IDEA: “QTTN” Puzzles (Quest to the Native)
I must preface this post by saying that I am not a big fan of the G-U competitions, I think that the G-U competitions are too much like “keep busy” work - merely something to keep us players occupied during the long weeks between labs (the main attraction of EteRNA); and that there is little point to them beyond achieving the purley artificial goal of creating the most G-U’s in a puzzle. One would never design a Lab Submission using the maximum number of G-U’s ; so, for this reason, it seems to me to not be a practical, valuable skill to develop in terms of the ultimate future goals of EteRNA.
Ok, that being said, back to the point of this post on New Types of Puzzles.
I would like to see a new type of puzzle which has practical, real-world training value for the kinds of Labs that EteRNA is aiming for in the long term (the kinds of things written about in the “Where are we Going?” section of the “About EteRNA” page).
And in pursuit of that goal, I think it is time to finally seriously implement (as soon as possible), Bug Tracker Item #269 (Create a Gallery of Native RNA molecules in EteRNA Game Format for players to study).
I believe that the implementation of this idea would segue nicely into this whole discussion of “New Types of Puzzles”, as I am about to put forth and explain…
The MAIN idea is this:
Create a new type of puzzle called (as in Fold-it), a “QTTN” Puzzle (Quest to the Native).
I envision this as a puzzle where the correct solution will be either the exact native configuration, or within a pre-determined range (in number of correct bases) - of that perfect native - (or, in order to facilitate “levels of Play”, within successively closer ranges to that native configuration).
Perhaps as an adjunct to this idea, there could also even be two or more “alternate target folds”, that the player could choose from in order to more closely approach the specifications given for the native? (I think this part of the idea may only be possible with some significant interface updates, but it just occurred to me as an interesting addition)
This QTTN idea would pretty much necessitate the immediate co-implementation of the above-mentioned #269 Native RNA Gallery Item in the Tracker, so that players could begin to familiarize themselves with how things are similar or different in native configurations - from the puzzle configurations everyone is used to seeing, and begin to internalize whatever kinds of “do’s” or “don’ts” they are able to extrapolate from studying these native formations.
It might also mean an “unlearning” of habits that were valid and useful (or at least accepted and not penalized) in our artificially devised puzzles, but which are perhaps not appropriate - or even workable - for “Native RNA Configuration Quests." (such as leaving long stretches of consecutive Adenines in loops… Does this ever really happen in nature? I honestly do not know but I seriously suspect not).
Once the Native Gallery is up, and players have had a chance to study it, the Devs could begin to offer some small, easy QTTN Puzzle Challenges, and progressively get more and more complex in order to break into it gently, and get players up to speed on it, incorporating whatever lessons we were able to derive from the “Eterna Game Version Gallery of Native Folds.”
This idea is actually very much like the idea jee already proposed in the opening of this Get-Sat post; just a much more specialized case of it with more far-reaching goals and implications, and a much more definite description and composition. It would also represent a quantum leap (in my estimation) of the relevance of EteRNA Game Puzzles to the eventual stated goals of the EteRNA Project, by advancing Player’s RNA folding education and experience away from the current somewhat artificially constructed puzzles, and more toward “real-world” RNA molecule emulation and construction within the EteRNA Game Framework.
Having this New Puzzle Idea tied to “Native” RNA’s is, I believe a necessary key factor to really stimulate player interest. I think Players are here at EteRNA largely out of a desire to not only have their gaming efforts benefit Science, but to be able to clearly see HOW, and I think that changing the goal and focus of a Puzzle Type Series to sucessfully figuring out Real Native RNA Folds would go a long way toward capturing Players’ imaginations and re-kindling their interest and excitement about being a part of the EteRNA Experiment.
I believe there is a real hunger for this more advanced type of gameplay amongst the player community, and that implementing this idea wil reveal it.
Here are some of the advantages of this Idea that I percieve at this early stage: (I’m sure others will think of more as we get further into the discussion)
It will begin to educate players in a “real” practical skill - that of learning how to recognize and assemble RNA structures according to Real RNA found in Nature. (I believe this element of “realism” , or at least a more visible connection to “real” Rna Folds will prove to provide a significant boost to player interest and involvement)
It will pique player interest in a way that an artificial challenge (like G-U competitions) never can or will, and avoid the unintended “negative” effect that the G-U puzzles have begun to create: The feeling that the activity has no “Point” beyond itself (see Berex’s recent post regarding this feeling of “pointlessness”).
It will better prepare the players for the eventual more advanced project goals mentioned in the “Where are we Going?” section of the “About EteRNA” page.
It will offer Players who excel in QTTN challenges a new path to recognition in the greater EteRNA community at large, and perhaps, even if they are new players, significantly increase their chances of getting synthesized in Lab, where currently, many extremely talented new unknowns languish in relative obscurity and growing frustration.
It will make players feel more like they are really learning something of value beyond just becoming good at a stimulating mental exercise; it will connect PURPOSE much more solidly with game techniques, and with game achievements.
In fact, I can even envision this kind of “QTTN” puzzle possibly becoming a sort of “Master’s Level Program” of EteRNA Game Play Education and Lab Preparation, with all the current puzzles assuming a more basic preparatory role.
The Lab, of course will remain the Centerpiece of EteRNA Goals and Efforts, for which all the other activities are preparatory, skill-honing devices, but this new kind of challenge could even conceivably come to occupy a kind of pinnacle position among EteRNA preparatory puzzles – perhaps even elevating lab skills of acknowledged top players.
I hope the Devs and Players alike can find value in this idea, and that ideas for specifics of actual implementation can begin to be discussed as well as ideas for improvements, and solutions for any possible implementation difficulties which may arise.
Thanks, and Best Regards,