Tag Archives: Entertainment Technology Center

Tiny – Week 12

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).

Hammertime!

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
  • UI buttons were confusing
  • Change to allow free form manipulation of gems
  • Pointed us towards Robert Siegler a professor of psychology at CMU
  • 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.

Tiny – Week 11

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.

More Pieces

We added a map to replace the original level select screen. The new map would serve two functions.

  1. It would display the progression of the game to the player
  2. 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.

Continue reading Tiny – Week 11

Tiny – Week 10

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.

Playtest Day

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

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Angle Analysis

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.

Breakdown

The most important part when analyzing our puzzles was first to recognize our puzzle metrics. Initially these metrics were as follows:

  1. Mirror Numbers
  2. Number of slots
  3. Number of gems
  4. Gem Types
  5. Receivers
Game Elements – Draft

First Pass

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.

Level Structure Table

Second Pass

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
Gem Distribution Analysis Result

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.

Third Pass

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.

Third Pass Adjustments

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.

Conclusion

Essentially the process boiled down to a number of steps:

Analyze

  1. Carefully study the components within our structure
  2. Extrapolate areas for further fine grained analysis
  3. Develop a tool for analysis

 Adjust

  1. Apply the tool
  2. Identify and address problem areas
  3. Replay the experience
  4. Repeat adjustment

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!

Tiny – Week 9

Puzzles!

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:

  1. The teaching material that our client used
  2. A map of element complexity against time

Elemental Complexity

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 Co suggested 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:

  • Clockwise Gem
  • Anticlockwise Gem
  • Beam Generator
  • Power Gem
  • 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.

Continue reading Tiny – Week 9

Educational Interest

As part of my Masters in Entertainment Technology I am working on an educational game project at The Entertainment Technology Center. My team aims to essentially create a living 360 degree angle system for fourth to six graders to interact with whilst solving puzzles. We hope that through our demographics interaction with this system we will:

  • Clarify misconceptions about the system
  • Build a familiarity with the system through puzzles which require students to use estimation

In approaching this problem we have gone through an extensive ideation process, and the result is that we finally nailed down a core mechanic that makes considering angles essential. The following is a prototype of what we came up with:

Currently in our project we are at a point where we have to create the puzzles that will make up the heart of our educational game. To do this properly requires the creation of an interest curve; but not just any interest curve! As well needing to be an entertaining experience we must go one step further, and include the element of educational value.

Design Process

With the objective of gamifying the material that our client uses to teach their students we began designing an interest curve. The first part of this process is to study the material which took the form of common core sheets.

We looked at each of the sheets, and broke down the different tasks involved which were as follows:

  1. Create an angle using a protractor
  2. Obtuse, acute, right, and straight problems
  3. Visual identification of obtuse, acute, right, and straight
  4. Identification of obtuse, acute, right within different shapes
  5. Given a protractor diagram identify the angle
  6. Estimate an angle between two points
  7. Find the missing angle given a total angle
  8. Find supplementary angles
  9. Finding complementary angles
  10. Find missing angles in a cross shaped
  11. Find angles in portions of a circle
  12. Find the angles in a triangle

Next with these tasks we looked at what tasks were best suited to the game we have created which was 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12.

In parallel we created a number of game elements to help us create these problems:

  • Clockwise Gem
  • Anticlockwise Gem
  • Beam Generator
  • Power Gem
  • Receivers & Obstacles
Game Elements

We then identified what is essentially our core gameplay challenges that our player will face:

  • Dragging angle gems into beam generator/receivers
  • Remove angle gems from beam generator/receivers
  • Value deciesions between angle gems
  • Clockwise angle gem addition problems
  • Anticlockwise angle gem addition problems

Given our design and students curriculum, we made some assumptions about these challenges:

  • We consider clockwise movement a more advanced topic
  • Increasing complexity means increasing challenge, which can be achieved with more mirrors, angle gem slots, and receivers with obstacles

Now with these elements we imagined an interest curve.

Continue reading Educational Interest

Gladiator Rumble – Story Citadel

As part of our Game Design course taught by Jesse Schell at Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center we were required to create a tabletop RPG. The following is an adaptation of the document detailed Gladiator Rumble, the game I submitted for this assignment.

A brief description of the process you used to create your adventure. Include any brainstorming notes, etc.

I begun the process of creating my adventure with a theme/fantasy. I had a number of ideas including:

  • A sports adventure theme
  • A wild west themed game
  • A game with vampires

I settled on doing something set in the time period of the Roman Civilization. In particular I loved the setting of the movie Gladiator so my intention was to recreate a similar storytelling experience.

Next I searched for an interest curve that roughly mapped onto what I wanted to create.

Next, based on the five point on the interest curve I imagined the main scenes of the story with a brief description of what I wanted to achieve in that scene, and the main story beats.

  1. Capture – I wanted the player to be captured.
  2. Training Ground – A scene in the gladiator house of them learning skills and familiarizing themselves with their new world
  3. Gladiator Battle 1 – First gladiator battle, high intensity
  4. Villanus Mansion – A more social situation, with a puzzle
  5. Gladiator Battle 2 – Last gladiator fight, high intensity, kill the boss to win one’s freedom, or kill each other.

I was inspired by the game Shadow of Rome, and wanted to find a system that support combat and social situations. I could have used the roleplaying 101, but I instead chose to use a system from a tabletop RPG game I had played before called Vampire The Masquerade (VTM). More specifically I used Vampire: Dark Ages (medieval setting) for their armour, and weapons.

To flesh out my world of I needed to perform significant research, namely:

  • Be aware of the different types of gladiators to give my players and generated enemies some grounding in the world
  • I also wanted to include animals at one points so I found applicable stats.
  • Made a list of important characters and some of their traits to help me roleplay them.
  • Each scene needed a map so I drew one, including details about who was in each scene.
  • Refamiliarize myself with VTM’s leveling scheme, social and combat systems.
  • Found example stats to base my NPC’s on.

There were also a number of things I did not do:

  • Also thought of adding in some currency and letting players by equipment but thought this might add too much added complexity.
  • Thought of adding special sections such as chariot racing but left it out due to the added complexity.

All of this I compiled into a long supporting document I used whilst DM’ing that I will include in the following section.

Continue reading Gladiator Rumble – Story Citadel

Tiny – Week 8

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.

Playtesting

After playtesting with a number of members of the Entertainment Technology Center community, the feedback was as follows:

  • UI/UX – More focus needed on the angle tool, such as an angle measurement would be helpful
  • Gameplay – Add treasure for rewards in the Indiana Jones style
  • Art – Use particle effects for mask head instead of using the beam

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In addition our professor Jesse Schell commented on a number of insightful areas for us to consider, such as:

  • Why there were multiple slots on the beam generator in a level with only one gem
  • Why the second mask had no fire coming out of its nose
  • The light coming from the power gem was confusing
  • The treasure should be in same space as the game
  • Make world more juicy through interactions
  • Make the world funny, silly and surprising

Continue reading Tiny – Week 8

Tiny – Week 6

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:

  1. Could move around a character
  2. Had an inventory (method of dealing with many gems in a level)
  3. Could defeat monsters (requested by our audience)
  4. 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.

Image result for zynga

So based on the feedback we:

  1. Removed gem bags.
  2. Removed inventory.
  3. 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.
  4. Constrained problems to only 180 because the teacher requested it.
  5. Finally created 10 levels at the end of the week.

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Simultaneously our artist continued to make aesthetic progress.

Treasure Hunter Concept Art

Tiny – Week 5

Quarters

On Monday we had quarters which gave us lots of feedback from the faculty.

Quarters Feedback

Considering the feedback from quarters we went about revamping our ideas.

Revamp

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.

Pirates Life

  • 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.

Alpaca Toss

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.

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We named this new idea Treasure Hunter, and designed five levels on Wednesday to try out the new mechanic.

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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.

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Continue reading Tiny – Week 5