Wow. That was quite a ride!
Here are my reflections on the 3 day design session in Madison. Other team members may have differing opinions.
Our team set out to do a few things in just 3 short days:
- Improve Dow Day
- Produce some new mobile game designs
- Learn about how to facilitate a design Jam
- Hopefully make some improvements to the ARIS software and editor through 1 and 2
In summary, we met all those goals (and then some), even though everything moved a little slower and a little harder than we expected.
Improve Dow Day
- Rebuilt the intro video to explain the purpose and content of the game
- Replaced all the images to use the new large screen dimensions
- Tuned the dialog so text doesn’t require as much scrolling
- Tuned a few of the locations so they trigger at the right time
Produce some New Mobile Game Designs
- Contested Spaces – A new lens to view your world. As you walk around campus, notice places where different interests come into conflict and comment on them by geo-tagged and shared videos, sounds and photos.
- Robots! – A race of robots has been stranded on earth and you need to help them find their way home by taking photos of the robot icons that have been painted on roads and buildings around downtown Madison.
- Madison Tower Defense – Unit 6, the package has been dropped at the locations mared by your GPS. Retrieve it and make your way to the extraction point before being spotted by the guards or sentry guns.
- Dow Media Tour – A dozen locations on campus have footage from the protests in 1967. Visit the places where photos and videos were taken and look out on the world from that perspective.
- Lakeshore Tour – If only the trees could talk! From 100 years ago to current project, the walking path from the Memorial Union to the Hospital has so many stories to tell. We remade a previously designed phone based tour using ARIS while beefing up the design in a number of ways.
Learn About How to Facilite a Design Jam
We used a cool method to run a design session like a agile software development project that I think was very effective. Here is how it worked:
- The day was divided into 2 hour long “iterations,” from 10am-12pm for example.
- A whiteboard had the catagories ‘current’, ‘backlog’ and ‘icebox’ written on it. On the sides were ‘done’ and ‘dead’ areas.
- Each member of the team wrote in single tasks they would like to preform in a short chunk of time on post-it notes and “pitched” the ideas to the other members.
- Short-term small teams would form around ideas that sounded the most compelling and feasible and placed in the ‘current’ or ‘backlog’ catagory on the whiteboard.
- Ideas that generated less excitement slipped into the ‘icebox’ or ‘dead’ idea piles.
- We would work like nuts for the length of the iteration, usually 2-3 hours.
- When the time limit was up, the team debriefed, adjusted goals and picked the next set of current tasks. Only ‘delivered value’ kinds of things, not research, chores, etc. counted toward progress.
- Design Jams work best for producing new scrappy ideas, not polishing existing ideas. The excitment of it all makes having deep understandings of things difficult.
- Prepare as much media and subject research upfront as possible. We wasted precious time getting caught up on the details of the topics we were designing around and finding media for them.
- Play-test more often! Even though I harp on this to anyone who will listen, we still crammed in lots of ideas without field testing them many times. The result was that some of the ideas didn’t work as planned or lacked simple fixes that would have been obvious if we would have just tried them first.
- Drop Box and Google Docs are awesome tools for rapid collaboration.
- Work in a venue with food/coffee/beer nearby. This saved us so much time and kept the team going.
- Have a large whiteboard, markers, post its, a projector, maps, pins and lots of other supplies nearby. It really lets ideas flow when you aren’t looking for supplies.
- Plan a public playtest at the end of the Jam. It kept our focus tight. We needed to have something PLAYABLE not just talked about.
Right away, we found a bug in the client that had somehow slipped through that causes the device to crash randomly. We will have an update up on the AppStore in a few weeks.
We also seriously beefed up the editor. Now authors can create quests and dialog using simplified interfaces. They can also add and remove items from the player and use quantities of items in a requirement. All in all, normal folks can now make some really cools games.
The Jam also highlighted a number of features we still want to see such as background audio while walking, better data collection tools, a better way to embed an intro video and cutscenes and better end f conversation scripts.