This week was spent working on UX changes as well as polish to the game.
A number of UX changes were made .
One Gem Solutions
One gem solutions are The changes this work consisted of solving a number of one gem solutions that appeared during playtesting.
Changed protractor tool tutorial to an earlier level, then introduced it again in a later level to hopefully increase the probability that players will use it.
During our playtest it was revealed that slotting and removing a gem constantly could be used as a cheat to beat a level. We solved this issue technically by having a check for slotting, and not allowing a win to occur if a slot had occur within sometime.
We reconsidered the flow of the first time play experience. Initially the first time players played the game they start directly at level one. The intention behind this was done in attempt to get players attention by showing them the most interesting thing first. This was changed to start with the map first because:
It was our actual homepage.
Many other games followed a standard of showing the map first rather than introducing the gameplay.
At the start of week twelve polishing the game was on the forefront of our minds. In this regard, design wise we continued to struggle with small, but vitally important decisions namely considering the visual representation of angles during gameplay and the introduction our scaffolding tool (the protractor from week eleven).
We met with Jessica Hammer on Thursday to get a perspective on what we had done and the issues facing us. She told us the following:
Clarify our learning goals and sort it out into a table
Make red and blue gems beam movement uniform, so red always goes anticlockwise, and blue always goes clockwise
Reconsider the visual representation of clockwise movements
Interest in protractor tool introduction and suggested we put it on level three where we introduce no new things and so cognitive load is not high
Jesse to the Rescue!
Following this we met with Jesse Schell on the evening of the same day. Being the masterful designer he is, Jesse gave us a suggestion of displaying the spatial representation of the angle.
Jesse’s suggestion was when the beam rotated clockwise, the beam maker would make the full 360 degree representation pop out, and be subtracted from when the beam moved past 0. In the case of the beam rotating anticlockwise the sector would grow as the beam moved anticlockwise.
We implemented this feature, then spent the rest of the week playtesting the levels we had, and weeding out one gem solution angles.
Starting Week 11 we finished creating digital versions of our remaining puzzles. In addition we began working on the various aspects of the game that we presented to our playtesters at the end of Week 10.
We added a map to replace the original level select screen. The new map would serve two functions.
It would display the progression of the game to the player
Create a more visually appealing method of level section
We also implemented a reward system in the form of trophy’s added to ones treasure room after completing a ‘boss level’. We hoped such an addition would add a motivational factor for completing the game.
Later in the week Jesse Schell played the game, and suggested a new way to show treasure room. Instead of having trophys placed on the desk, have shelves arranged in a geometric way with numbers on them to reinforce the central theme of angles. In addition to this we considered including random treasures which we hoped would add a surprise factor.
During Week Ten we prepared designs for the final levels of the game. These levels were in line with the complexity metrics we established during Week 9.
During this process we also documented our puzzles, and their solutions. This document would not only help recreate these puzzles during development, but could be handed off to teachers as a supporting document.
Meanwhile we began preparation for The Entertainment Technology Centers playtest day. This would involve members of our target demographic visiting our project rooms to playtest our game. For this day we came up with a number of questions to ask our playtesters as well as prepared video and screen recording equipment to capture gameplay footage.
On Playtest day we had five groups of playtesters. Each group played the game for approximately fifteen minutes. We then conducted a short interview with them, and found several good insights such as:
They really enjoyed the game, we never had a case of a bored playtester
Even when playtesters got stuck they cried out for help, and we had cases of playtesters working together to solve puzzles
The protractor tool was useful, but since there was no clear tutorial playtesters found it by mistake
Playtesters liked the art, music as well as the treasures we would reward them with
Playtesters didn’t object to the main character, but found certain animations weird
Recently we have been working to create an educational game on angles. Part of that requires designing puzzles that try to provide educational value. The following blog post is a continuation of a look at our process.
The most important part when analyzing our puzzles was first to recognize our puzzle metrics. Initially these metrics were as follows:
Number of slots
Number of gems
We began our first pass using these metrics to craft the thirty puzzles that would form the core structure of our game. The process essentially boiled down to a table of each of these metrics listed in columns. We incrementally increased metrics until key climax moments which we referred to as ‘boss levels’. Following a boss level we dropped the metrics to allow for the introduction of a new system in a simpler environment.
Our first pass at developing the puzzles allowed us to create the initial structure of the experience. On further examination, points three and four actually had more depth to them. We broke these points into each and every gem value. This additional depth warranted further analysis.
We then went about constructing a meaningful method of presenting what we called ‘angle distribution’. Using this we mapped out each and every gem per level. This method of analysis revealed several levels that were problematic for different reasons such as:
High angle overlap
Had no garbage
Levels that were similarly structured
These key points conflicted with our main educational objective of improving familiarity with both numeric and visual representations of angles. As for one having a large degree of similar angles meant that the exposure to different angle values in the 360 angle system was lower. So for our second pass we went about redesigning certain levels adding in garbage, and choosing angle gems carefully to avoid overlap.
On making a third pass at the we again found a problem. Our third pass took the form of playing the levels. What we found was some gems were included that were direct solutions to problems in hard puzzles.
We needed to weed out as though it is good that players are able to discern such a solution, we felt that doing so would mean engaging less with the angle gems in the level as several other gems were left out entirely in the solution. Thus we weeded such scenarios out during our third pass.
Essentially the process boiled down to a number of steps:
Carefully study the components within our structure
Extrapolate areas for further fine grained analysis
Develop a tool for analysis
Apply the tool
Identify and address problem areas
Replay the experience
Using this process we iteratively analyzed our puzzles redesigning when necessary to ensure levels had particular solutions to problems with minimal overlap. Now with a clear design process, all thats left to do is playtest and hope the design worked!
At the beginning of the week 9 we had our halves presentation. Following this we met Jesse Schell on Tuesday, and presented our thoughts on how we would go about designing our puzzles. His suggestion was simple.
JUST MAKE PUZZLES. Worry about the details later.
So that is what we did.
The inspiration for our puzzles came from a combination of two sources:
The teaching material that our client used
A map of element complexity against time
The process of considering elemental complexity began with a consideration for the interest curve of the experience. Essentially we wanted an initial large peak then a period of rest, followed by ascending peaks with rests until a climax at the end.
When designing puzzles Level Design for Games by Phil Cosuggested listing the elements of a game, and systematically designing puzzles with incrementally harder arrangements of elements.
In our case we intended to use the elements to increase complexity, but explore fundamentally the same (problems related to the 360 angle system). The elements of our game were:
Receivers & Obstacles
With these elements we create a table of level against elements, and incrementally increased the number of elements. When a new element was introduced we would drop other elements to lower the difficulty experience for players to more clearly grasp the new element.
We began week 8 with preparing our digital prototype for playtesting, iterating on various artistic, and functional elements including sound, and animations. The following was used for our first internal digital playtest.
Based on a focus on Treasure Hunter at the end of Week 5 we added various design additions to the idea which was shaping up to be a dungeon adventure where players:
Could move around a character
Had an inventory (method of dealing with many gems in a level)
Could defeat monsters (requested by our audience)
Could pick up gem bags (method of incrementally introducing gems incrementally to our puzzles)
Features 1, and 2 were integrated into the following early prototype.
A New Perspective
We met with a designer from Zynga who was visiting The Entertainment Technology. She had a look at our idea, and advised us to focus on our core mechanic which was the slotting gems into the beam maker.
So based on the feedback we:
Removed gem bags.
Made our main character stationary. The character would now be an assistant who would act like guide (akin to Dora the Explorer games) giving advice, information and hints but not actually solving the puzzle directly.
Constrained problems to only 180 because the teacher requested it.
Finally created 10 levels at the end of the week.
Simultaneously our artist continued to make aesthetic progress.
Considering the feedback from quarters we went about revamping our ideas.
One concern was raised regarding the complexity that physics considerations adds to the game which were not core to teaching angles to our target demographic. Since both our current ideas had an element of physics we took this feedback on board. We then changed the design direction, and made decisions to minimizing the element of physics.
Since we are firing a cannon ball, we wanted to change the perspective to lessen the look that the cannon ball is making an arc so that players don’t consider that aspect of physics.
To enhance learning we also would not having monsters move when missing, instead we would give them a new problem.
To give us more design flexibility we would have the pirate ship not be fixed to bottom center of ipad, instead have it so that it can be move around but remains fixed so as to allow us to create more types of problems.
One critique was that in both games angles were not a core part of the experience, and so we ‘tossed’ Alpaca Toss. Yet we used some of its core in a new idea.
This new idea came about whilst playing Tomb Raider, and remembering a scene from The Mummy that involved light beams that lit up a room.
The idea was essentially that we used ‘angle gems’ to move around a source of energy that charged up a power stone that opened up a door with treasure behind it.
We named this new idea Treasure Hunter, and designed five levels on Wednesday to try out the new mechanic.
On Thursday we prepped to visit Colonial School on Friday. We fancied up the Treasure Hunter prototype, prepared a playtest format, planned a drawing activity for the kids, and prepared some questions for the teacher.
Week four was spent further fleshing out our two prototypes for our 1/4s presentation.
Design decisions made at the start of the week were:
Making each monster advance towards you each turn in order to provide more interesting angle challenges
Adopting a Pirate theme for our Crayon King prototype because the fantasy of being pirate and destroying and looting fit our demographic better than a king ruling subjects
By the end of the week we presented the two paper prototypes to our supervisors. They suggested focusing on them, and make them more visually appealing.
Fancying it Up
In order to improve the prototypes visuals we first adapted the Abstract Ball Glue prototype into Alpaca Toss (alpacas somehow often turn up in our brainstorming process!). The aim was to make it more appealing to both genders as well as root it in something more realistic rather than the current abstract idea.
Armed with these ideas our artists spent the weekend doing just that with the following results.
In addition our lead programmer developed digital prototypes with two interfaces. One prototype used the gyroscope and the other with slider we tried different ux methods for game.
Kicking this week off we completed a paper prototype of idea 2 from week 2.
The paper prototype had the player make a sequence of angles including obtuse, acute, right angled, and straight angles to defeat a single enemy who approached them in a turn based manner. The decision for turn based gameplay over real time gameplay was made because we wanted to encourage strategic thinking. We named this prototype Angle Ninja.
We met Jesse on Tuesday who looked at each of ideas and gave us some advice.
During our meeting Jesse suggested the use of various lenses.
Jesse also commented that ‘spatialization’ was a good avenue to investigate for teaching angles. So considering his advice we adapted Angle Ninja. Instead of making gestures to create obtuse, acute, right angled, and straight angles to defeat a single enemy we would instead have multiple enemies which we would attack from a fixed position on the iPad.
The shift in design was due to wanting to focus on the fundamental lesson of teaching familiarity with angles rather than the more advanced one of the special properties of angles.
At the start of the week we presented the ideas we had in mind from week 1 to our supervisors. Our supervisors gave us feedback and we filtered down the initial ideas based on complexity and technical issues.
On Wednesday, we met Jesse and presented our initial ideas to him. Jesse gave us advice about our project suggesting we look into a number of educational games such as Battleship Numberline, and create lots of prototypes.
On Friday, the team visited the clients. We met Audrey from Intermediate Unit 1 and the students & teacher from Colonial School. We used the visit as an opportunity to collect information about our client and our players:
We presented a number of pictures to the students to gauge their art interest.
Based on what we learned from the visit, we had a better understanding about our audience. We then came up with many new ideas based on angles which was confirmed to be the main subject.
Our lead programmer Carl then built a prototype on the iPad based on one of our ideas. The prototype detected the drawing of acute and obtuse angles to explore teaching the special properties of angles (obtuse, acute, straight, right angle).
The new semester has finally started, and we are excited to work on this new project with Colonial School!
In the first week we setup our project room, had a bunch of meetings with our advisers and came up with a general idea about what we are going to do.
Later in the week we spoke to our client Audrey Mory who offered us lots of freedom in scope as long as it is an entertaining math-based educational game for children from 9 to 11 years old. The deliverable at the end of the semester should be an ready-to-ship game for Apple store.
We then started with competitive analysis playing many educational games available on the market, and decided what worked for them and what did not. We also had a brainstorming session, sketching out 10 game ideas.
As part of our Visual Story course at Carnegie Mellons Entertainment Technology Center we were required to briefly analyze visual imagery in a piece of media. I choose the game Shadow of The Colossus as my subject matter.
As the game begins with an eagle in the distance. The eagle descends into a mountain range flying rapidly, in a titled manner past our hero creating a momentary clear diagonal, and frame within a frame. The combination of techniques draw our eyes into that area of the screen where we our introduced to our hero clearly contrasted in brighter colors against the dark mountains.
As our hero continues to travel under the cover of darkness, we see the moon peer out from the canopy. the contrast between the moon and the dark leaves draws our eyes in which the director then uses for a smooth visual transition to the next scene which has a horse’s feet moving at the position of the moon.
As our hero approaches his destination he encounters a pass. Our eyes are drawn to our hero in his bright cape, and the glowing pass which contrasts with the stone grey scene. The techniques help setup our eyes on to our hero and where he is heading.
In considering our studio name we brainstormed a number of ideas:
We settled on Pumpkin Productions for two reasons:
It was the easiest concept to visualize.
As Halloween was approaching our team liked the idea of an evil pumpkin.
At this point our team started on concept designs. With our first concept we had two considerations. Firstly was that of color, which given the subject matter was a pumpkin, we felt orange would be appropriate. Secondly was that of shape, which we based off how a pumpkin looks like.
Our task entailed selecting footage from a number of videos, namely:
TN Parkour: First experience with editing & storytelling.
Stranger at the Door: Easy but more storytelling elements.
Anesthesia: More story(scary) with effects.
Unleashed: More challenging with Green Screen, VFX.
I chose to edit TN Parkour. With this video I attempted to create a music video of with cuts at beats, and attempted to tell a story of friends meeting up to do Parkour and ultimately feeling some sense of accomplishment at the end.