During Spring break we had the chance to playtest a digital prototype of our game. The game consisted of five puzzles, and the intention of the playtest was to see if our target demographic and client (Colonial School) liked the game, and their thoughts. Feedback from both the teacher, and our target demographic was as follows:
Kids like the game
Thought it was easy, wanted more challenge
Understood the mechanic immediately
Completed the game within 5 minutes
When asked about characters they wanted they mentioned all kinds of animals they saw in the jungle
Again asked for a wrestler
Had no major complaints about art or mechanic or story
One kid wanted dragons
One kid recognized it was a maths game but kept playing
Asked for more levels!
Teacher liked the game
Said reverse angle gems (move in opposite direction) would be fine but only on advanced levels
Wanted some source of competition so star rating system should have a total for students to compete against each other
Teacher said using games to teach angle of shapes would be fine
Teacher said students are not taught physics at their level (leaving physics out is a good idea)
Improv is a skill we use every single day, it is a facet of how we deal with the unknown, and its development has incalculable benefits to our lives. Whilst at The Entertainment Technology Center the following exercises I found most useful:
I Own This Place
In this exercise we would receive a card from a pack of playing cards which would assign us a number. Based on that number we would adopt a status between extreme high and low.
Learning the concept of high, and low status as well as their traits has allowed me to reflect on myself. Not only do I better recognize status traits in others, but I intend to use this knowledge. I aim to exhibit higher status, and avoid lower status traits as I feel they are essential for many things including leadership positions which is what I aim for in my career.
Different Language Conversation
This exercise involved sitting in a semi-circle, and talking to each other in different languages.
My take away was a reinforcement of how paying attention despite not understanding is important. In and out of the industry we will have conversations where we don’t understand the ‘lingo’ of the speaker, such as when listening to highly technical speakers. Listening intently in those cases improves the conversation by respecting the speaker, and allows for a smoother transition to a language one does understand.
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
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.
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.
Introduction: As part of Visual Story at Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center we created a 3-4 minute video with a given main character and conflict. We created For Rent, choosing a mysterious stranger and don’t touch anything.
Time: 48 hours | Roles: Director – Writer – Producer| Team Size: 5
Our final video was a highly streamlined effort. We first conceptualized an idea based on Ingrid Michaelson’s song The Chain. Our artist then created storyboards, and using those boards we created a rough ‘film storyboard’ with music.
Next we faced location scouting, in this regard the issue we encountered was not having a pure white background as per our storyboard. We adapted to this by finding a suitable ‘black out room’ to provide an all black background. Meanwhile we made a shot list from the rough storyboard that we had created.
With a shotlist, and locations to shoot we purchased necessary props, and went about filming on thanks giving.
As usual on set we changed the storyboard in various ways such as:
Thematic use of red
Inclusion of shots such as limited space, panning techniques
Use of props such as the teddy bear
Lighting e.g. using a sparkly dress to attract attention
After fifteen hours of filming, several hours of editing, the film was complete. It was well received by our peers and professors.
Finally we submitted The Chain to the student category of the Telly Awards.