Design Reflection: Tethered Together

Posted by klovell3 on Thursday Apr 29, 2010 Under Blogpost Assignments, Design Reflection

We began our game project with planning and designing in which we went through several ideas and several iterations of ideas. After quite a few discussions and way too many ideas, we decided to make some criteria for our game. We were determined to make a platformer that also had to be two-player. We felt that these criteria would give us the potential to create a fun, social game that could appeal to many different people. I will discuss how the process of creating our game relates to the different writings of Lazarro, Norman, and Zimmerman.

After we decided that the core mechanic would be the two players being tied together and reacting with each other, we started coming up with ideas of how we could use that mechanic in a unique way. This starts to be where we considered player emotion and what players find fun. I feel that we unknowingly achieved all four keys of emotion that Lazarro discusses and thus explains why we had “the loudest playtests out of any game made for the class”. The “Hard Fun” really comes into play in the later levels (the dinosaur and Egyptian levels) which really gives the player a sense of accomplishment if they complete the levels. The game applies to the “Easy Fun” with the ability of the players to learn how to play as they go as well as the game encouraging players to explore the levels. The game also applies to the “Serious Fun” with the fact that it is an online flash game and serves the purpose of relaxation as well as is fast paced giving the game the excitement factor. Also, our game was enjoyable to play even if you ended up totally losing at the end. Finally, the “People Fun” is all about amusement of the players which I think is fulfilled by the cooperation and timing that players have to have in order to be successful in the game. People found the game entertaining with friends and strangers alike. I also think the somewhat cute story applies to this key because it is an off-the-wall story about saving a circus by stealing random objects. In relation to my responsibilities of sound effects and music in the game, I tried to choose interesting and sometimes funny sounds in order to show the fun and playful nature of the game. For example, the music for the tutorial and level select screens plays into the feel of stealing from a museum but is still energetic and fun to listen to (Lazarro).

In designing the game, we also considered the affordances the player would perceive while playing the game. This deals with how a player knows how to interact with objects in the game as well as use the controls of the game and understand the interface. We used some conventions like the displaying of lives and objects collected at the top of the screen. Also, the use of the arrow keys and WASD keys for movement were conventions as well. However, we knew that some of the actions that the player could perform, specifically anchoring to the ground and clinging to walls, were not too obvious to players. In order to compensate for this, we used a tutorial level to guide players through different abilities and used pop-up text to describe the actions. This is one of the principles that Norman describes are useful for screen interfaces. Finally, we kept the conceptual model of objects that the player could interact with consistent. It began in the tutorial level with teaching the players how to interact with objects like anchoring to the ground and climbing walls and continued through the game even when objects changed. For instance, the floors were different for each level but the player could always anchor no matter what texture was there (Norman).

User playtesting was a very important step in our design process. Zimmerman especially discusses the notion of user testing and its importance as well as its cyclical process of testing, analyzing, and refining. We were fortunate in our in-class playtesting to have both experienced gamers and non-traditional gamers. This allowed us to gain results which we could then use to address the playing habits of many different types of players. Though it is impossible to understand or even predict all interactions a player would have, our playtests allowed us to see both common and uncommon actions performed by the player. Zimmerman states that playtesting will result in a “more robust and successful final product” which is truly the case with our project (Zimmerman). The user testing was extremely important specifically in the pop-up text that was shown during the game as well as making sure player actions seemed sensible. Lazarro discusses user testing and mentions that in the case of games, goals that are difficult help make the game more successful and that “games should be challenging” (Lazarro & Keeker). This point was actually brought to our attention by one of the playtesters in the last playtest which we then redesigned the final level to be a little bit harder. Not many comments were made in regards to the sound though we were complemented a few times on the selection of background music.

In conclusion, I feel that our iterative process, as Zimmerman describes it, helped us to create a great final game that appeals to a variety of people and showcases some of the great talent that our group possesses. The incorporation of the four emotional keys, though unknowingly, definitely helped our game be fun in the eyes of the players. Our acknowledgment of possible user-perceived affordances in our game helped us to shape the learning curve of the player as well as help teach them the abilities the game provides. Finally, our user tests allowed us to see into the habits and thoughts that players have when playing our game which helped to remedy some situations some players found lacking. All in all, I feel that we designed an incredible game that all of us are extremely proud of.

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://www.ericzimmerman.com/texts/Iterative_Design.html

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