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Alex Radu for AWS Community Builders

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First impressions of the new AWS Cloud Quest: Cloud Practitioner adventure

What is AWS Cloud Quest and who is it for?

In the middle of last month, March 2022, AWS announced two new free initiatives for upskilling yourself in building foundational cloud skills. AWS Cloud Quest: Cloud Practitioner is one of the two and it is a game-based role-playing experience. Its target audience are new to cloud and early career learners and aims to teach you cloud computing concepts through quest completion, interaction with NPCs (Non-Player Characters) and collecting gems after completing the challenges. It comprises of 12 challenges from cloud essentials to highly available apps and cover the foundational elements anyone needs to know when starting out on their learning journey with AWS and cloud.

In my role I need to be up to speed with the offering of cloud learning courses and experiences, so I thought I'll give it a try and see how it performs! In the next sections I'll cover 4 main areas in terms of interface and world (it is a game after all), content and quests (how does the knowledge align with the game), user interaction and performance (how does the system and environment perform) and learning experience (how effective is it in teaching cloud concepts and practice). Followed by an overall summary of the review and recommendation compared to some other AWS free education programs.

Interface and world

To get started, let's look at the interface and world. The overall look and feel reminds me of Sims and those retro feel games, but brings quite a few surprise elements like a giant gorilla the first time you land in the city. The character creation interface and process is a little bit clunky and choice of customisation decent, but a little limited for my liking. For an educational game though, I'd say it performs decently in the category.

An example of the name selection interface post character creation and my new learner badge below:

Game interface screen with a female character wearing a skirt and blouse to the right, with an employee badge saying unicorn to the far right and a name selection input window on the left of the screen saying "Welcome to the team!"

Content and quests

Once your character is ready and you picked an available name for your badge, you get dropped into the virtual game world and the adventure begins. The city map is pretty vast and has quite a few different elements, including a gorilla and giraffe that you see as soon as you arrive, you have a hoverboard to move around and there are plenty of NPCs around to give you work to do. The dialogue keeps it casual but also technical, especially when getting your quests!

Some example screens below with the city map and dialogue when receiving my first quest:

Bird's eye view image of the Cloud Quest city map from above

Street level introductory screen of the character and with a gorilla and giraffe on the pavement of the virtual city

User interaction and performance

In terms of the interaction with the characters around the city, that was actually one of the better parts of the gameplay and seemed to go a bit smoother than the actual quest elements interaction and performance. The dialogue to get my first quest was easy to navigate, the interface clear and pointing you to exactly what to do to advance and what you would need to do to complete the challenge successfully as well as what services and learning you will need in the process.

Quest starting screen with two characters on each side of the screen presenting the challenge summary and introductions

Unfortunately, after this is where it all went downhill for me a little. Once I collected the quest it was time to get down to do the work and complete it, and for that I had to go to the Solution Center. What is the Solution Center you ask? Well it is the hands-on lab and learning environment that is mostly where you do the building of your foundational cloud skills. Having previous experience with AWS, I still went through the steps and motions to see what the learning experience would be like for my less-experienced peers, and unfortunately, this is where it didn't quite make the cut for me performance, interaction and time wise, when compared with the more traditional AWS digital training.

Image welcoming the player to the Solution Center and having a NPC on the left hand side in the frame

When you come to the Solution Center to build the solution and complete the quest, you have 4 steps you need to go through:

  1. Learn
  2. Plan
  3. Practice
  4. DIY

1. Learn

In the learn section you can interact with a diagram of the solution you build and can watch videos of the concepts and services that you will use. I must admit, the diagram was really helpful and gets new to cloud learners used to the concept of solution or architecture diagrams as well as explain what the services are.

Image for the Learn step including a solution diagram for the AWS S3 bucket to host a static webpage and video learning available on the left hand side

The less great part of this step was the fact that the videos were completely frozen for me, and I could only listen to the voice of the presenter without the visual help. This wasn't that great for myself as I am a visual learner and prefer to have a graphical support when studying new concepts. It might have been a glitch or due to lag, potentially.

Image of the video concepts screen with a list of video categories on the left and the main player on the right

2. Plan

In the plan section you will use the architecture diagram to creatively come up with the solution for the challenge. I must admit that being a static website on S3, I didn't really put my heart into this step as much as a new to cloud person might.

3. Practice

Now this alongisde DIY was my favorite part of the learning, in terms of concept but had major difficulties with the lag and performance aspect. Something that would have taken me 5 minutes to do on my along, took about 30 due to the glitchy interface, buttons not registering clicks or scrolls or the screen loading time being very slow, one of my co-workers gave it a go as well as I wanted to see if there was something wrong with my account or connection but it seemed to be as bad for them as well.

Image of the practice lab section with instructions on the left hand side and the slide interface on the right

Now the lab was great, they supply the files and steps to help you go through it as well as time bound lab account to use, so you have everything set for your practice! The instructions and explanations were really clear and I think probably the most valuable part of the whole quest is in the Solution Center. If it wasn't for the slowness and glitchy controls, I would have scored this exceptional for learners. I did manage to finish it in close to half an hour with all the delays though and could move on to the DIY section.

Image of the congratulations on finishing the practice section of the lab

4. DIY

The last section of the Solution Center experience is the DIY, this is where you get a challenge to solve based on the practice lab you just completed. For the first quest, it is to change the name of the index file, which is not too complex even for beginners! I also like that it allows you to stretch yourself a bit from the start and give you more confidence in solving issues going forward.

Image with the DIY challenge and success response once completing it

Learning experience

Once you completed your solution steps and finalized the quest, you can go back to the NPC who gave you the task to complete it. I really like the achievement building part of it as well as the integration of resources in the Solution Center to allow for a blended learning model, from reading, architecture diagrams, video concept lessons and finally, hands-on lab practice using AWS, it was really well thought out. Now, are the slowness and delays worth it, that's debatable, as someone with more experience you might feel like it is a bit cumbersome, but as a new to cloud learner that might be totally worth it as you feel you can take your time. The performance might also improve as the initiative is live and they can improve on it with the user input and feedback, so could be worth coming back to it in a few weeks.

Image with a congratulations screen for completing cloud computing essentials and rewards

I think I would definitely appreciate the Solution Center approach even without the gamified experience, but if the goal is to have you go through a series of quest and different quests, from practitioner to specialist and more, like the certifications, I can see why it is cool to have an integrated game-like world to do this in. The fun little easter eggs are also great, I got to pick my own personalized type of lighthouse to add to the city after completing the quest, so who am I to refuse that!

Image of an in-game screenshot with a lighthouse on the shore and fireworks above it, next to a beach and promenade

Overall thoughts and review

I think AWS Cloud Quest: Cloud Practitioner is a good start for AWS in exploring diversified and gamified cloud learning experiences. I know AWS have committed to invest in providing free cloud computing skills training to 29 million people by 2025, so I think this might be a good avenue for them to use when reaching out to early career and skills learners interested in cloud computing. I have submitted my feedback on the experience, especially in terms of the performance, control response and lag overall affecting users' enjoyment and learning journey, so hope to see some improvements in the following months! I think if you have the time and interest in game-like learning, this is definitely worth it, although for more time-conscious and traditional learning fans, I would still recommend the AWS Digital Training and Skillbuilder resources as a more straightforward and concise experience!

Top comments (5)

perty profile image
Per Lundholm

The only thing frustrating, besides the buttons, was that it ended after 12 assignments. The city looks so much larger so it give the impression that there will be more chapters.

You can go drone hunting ofc and try find pets.

alexandrammr profile image
Alex Radu

Yeah, I think they're probably planning to add more quests for more certs as they develop them, hence why the city seems so big maybe?

kewapa profile image

Thanks for your review - I have been playing around in Cloud Quest and have managed to bridge gaps in my knowledge. Can I ask what is the second initiative that AWS launched? I have accessed Cloud Quest through the skillbuilder (where I foolishly attempted to learn Well Architected before the foundations!), have they launched something else in the Skillbuilder?

alexandrammr profile image
Alex Radu

Hey @kewapa the second one is the relaunch for AWS Educate, you can find more information on that program here 😊

On the Skillbuilder you can find a variety of courses, especially for foundations or practitioner, if you are looking for foundational materials I recommend the Cloud Foundations Learning Plan

Hope these help!

kewapa profile image

Thank you Alex! I will definitely check it out- I think it might help me solidify some of the knowledge I am building.