Scenario-driven Interactive Graphic Novel style elearning

Hey all,

I'm embarking on the project of a lifetime...well, my lifetime anyway. As the title suggests I'm building an interactive graphic novel. While there are many tools available to build such a thing, my goal is to completely build it in Storyline.

The entire course will be hand-drawn to include the overall player and navigational elements. I have several ideas sketched out on how I may approach the player, but I'm looking for ideas for player navigation. This will be running directly off a website so no concern about SCORM or an LMS as it's an informative/awareness course than tracking compliance. We're going to build a companion for the iPad but I'll be building that in a different tool.

So, let the ideas flow! Forget about the NEXT button. Forget about anything you know about traditional elearning navigation. How would you approach a design if you were navigating through a graphic novel style scenario?

46 Replies
Kevin Thorn

Hey Daniel! Great list!

Thanks for all these. I'm familiar with a few of them. "Bottom of the Ninth" is probably my favorite (until I look at the others you shared), and following that style a bit. We're not doing any animations but we are incorporating animatic movement such as fading in and fading out poses and expressions from one static image to another.

Some of the early testing is proving very successful!

On a side note: Just received confirmation from the client that I can share this as a case study and development process along the way as the final piece will be open to the public. Look for a new article on my blog next week!

Tracy Parish

I'd be interested to know if "adults" like just clicking to see what happens?  From my perspective, when I sit down with someone younger and we go through a story that has clicking/interaction to get more info about the items within and/or the overall story, it's often fun just to click everything to see what happens.  The fact that I click a bird and it flys away (period) can also be entertaining.  It makes the reader/learner want to explore every object on the screen.  Some may do nothing, some are there just for entertainment value, some for further information, and some to continue the story/learning.


Do adults enjoy the task of having to click and explore pieces that are only there for entertainment value?  I'd hope yes, but I suspect no.  Meaning I'm a big kid I suppose.


Kevin Thorn

Tracy, I think you answered your own question. YOU enjoyed it. Last I checked, you're an adult.

Aside from theory, everyone likes the ability to self-explore. To discover. In certain genres in the video game industry the main attraction is the ability to freely make choices to learn more to move the story along. 

Ex: Get a key to open a door. Talk to wizard for a clue where to find a key. Need bag of coins to ride a boat to an island where the key is located. Accomplish tasks and challenges to earn a bag of coins. Need potion to trade for key. Fight or find potion. On and on... The story moves along but the player (insert audience) is able to explore to learn more about the story.

Part of my design will be deliberate exploration. Meaning, you don't need to learn about the characters and read their bios in order to progress. It's just there. However, there are other specific scene-related opportunities to provide additional information to discover to get a deeper meaning of that scene and the character's that exchange dialog.

Ryan Martin

I agree with Kevin. But I'd also make sure I'm taking a peek at data, research, or successful examples out there.

Of course the data is out there (regarding Tracy's point). I'm too busy to research it now. But I would if this was my project, just to confirm or steer my thinking (if what I'm doing is really new to me).

As far as examples. I'd look at a few successful (big money) games or digital comics. If I'm mimic'ing these examples (from a user experience perspective) I feel pretty safe that my experience won't be too bad.

A lot of games (and movies) are mash-ups of already proven & successful formula's.

In the end. It's about user testing. Best to have it scheduled early.

Kevin Thorn

Spot on, Ryan!

I've probably read/played more interactive comic stories/books in the past month than I did when I was 10 years old!

All as part research and part looking for different "styles" that might fit what the client is asking for in terms of interactivity and navigation. As for art style, that's another research project and after a few contenders we settled on the style of Alex Toth, Alex was a master at American comics in its hey day in the 40s-60s. Best known for his character development and animations for Hanna-Barbera in the 60s. Space Ghost was one I remember as a kid.

His early style art is what we're going for. 

Alex Toth art gallery

Alex Toth Wikipedia

I really like Operation: Ajax by Cognito Comics. The art style is similar to Toth. The coloring techniques fit. And the subtle animatic movement of panels and characters coupled with good background loops and sfx make for an excellent experience!

All that is to say by closely copying successful interactive comics and how they look/feel and navigate (aside from being on an iPad), I going down a path I think we're safe. As for user testing, that's schedule mid first of March.

Maya Speights

I'm a Sim fanatic, completely did not notice how functional that selection interaction is until reading this thread.  DUH!  Thanks Steve, or should I say Kumenshnuma.

Maya Speights

Thank you.  Grill Cheese came straight from the Sims.  I tested it on a few corporate managers and they actually liked it.  I am thinking this is something you could get away with in a corporate training environment.  The non illustrated character seems to be acceptable as long as I keep the facial expressions within corporate boundaries i.e., you wouldn't stick your tongue out at a manager, etc.  This thread has been wonderful in assisting me with thinking outside the box and exploring different capabilities within Storyline. 

Your project is absolutely amazing, hoping you can share a snippet when it's closer to completion.

Tom Kuhlmann

The panel is pretty cool. I have a similar mock up for a demo where people can interview characters. Funny, I used the folder thing, too. I guess the folder-desktop look is starting to get a bit popular for elearning.

I know it's just a mock up, but on the navigation, I'd leave the folder open after the first character. If the click a new character it just swaps out the info. if they close the folder, it also closes the character panel.

Really look forward to the evolution of your project.

Kevin Thorn

Hey Tom,

Yeah, funny how certain trends evolve. I see a new trend in this sort of graphic novel storytelling approach, too. 

I like your suggestion about the character panel navigation. Does seem redundant to reload the folder each time. I've moved into scene development now as that whole side panel thing is getting reworked to accommodate other access points. Plus, our characters have changed since that mock-up.

Hoping to have an updated prototype to share later this week. If not, early next week.

Kevin Thorn

We hit a few stumbling blocks in the last couple weeks. The biggie was around the characters and not getting an official sign-off of their look/feel before moving to production. Big lesson learned as well as managing client expectations. 

This project is stretching the typical elearning project management practices to the limits.

Anyway, if you'uns are interested, I just published a new blog post > Serious Comic – Character Development II

Kevin Thorn

Thanks L Kieth. I am so hoping to get another opportunity to do another project like this as I've learned a massive amount in how to blend a true sequential storytelling comic into an instructional awareness piece. So much more to consider, plan for, and manage than a typical elearning course.

My next post is on audio recording, music, and sound effects. Another wealth of lessons learned there, too.

Kyla Lacey-Davidson

Thanks for keeping us in the loop with this Kevin! We are going to be reproducing/recreating our Induction materials this year and this could be a really great way to take people through some of that information... Though with a much smaller budget! I'll be grabbing hold of all of the lessons you've learned throughout this process!

Darlene Sagolili

Hi all - visiting this discussion three years later, so hopefully someone can help.  I'm very interested in using the layered comic effect for a project I'm working on - it's for a Privacy compliance module where I would like to present the concepts in a  "backwards storyline".  E.g. Opening scenario: a privacy breach has occurred on a patient's file... then work back through the timeline to find the points of potential breach - a little like unraveling a mystery.  I didn't want to use real people with bad acting or "bubbly" animated characters... but something more "serious" as you would find in the modern comic genre (e.g. NARR8, Operation Ajax) etc.  Does anyone know of any applications that can help me create that effect and that would import into Articulate?  NARR8 has a story builder but not sure if it's exportable.  I'm not an illustrator, so I can't draw images from scratch (and of course, and pretty much no budget).

This was a great discussion as I learned and discovered so many new things.  Any advice or information would be appreciated!