Cycle 3- Reflection

  1. How you have approached learning new things and/or finding new information during the Semester?

I struggled with programming as it is a new skill for me. I understand what can be done and the length of time that is required for programming and feel that is necessary for the profession of game designer. I have been able to work out any difficulties I came across when learning new things by observing my team mates and asking for help from tutors and team mates when I need it. I have also sought solutions to some obstacles by familiarizing myself with new concepts by looking on line in discussion forums. I still feel my programming skills are not great but I have a basic understanding and hope to build on my knowledge base in the future.

  1. What additional, non-technical skills you’ve developed during the semester?

There are a number of non-technical skills that I have developed during the semester. Firstly, time-management. As I was sick in the first part of the semester I fell behind in what was required. For this task, I was aware of the time required and didn’t want to fall behind again so I tried to always be ahead in the project and planned my time better. Another important skill is that of playing to the strengths of each team member. I feel that my skills were strongest in design and story, whereas my team mate’s strengths were in programming and construction of the game. Working in a team environment also helped to develop our communication skills. It is essential to listen to other’s ideas and be clear in expressing your ideas to others. Concepts that may be clear in your own head may not always be clear to others and you must be able to show them by talking, drawing or showing examples of already existing games. Compromise is a skill that is significant in decision making. You learn to be open and flexible to changes in your own ideas if someone suggests something different that would be better for the game. Another non-technical skill that I developed is that of delegating. To manage the workload, it is necessary to break down the project into parts and delegate each team member tasks to complete. Delegation requires trust in your partner’s abilities and work ethic, and it is important to have frequent meetings to make sure everyone is on task.

  1. The most effective strategies you used for managing individual and team activities?

For managing my own activities, I set myself deadlines so there was a sense of obligation to complete certain tasks by a certain time. For managing team activities our team used Facebook messenger to communicate with each other and discuss the information that was needed to get each job done. We also held regular meetings, every Thursday and Monday, to keep up to date with each other’s progress and assign any extra tasks that may have come up. The meetings were about brainstorming and helping each other with tasks if necessary. For example, it was my responsibility to handle the player experience goals so we all got together to develop what these goals should be and then I organised our ideas and wrote them up. We also used these meetings for giving each other feedback to improve the game.

  1. The ethical responsibilities associated with working in a team-based environment. Areas to consider could include: justice (fair work practices); responsibility (specifying tasks, completing activities); honesty (avoiding deception); and reasonableness (level of participation, reaching consensus)?

 To work well as a team there are certain ethical responsibilities that should be considered. It is important to treat each team member as an equal with ideas that are valid, even if they are not the same as your own ideas. People need to feel they can express their ideas and be treated respectfully and not have their ideas be ridiculed. Feedback on ideas should be everyone’s responsibility and all team members should be able to give and take criticism in a way that is respectful.

Another ethical responsibility is that each team member must do what they said they would do. If you agreed to complete a certain part of the project then you must do it, and by the deadline that was set. Team members should not be deceptive and say they are working on it when they have done nothing. Also, team members should be honest in whether they have understood what is required of them or if they have the ability to perform the task or not.

The tasks delegated to each team member should be as even as possible in the amount of time that is required to complete them. The delegation of tasks should be clear to everyone and allow each team member to feel they are participating equally to the project. Delegation should be agreed upon by all team members, not just one person, in order to avoid the “good” tasks going to some people and the “bad” tasks going to perhaps unpopular people.

Overall it is important to the success of the project that team members co-operate with each other rather than compete with each other and are respectful in their interactions.

Cycle 3- Playtest Report

The aim of the play test was to identify whether participants could complete the session goals outlined in the play test plans. There were two different plans: the first was a plan for experienced gamers and the second was for players that matched the characteristics of our target audience, Sam. For the experienced players, the goals were: finding out how meaningful the crackers are to the players, finding out whether the level of difficulty was appropriate or not, and finding out whether the players feel the game play and the game world flow naturally. For the participants who have the most Sam-like qualities the session goals were: finding out whether the difficulty of the level is in the right level, finding out if the game meets the expected player’s experience goals and lastly finding out if players find the game world appealing.

Data Collection

The play test was conducted with 4 naïve participants. Additionally, there was one knowledgeable participant who was familiar with the games construction. None of these play testers were close to the age of our target audience, however some of them shared similar qualities to them. Each participant had ten minutes to complete five relatively simple levels within the prototype game. Before participants began playing the level they were required to fill out a questionnaire to find out what type of gamers the participants were. Below is a summary of the collective data gained from the Questionnaire:

Questionnaire Results

These players ranged between experienced and beginner. None of the participants played longer than three hours per day, some even played the same length of time as our target audience, that is, half an hour each day. All of the participants played on various platforms, however they all played on computer, except participant 2 who doesn’t’ play video games regularly. None of the participants rated either platform or side-scrollers as very highly enjoyable. Only two of the participants liked the same genre as our target audience.

Game Play

While the player was playing the prototype the players screen was recorded with screen capture technology whilst simultaneously their voices were recorded on a mobile device. (See appendix B for video of the play test). After play testing, notes were taken to record the key features discussed during play testing.

Key Findings

After completing the prototype, the participants were required to fill out a Survey that informed us of how they felt about the prototype. Along with the notes we found several key findings that were related back to our session goals we were trying to achieve in the testing.

Survey Results

One of the key findings was the controls of the game. The participants were familiar with the basic game controls such as left, right and jump, however implementing the controls into navigating obstacles by manoeuvres such as wall jumping was not clear to them.

Another key finding that was displayed in the testing was that the background music was stagnant and repetitive for each level. This annoyed players and added to their frustration, which was not intended. There were also problems on the fourth and fifth level of the prototype with the background music stopping and not starting again.

We found with the collection of the crackers that players didn’t really feel any motivation to collect the crackers, the crackers were merely part of the game play rather than having any real meaning to the player. With some participants, they began to give up on collecting the crackers towards the end of the levels and just focus on completing the level. With some of the players we found that if the portal was not in their view when they collected the cheese they didn’t understand where to go next.

In regards to the difficulty of the levels, based on our observations and feedback from participants, we believe the level of difficulty was appropriate for not only the experienced player but also for a participant similar to Sam. This was due to the fact that some of the challenges within the puzzle were quite frustrating, which helped to build tension while still providing a fun and exciting experience.

We found that players enjoyed the appearance of both the game world and the character. The mechanics of the game never effected the visuals of the game. Many of the players got the sense of story behind the game as well as many of the elements that were used to construct the level were conducive the storyline. For example, level four had the player had the player jump on a light fixture to get to the next platform, which fits in with the environment of a lab.

Appendix A

To help visualize these findings I made a video that displays some of these findings as well as some of the features that were implemented into the prototype. (See appendix C)

Recommendations

Based on key findings and player feedback some improvements to the overall game design needed to be considered. We concluded these findings:

  • Having different music playing on each level so that the soundtrack doesn’t become monotonous and frustrating.
  • Including a tutorial level where the player is slowly introduced to the mechanics and elements of the prototype so as to help the player understand what is required to complete the levels.
  • Adding a point system to the crackers to give them greater meaning to the player.
  • Adding a stopwatch to get the player to complete the level in the shortest amount of time. This would give the player additional tension as well as giving the player enjoyment in aiming to complete the level in the shortest amount of time.
  • Including a level select button at the title menu to provide the player a chance to revisit which level they want to play.
  • After a certain amount of time of idleness an arrow would appear to help guide the player in the direction they need to go.
  • Adding a greater celebration to the end of each level, such as fireworks as the mouse is sitting on a pile of cheese, satisfied. This would give more enjoyment to the levels and increase the motivation to complete each level.
  • Cleaning up the small visual elements such as the opacity of the mouse ball and animation of the mouse and rat as well as the design of the traps.
  • Include more levels with various changes in design and appearance. This would provide more appeal to the visuals as well as add to the overall entertainment of the game.