Exhibition set up

cof

Exhibition space has been set up and is ready to go! I’m pretty happy with the end results of the project, there are definitely things I’d do differently, elements if I had more time that I would add (like the actual game!) but I’m confident enough with the strength of the brand and the idea that all will go ok in the Viva Voce. Got a couple of elements to finish off these weekend, namely my Major Report but I’m about 2/3 of the way there so will get that done today. My aim is to spend the next couple of days after today finishing the exhibition projection, which will be a nice addition to the project and reminds me more of my days in art college, a bit of pure sensorial experience.

Thanks to everyone who left comments on the blog, and best of luck with your own assessments, see you on Thursday for the show! 🙂

 

App Testing

Prototypes

I spent this weekend creating a prototype of the app on Adobe XD. Decide to go with this rather than Invision as you can import files, shapes etc. directly from Photoshop and Illustrator – keeping them editable and giving me more options for changes within the XD application. I found this way easier than Invision which kept reloading and felt very bulky working off JPEGs. I actually wish I had started developing the screens in XD from the start, but ah well, you live and learn! 🙂

 

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Because I designed all screens originally in Illustrator, once I transferred them to XD it was clear to me that I hadn’t aligned everything correctly and made some basic errors. Great this about XD is that you can copy/paste elements from one art board to the next and it will line up exactly – it really helped me to clean up the app.

Testing

Once I was happy with the general flow of the app I sent it on to some gaming friends and family members for testing. My friend group range from around 25 to 35, all of them play mobile games fairly frequently. All live in Dublin or near by. I also sent it to a graphic designer colleague who is 65, but he uses his phone a lot and I wanted to get the opinion of someone older who would represent an older visitor to the city. Lastly, my mother was also delighted to give it a go. A bit of a funny one, she’s definitely the type to be enthusiastic about an app that could show her around the city, but she’s also not very tech-saavy, so was a good test of UX/UI functionality and clarity.

General Feedback

Generally everyone loved the minimal design and colour palette. The logo and icons got a thumbs up too. I received feedback that it would be something they would see in the app store and be curious to download. (Good start – at least its not ugly!)

Issues

The first thing I spotted when a friend sent me back a screenshot was that the bottom of the screen design was cut off by Apple’s iOS design – so the bottom icon in the menu bar was half hidden. Easily fixed, I’ve moved important content up a little off the bottom. I also noted that I had designed the game for an iPhone 7/8Plus (this is the iPhone I have) and I think this friend has an X so that might count for the alignment.

Second major bit of feedback is that there was not enough explanation of the game at the start. It goes from introduction to game play with little indication of goal and purpose. I would be relying on a player to read the introduction before downloading – which obviously isn’t going to work. Based on this feedback, I added one extra screen which appear the first time you play the game which give a brief 4 line synopsis of whats going to happen – “A Game About Light and Dark: Passages will direct you to key architectural sites across Dublin. At these locations play a site-specific puzzle game in order to win a star. Collect stars to reveal constellations and rebuild the lost night’s sky.”

iPhone 6-7-8 Plus – 120

Navigation

Another issue that occurred was in the navigation. It was not always clear how to proceed, but more significantly how to go backwards if desired. So I repurposed an arrow icon that I’ve used later in the game to create a back icon at the top left corner instead of a main navigation button in the game play screen.

Any navigation I want to prompt the user to press is in a solid high contrast button, other buttons are outlines and set back in the same colour as the background. From watching my testers, this seemed to work quite well.

iPhone 6-7-8 Plus – 13

Load screens

In designing the app in XD I have including load screens – which unfortunately had the result of confusing the players because it wasn’t clear from the prototype that these would be animated and not require action. I must ask whether I should put in a prompt to tap forward for the sake of the demo, to move the app along?

iPhone 6-7-8 Plus – 59

Star Map

Again, because the app is a still frame prototype, the AR features were a bit lost on some of the testers. I do think that once an AR screen activates, a lot comes intuitively from the user. Like if you move your phone and you notice that object in front of you changes sizes or moves too you should know that it is something thats going to tell you how to play. Some these elements I’m going to have to leave to theory I think, because short of coding an AR screen I’m not sure how I can confirm they work ok?

iPhone 6-7-8 Plus – 54

 

Game Play

Lastly, because this is a game design rather than development  the actual game play screens are not active which again means certain elements of the game are not possible to fully test. I did manage to work out how to create a live version the Light’s Out part for Level 2, but its going to be very time consuming as I’ll need to factor in a huge amount of variations. I might try and get it done for the iMac screen at the final exhibition pending time.

iPhone 6-7-8 Plus – 77

Review

Overall the testing was very beneficial. Definitely helped me spot the parts that I needed to explain too much, meaning I had missed out on some UX design elements. I have another friend testing over the next couple of days, she’s a really keen mobile gamer so I’m hoping she will add more to the feedback too.

I am happy to consider at this time that the branding and style is successful (which has become an important part of the project now) and the game/app concept is interesting enough to engage my target audience.

iPhone 6-7-8 Plus – 3iPhone 6-7-8 Plus – 7

Website research

Checking out some good one-page websites for research for Passages. I realised I had started designing it too soon, without really thinking about how I could make it experiential and engaging.

https://operadellamisericordia.com
– The colour scheme and typeface choices on this are really nice. Love the two thirds vs a third ratio on on the content as you scroll down, very clean and modern feel despite the serif and classic theme.
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http://www.scissorsandclippers.com
– screen split in two, moves left or right depending on selection. Really nice way to have a contrast between two states or colours.

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https://metoorising.withgoogle.com
– love the time line at the bottom and the contrast between dark and light. Movement when you click the links is very smooth.

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https://preetisjustaname.com
– What a cool interact site! Its a really fun CV portfolio site essentially, but he’s totally playing on the user-centered design skills that he is advertising for himself. Its quite funny, and he makes the experience more personal by asking your name!

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https://strategies.ca/resolutions/?local=en#accueil

– I like the circle navigation bar to the right, cute animations and good choice of colours. Screen is kept clear of clutter (no static logo / footer etc.) and the anchor tags are nice an smooth.

Screen Shot 2018-05-03 at 15.46.21.png

 

http://www.lapiece.com – love the textured background, playful handmade looking graphics and minimal colour use. Logo is a bit fussy the way it moves as you scroll, finding this distracting.

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Lots to think about!

Final Timetable and Assessment Criteria

I’ve done up a quick final timetable amendment in my sketchbook. Thinking realistically I only really get to do work at the weekends so have done this based on a Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday working week. Not long left now! :/

timetable.png

I’ve also laid out a list for assessment criteria, the absence of which was making it difficult for me to know what exactly to do in order to be ‘finished’.

Print:

  1. All game screens laid out and printed on A3 boards showing app process from start to finish
  2. Brochure with QR code, game intro, link to site
  3. Game trailer / introduction video describing app.
  4. Printed Brief
  5. Final Report
  6. Sketchbooks
  7. Exhibition boards / any other collateral.
  8. Business Cards, CV, Portfolio

Digital:

  1. PDF version of screens – single pages (and / or Invision mock up)
  2. Website
  3. Light Projection for exhibition (if I have time/once the space is confirmed!)
  4. Poster for exhibition (again, pending time)

Branding – Passages

I started the Easter break a bit panicked that I hadn’t made a final decision on the logic of my game so focused the attention of the first week on that – then having made that decision kind of went straight in to designing screens and screen elements.  I was relieved then last week that Danielle and Laura both approved of the idea and that I hadn’t wasted the following weeks going down that line of thought. My tutorial last Wednesday focused on finalising the brand for the game, which understandably will influence the overall look and feel of the game itself. I had originally wanted to develop the game entirely in black and white, but after discussing with Paula decided that it would be worth looking at colour elements also and seeing which version worked. Either way I want the design to be stripped back and minimal and utilise as much as possible negative space and geometric shapes.

My original brand logo was very simple, just Avenir Next, with reversed stroke and set in all caps. The problem with this is when the type is reduced in a smaller screen it became kind of ‘nothing’ – combine this with the lack of colour in the app and its not a very attractive result. Its not bad, but a mix between a little boring and a little obvious?

passages1

I therefore refocused this week in really trying to come up with a logotype that expressed the idea and functionality of the game. I summarised very quickly the actions and intentions of the game and the name ‘Passages’:

  • Using architectural spaces to highlight and focus on paths of light.
  • Creating a journey of discovery both through Dublin but also of learning.
  • Using the contrast between off and on, active and inactive, positive and negative.
  • Passages as related to Newgrange and Irish historical associations with light, astronomy and myth.
  • Visual use of geometric shape, opacity, gradient and contrast.

After many iterations in my sketch book I landed with this:

passages2

The two ‘A’ letters are replaced with a concentric line reduction (similar to those seen on the standing stones of Newgrange) which conforming to the general shape of the letter. The ‘A’ becomes a passage in itself, drawing the eye in to its depth, acting as a visual cue for the rest of the game – the purpose is to follow the passage of light. These same concentric lines are used throughout the rest of the game, in both icon, box structure and the visual elements of the gameplay itself.

I’ve also introduced colour to this version, a subtle blue gradient and cream gradient that are actually based on some old astronomy maps that I love the quality of. I may even try and introduce a slight texture, but will play with that to see if it is too much.

ancient-constellation-map

The rest of the week I have been developing other screens for the app, working on my CV/Portfolio and doing some work for the major report. Onwards and upwards!

 

An argument for Minimalism

From the start I have wanted the game that I make to have a low-fi, minimal feel. This was for several reasons but started with the desire to make a game that was as little graphics-heavy as possible. In this way the game would not be so counter productive as to be a game about energy use that uses loads of energy! My ideas have developed since then, and even though I’d now like to include an Augmented Reality element to the game I think it can still have a minimal feel. Ideally, the most beautiful, impactful part of the game is when you complete a constellation and a patch of true sky is revealed. In order to maximise this moment the rest of the game should sit back in a clean, geometric manner. The contrast between man-made and nature.

Which brings me on nicely to Minimalism as an art movement. Rather conveniently, I have a degree in Art History (this having never come in handy before!) – so I already knew quite a lot about what is meant by minimalist art. Essentially, the Minimalists (who emerged around the 1950s/60s/70s) were tired of the Abstract Expressionism that was prominent at the time, which they saw as contrived and overly emotional. They understood that this movement was the result of a traumatic first half of the century due to a series of devastating wars, but felt this work had lost its way and began to contradict itself. The Minimalists – think Donald Judd, Sol de Witt, Frank Stella – wanted to reinstate art for art sake. Art didn’t need to represent anything, the object of art was enough to spark conversation, a relationship between viewer and object. In order to do this, inspired by European movements like De Stijl and Bauhaus, they utilised man-made, industrial materials, manipulating them and presenting them in a way that gave them an alternative purpose. Significantly for my project, these materials include the use of manufactured light, particularly the work of American artist Dan Flavin.

Dan Flavin

 

Dan Flavin used fluorescent strip lights and tube lights to frame architectural spaces. In this way the spaces themselves became the canvas and the light itself the art object – how it filled a room, changed the softness of edges, corners and created a sensory encounter for the viewer.  Dan referred to this site-specific installations as ‘situations’ – the viewer became a participant and  found themselves in a whole experience, rather than face to face with a removed, singular object.

For my game I am using forms of light to shape architectural spaces around Dublin in order to do no more than bring attention to the use of light and to encourage the player to begin to consider how it effects the surrounding area. In this way, the game becomes a kind of Dan Flavin situation – a sensory experience between the player and the city they occupy.

91.3705_ph_web

Mobile Game Survey Results

Here are the results from the mobile gaming survey I sent out a few weeks ago. The response rate was fairly low so I won’t regard this as absolute but good to get some feedback from my audience section on the types of games they play / look out for.

Questions:

Q: In what country do you live?
Q: What type of mobile games do you play? (select any that are relevant)
Q: How long do you spend on average playing mobile games per week (7 days)?
Q: Where do you play mobile games most?
Q: What is your favourite mobile game at the moment?
Q: Which do you prefer? (options)
Q: If you knew a game intended to be educational, would it effect your desire to play it?
Q: Have you ever played an ‘educational mobile game’ i.e. one that aimed to teach you more about an issue, or subject? If so, what was it called and what was it that you liked about it? Did you learn anything?
Q: What is the main thing(s) that keep you coming back to a game? What keeps you engaged?

Review of answers

Q: In what country do you live?  100% of contributors were from Ireland.

Q:What type of mobile games do you play?

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Of all the options, the majority of contributors enjoyed puzzle/strategy games as well as arcade and brain training.

Q. How long do you spend on average playing mobile games per week (7 days)? 

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The contributors to this survey were not big mobile gamers unfortunately, the majority of them playing for less that an hour a week. This does bring to light though that perhaps the game should be fairly simple in structure and therefore easy to play in short bursts when it suits the player?

Q. Where do you play mobile games most?

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I read in quite a few places that a lot of mobile gaming happens while on the move, so good to see that confirmed in the survey results. It may be problematic with a mobile AR game that relies on location, but I think then it will essential to include a non-AR element that allows the game to be picked up anywhere – making it more accessible to a wider audience.

Q. What is your favourite mobile game at the moment? 

Good Blocks
Pokemon Trading Card Game
Mario
Attack the Light
FM
Wordalot

I asked this question to get a little more insight in to the type of games people are actually playing. This mix is quick varied but most are forms of puzzle games.

Pokemon Trading card game is a funny one, traditionally a physical game, they’ve recreated it for screen and it seems to be quite popular. Maybe to do with the strength of the Pokemon brand but also I remember even in my house collecting cards (Pokemon, Yugio etc.) was very popular, so its bringing a nostalgic element to contemporary technology.

Attack the Light is a funny low-fi RPG game for mobile, the aim its to attack monsters who have light sources built in to them.

Good Blocks is a mental health, self-esteem game – very simple design. Its designed for use between child psychology sessions, I’ve sent the link on to Matt as it seems to be in tune with his Art Therapy project.

Wordalot is a re-skin of the classic crossword, including picture prompts to make it more up-to-date. Some bad reviews saying its too simplistic, but I think that might the point? You can play it at any time rather easily without having to think too much.

Q: Which do you prefer? (options) 

  1. Fast-paced, shorter games that don’t require too much thought (but are still fun/well made, for a short term reward. )
  2. Slow, more intricate games that require more time to work them out (potentially greater long term reward). 
  3. I like both depending on where I am / what I am doing. 

Screen Shot 2018-03-27 at 10.30.09.png

Fairly self explanatory – but interesting to note that the game has be to structured in a way that suits the condition that the player is in.

Q: If you knew a game intended to be educational, would it effect your desire to play it? 

Screen Shot 2018-03-27 at 10.32.16.png

Nobody seemed to be bothered by playing an educational game, as long as it was engaging!

Q: Have you ever played an ‘educational mobile game’ i.e. one that aimed to teach you more about an issue, or subject? If so, what was it called and what was it that you liked about it? Did you learn anything?

Screen Shot 2018-03-27 at 10.33.15.png

Answer:
“I played ‘good blocks’ recently. Its a game to train you to screen your thoughts and attempt to dismiss the negative thoughts in your head. Its works on repetition to try make the behaviour second nature. Its more of an exercise than a game and so it has simple mechanic within the app. Maybe a little too simple but again its not a game as such.’

Answer: 
“Well I played brain training for a bit on my DS…”

Most contributors felt like they’ve never played an educational game – the question is if that is true or did they just not realise? I think a better educational game will be one that doesn’t focus too much on the learning aspect and more uses it as an underpin to the game.

One player mentioned Good Blocks again, which uses repetition to get the message across, persuade action. The game is designed by clinical psychologists which is interesting.

Q: What is the main thing(s) that keep you coming back to a game? What keeps you engaged?

Answers:
– Fun. Playability.
– If its Competitive and against another user.
– Functionality, design, playability, story, engagement.
– Story, smooth gameplay, difficulty, replay-abilIty (value for money), aesthetics and design.
– Time invested.
– Attainable challenges and worth while rewards.

I left this question as an open answer field so as not to prompt a user’s response. The answers are much in line with what I would have expected, which is reassuring. Playability/function comes up a few times as does the storyline so I will regard these as important aspects to consider in the game.

Game Structure

Draft of game structure – ready to get my wireframes finalised based on this format. It has really helped to lay it all out clearly on where I want each step to go. I think there could be more to add as I start development but this definitely gives me a starting point.

 

Artboard 1structure.jpg

I also spoke to my app developer friend about the concept and structure of my game. He said he loved the idea and thought it was a good concept but that the project would be a big undertaking in terms of linking AR with GPS location. Certainly not impossible but definitely a job for a team of developers rather than a single one. He’s going to have a look for some similar examples that he knows of (but couldn’t bring to mind at the time) and send on some links for me to take a look.

I will keep this all in mind when doing my report in terms of how feasible the game would be to actually create, and how I could potentially commercialise it in order to fund  its development.

‘Passages’ – Game Concept.

‘Passages’ will be a location-based, augmented reality (AR) game.

The idea is that the player travels to certain real-life locations in Dublin (the game could potentially grow to multiple locations) where beacon light sources are located. The player holds up their phone to discover a puzzle game based on the architecture of that location. Upon winning the puzzle they unlock a ‘light source’ and are guided via light to the next location. When a certain number of locations are unlocked the player gains a constellation. The aim of the game is to unveil all constellations, essentially building the night’s sky. As each constellation is unveiled, the player can hold their phone’s camera up to the sky and that constellation appears in true dark sky appearance against the offset of light pollution. The more constellations unlocked, the more dark sky you can see. If played during the day, the sky is rendered with both dark sky and polluted colouring.

Tourism

The game doubles up as an educational piece about light sources and their effects, as well as a form of tourist map for visitors to Dublin. With the app they are guided around the city to key cultural sites, where they can interact with the architecture using a fun, accessible game (I am using man-made structures as a reflection of light pollution being a man-made problem).

Problems I might face is that making a tourist game about the over-use of light in Dublin might be counter-productive. A solution to this might be to focus the attention on getting a player to want to go to the Dark Sky Reserves rather than over emphasising the particular failings (which could be clarified by support collateral?).

Multiplayer

There will also be a non-AR mode and multiplayer options. In multiply player, you can choose to play as ‘dark’ or ‘light’ and compete with other players in terms of speed and efficiency, therefore blocking the other player’s ability to turn on/off a light source.

The puzzle games that feature will be re-thinkings of classic retro games such as Tetris, Lights Out, Draughts, Space Invaders that create a sense of nostalgia for ‘days of old’. This is part of the problem of light pollution, proving that it is more factual than just remembering that we used to be able to see they sky better.

Aesthetics

My initial aesthetic plan for the game is to use ‘flat design’ 2D elements in a sort of 50s/60s style, but I need to test the feasibility of this when using AR technology – which ideally needs to be more 3 dimensional.

This nostalgia element is also reflected in the title of the game, Passages. The name was inspired both by the idea of a passage of light/time, the journey we must take in order to make changes (learning curve), but also by the physical passages that appear in historical astronomical sites like Newgrange. The game will draw on this ancient Celtic aesthetic for some of it’s visual elements – in a controlled manner so as not to make it too ‘twee’.

Another element to the game will be an add on where a player can upload pictures of their own night sky photographer, contributing to a citizen science project that collates live data from across the country. This element will be in communication with the Trinity College astrophysics department and Dark Sky Ireland. This would then be backed up by an informational website, and printed collateral. The printed collateral would also include more information on the game, a sort of ‘wiki’ guide including the map structure and more information about light sources in Dublin and the Dark Sky Reserves in Mayo and Kerry.

I am already in communication with TCD Professor Dr. Espey, but will now send on my updated brief and concept design to a contact in Dark Sky Ireland that he gave me to see what they think / if they can give me some advise and collateral.

I also plan to take a visit to Mayo Dark Sky in order to shoot some primary photography for the project.

Puzzle Games

I have made a list of locations I’d like to use as puzzle elements and began assigning them game structures. For example, one location will be the GPO on O’Connell Street. For this location the game is a memory pattern game, where the columns of the GPO light up, and the player is required to remember an repeat the pattern, which gets progressively faster and more difficult. These columns are traditionally illuminated via uplighting (changing colour for example for St. Patrick’s Day – Green) so I will make the light source of the game reflect that form of lighting.

For consistency across the game, I think only 5-6 forms of puzzle should be used in varying difficulties and skins – but I will explore this further as I develop the locations.

Below is an initial mock up of what the design might look like ( the 6 front columns will sit on an higher layer so as to interact). Again, I need to assess whether this flat design will be feasible for AR, as it may but a player off to be faced with an unrealistic dimension in a 3D environment.

gpo1-03.jpg