Design Reflection: QUO

Posted by arussell31 on Friday May 2, 2014 Under Blogpost Assignments, Design Reflection

QUO is a game on a 2D collaborative platform where the goal is to reunite a scientist (player 1) and explorer (player 2). While they are exploring ancient ruins their time machine breaks and the scientist is sent to the past while the explorer is left in the future with the time machine. The only issue is the time machine can only send things to the past because the power source isn’t working. The two must work together to get through obstacles and find the power source to fix their time machine. Once this is done the two will be reunited in the present day.

There are several aspects that went into developing the game. We needed to consider the interactions between the players and if it was even possible to implement some of the actions. The best way we were able to approach these issues was through play testing. This allowed us to take advantage of Iterative Design (Zimmerman). Iterative design is when developers reinvent the way the game is played based on previous developments. After each play test we received positive comments and constructive criticism. Using this feedback allowed us to change our game mechanic to best fit the users. One criticism we received was that players did not understand what buttons needed to be pressed, or who was in the past or future. We fixed this issue by adding the cut scene and dereasing the number of buttons a player needed to press to navigate the game. Zimmerman said creating game is “a design methodology based on a cyclic process of prototyping, testing, analyzing, and refining a work in progress.”  we definitely discovered it is easy to come up with an idea and  hypothetically implement it but actually implementing ideas and creating a flawless game mechanic is a different story. Through these play tests and iterative design we were able to achieve a better game mechanic.

Lazarro talks about four different types of fun. They are easy, hard, serious, and people fun. Easy fun comes from exploration and creativity. Hard fun comes from overcoming challenges and achieving goals. Serious fun is when a player feels excitement over changing the environment and players. People fun is created through competition and cooperation with other users. Our game used serious and hard fun to give the user a sense of people fun. Users can change the environment to affect their own world or the other users world. They must also overcome obstacles to reach their goal of finding the power source. Through these two aspects of our game we have created an environment where the user feels “people fun” because in order to be successful the players must work together by changing their environment to overcome obstacles. For example, There is one moment in our game where the scientist is stuck at the bottom of a ledge, but the explorer is physically able to move on. If the explorer chooses to move on he will find that there will be obstacles later in the game that he cannot get through without the scientist there to change the environment. This then forces the explorer to help the scientist and vice versa. While the game was not created for “easy fun” AKA exploration and creativity, it is possible for a player to explore the environment and there are a few solutions to some of the obstacles so the user is able to get creative.

I was in charge of the background art and the item text that pops up when a player picks something up. The biggest challenge of this task was making sure my art matched the art of my other team mates. It can be difficult to make the work of several different artists look like it was made by one person. The idea of creating text popups was an idea that came after users were having trouble what to do with items or when they reached an obstacle. We used the popups to let users know the capabilities of each item and the necessary actions to get over an obstacle. For instance, there is a pillar that is fallen over in the game. If I was playing the game I would not assume that I could use it as a ramp without some sort of indication. We added a popup that appears when the user gets near the fallen pillar that hints they can use it as a ramp. We used visual affordances such as these popups and a cut scene to help the user perceive what we want them to do. It is important to give the user some guidance throughout the game without outright saying what the solution to an obstacle is. (Norman) This balance was delicate, but eventually we came up with game interactions that make it easier for players to know what to do.

Overall I feel like we successfully implemented our game and I enjoyed the whole process. I definitely believe the cut scene was a necessary and interesting addition to the game. It told the back story and helped the users understand what to do during the game. Before we implemented this idea users were easily confused and the game play became somewhat disorganized and unsuccessful. After it was implemented we realized the class liked our game much more because they understood the point and game mechanic.

SOURCES:

Lazarro, N. & Keeker, K. (2004). “What’s My Method? A Game Show on Games.” In CHI 2004 Conference Proceedings, April 2004. http://www.xeodesign.com/whatsmymethod.pdf

Lazzaro, N. (2004-2005) “Why We Play Games: Four Keys to More Emotion Without Story.” Self-published
white paper. www.xeodesign.com/whyweplaygames.html

Norman, D.A. (2004). “Affordances and design.” http://www.jnd.org/dn.mss/affordances_and.html

Zimmerman, E. (2003). “Play as research: The iterative design process.” http://ericzimmerman.com/files/texts/Iterative_Design.htm

Tags : | Comments Off

Virtual Worlds and MMOGs several pros, cons, similarities and differences. Two games that really encompass the qualities of MMOGs and Virtual Worlds are World of Warcraft and Second Life. World of Warcraft is an MMOG where the user can interact with NPC’s as well as other players. Players must complete conquests and fight monsters. Second Life is a Virtual World where users have tools to build things. Users interact with other users and can participate in activities or build their own objects just for fun. Both games add a social aspect to gaming which allows for a completely different type of game play. Personally I liked playing Second Life better because it game me more freedom to do what I wanted and I was able to become more immersed in it. This could be because most females like the social aspect it brings to gaming and WOW has missions that include violence which is somewhat of a deterrent for women. While I may like Second Life better, both MMOGs and Virtual Worlds have several pros and cons to their type of game play. Below I explore these elements further.

PROS:

MMOGs and Virtual Worlds have created productive game play. Players can play by producing their own entertainment media. It has transformed the way the games are played and the lines between work and leisure are blurred. Second Life is a great example of this because the user can build objects. It is a game play that exercises a users creativity and problem solving skills while they build objects and interact with other players. (Pearce)

Players have the opportunity to create an environment that matches their preference. Of course developers make the game with a certain game play and environment feel in mind, but players can somewhat custom make their environment based on what they do in the game.

While playing these two games I was able to become more immersed in the game because the game play is not as right and I can interact with the environment and others. The actions of the other players were not necessarily to serve a purpose because the other players are still figuring out what to do. When playing another type of game I’ll approach a character and they’ll only give me the information I need and I’ll have a fairly controlled set of lines to say. It doesn’t feel as real, but interacting with real people allows me to feel like the character is part of me. This is because people are interacting with people in an environment influenced by people instead of a computer. (Taylor)

CONS:

“It gets compounded by the fact that when you’re dealing with a virtual world, something that’s live like this, and you put it out there you no longer have the luxury of tearing things out and redeveloping them cause they’re already there.” (Taylor, 27) Developers have to very gradually implement change and even then its difficult because people get attached to the way the game used to work.

Unfortunately sexual harassment is more common in games like this because of the element of anonymity while still having the ability to be social. (Dibbell) It is a problem that is difficult to control since it is hard to change a game once it has been launched. Since it is a social and fairly anonymous environment it is easy for users to say and do unorthodox things without the guilt or responsibility that comes with it. There is also the issue of balancing free speech and avoiding harassment that the developers must consider. Developers of LambdaMOO have been working on a way to properly punish players for harassment. Some of the punishments include expulsion from the game or having powers taken away. (Mnookin)

COMPARISON:

Virtual Worlds provide an environment for the user to create his or her own story and the game play is a bit more flexible. While playing Second Life I was able to doddle around and do pretty much what I wanted. The game is more fun and meaningful to most people when they interact with other players. MMOGs have a goal that needs to be reached but the user can still explore the environment and interact with others. If I chose to do nothing while playing WOW I would feel less satisfied in the game and question the point of it. It does allow for exploration and interaction between users, but the story line is more linear than Second Life.

Games like this are different than other games because they have a social aspect to them. ”I spent so much time expressing myself as her and interacting with people as her. And that’s one of those things of course, as you develop your relationships with people as your online avatar you understand that they generally relate to you as your online avatar and not as you the person.” (Taylor)

WORKS CITED:

Dibbell, Julian. (1993/1998). “A Rape in Cyberspace.” http://www.juliandibbell.com/texts/bungle.html

Mnookin, J. (1996) Virtual(ly) “Law: The Emergence of Law in LambdaMOO.” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication: Volume 2, Number 1: Part 1 of a Special Issue, June, 1996.http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/enhanced/doi/10.1111/j.1083-6101.1996.tb00185.x/

Pearce, C. (2006). “Productive Play: Game Culture from the Bottom Up.” Games & Culture. Volume 1, Issue 1, Winter 2006. http://lcc.gatech.edu/~cpearce3/PearcePubs/PearceGC-Jan06.pdf

Taylor, T.L. (2003). “Multiple Pleasures: Women and Online Gaming,” Convergence, Vol. 9, No.1, 21-46, Spring 2003. http://lcc.gatech.edu/~cpearce3/CourseReadings/TaylorMultiplePleasures.pdf

Taylor, T.L. (2003). “Intentional Bodies: Virtual Environments and the Designers Who Shape Them.” International Journal of Engineering Education 19, no. 1. www.itu.dk/~tltaylor/papers/Taylor-Designers.pdf

Tags : | Comments Off

Design Reflection: Hotel Potemkin

Posted by mvogel6 on Thursday Apr 24, 2014 Under Design Reflection

Here I’ll outline some of the design choices that the Hotel Potemkin team (D’Miria Collins, Devon Cryts, Yan Zhang, Alvina Atmadja, and myself – also known as team #sochiproblems) made while creating our game, as well as the reasoning behind these design choices.

The Unity game engine gives creators access to a multitude of affordances – and, correspondingly, a great number of actions that the designer can allow the player to take. Despite this, we decided to limit the ways that the player can interact with the world: the core mechanic is simply to walk around and click on objects, thereby either picking them up or examining them to hear voiceover narrations play. We followed the convention of WASD keyboard controls and mouse viewfinding, with left-click mapped to “activate” – the only real “action” the player can take.

This brings me to a design choice that reveals something interesting and problematic about the nature of conventions: we got the suggestion, partway through development, to switch the WASD controls from typical first-person-shooter forward-backward-left-strafe-right-strafe to so-called “tank controls,” in which A and D are mapped to rotate view left and rotate view right. In theory, this mapping is arbitrary (just as words – “signifiers,” in semiotics – are only arbitrarily connected to what they signify). WASD controls are the offspring of the first-person shooter genre, having become the norm when Quake and QuakeWorld made them part and parcel of competitive play, and they have since bled into many other genres, including ones from over-the-shoulder third-person-perspective games and games with overhead views. On top of the arbitrariness of the scheme (discounting the iconic relation of the “backward” key being lower of the keyboard, and so on), there further is no essential reason why the left and right keys should make the player strafe, as opposed to the much more natural walking pattern of changing one’s heading while still moving forward – a control scheme more analogous to “tank controls.”

However, the current WASD scheme is an entrenched convention, and we felt that the game handled less naturally (though of course this “natural” feeling is, ironically, an artificial consequence of arbitrary convention) with tank controls. Here, we took to heart the pragmatism of Donald Norman: “Those who violate conventions, even when they are convinced that their new method is superior, are doomed to fail” (Norman 2004). But if we are concerned about the fact that the typical WASD scheme forfeits being true-to-life (i.e. the way people actually walk and run) in favor of controls that allow players to kill enemies more efficiently (i.e. strafing), how can we expect this convention ever to change? Each designer is trapped in a prisoner’s dilemma – to pervert the term just a little – in that designers can screw themselves over by flouting a convention, even if it might be in everyone’s interest for that convention to be less hard-and-fast.

Our concession was the one made by many games with the WASD layout: the arrow keys offer the “tank” scheme with rotation instead of strafing, and WASD represents what WASD always does. We concluded that this path was the best one after iterating; and our iterations were not just for refining a particular bit of functionality, but rather to do design research, as described in Eric Zimmerman’s article on the iterative design process: “Design is a way to ask questions. Design research, when it occurs through the practice of design itself, is a way to ask larger questions beyond the limited scope of a particular design problem” (Zimmerman 2003).

An example of the result of one of these iterations was the addition of visual feedback shown when the player hovers the cursor over an interactable object in the game. User testing showed us that it wasn’t always clear when an item could be interacted with, or already had been interacted with or picked up; this is a serious problem for users, because as Lazzaro and Keeker note, much like productivity software, “game challenges require clear and consistent feedback” (Lazzaro and Keeker, “What’s My Method?”). The user should always know what’s going on unless there is some rhetorical reason they should not.

One further reflection: we tried to achieve a flow and tone somewhere between The Stanley Parable, which was humorous yet stately, Gone Home, which is a much more somber exploration-based game, and the irreverence and fun of games from Blendo Games, such as Gravity Bone and Thirty Flights of Loving. But how could we do that, with the minimal toolbox allowed by our limited amount of time and developing experience? We wanted, in the exploratory vein of Gone Home, to probe: “Is it possible to build emotions into games by adding emotion-producing objects or actions to game play rather than cut scenes?” (Lazzaro “Why We Play Games”). Our game is object-based; although we eventually incorporated non-player characters, they are far from essential to the experience, and the primary experience we sought was one of experiencing a space through the mere stuff lying around, inert and yet full of story, history, and meaning. This approach is not new to Gone Home – games such as Myst and Riven felt out the exploration-based design space, and games have allowed close examination of meaningful objects for decades, although this would often take place in a player’s item inventory, which is something we purposely did not include in our game so as to avoid a cluttered design.

Working on this game was a great pleasure, mostly because my fellow #sochiproblems team members were a delight to work with and consistently open to new ideas and interesting design approaches. The game is an étude – a study – and succeeds handily at that.

 

 

Works Cited

Lazarro, N. & Keeker, K. (2004). “What’s My Method? A Game Show on Games.” In CHI 2004 Conference Proceedings, April 2004. http://www.xeodesign.com/whatsmymethod.pdf

Lazzaro, N. (2004). “Why We Play Games: Four Keys to More Emotion Without Story.” Self-published white paper. http://xeodesign.com/xeodesign_whyweplaygames.pdf

Norman, D.A. (2004). “Affordances and design.” http://www.jnd.org/dn.mss/affordances_and.html

Zimmerman, E. (2003). “Play as research: The iterative design process.” http://ericzimmerman.com/files/texts/Iterative_Design.htm

Tags : | Comments Off

RA LIGHT REFLECTION

Posted by vsueksagan3 on Thursday Apr 24, 2014 Under Design Reflection

RA light is an exciting mummy-themed puzzle game that teaches the player about the properties of light. The game starts when a mummy wakes up from the pyramid after the mummy has been trapped for a long time. The idea of mummy and light puzzles might be something that is completely unexpected, but we like this element of surprise. The RA light is essentially a light based puzzle game. We conclude that we would have three levels in the game. On the first level, the player will explore the reflective property of light by moving mirrors. Then they will move on to the second level where they will have to change the wavelength and frequency of the light. Third level will require the player to combine their knowledge in first and second level to complete the game.  We agree from the very beginning that we want this game to be educational and target towards middle schoolers. The game is educational because we wanted to teach the player about how light reflects and changes frequency and wavelength. We then have to think about different objects that would be appropriate for the game. We decide to add mirrors to allow the user to reflect the light beams in order to solve the puzzle. We also add gems in order to change the frequency and color of the beam from red to blue. We realize from the start that the challenge we have to face when creating an educational game is how to make the game complex but entertaining. In order to create this game, we use the principles that we have learned from Zimmerman, Lazzaro and Norman.

 

Zimmerman states the principle of iterations that,

 

“Iterative design is a design methodology based on a cyclic process of prototyping, testing, analyzing, and refining a work in progress. In iterative design, interaction with the designed system is used as a form of research for informing and evolving a project, as successive versions, or iterations of a design are implemented.”

 

From this statement, we learn that iteration is very important when it comes to creating games. From the very simple concept such as the main character in the game to the complex game mechanics, iterations play a significant role that make the game more polished. THe iterative process begins in the very beginning stage when a team puts out on the whiteboard all of the game mechanics that would be a good fit in the game. Then we followed another Zimmerman’s principle  and listed pros and cons of each game mechanic. We analyze each game mechanic carefully and then refine it to get the best of out the best ones,

“Test; analyze; refine. And repeat. Because the experience of a viewer/user/player/etc cannot ever be completely predicted, in an iterative process design decisions are based on the experience of the prototype in progress. The prototype is tested, revisions are made, and the project is tested once more. In this way, the project develops through an ongoing dialogue between the designers, the design, and the testing audience.” (Zimmerman)”

 

Playtesting also has a pivotal role in the process of creating this game. Norman states that, “…what the designer cares about is whether the user perceives that some action is possible (or in the case of perceived non-affordances, not possible)” (Norman). We have learned what the player likes and does not like through playtesting. The issues that the players have during playtesting sessions are taken into our consideration. For example, the players were having a hard time interacting with objects in the game. Some players complained that some of the pushable mirrors seemed as if they were unpushable. Some did not get the sense that they were moving the objects around the game. We brainstormed and fixed these issues by attaching a base into the mirror to give the sense that it is pushable. We also outstretched the mummy arms for the player to get the sense that they are supposed to move objects around the game.

 

Lazarro states that the concept of “hard fun” often demonstrates the sense of frustration for the player. Therefore, we decide that the level of difficulty will be there but it will not be in the amount that would make the player feel frustrated. As I mentioned above, the challenge of creating an educational game is to make it fun. By “fun”, I mean creating an exciting experience for the player. Lazarro claims that easy fun means that the players would feel curious and intrigued. The environment of the game and the game mechanics play an enormous part to make our game easy fun. We have a dark room with a mysterious music playing along in the game to create a “puzzling” environment. The curiosity and intriguing aspect of the game came from the puzzles that they have to solve. We decide that we will not have an instruction in the beginning of the game because we do not want to be too “obvious”. Overall, we were impressed with the level of difficulty of the game.

 

Another important aspect of the game is the mummy’s gender neutral. As mentioned above, this game gears towards the middle schoolers. We want to have boys and girls to be able to relate to the game. Therefore, we make the mummy as the main character in the game covered in cloth and its arms outstretched forward to push the objects.

In conclusion, with great principles from Zimmerman, Norman, and Lazarro, we are able to create a game that we think everyone would enjoy. Personally, I love the moments when the players have to think about what do they have to do during the playtesting sessions. But what I like even more is when they have an ah-ha moments when they know the answers to the puzzles. I truly believe that this game can be played and enjoyed by everyone, not just middle schoolers.

 

Lazzaro, N. (2004-2005) “Why We Play Games: Four Keys to More Emotion Without Story.” Self-published white paper. www.xeodesign.com/whyweplaygames.html

Norman, D.A. (2004). “Affordances and design.” http://www.jnd.org/dn.mss/affordances_and.html

Zimmerman, E. (2003). “Play as research: The iterative design process.” http://ericzimmerman.com/files/texts/Iterative_Design.htm

Tags : | Comments Off

RA Light develops

Posted by aschneider8 on Thursday Apr 24, 2014 Under Design Reflection

Our group created the game RA Light.  In the game, the player takes on the role of a mummy that has escaped its sarcophagus and is attempting to also escape the tomb.  The player starts the first level next to the opened sarcophagus and proceeds to move from level to level – represented by rooms – by solving puzzles having to do with light, such as reflecting the light into the right place.  The audience focused on middle school students by teaching basic light properties such as reflection and the concept of energy level differing between colors.

The game setting follows around a mummy within his tomb.  We, as a group, opted for a gender neutral representation as a main character.  Though the final game only shows the wrapped hands of the mummy, which shows no favor toward one gender or another, the original character design that included an entire body representation also shown through as gender neutral, since the character is completely wrapped and players could easily assume the character is whatever gender they wanted it to be.  But why did we go to lengths to create a gender neutral character? Well, as Laurel reminds us, “Computer games as we know them were invented by young men…” (Laurel 23).  Game development has always been dominated by males and thus the games were created from a male perspective.  Thus, a gender-neutral character allows for either gender to place themselves into the role of the mummy without considering that it might not be representative of the player.

In addition to the game character, the surroundings were taken into heavy consideration during the creation of the game, but for different reasons. These aspects of the game design were important to me as a model designer.   Norman summarizes my experience when thinking about design in that what was important was “whether the user perceives that some action is possible” (Norman).  For example, the user could move around mirrors in order to reflect a beam of light in the correct direction.  Our original idea was to allow the players to pick up the mirror, which meant that it should be designed to appear light, and have somewhere the character could grab to pick it up. Thus, I decided a skinny pole that the player could justly assume that the mummy could pick up.   Eventually we changed the plan so that the user could no longer pick up the mirror but would instead push it.  Therefore it became imperative that the design gave the user the idea that the mirror was too heavy to pick up, and wide enough to push.  So we mounted the mirror on a thick slab with enough room on the sides for a player to conceivably put both hands on it and push.

I mentioned how we changed the process of moving our mirrors and other puzzle pieces.  This touched on another important aspect of the development of RA Light.  We went through an iterative design process that Zimmerman describes as a “cyclic process of prototyping, testing, analyzing, and refining a work in progress” (Zimmerman). Which meant for us and our game, as Zimmerman later bluntly states, meant lots of playtesting.  As others played our game, we had to refine it. When the player picked up the puzzle pieces, they could not tell how the light was affected by the pieces – which direction would the mirror send the light?  So pushing the pieces meant that the line would always be at the same place on the y-axis as the mirror and the player could see immediately how the current mirror position would affect the light.  General debugging aside, other aspects of the game also needed to be altered after finishing with various rounds of playtesting.   The theme of the game was hard to get across to the player until eventually we got enough game assets that made the player certain that they were a mummy in an Egyptian tomb.  For instance, the mummy’s hands were not part of the initial design but were later deemed necessary since the user got no other chance to decipher what creature they were controlling.

Another important aspect of the game was giving the user the sense that they were actually in an Egyptian pyramid.  As writer Caillois would say, this type of game design would be considered mimicry.  The game environment was meant to simulate, and ideally mimic, the setting of an Egyptian pyramid from the inside.  To be honest, since most players and none of us game designers had an accurate knowledge of the inside of a pyramid, the true goal was to mimic the users expected idea of the inside of a pyramid. After all, the main goal was not to teach Egyptian history, but to create an easy and relatable experience centered on an understood idea of a mummy’s tomb.  Thus, another goal of mine as a model designer was to determine what type of artifacts would be most conducive to convincing the user that they were inside a pyramid.  Certain tools, like an Egyptian shepherd’s crook were created.  The ankh symbol was used as a typically Egyptian symbol.  Some unused artifacts include a large bust of Anubis that would give a clear connotation that the setting was Egyptian.  With all these tools, we were able to convince the players that they were in a pyramid in ancient Egypt without ever saying it, and without showing shots from the outside that would more clearly display that the building was a pyramid.

The application of these lessons forged our ideas on how to create our game.  These principals came together to develop a game that was both fun for people of various ages and educational for the members of our target audience. As well, the entire process was a blast to go through and the game was exciting to see in its completed state.

Works Cited

Norman, D.A. (2004). “Affordances and design.” http://www.jnd.org/dn.mss/affordances_and.html

Zimmerman, E. (2003). “Play as research: The iterative design process.” http://ericzimmerman.com/files/texts/Iterative_Design.htm

Laurel, Brenda. (2001). Utopian Entrepreneur. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001.

Tags : | Comments Off

Potemkin Hotel Design Reflection

Posted by dcollins36 on Thursday Apr 24, 2014 Under Blogpost Assignments, Design Reflection

Our team created a first person exploration game that encourages the player to pose as a journalist and explore the Potemkin Hotel they are staying in for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The goal is to maneuver through the hotel and its catastrophes in order to find the hotel room and get a good night’s rest. There is a narration that guides the player throughout the game like an inner monologue. The narration provides hints and funny oddities to direct the player through the game. For young adults and adults 14 and older, we hoped to provide some insight into the 2014 Winter Olympics experience in Sochi along with the political issues in Russia.

Throughout the production of our game I was responsible for the models and art assets that are scattered through the hotel. When I began creating the models for the game, I had to have an idea of what the design of the game would be like. Because we are trying to recreate the experience of Sochi, we had to consider the affordance of a bad hotel. The affordances of our hotel encourages the player to examine how bad the hotel really is. There is also the affordance of the game itself. During the first play-test, we had the issue of using the game to explain the game. We knew that we would not be standing over every players shoulder and telling them what to do. By having icons and a narrative to play throughout the game, we were able to provide a meaning to each action (Norman). When an object is clickable, a finger icon appears. When an object has a narrative attached, it shows a volume icon. There were also signs and arrows to provide clues as what the player was supposed to do next. I believe the games’ affordance is closely linked to Norman’s stance of the weight that affordances have in a game.

In addition to the narrations throughout the game, we noticed that it still was not enough to help the players we were appealing to. What if someone did not understand the Sochi references or what if they mistook the goal of the game? Based on the play-testing and our own experience, we had to find an additional way to move the player along. Here is where our poster guides come in. Throughout the game, the player sees posters that clearly do not belong in the story line of the game. When you first enter the hotel, there is the poster that introduces the controls for the game. For people who do not play games as often as others, they do not have to suffer with endless random button-pressing. As you continue you begin to see more “art work” that appears to belong inside the game. There is the note that explains that the player needs to find the owners room and their hotel key. There is also the countless arrows that are somewhat begging you to go in the right direction.

During the design process of the game, I believe that some of Lazzaro’s keys for effective play were pretty evident (Lazzaro). First, we wanted players to enjoy the game by exploring and overcoming obstacles. There was also the process of acknowledging actual Sochi problems to connect with the reality of Sochi. During play testing, every player would make comments about the game. And each player would always mention something I had never considered. Overall, I feel like the way we created the game leaves room for unlimited amounts of interpretation. What one player may not notice, another player will.

Through the process of play-testing, I honestly believe that it helped make our game what it is today. Zimmerman says, “As a game evolves, it defines and redefines its own form and the experiences it can provide for players. Through iterative play of design itself, entirely new questions can come into being.” This supports the idea that our play-testers helped shape our game in some way. For example, during the first play-test many players had the same issue of not knowing what to do. Many were content on finding different ways to break the game while others became somewhat frustrated which led to members of the group guiding the player through the game. Many play-tester also made a point about their ability to click on certain things. While some items in our games have a reaction to being clicked, like the flowers, others are not intended to be relevant, like the trash can. This encouraged the icons that we decided to add. When it came to guiding the player, we also had to account for those players who like to roam. While we encourage exploration of the hotel, we needed to direct the player in hopes that they can actually finish the game. This led to many obstacles in the game such as unfinished stairs, broken elevators, and locked doors. Because we could not anticipate what each player intends to do, the only thing we can do, as developers, is find a design that works well with our idea and the players.

When looking back on our original ideas of our projects, I can see a drastic difference. However, I can safely say that these differences have been made for the better and with the player in mind. For example, when it came to the functionality of Twitter, I wondered if it would have made the game more complex than intended. Would it have taken away from the exploration aspect? Through the constant play-testing and critique, we were able to demonstrate a fully functional game that sticks to our initial notion of experiencing Sochi during the Olympics. I feel that while we successfully got the point across that even though Sochi has its ridiculous moments, there is also the fact that they have serious issues as well. While there will always be things that we could have done to make it better, I feel that we created a strong foundation.

 

Reference

Lazarro, N. & Keeker, K. (2004). “What’s My Method? A Game Show on Games.” In CHI 2004 Conference Proceedings, April 2004. http://www.xeodesign.com/whatsmymethod.pdf

 Lazzaro, N. (2004-2005) “Why We Play Games: Four Keys to More Emotion Without Story.” Self-published white paper. www.xeodesign.com/whyweplaygames.html

Norman, D.A. (2004). “Affordances and design.” http://www.jnd.org/dn.mss/affordances_and.html

Zimmerman, E. (2003). “Play as research: The iterative design process.” http://ericzimmerman.com/files/texts/Iterative_Design.htm

Tags : | Comments Off

Hotel Potemkin: Design Reflection

Posted by dcryts3 on Thursday Apr 24, 2014 Under Blogpost Assignments, Design Reflection

I had the joy in participating in the game called Hotel Potemkin. The game is meant to bring awareness and make commentary on certain problems or issues that have come up in Russia recently. The game is a 3D exploration based, point and click style game that uses its environment and narrations to tell a story, or create an experience. In its final stage, Hotel Potemkin is about a reporter who has come to Sochi, Russia from America to cover the 2014 Olympics. Upon arriving, the reporter is extremely tired and just wants to go to sleep. Unfortunately, their hotel seems to have numerous wacky and sometimes problematic features, forcing the player to figure out how to get to their hotel room. The earlier content in the game mostly pokes fun at problems that were in the media pertaining to strange qualities of hotels in Sochi, while the later half of the game content forces the player to realize some of the social issues in Russia today and provides a blatant metaphor for how these issues may affect Russia. The player can click to interact with items in the game, and must do so to complete the game.

Our game was focused on telling a story, or an experience, rather than focusing on providing a more game-like mechanic with clear win and lose conditions. But we didn’t start out like that. At the start of our design, we felt we needed some sort of mechanic that would drive the game forward and let the player know that they were progressing. This was before our story was taking shape, so it made sense that it needed something more to supplement the lack of gameplay. We explored ideas pertaining to something like a health bar, except we called it a frustration meter. With this concept, our game’s content was supposed to be annoying or frustrating to the player (although hopefully humorous at the same time). But with a frustration meter, we needed a penalty, and a way to reduce frustrations. We couldn’t come up with a logical penalty to the frustration meter that would directly relate to our characters situation while also still making the experience fun for the player. Although we did, at this point, come up with the idea to integrate twitter into our game. This matches the journalists that the character is based off of because they would upload pictures of weird things in their hotels to twitter to make humorous commentary out of things that were probably very frustrating to deal with. So tweeting pictures in game was going to be our unique mechanic to reduce the players “frustration”. Iterative testing and logical observations showed us that we didn’t need something that increasingly seemed irrelevant to the story; we just needed to develop our story more (Zimmerman). Although we realized this, we still wanted to integrate twitter into our game so that players could post pictures of their experiences within our game. This part became something we were designing for fun rather than something we needed to have for our game to be good and consistent. And in the end, I couldn’t figure out how to actually integrate twitter into the game, so we had to leave that idea behind.

Because our main mechanic was to just click on objects to interact, the interactions took a lot of scripting. Some games can program their core interaction and then release it into an area and it works. For our game, we had to have each item interact the way it needed to. Oftentimes it was difficult and even frustrating to script an interaction, and then watch as playtesters wouldn’t realize that it was in the range of their possible interactions. The objects needed their perceived affordances to match what the object would do in the game (Norman). This was an extreme challenge that, in all honesty, was pressured mostly by the amount of time available to work on this project. Many objects in our game could be interacted with; but there were also many that couldn’t. So once a playtester realized that everything wasn’t able to be interacted with, they would usually give up on trying to interact with everything. If we had had more time, we could have scripted almost every object to have an interaction that would match its perceived affordances.

Near one of the later playtests we put different icons on the cursor depending on what the cursor was hovering over so that the player knew which items could be interacted with. Lazzaro states that “game challenges require clear and consistent feedback” (Lazzaro, Keeker). This feedback was great for most players who were just trying to complete the game and didn’t want to try to click on every single thing, but it also took away from other players who enjoyed actually trying to click on everything. In their minds, every item was a mystery of its interactions, and I would imagine that their imagination was stimulated much more. But upon adding icons to let the players know, the mystery no longer presented itself. Since our gameplay was mostly exploration based, the icons seemed to take much of the exploration out of the game. But there were still enough interactions and a large enough space that the player could feel successful in exploring. For this reason, our game speaks more to player who like easy fun and enjoy emotions of curiosity while playing games (Lazzaro). Although at some points through our design, we had tried to add more difficulty to the game to appeal to other types of people, it ended up seeming unnecessary and would almost seem inconsistent. In our game we had a maze on the third floor. At the start, it was a featureless maze that caused many players to get lost and feel frustrated. We concluded that this isn’t the emotion that we were attempting to incite in the player and instead, turned the maze into a passage with signs that led the player through easily, but also made the player think about what was written on the signs.

Our game was highly scripted and was meant to have countless interactions that would evoke exploration-based emotions and appeal to players with a strong curiosity. The biggest challenge was creating interactions that matched the perceived affordances of the objects in the game in a way that the player could figure out what to do the way that we scripted them to be able to do. With more time, our finished product could have had much more important interactions that would satiate the need for exploration and discovery, but I am proud of how much we were able to accomplish with the amount of time we were given.

Works Cited

Lazarro, N. & Keeker, K. (2004). “What’s My Method? A Game Show on Games.” In CHI 2004 Conference Proceedings, April 2004. http://www.xeodesign.com/whatsmymethod.pdf

Lazzaro, N. (2004-2005) “Why We Play Games: Four Keys to More Emotion Without Story.” Self-published white paper. www.xeodesign.com/whyweplaygames.html

Norman, D.A. (2004). “Affordances and design.” http://www.jnd.org/dn.mss/affordances_and.html

Zimmerman, E. (2003). “Play as research: The iterative design process.”http://ericzimmerman.com/files/texts/Iterative_Design.htm

 

Tags : | Comments Off

Shadow Box Design Reflection

Posted by ggranados6 on Thursday Apr 24, 2014 Under Blogpost Assignments, Design Reflection

As we saw in class and in our readings, there are many ways to subvert game conventions. We also discussed gender, race, and representation in games. We were given the goal of undermining game conventions and to appeal to a demographics outside our own. We brainstormed many ideas and came up with making a murder mystery game. The reason we chose the mystery genre is that it appeals to a wide range of demographics.  To subvert game conventions, we decided to make the setting of the game in the “mind palace.” The mind palace is a concept found in the BBC Sherlock series. By setting the game in the mind palace, the idea was that the player’s character would be piecing together the murder after inspecting the scene and evidence.

 

This game concept would satisfy Lazarro’s The 4 Keys to Fun model. The first key is Easy Fun which is the curiosity created from exploration, creativity, and role play. Our game satisfies Easy Fun because it is open-ended and allows the player to explore many possible murder scenarios. Because of the many possibilities, players can re-explore the world and come up with many conclusions, both serious and funny. Another factor in our game that satisfies Easy Fun is that the perspective was first-person view with no indication of gender, race, or age. Because there is no representation any player can take on the role of detective. The second Key is Hard Fun. Hard Fun is the challenge and satisfaction of accomplishing a goal. Our game provides the challenge of solving the murder. The satisfaction comes with finding a solution, or finding many possible solutions and choosing one. The third key is People Fun which is the amusement of being with friends. The game is single player but it is fun to play with others around. Players and bystanders can try to put the clues together and find the many possible solutions. The fourth key is Serious Fun. This is how the game changes how the player thinks. Our game uses the idea that you can solve and piece things together using your mind. This concept can change the way players believe they can use their minds.

 

For the game design process, we used what Zimmerman calls the iterative design process. The iterative design process involves “testing, analyzing, and refining a work in progress.” In this class, and many others I’ve taken, iterative design was implemented in the class schedule. We had a total of four playtests during class time. The first playtest was paper and pencil. We tested our concept and I took video and photos of the playtest. We realized our idea did not have structure so we met up the next day and discussed and decided on a method that create structure. This was our first iteration in our design. For the second playtest, we had a rough prototype that was very buggy; however, we had our first game mechanics implemented and we were able to test those. Again, afterwards we met the next day and discussed the playtest. We did a total of four iterations using this method. Through these iterations, we found what work and what didn’t work. We also figured out that our initial concept and scope was way too broad for a game that is made in one semester. During every analysis stage in the iteration process, we would cut ideas that we discovered were “nice to haves” and not necessary. Using the iterative design process, we were able to make our final game. If it wasn’t for this process, our game would not be as complete as we had it. Also using playtests, we found that players wanted more background and story in the game. They had no incentive to piece the clues together and figure out a murder scenario. We also refined how the clue connections were made in the game so that it would be more intuitive. By the end of the semester, we had a structured game, with background, and a more intuitive gameplay.

 

Through the iterative design process, we found areas where we had lacking intuitive mechanics but we also found that we had intuitive designs. Looking at Norman’s Affordances and Design, our final game has good affordances and implements his four principles of screen interfaces. Through playtesting, we found what people afforded an action or object should do. We tried to make actions and objects have good affordances.

 

Norman’s first principle is you should follow conventional uses. Our game has many actions and game mechanics, e.g. movement with WASD or clicking an object with mouse. The second principle is to have words to describe actions. We had phrases where actions were needed. For example, we had “Press N to close” when the notebook was open. Norman’s third principle calls for using metaphors. We had many metaphors in the game. Our two biggest metaphors was letting users look at clues and using a notebook for notes. In many detective games, these two metaphors are used so this also satisfies the second principle. The last principle is having a coherent conceptual model. Many of our prototypes did not include background information and instructions which lead to a bad conceptual model and a high learning curve. Once we implemented our story background and a solid set of instruction in our final game, the conceptual model was complete and coherent and players were able to learn quickly and remember what they learned.

Looking back, we used all the concepts from Lazarro, Zimmerman, and Norman’s concepts. Even though we weren’t consciously thinking of these specific concepts during our game design process, the class was structured in a way that we learned these concepts through making our game.

 

Lazzaro, N. (2004-2005) “Why We Play Games: Four Keys to More Emotion Without Story.” Self-published white paper. www.xeodesign.com/whyweplaygames.html

Norman, D.A. (2004). “Affordances and design.” http://www.jnd.org/dn.mss/affordances_and.html

Zimmerman, E. (2003). “Play as research: The iterative design process.” http://ericzimmerman.com/files/texts/Iterative_Design.htm

Tags : | Comments Off

Design Reflection: Shadowbox

Posted by gth684f on Thursday Apr 24, 2014 Under Blogpost Assignments, Design Reflection

I always find it amazing how at the end of a project, I can still find the desire to go back and work on it again. To try to improve it. Even when it ends up being a really interesting little game like Shadowbox.

The game has come a long way from our original conception. Though we always set out to make a game within the mystery genre that undermined the concept of a single clear solution, how we got from that initial idea to the current game was a process of continually rethinking our design. Our first paper prototype attempted to capture some of the ideas we wanted to incorporate within the game. The idea of a person looking at a piece of evidence and coming to a conclusion, which then led to another piece of evidence was our core concept. We then wanted to use a combination of these expanding trees of evidence to conclude a part of the mystery. Originally, this was broken into 3 sections. Find the murder weapon, the means, then the culprit. However, when left up to the free form brainstorming style of the original, not only did it devolve into silliness (which was fun), but we also realized that we were dealing with a massively burgeoning stack of evidence. We needed a way to constrain the game. But we needed to do it in a way that left the player free to explore multiple veins of possibility.

So we constructed multiple storylines for how the murder might have possibly happened, with various end goals established. The victim was a corrupt FBI agent. Or he was killed by his wife. Or perhaps he was a good FBI agent and was just killed because he got too close to the mob. All of these could be possibilities based upon how a player chose to interpret the evidence. But now we had distinct story lines. Which was great for me, because I could start modeling the evidence we needed. But it also caused problems…how did we link the evidence together to craft this story in a logical sense for the players, but still allow them freedom to really explore the game? This became extremely apparent when we got to play testing the game, as one continual cry that we got was that people wanted to know whether they had chosen “correctly.” Within our player’s heads, we were battling what Donald Norman refers to as a “Cultural Constraint”. Mystery stories specifically highlight that there is only one very specific conclusion. One which accounts for all the evidence. Added on top of this…how do we connect inferences from all these pieces of evidence to create a cohesive story? Do we leave this in the player’s hands, allowing them to craft their own answers? As a short answer…that is a bad idea. Left too free form, it made no sense in people’s heads why an inference might lead to the next piece of evidence. We needed to script it somehow.

So we kept iterating. And cut scope a couple of times. Get to the core mechanic and work with that. As Zimmerman says “What is the activity of the game? Rather than asking what the game is about, ask what the player is actually doing from moment to moment as they play. Virtually all games have a core mechanic, an action or set of actions that players will repeat over and over as they move through the designed system of a game.” And our core mechanic was look for inferences/meaning, select them, and combine them to achieve some form of cohesive story. Select and combine. The story flows from there.

So the story and scripting grew. When you passed over an inference, you received a little story about what it meant. And we started working the stories back from the evidence we had created. Instead of looking at the story and saying, here is the evidence necessary for it, we looked at the evidence and said…here are the stories we can craft. We scrapped much of our 3 arc storyline and settled for producing a means. How did this guy die? Our programmers then set about creating a system to allow these to connect reasonably. And our writers start crafting the evidence combinations. Meanwhile, I continued modeling, producing anything needed to fill in the gaps.

However, we realized that we faced another problem. How did we communicate to the player what they were supposed to be doing? During much of our early play testing we were focused solely upon the game mechanics that we neglected to communicate how to interact with the game. Many of the cues built into the game didn’t seem to be serving the function we were hoping. Alterations to the cursor to denote different states were not overly clear, though we as designers felt like they should be. Adam came up with a two pronged approach…provide context for the scenario in the intro as well as instructions within the notebook itself. So in the end, we used the second of the design principles for communicating possible actions: describe it with words. Sometimes spelling it out is just a necessary evil.

In the end, we got a game that was pretty interesting with a nice level of ambiance. I don’t think we could have come anywhere near this without the continual iterations we worked through and I am really proud of the results. However, as I mentioned at the very start of this post, I think we could make it better.

Looking at our game now I feel like there are some areas in which we are lacking. Particularly in terms of game play, the game lacks a certain amount of engagement with the player. The level of mastery a player can achieve within our game is very limited, which is a key element towards achieving goals as noted by Lazarro. In many ways, our game play goals are somewhat easy to achieve, which leads to less satisfaction than might otherwise be possible. Looking at Lazarro’s other paper, I would argue that in its current state, our game only touches on two of the Keys to Player Experience. Most strongly, our game grasps the idea of easy fun. People want to figure it out. They want to examine evidence and indulge in the ambiance of the level. It also touches somewhat on the hard fun aspect, as some players will experiment to find the last piece of evidence in a trio, trying to puzzle out the last possible option. However, this is somewhat limited due to the range of mastery available within the game. But where we really need work is in our altered states. Our interactions as they stand now lack a compelling visual or audio stimuli as feedback. The rewards we provide our players for being correct are too small.

In short, I love our game. So much so that I want to continue work on it. We spent only a few short months working on what we have now and I’d be interested to see where it goes from there. But regardless, I will be proud to have this piece in my portfolio.

 

Lazarro, N. & Keeker, K. (2004). “What’s My Method? A Game Show on Games.” In CHI 2004 Conference Proceedings, April 2004. http://www.xeodesign.com/whatsmymethod.pdf

Lazzaro, N. (2004-2005) “Why We Play Games: Four Keys to More Emotion Without Story.” Self-published
white paper. www.xeodesign.com/whyweplaygames.html

Norman, D.A. (2004). “Affordances and design.” http://www.jnd.org/dn.mss/affordances_and.html

Zimmerman, E. (2003). “Play as research: The iterative design process.” http://ericzimmerman.com/files/texts/Iterative_Design.htm

Tags : | Comments Off

Final Thoughts on Game of Games

Posted by Renee Blair on Thursday Apr 24, 2014 Under Uncategorized

This semester’s project was very exciting for me, considering I was able to play around with some of the new concepts I have learned about user testing and iterative design, in additional to applying my interest in education.

Our game idea took off after reading Birth of the Chess Queen. Personally, I enjoyed how the author was able to weave the history of a chess piece in with world history, stories and tidbits from various countries and writings, and ultimately paint a very broad and interesting picture. As a group we found this to be a great starting point, but wanted to consider how we could bring a similar story to a different audience. Ultimately, we decided to make an educational game about a few early influential games in history.

One of our first design considerations was how to make this game fun, especially for our target age group of fourth to fifth grade. In “Why We Play Games: Four Keys to More Emotion Without Story”, multiple styles of fun are outlined. Considering our time, skill, and technological constraints, we had to consider what sort of experience would be age-appropriate, enable learning, and would be fun. Ultimately, we decided to go with a single-player game that incorporated elements of hard and easy fun (Lazzaro, 3-4). Mini-games of the board games the player would learn about would provide a challenge, while speaking to characters and learning about new places and historical figures would provide a sense of wonder and discovery. By citing people and places that most players would be familiar with, such as Ethiopia or Christopher Columbus, we hoped to encourage some curiosity in our players and to elude to the educational aspect of the game.

The next step was finding a style inspiration to guide our art and level design choices, in additional to helping the player understand the “rules” of the game. As suggested by Don Norman, we found a convention to follow but not copy. Our game’s style is heavily inspired by Pokemon, featuring top-down buildings, NPCs that have multiple things to say to the player, and small tasks and quests in order to progress in the game. By having a similar art style, the player was able to quickly understand that our game has similar controls and conventions for interacting with the interface.

In “What’s My Method? A Game Show on Games”, some suggestions were offered for assessing the usability and enjoyment of our game. Considering time constraints and that I am also registered in a qualitative methods course, I wanted to test out think aloud as a method of quickly assessing the game (Lazzaro & Keeker, 2). Although a common critique of this process is that participants are often shy or forget to speak, I found that our classmates were very open and willing to share their thoughts. This may be in part because we all had the same goal of improving our games, and we all knew what sorts of problems and bugs to point out and look for. Although very different from think aloud with naive participants, I found that having a knowledgeable population was particularly beneficial and influenced our iteration choices.

As suggested by Eric Zimmerman, or first iteration of the game was a very simple shell of what the core play features would be for the game. The player had to collect objects from NPCs in order to play the mini-game. We learned that players wanted feedback (sounds, changes), the text needed to be clearer, and there needed to be a concede option. Fortunately, we also learned that the dialogue and historical aspect was on the right track for making an enjoyable game, as players would often laugh, repeat a line they enjoyed, or comment when they learned something new. Having a positive start enabled us to focus more on fixing bugs, rather than having to go back to the drawing board to figure out a more engaging play style. Although a “safe” choice, having a familiar game convention may have also helped players feel a sense of familiarity and recognition when playing our game.

Overall, I feel very satisfied with how our game turned out. Although it is not a perfect game and we did not get to implement everything, I feel confident putting it online, placing it on my portfolio, and sharing it with my friends. I enjoyed writing for it, doing user testing, and coordinating the next steps for every iteration and meeting.

In the Long Run

Looking back on Lazzaro’s definitions of fun in games, I wonder how our game would have turned out with focus on different styles of fun. Considering many popular children’s games have a multiplayer aspect to them, such as Whyville, it may be interesting to explore how a history game could be designed with two or more players in mind.

Another interesting avenue may be looking into game accessibility. Especially with vision impaired players, how could an educational RPG-style game be developed? Many games rely on spatial cues, which does not work with many vision impaired users.

Lastly, an interesting issue that came up was the gender of the avatar and whether or not the player could name them. Male characters are often treated as being the most gender neutral option, a belief that has resulted in me naming countless male characters after myself. Although I would prefer a female character to go with myself and my name, I never felt scandalized having to play as a boy. However, I found it interesting that people I mentioned this to thought it’d be odd to have a little girl avatar with a male player-given name, like “David”. Since the topic of gender has come up in many of our readings, I can’t help but wonder how boys in our target age range would respond to playing as a little girl but being able to give her their name. Would they prefer her being pre-named, having the option of customizing the name, or loudly oppose playing as a girl?

The semester project aside, I’m excited to continue pursuing game design academically and as a career. This summer I have a UX internship with an educational game startup (whoohoo!), and I’m trying to fit in the CS game design course in my schedule. Over the summer I’m promising myself that I’ll begin on my own game project, especially after seeing how much my group was able to accomplish over the course of one semester. Hopefully, by investing in my own project I will have the luxury of asking some of the design and player questions that I did not have the time or resources to do this semester.

 

Works Cited

Lazarro, N. & Keeker, K. (2004). “What’s My Method? A Game Show on Games.” In CHI 2004 Conference Proceedings, April 2004. http://www.xeodesign.com/whatsmymethod.pdf

Lazzaro, N. (2004). “Why We Play Games: Four Keys to More Emotion Without Story.” Self-published white paper. www.xeodesign.com/whyweplaygames.html

Norman, D.A. (2004). “Affordances and design.” http://www.jnd.org/dn.mss/affordances_and.html

Yalom, Marilyn. The Birth of the Chess Queen. New York: Harper Collins, 2004.

Zimmerman, E. (2003). “Play as research: The iterative design process.” http://ericzimmerman.com/files/texts/Iterative_Design.htm

Tags : | Comments Off