Tag Archives: Design

Tiny – Week 3

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.

Meeting Jesse

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.

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Tiny – Week 2

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.
  • As them what kind of games they played
  • Asked them what kind of music they listen to
  • Spoke the the teacher and narrowed down a subject

We documented this research.

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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).

Tiny – Week 1

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.

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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.

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Team Tiny

Team Tiny is a four person project at Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center tasked with building an educational iPad game for Colonial School in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.

The following is a week by week look into the project with a focus on design.

  1. Week 1 – Setup & Initial Brainstorming
  2. Week 2 – Client meeting, more brainstorming and first prototype
  3. Week 3 – More prototypes and iterations on prototypes.
  4. Week 4 – Development of ideas for 1/4 presentations
  5. Week 5 – Playtesting and new direction
  6. Week 6 – Focus, meeting with Zynga
  7. Week 7 – GDC!
  8. Week 8 – First digital prototype playtests
  9. Spring Break! – Playtesting!
  10. Week 9 – Puzzle crafting
  11. Week 10 – Further puzzle crafting, playtest day
  12. Week 11 – Finishing puzzles, map and reward system, deeper puzzle analysis, scaffolding introduction
  13. Week 12 – UX Considerations and more polish

Grapes of Wrath – Map Design Lessons

Last week I designed Grapes of Wrath, a concept for a multiplayer level in Battlefield 1. Reflecting on the experience I will detail my process, and lessons learned in the hope of enriching myself and others.

I initially split design into two segments. Theme & Structure.

Theme

Given an aim to create a post apocalyptic theme I began my research with reference images.

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In addition to reference images I sought out other forms of media such as movies, book and games that were set in a post apocalyptic setting.

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What struck me most when reviewing this material was the desolate landscapes, and ruinous infrastructure. I intended to include these elements in some manner in the map I designed.

Structure

In the context of Battlefield 1 I define structure as map objectives, points of interest, unit design, and player flow.

Research

My research into structure began with two of Battlefield 1’s modes, Conquest & Rush, both of which I intended to accommodate within my map design.

Modes

Not only did I experience these modes by playing them, but I used spectator mode to watch the battle play out at a meta level. This allowed me easily see how objective placement, and points of interest affected player flows.

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Unit

I then looked at Battlefield 1’s units. A study of the different infantry classes, tanks, airplanes, and vehicles revealed sub-categories, each of which had different play styles:

  • Air
    • A fast but weak plane
    • A slow but powerful bomber
    • A hybrid plane
  • Tanks
    • Glass cannon artillery
    • A fast but weak tank
    • Slow but powerful tank
    • A hybrid
  • Infantry
    • Short
    • Medium
    • Long range
  • The Behemoth – A lead breaker

Battlefield 1 is a web of balance, and what I found was their vehicles cater to extreme playstyles with disadvantages, and usually a third averaged option.

Cerebral Design

Combining map knowledge and player elements I created a ‘cerebral map’ for Rush and Conquest. These maps included player flows, and major elements such as the Behemoth route, and an underground bridge.

For Rush mode the map intended to convey that attackers would become weaker over time, and defenders stronger whereas in Conquest it should be balanced strength. I hoped to achieve this experience with various measures such as:

  • Placing map objectives progressively further from attackers and closer to defenders in Rush
  • Giving more elite kits and vehicles to defenders as the attackers captured objectives in Rush
  • Balancing elite kits and vehicle spawns in Conquest

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My cerebral map was an initial pass at an experience, which was all well and good, but it clearly was not a map! What I had created was akin to a disfigured skeleton which needed a layer of flesh, and its bones tweaked.  A location was needed to root these abstract concepts in. Therefore Location became the third segment of my design process.

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Hopscotch Hamlet

As part of Jesse Schell’s Game Design course at The Entertainment Technology Center we required to analyze and ‘improve’ the game of Hopscotch.

The goal of the game is to complete Hopscotch Toss the fastest.

  1. In Hopscotch toss there are two teams which compete against each other on a standard Hopscotch board.
  2. Both teams have two players, a jumper and a catcher.
    1. The catcher stands at the final safe square on the Hopscotch board
    2. The jumper at the start of the Hopscotch board
  3. The jumper throws out three markers:
    1. When a marker is thrown the timer begins
    2. If a marker misses a square the marker is placed on the first square
  4. The jumper begins playing hopscotch with the aim of collecting and throwing markers to the catcher one at a time.
    1. If the catcher drops the marker the jumper must return to the start
  5. Once the jumper reaches the catcher who must have three markers in hand, the jumper turns round and continues playing Hopscotch.
  6. When the jumper reaches the start position reverse jumper and catcher roles. Now the second round of Hopscotch Toss starts.
  7. First team to complete two rounds wins.

Development

Part 1 - Analysis & Brainstorming

What makes a hopscotch a good game?

  • Simple to understand rules
  • Requires little equipment
  • Trains limb coordination
  • Easily extensible to multiplayer
  • Clear win state
  • Gamifies natural hopping movement
  • Low skill entry barrier
  • Immediate feedback on game state

Problems with the game your design might try to solve.

  1. Not friendly those with physical disabilities
  2. Can become boring due to its simple rule set
  3. Primary mechanic is jumps
  4. A static game space
  5. Minimalist Aesthetics
  6. Has no story
  7. Does not incorporate elements of modern technology
  8. Tests the body but not the mind e.g recall of facts, events etc.

Brainstorm 50 ideas on how you could improve Hopscotch

  1. Blindfolded
  2. With someone on your back while playing
  3. Jumping only when music is playing
  4. During a handstand
  5. On a climbing wall
  6. With multiple tokens
  7. Whilst singing
  8. Where you start with no squares and draw one turn by turn
  9. Three legged
  10. On stairs
  11. Backwards
  12. Eating icecream
  13. With two people at once
  14. With only one square
  15. On a board with tiles that turn in a pool
  16. Played using your fingers
  17. On a trampoline
  18. Interplanetary
  19. Over Skype in different countries
  20. Where you cant jump in squares based on a coloured dice, or coin?
  21. Story based, and where marker was thrown player has to participate in a story event and if they lose they dont get to score a point by playing a round of hopscotch
  22. Edible, where a player can eat one square but has to make another one with provided food
  23. Where the game space drawn from star constellations
  24. Meta – smaller hopscotch games feed in a larger one. Two people play against each other in each mini game, and the winner moves forward on one square on the board till they reach the meta game marker and return as in a normal game
  25. Color coded special square events which if a person steps in they have to do like shout a word, if they fail they have to go back to the start
  26. Place the marker not by a throw but by a dice roll
  27. People are put into teams based on costumes
  28. The person has to do a dance move when spinning round at the end
  29. The person has to do karate punches on each jump
  30. Throw the marker again when it is picked up
  31. Two people have to mirror each other on different games
  32. It is attached to another game that based on your speed gives you more points/ progresses more in the level
  33. In VR with rivers of lava
  34. Where each item rotates round and one has to jump from square to square
  35. One player throws the marker and stops at that position. Then throws the marker forward again. The next player jumps to the position of the last player who jumps to the next place the marker is now at. The process continues until the marker has been returns to the beginning.
  36. Competitive, two games of hopscotch, the marker can be thrown onto another hopscotch game to make it harder for them to complete the round
  37. On a dart board. Objective is to hit the center of squares avoiding the one other player threw the marker dart at.
  38. Three legged – two people tied together play
  39. Relay, where the marker has to passed from game to game.
  40. Players stand in Hopscotch squares and pass the marker to other players to complete the game.
  41. Where the panels light up and one must jump only on lit panels
  42. On the moon
  43. On a single wheel cycle
  44. With sword fighting battle rounds per block, losing sends you back to the start
  45. Complete Hopscotch in a tiger cage before the tiger is let loose in it
  46. With a slide at the end of the game
  47. There are two markers and those are the only ones that can be jumped in
  48. There are markers on every square and winning is jumping and picking up as many as possible in a given time.
  49. One person is continuously jumping and another person throws a marker and tries to have the player jumping fall on that marker.
  50. On a keyboard one has to press the 1-9 keys in the same pattern, and avoid the marker square set by the computer.

Part 2 - Selection

From your list of ideas select three and describe them in more detail

Based on number 25, 39 and 48

  1. Picto Hopscotch – Hopscotch is played in the traditional American school yard manner except for one difference. Each row has a picture associated with it. When the player jumps on any square of the row they must shout out the picture. If they do not the player has to go back to the beginning again.
  2. Relay Hopscotch – Two hopscotch play spaces are set up. One person from each hopscotch space begins playing, and completes a game and gives the marker to an awaiting second player who plays a game of Hopscotch. First team to complete both hopscotch games win.
  3. Hopscotch Toss – Two teams play Hopscotch competitively. Both teams have a jumper, and catcher. The jumper plays hopscotch and collects the markers and throws them to the catcher. The team with all the markers in the catchers hand and jumper at the end win.

Part 3 - Improvement

Hopscotch Toss

An Attempt at solving problem 3 by introducing throws

The goal of the game is to complete Hopscotch Toss the fastest.

  1. In Hopscotch Toss there are two teams which compete against each other on a standard Hopscotch board.
  2. Both teams have two players, a jumper and a catcher.
    1. The catcher stands at the final safe square on the Hopscotch board
    2. The jumper at the start of the Hopscotch board
  3. The jumper throws out three markers:
    1. If a marker misses then the player rethrows
    2. When the last marker is thrown the timer begins
  4. The jumper begin playing hopscotch with the aim of collecting and throwing markers to the catcher one at a time.
  5. The team is fastest to get all the markers in the catcher’s hand and the jumper at the end wins.

First Loop

The first iteration of gameplay showed me various areas that needed more detail and consideration. Useful moments that occurring during my playtests were:

  • Instructions should be short and concise otherwise they bore playtesters. So I should better prepare my rule for fast and easy digestion.
  • Great design moments had laughs or confusion which immediately drew my attention to areas of the game I needed to work on.
  • Playing the game exposed rules that I needed to clarify such as how to handle drops, fumbles of the jumper, missed throws.

Bad

  • I did not consider adding the throw to the timed phase of the game. Doing so might add tension to that part of the game.
  • The catcher reported wanting to do more.
  • I had only one game setup at a time, it would have been more enjoyable to have both games occurring simultaneously.

Good

  • Players clearly enjoyed throwing markers and catching them.
  • The game was picked up very quickly due to its rule set

Second Loop

With the second iteration I intend to adjust the rule set to include new cases for when the jumper and catcher fumbles.

  1. The jumper throw phase is included in timing.
  2. If the marker is thrown out of boundaries it is placed on the first Hopscotch square.
  3. If the catcher drops the marker the jumper stops moving until the catcher picks up the marker and returns to the safe zone.

Playtested with the above changes had the following effects:

  1. Heightened the tension during the beginning of the game.
  2. Made jumpers more careful with their throw. They would take safer shots, but those who successfully made riskier shots got greater rewards.
  3. Heightened the tension during drops, particularly on the catcher as they scrambled to get the marker..

Playtesters reported having an enjoyable more fluid experience. They also made two suggestions:

  1. The experience be ‘circular’. When the jumper reaches the catcher who has three markers in hand, the jumper turns round and continues their Hopscotch game (without the markers) instead of ending the game. On reaching the beginning of the Hopscotch board the Catcher now switches roles and becomes the Jumper, and the game continues.
  2. The jumper returns to the start if the catcher drops the marker.

Difficulty in Difficulty

How does one convey difficulty levels?

The most common method in video games is through a menu from which players choose terms to set the difficulty of the game. Such menus generally take the form of the following:

  1. Easier than Easy
  2. Easy
  3. Medium
  4. Hard
  5. Harder than Hard

With each term developers have two ‘paths’ they can take. A generic or idiosyncratic term.

  1. Generic – Commonly used terms which have no thematic basis in a game
  2. Idiosyncratic – Terms that have a thematic basis in a game

Generic

The following are examples of generic terms:

  1. Beginner
  2. Easy
  3. Medium / Normal
  4. Hard
  5. Expert

A clear advantage to using such terms is they are established concepts in the gamer zeitgeist making them more likely to be know across cultures, and languages.

On the other hand a number of issues arise when using generic terms such as:

  1. Different MeaningsNintendo Hard’s easy is harder than Western easy
  2. Different Connotations – There are many interpretations of the term. For example Easy can have negative connotations to a players self sense of skill though it may be appropriate. This may cause them to choose a higher difficulty than is appropriate resulting in a less enjoyable experience.
  3. Not Thematic – Alone they add little flavor to the game

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