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
Introduction: The Chain was our final music video coursework assignment for Visual Story at Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center. Our film won a Bronze Telly Award in the student category.
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.
Introduction: Developed on the Oculus Rift with PS Move, DinoRancher had guests play atop a Triceratops armed with an electric lasso. The goal of the guest was to shepherd a herd of Stegosaurus to safety, protecting them from danger.
Story: You are a DinoRancher armed with your electro lasso and trusty trike. Travel across the desolate wasteland, and protect your herd from those nasty predators!
Integration of the PS move into Virtual Reality
Trike movement system
Design Goal: To create an experience that made the guest feel like a cowboy travelling through the desert protecting a herd of dinosaur from predators.
My Contributions: As producer I arranged meetings, delegated pending tasks, and contributed creatively. In addition as a programmer I was responsible for setting up the games environment which included, asset preparation, level design and developing agent behavior.
Introduction: Developed on the CAVE with Makey Makey, NoseDive had guests play in the CAVE environment using airplane controls we constructed using Makey Makey.
Platform:CAVE, and Makey Makey in Unity 3D | Time: 2 weeks | Roles: Programmer – Game Designer – Producer | Team Size: 5
Story: Our game had our guests take the role of make shift pilots thrust into having to fly a plane to safety through a terrible storm when the captain has become incapacitated.
Adapting to the CAVE environment.
Creating an authentic flight simulator experience with an easily understand story.
Design Goal: To create an authentic story of saving the day through the game we created.
My Contributions: For NoseDive I was producer, designer and programmer. Being producer involved scheduling and coordination of our teams artist, programmer and sound designer. In addition I assisted my fellow programmer with environment and Unity prop setup.
Introduction: A Playroom was a developed on the HTC Vive. A virtual reality device that allows a guest to walk around a calibrated virtual reality space with hand held controls.
Platform:HTC Vive in Unity 3D | Time: 2 weeks | Roles: Designer – Producer | Team Size: 5
Story: The setting of the game is in a play room where the guest encounters a ghost boy who needs help in-order to ‘move on’.
Design Challenge: To design a game for naive guests, conduct play tests, and make three predictions of what the guest will do all whilst having the guest ‘feel free’.
Design Goal: Round 2 of Building Virtual Worlds was indirect control round. This required we build an experience that felt free, and was intuitive enough for a guest to play from start to finish without any instruction or guidelines.
My Contributions: I analyzed, and designed the guests interactions as well as wrote our main non playable characters dialogue. In addition I conducted play tests which gave us invaluable feedback which we used to further develop the experience.
I focused on interaction development by first analyzing what we currently had. From that I wrote a draft story design which was a rough version of what we would aim for. Our current gameplay was clearly a linear story experience, and I believed we could achieve a greater sense of freedom by allowing a player a choice of what game to play.
From this notion I created two different interaction models.
I then met with the team, presented my two plans. We choose plan 2 which I further developed into a more detailed version.
Audio would play a vital aspect in driving this interaction model therefore I worked with our sound designer on a script for the game which we iterated over based on feedback (script documents).
Once the various audio cues, and interaction model was implemented we went about play testing the game. I conducted play tests with over fifteen naive guests which included an audience of fellow students, professors and non-students. This feedback was then used to polish elements of our experience.
In conclusion we correctly predicted each of the three interactions, and the guest understood our story, all with no guidelines or instruction from us.
We began our project with brain storming, and research into the platform on which we were developing. We came up with several ideas including:
Darkness– Use light to guide the guest through a street.
Space Exploration– Explore the universe, and pick a planet to colonize.
Dreaming – Flying a plane, flying elephants, flowers turn to buildings (freedom from constraints).
Empty Room – Furniture place (guide them to a correct place).
Having difficulty grappling with the concept of ‘freedom’ we spoke to a member of The Entertainment Technology Faculty Jesse Schell. After meeting with Jesse Schell we honed in on an idea of a ghost boy which we would help in some manner through objects around him.
Next we thought about location, which was first a storage room due to it making sense to have many object, we then changed to a play room as it offer the potential for a ‘warmer’ environment for guests to feel comfortable.
After creating a basic room with a simple number of interactions which included:
Place a train on the train track.
Hide & Seek.
Give a hug.
We had a prototype ready for interim.
After interim our two main points of feedback were
Make the boy and game generally less ‘creepy’.
To develop our interactions.
Point 1 was a significant design challenge which we tackled by investing time into solving by:
Making our main game character look more human like.
A warm game atmosphere.
A friendly, light and clear character voice.
I decided to tackle point 2 by first analyzing what we currently had, then writing a draft story design which was a rough version of what we would aim for. Our current game play was clearly a linear story experience, and I believed we could greater the sense of freedom by allowing a player a choice of what game to play.
From this notion I created two different interaction models.
After meeting with the team, presenting the two plans and convincing them of the need to carefully design the experience, we choose plan 2 which I then further developed into a more detailed version.
Audio played a vital aspect in our experience so I worked with our sound designer on a script for the game which we iterated over three times based on feedback (script documents). In addition to audio we used a number of other techniques including:
Lighting – To direct the players focus.
Color – Brightly contrasting objects such as with the yellow train on a blue chair, and a red book on a beige floor caught the players attention.
Uniformity – A suggestive picture fragment was placed in the frame, and other similar looking puzzle pieces were placed around the level.
After implementing these features with a new interaction model we went about play testing the game. We conducted play tests with over fifteen naive guests which included an audience of fellow students, professors and non-students.
Based on the feedback we received we continued to polish elements of the game. The end result of our work was that not only did we accurately predict each of the three interactions, but the guest completely understood the story behind our world all with no guidelines or instruction from us.
Story: Jam-O-Draw was inspired by the classic etch-a-sketch game.
Design Goal: We wanted to create a multiplayer artistic experience with a fascinating reveal.
Adapting to an unfamiliar platform.
Creating an aesthetically pleasing experience using visuals and audio
Having the user interface during the experience be responsive and informative.
My contributions: My primary role on this project was as producer which involved making creative contributions, arranging meetings, coordinating our artists, programmers and sound designer to create the game in a timely manner. My programming responsibilities included assisting my fellow programmer with development, and preparing the game environment and assets.
Introduction: Seize the Sky was built during Building Virtual Worlds at Carnegie Mellons Entertainment Technology Center. The world was constructed using Oculus Rift, and Leap Motion. Using these technologies we put our guest into a virtual reality space with an ability to use a natural interface in our world.
Story: A mighty giant heads towards a town with murderous intent. A country side boy notices, and cries to Zeus for help to defeat the giant to save the city. You are Zeus, save them all!
Design Goal: Our design goal with Seize The Sky was help character A (the boy) who is afraid of character B (the giant).
Incorporating a satisfactory use of Leap motion.
Achieving our a sense of character A is afraid of character B.
My Contributions: As the lead programmer on Seize The Sky I made large contributions to the code base for this project. I also took an active part in the design process with working with the team to develop various aspects including game play, and level design.
The development process started with being assigned teams. In our first team meeting we made clear our skills, started brainstorming ideas, and kept good development processes in mind.
During brainstorming we tried using several appropriate methods, such as gesture centered brainstorming (due to our use of Leap Motion). Finally we had five initial ideas:
Help mend relationship between characters.
Play piano to make baby sleep.
Use light to guide a character home.
Keep animal safe growing to adulthood.
Hold characters hand to guide them.
With our initial ideas we further boiled them down to three concepts with the following reasoning:
Concept one was hard to conceptualize compared to our other ideas which seemed simpler and more clear.
Concept five could be incorporated into concept three.
Creating sketches of each concept we then sought out the advice of our professor Jesse Schell.
With Jesse Schells feedback we went with concept C, because we wanted to explore squeezing in Leap Motion.
We then began further conceptualizing the idea with sketches, and research into the capabilities of Leap motion and Oculus.
With this in mind we began assigning tasks to complete, considering game play, and used a scrum board to assist us in tracking tasks.
On the technical side we used a NavMesh, and simple A.I. to run the behavior of the Hunter and Deer. The behaviors of the two agents were essentially:
The deer always moved to nearest tree that has an apple.
The Hunter patrolled around fixed points, and if it came close enough to the deer it began chasing it.
The result of our hard work was the following.
We then received feedback at interim, which sadly wasn’t good…
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.
The rules to create these portraits was simple. Each person was given a different colored pen, and was allowed to make single strokes one after another. Any hesitation resulted in having to stop drawing, and choose a name. The name was created by taking turns writing a single letter.
The following is what Charlie and I created.
We very much enjoyed making these memorable characters! Try out this exercise yourself sometime, its loads of fun!