Loss of motivation is one of the most prominent concerns in programming education as it negatively impacts time dedicated to practice, which is crucial for novice programmers. Of the distinct techniques introduced in the literature to engage students, gamification, is likely the most widely explored and fruitful. Game elements that intrinsically motivate students, such as graphical feedback and game-thinking, reveal more reliable long-term positive effects, but those involve significant development effort. This paper proposes a game-based assessment environment for programming challenges, built on top of a specialized framework, in which students develop a program to control the player, henceforth called Software Agent (SA). During the coding phase, students can resort to the graphical feedback demonstrating how the game unfolds to improve their programs and complete the proposed tasks. This environment also promotes competition through competitive evaluation and tournaments among SAs, optionally organized at the end by the teacher. Moreover, the validation of the effectiveness of Asura in increasing undergraduate students’ motivation and, consequently, the practice of programming is reported.
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