowledge via guided activities
  4. Support the user’s activities via an on-line help
  5. Provide feedback on the student’s acquired knowledge to the STAF teachers

Target public

  1. TECFA registered students
  2. TECFA guests


  1. have a TCP/IP connection
  2. have the possibility to use a WEB browser
  3. have the possibility to login to the TECFA server via a TECFA "User account" or a Guest account

Cognitive model

The scenario of the TECFA Discovery Game has been built using concepts from the Minimalist model of J.M. Caroll as this model is particularly suited to the development of aid and training material for computer users. Following this theory we have decided to present the user with immediate activities rather than with lengthy theoretical explanations. The procedural knowledge required to use the TECFA services FTP, WEB and MOO has been broken down in a series of simple activities which the user is guided through.

For each service the user

The idea being that the user finds in a room the minimal tools to perform the proposed activity. The room will then transform itself and present the tools required for the subsequent activities.

Still following the minimalist model we have also decided to minimize the amount of declarative knowledge presented during the activities and to let the users figure out by themselves how to use part of the system, for example some applications like a WEB browser and an FTP package. At any moment in time the user has access to remedial information on demand (online help) and receives feedback information.


Overall Scenario

The scenario uses a spatial metaphor and elements from the game world. It has two parts to it:



View a room where five doors can be seen. The DOORS are marked FTP, WEB, MOO, LIFT and EXIT.
Activity the user can enter one of the doors to start an activity.
On-line-help beside the Exit door there is a picture which gives access to a short explanation of the room and tips to navigate through the game.

The FTP room

Overall activity goal be able to use an FTP application to download and upload files from the TECFA server.
1 copy a file within the same media
2 copy a file from one computer to another
3 login to a remote computer
4 copy and retrieve files to the remote computer
5 list and use other FTP commands
6 navigate in the TECFA file system

The WEB room

Overall activity goal Be able to use a WEb browser to find information in the TECFA server
1 open a book and find a page of information
2 follow references inside a book to find other pages of information
3 find information on another book (URL concept)
4 follow dynamic links inside the same WEB server
5 follow dynamic links on a remote site
6 retrieve pages of information from the TECFA WEB server
7 find shareware and retrieve it with the web browser.

The MOO room

Overall activity goal Be able to move in the MOO space and use the most important commands.
1 Learn the basic moo comands by hart. This is done in an Authorware flash-card stack. The user gets his moo password, when he has achieved enough moo-ledge.
3 Access the MOO, go to a certain place and ask a robot some information.
4 Access the moo. Create your own home. Dig from there an access to a hidden room and read there some information from a note.
5 Read information about certain things in the moo (who, audit, exam, finger).

The EXIT room

View A room with a locked door.
Activity Fill in a questionnaire that asks all information gathered in the play. According to the number of information gathered during the game, the user receives a diploma of «talented surfer in the TECFA server» or a feedback on the activities which still need to be revised by the user.
On-line-help on the wall the user finds a picture. By clicking on it the user receives a short explanation on how to fill in the questionnaire.



A normal lift with a panel showing the attainable floors

  • FTP floor (port 25), goes to the home of the player.
  • WEB floor (port 80), goes to the root of the Web-Server.
  • MOO floor (port 7777), goes to the root of the TECFA MOO.
  • WEB-MOO floor (port 7778) goes to the root of the MOO reachable via the WEB.
Activity Press the button corresponding to the floor to attain. From the lift you have stairs leading down to the subdirectories.
On-line-help beside the Panel the user finds a picture. By clicking on the picture a general overview and short explanations about the different floors can be seen.

The Dungeon

The Dungeon is meant to be an online help for the user. It's goal is to let the user explore in a more real live way the technical construction plan of a web site. There are no specific tasks to be performed here. But: The representation of the underground places changes realistically corresponding to the tasks performed in the play.

As he or she can walk through different rooms he or she establishes a spatial representation of the building plan of a web site like the TECFA server.

The TECFA discovery is an Authorware piece, so it is running locally on the user's PC. Therefore the user is not stressed by the coast of online time. He has all the time he needs to explore the server. Also he can not do any harm when trespassing the server's directories.

See documentation and script of this part of the authorware piece for details

FTP floor (private FTP) The user starts in his personal home. From there he or she can walk up to the root of the server or down to the Web-Places, where he is directed to his work directory. He finds some general information about the rooms he walks through. As he does not have to navigate by the mean of any operating system he or she can accomplish this task easily. Clicking on a button corresponding to an operating system, such as MAC, WINDOWS, UNIX, prompts the user information about the way he would navigate through directories in the chosen operating system.
FTP floor (public FTP) The user starts in the pub directory. From there he or she can walk down to find the most important software tresures of TECFA.
He/she gets also information on where the pub directory is actually located.
WEB floor Using this port you do not see the stairs, because a highlighted information panel (WELCOME.HTML) hides the rooms behind. You do not see the doors, except the door leading up to the next floor. In the root of the TECFA web server, you do not see the way up that you have come before by FTP. You only get the information, that you are at the same place you could also reach by FTP and that the WWW root and the FTP root need not be the same directory of a computer.
You can enter «http://tecfa.unige.ch/»-type adresses in a browser-like adress-field. Then it may happens that you get into a directory without WELCOME.HTML. In this case you see the doors down and a browser-like view of what there is in the current directory.

Online help

During every activity the user finds on-line instructions and receives appropriate feedback.


Project implementation

Authorware 3.5 has been used to implement parts of the scenario for the project. We have tried to create a graphical interface to build a game environment for the user. Most of the graphical elements in the interface, including the navigation tools, are not declared explicitly so to leave the space for a certain degree of exploration. In the development of the interface we have taken care to maintain a degree of consistency in the use of the graphical elements and in their meaning. For example the "cross" cursor is used to access a zone where to find help in a form of a text explanation, while the cursor "pointing hand" is always used to enter or open an object.

We also tried to keep a consistent overall look and feel of the interface. For example, the fact of presenting text throughout the interface via the image of an ancient scroll, combines with the idea of the dungeon to present the filing structure.

The implementation of the interface suffers from the limitations of the graphical tools used and of the authoring package. It could have resulted in a better effect if more advanced tools had been used like, for example, VRML which we are not currently able to master.   

Download the implementation of Tecfa Discovery

Of the Tecfa Discovery scenario, only a few parts have been implemented.

The Entry to the Tecfa Discovery game can be downloaded as follows:

The Dungeon part can be downloaded as follows:
A PowerPoint Presentation of Tecfa Discovery can be downloaded as follows:



The system logs the users final results (in the Exit room). STAF teachers would have a feedback on the students performance in the proposed activities. This information could be useful in the preparation of the STAF10 course.

Antonella Krige revised 17.3.98, Hanspeter Heeb, revised 17.3.98