September 2010 Archives

The Start of My IF Adventure

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Unit Two: "Rebellion Run: The Start"

 

Review of 2 Interactive Fiction games

 

The first game I played is my favorite: Lost Pig. From this game, I want to take the ability to wake-up a character (the sleeping gnome) and the idea of escaping a place with another character. Grunk has to find the pig in the beginning, but he ends up needing to escape the underground cave with the pig.

 

The HitchHiker's Guide to the Galaxy Game was fun to play and the other game I took ideas from. Though I didn't get all the way through, I was happy to recognize familiar events and plot. It inspired me to create my own game after a story I started. This, however, I found is not helpful to other players (as they haven't read my story). Items would have descriptions that progressed the story, but didn't much affect the game if you already knew the story plot.

 

Setting and tone of your game

 

The setting of my game is an underground government building in an alternate future. At first the game was supposed to be a serious escape with some romance thrown in. Then, it had to change to a short comedy and romance because of limited time.

 

Influences (what factors influenced your choices)

 

I wasn't able to make the whole escape idea so I shortened and changed the game to a comedy/romance that takes place in four rooms. There were also some coding problems that stopped me from making the game too complicated.

 

For example, I wanted to lock doors. I couldn't do it so I just got rid of those rooms and worked within a single room. I also wanted to have descriptions of a room change when you enter at different points. Maddie Gillespie helped me a little bit with making scenes and moving other characters to other rooms. In other cases, I tried to work around the description by making some things scenery or objects with different options (unused, used/asleep, awake).

 

Opening

 

My opening screen is mysterious to set the tone and setting. It tells you that there isn't something right about place that the characters live. The dialogue is between two characters you never meet.

 

If the player figures out to turn on and off the TV, they learn more about this weird place. Examining other objects like the fridge, bed, or mirror will tell you more.

 

There is a ringing you have to stop in the beginning. Thanks to Dr. Jerz, the ringing will continue until you find the phone and pick it up. This motivates the PC with a clear objective. Other creative factors include limiting the actions like waking up another character until the phone is taken care of.

 

Code

 

I made the coding for cut scene myself. That was my first real accomplishment. I added a "say" to happen after the "take" command. This cut scene also only happens once.

 

The coding I am most proud of is the "flush" command. I made the "flush" command from scratch (using only the Inform Guide) and put limits on it so that you cannot flush anything, but the toilet. Also, so that flushing at different times produces different results.

 

After Jessie told me how to end the play, I created three different endings with points myself. This programming was actually easy because by this point I understood the mechanics a bit better. I'm proud of this accomplishment because near the middle of my coding (a few days in) I didn't even know how I would finish the game in time or what the ending would be. Now I have three suitable endings with a variety of points.

 

Main Body

 

After the player picks up the phone, I rewarded the player with a cut scene/change in action. There is a crash that happens during the play. The player goes to the scene of the crash and is able to converse with the other character now. I learned to give and to ask other characters things thanks to Jessie Krehlik.

 

Some descriptions have also changed and there are less restrictions to actions.

 

I didn't figure out how to make the points earned show up earlier than the ending, that would have been more motivation.

 

Ending

 

I was able to create three endings. I wanted four, but I couldn't get the code to work. Once the other character enters another room, I wanted the game to end in so many turns. It ended up that, depending on the action of the PC, the story has two lose screens and one win screen. If the player misses the first action, they will not be able to win. Depending on which end screen you get, you can earn 10, 5, 0 points.

 

Credits

 

I primarily used the Inform 7 Recipie Book. A lot of coding help came from my professor Dr. Jerz and my classmates Jessie Krehlik (and her old blogs), Maddie Gillespie, and Megan Seigh.

 

Usability Test Report

 

First

The first tester took 20 minutes to complete the game. He needed some encouragement and tips on how to play Inform Seven. I gave him the card, but he still didn't know where to start or the what the command button was.

 

After he got the hang out it, it went rather smoothly with him examining most everything. From him I found that I needed a description of the faucet, the bedroom items (which didn't even exist), and to change some of the bedroom descriptions after the first cut scene. I added the descriptions, but I couldn't get the coding to work for the multiple descriptions for the bedroom items.

 

From his dallying near the end, I found he didn't know that Number 21 was a woman or that the FFPU was a fridge. For the next tester, I didn't further describe that 21 was a woman. I did spell out the FFPU the first time and put in the code to understand the acronym.

 

Second

The second tester had played IF before, but only for a short time. He knew the basic commands and it took him 16 minutes to complete the game. He actually found the win scene. The last tester had found the lose screen, but still earned 5 points.

 

I learned that when I had made changes after the first tester I messed up the constant ringing and some changing descriptions.

 

There was the same problem with Number 21 again. He knew it was a person, but didn't know the girl wasn't awake after they fell out of bed. This caused him to try to punch or kick 21. I changed the description of the 21 when the PC tries to wake her to something more obvious. "It seems the fall already did that for you."

 

I learned some new orders that I would implement if I had time. The tester tried to: set new orders on phone, call on phone, switch off phone, listen to 21 (when she's awake), talk to 21, show 21 the phone, give the phone, unplug the FFPU.

 

Third

The final tester hadn't played IF before, but new the story from what she'd read of my writing. It took her 25 minutes, but she knew to talk to the character after she woke up. From here, I found the last part always tripped up the testers, but it is supposed to be difficult.

 

The girl (other character) speaks in quotes/riddles. The testers eventually figured out what she needed (of which there are three options). I decided I would leave this the same. I found that only the last tester turned on or off the TV and didn't even get to the prompts.

 

Perhaps I should start with the TV off and have it turned on prompt an informational screen. I also found that when the TV is off the description of the living room is still "cartoons play in the background."


Other Students Unit 2 Projects

On Change And Diversity

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Two messages to reporters that I want to live by: 

"They want the reporter to be passionate for the story, to take risks, to reach for that part of the story others might overlook. Then the editor has to shift gears, making sure that passion doesn't come at the expense of objectivity, making sure that risk doesn't lead to bad reporting and shoddy work." - Norman Pearlstine

One of my goals this semester is to find A&E writers. By this I mean passionate writers and dedicated writers. Their approach may need to be refined, but I want them to like what they do and to do it well. I need diversity to do this.

This week freshman students read from Haiman about the importance of diversity in the paper and in the newsroom. In Coffey, I learned about something similar, my responsibility as a leader to represent diversity. The Setonain is a primarily female driven paper and many times we lose the male perspective (outside of sports). An example would be the article I even wrote on Boyfriends in Bedrooms, a feature about female roommates in relationships getting along.

The dynamics of male relationships were so far from the female and my knowledge that I could not fairly represent their side. This semester I am glad to see two new male faces in the Setonian and in Eye Contact (as a woman dominated publication). I'm also seeing more color as shallow as that may seem. Students from outside of PA, outside of the US will give the Setonian a more rounded perspective.

Eye Contact is spreading diversity as well by looking outside the Greensburg community for contributions. We want not only wants students, professional writers, and residents of Greensburg, but we want first-time writers, moms, out-of-state writers to better our issues.

It's important to keep this diversity, I just don't know how to do that.


The Public and The Statue

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"People don't see what you think they see. They see what they think they saw." - Dick Wald

This reminds me of the quote: "Women hear what they want to hear."

I believe this to be true. Our readers at Setonian aren't going to want to read about a horrible SHU game. They're going to want and look for a positive spin.

Similarly, Setonian readers have different views on Dr. Boyle's speeches. We may hear and interpret what she said one way (as students), but faculty or the Sisters may hear it another way.

We have to make sure we cover both sides and we're fair to both sides. Like Haiman writes of taking advantage of interviewees, we can't take advantage of our readership either. The incident with the red (then blue, then red again) sculpture that was outside of Lynch (then LECOM, then down the hill) wasn't covered as well as I thought it should have.

Writers were definitly on the side of the students (angered) and I found Boyle or the board's voice (the people who made the decision) were lost under it. Maybe we didn't ask the right questions or maybe Boyle was trying to avoid conceeding defeat, but we didn't get good supportive quotes.

Also, talk of the statue quieted down. In the time that it was hidden away, there should have been articles (an on-going issue) that was covered in the Setonian to keep and add readership. As Mark Whitaker said: "The greatest threat to the news magazine these days is people who do not follow the news. What helps you develop that habit is a big, huge, ongoing news story."

Now the statue is repainted, down the hill, and I haven't seen an article about it.

Class reflections on Haiman and Coffey

IF Game Plan: "Rebellion Run"

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IF Game Plan

1. The first game I played is my favorite: Lost Pig. From this game, I want to take the ability to wake-up a character (the sleeping gnome) and the idea of escaping a place with another character. Grunk has to find the pig in the beginning, but he ends up needing to escape the underground cave with the pig.

The second game I played was "Hoist Sail for the Heliopause and Home." It was an interesting game and I liked that the rooms aren't directly east or west. You have to do the next action to get to the next room. With the little bit of text, it seems like it would be easy to code. However, this leaves the player with little to go on.

The HitchHiker's Guide to the Galaxy Game was fun to play and the last game. Though I didn't get all the way through, I was happy to recognize familiar events and plot. It inspired me to create my own game after a story I started. This, however, is not helpful to other players (as they haven't read my story).

2. The setting is a building with several rooms and a vent system that will lead outside of the building. The genre of my game is adventure and perhaps a bit of romance. It's inspired off of a novella that I started to write "Rebellion Run". 

3. The story is originally in third person, but for the game the player will be the PC, the male character, "Blue". Blue will have a description: "Experiment Number 5 aka 2-12-21-5 aka Blue. I live in room 2121. I've always lived in 2121."

If inventory is clicked, the PC will have a key card (that will open doors), a jumpsuit (he will be wearing) and a Pocket (that provides different directions or hints at different times).

The object of the game is to escape the facility that you've been housed in your entire life and bring your fellow experiments with you.

4. The first scene starts in the living room of Room 2121. PC Blue is late for a meeting and needs to get going, but he wakes up to a ringing. It won't stop until he answers it and he can't leave without it. When he answers, a voice on the other end gives him information and then PC hears a crash and hangs up the phone. He must examine the noise (finding another person in his room) before he can leave. This leads to the next scene/conversation.

Other specific actions include: unlocking doors using certain key cards, finding a loose vent behind a tree, taking off the vent case with a paper clip found in the nurse's room, navigating the vent system, swinging across an empty elevator shaft using the a wire hanging in the middle. Also, there will be times when PC needs to "ask about escape plan" to get valuable information.

5. When play begins, say "REBELLION INTRO HERE"

Room 2121 is a room. "The description of the living room is "The [TV] plays Saturday morning cartoons on low volume."

The ringing of your Pocket has woken you. Where did you leave it again?

The player is carrying a key card. The player is wearing a jumpsuit.

East of the living room is a kitchen. The description of the kitchen is "A [microwave], [fridge],  [cabinent], and [sink] buzz quietly."

"The ringing is louder here."

Microwave is scenery. Sink is scenery. Cabinent is scenery, openable. Fridge is scenery. Pocket is in cabinet. Pocket is hidden.

South of Room 2121 is a bedroom. "A tumbling, rumbling noise comes from the [bed]. Next to the bed is a nightstand with a [picture] on top."

A nightstand is scenery.

A picture is in a fixed place.

Number 21 is a woman in Room 2121. Number 21 is hidden.

***Here I am attempting to make it so Number 21 is seen only after examining bed and she is sleeping. ***

The bed is in a fixed place. "Number 21 kicks the sheets off and rolls to the edge, snoring all the way."

The description of Number 21 is "She lives in room 1101...Ugh. Her snoring is so loud." ***(I want this to change later)***

Instead of waking Number 21, say "You should stop that ringing first."


6. The player will have text clues like (after examining) the clock saying you're late for a meeting. Other ideas will come in through conversation "ask about..." At certain points, the Pocket will ring and give the player hints about the next step until you meet the girl behind the phone calls.

7. Rewards will be romance points and, of course, textual encouragement when they get closer to escaping. It will get harder because the "romance points" will become less obvious and more specific. There will be less phone calls as the player advances as well.

8. I'd like to make multiple endings depending on how many "romance" points are acquired. If they get the majority, it will end outside the government building with a kiss. If not, they will still make it outside, but there characters will only be friendly. If they don't get enough points before they find and climb out of the vent, then a police force will be waiting to capture them when they make it out.

9. If I run short on time, I plan to shorten the vent maze and the romance points/multiple ending thing.

10. If I have time, I'd like to add the rest of the novella in which the characters explore the outside world, but are forced to return to the government building.

Making A Community and Prioritizing Properly

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"...if you just put them in their jobs where they have their game face on. They won't really feel like they're all togeth- er in a common cause. You have to get them in other settings where they begin to see each other as humans, and when you do that, they're much more likely to behave well toward one another in the work setting."


I want to take this quote and really put it into action. For Eye Contact, as well as the Setonian, we haven't done much in the way of bonding. Company events used to sound dumb to me, but that was because I was a team member, not a corporate employee. I was there to make my pay check and go. Working on Eye Contact as a leader now, I feel it can be something better.


However, Eye Contact and the Setonian lack dedicated, bonded members. The result is less effort and our product turns out far below where it could be. Now, the only question is how to create a bond or an event that the rest of EC/Setonian would see as beneficial rather than time-wasting/boring/some mandatory thing.


I think I will have more meeting times to allow growth for the staff and our goals.


"The lessons are that the institution has to come first."


Boy am I learning this. Though this section was about firing people (a hurdle I believe I will soon have to jump), I also apply it to my own dedication. I want to do so many things, but I have to make time for the most important things and see those through. What's most important to me, above work and school? Eye Contact and bettering Eye Contact and really doing something I believe my team can do.


Maddie on Leadership and Freshman on Haiman

About My First Scratch Game: "Late for Class"

 

The Games of Inspiration - Mad Libs and The Scratch Story of Hope D

 

Mad Libs is self-explanatory. Players entered words into questions asked. At end, answers were placed in a story that the player hadn't seen until the final scene.

Story of Hope D is a narrative that tells the story of how one user found Scratch, developed games, loved it, and created a story about it. Players click on a character that says "Next" to progress/read more

Mad Libs later faded in my mind, but I kept the idea of "chose your own" way. I found inspiration in Jessie Krehlik's maze. Krehlik's maze inspired me to create more levels that take my character in other directions. She had an idea of several levels and once you reach a target, it takes you to the next level.

I wanted to combine the two (Hope D and Krehlik's maze) into a story that had some interaction/maze-like qualities. The game turned out to be mostly a narration/story with minimal interaction because the complication of coding a maze was more than I was looking to tackle.

I followed Hope D's source code for the beginning in switching backgrounds and having the link to the story be my character. At the time, I didn't have source codes for the maze so I tinkered with the commands until I got the character to move properly in one direction.

Opening Scene - The opening screens have minimal instruction. The character says "Hello" and if that doesn't prod a click, she then says "Poke Me!" The text in the background tells the short story of character Africa who is late for class.

Section One - The player now moves the character to the school using the arrow keys. Each time you reach a door it takes you to the next level. Each completed level gets the character closer to class. The directions are simply: "Help Africa get to class." After clicking on the character doesn't work, testers always went for arrow keys.

Section Two - This level is a bit more challenging. The background has stairs going up or down. If the player chooses down (or the wrong direction in any other screen), the character says something like "Um...no" or "It's not time for lunch."

When the player goes up, I designed a block (with the help of Dr. Jerz) to follow the character up, blocking her torso so it looks like she walks up the stairs.

Section Three - Taking the upstairs will get you to the last task screen. This has encouraging words saying, "There's her classroom. You're so close." The door to the classroom is on the left and once the player touches the door, they get the win screen.

Win - The win screen has no win or lose appearance. The character is always late to class, but you get confetti for trying to help.

Lose - As mentioned before, if the player hits the wrong button, they are sent to the FAIL screen. It says "FAIL: This encourages the player to not fail so hard and so they try again.

 

Credits:

http://scratch.mit.edu/projects/HopeD/208289 - Scratch Story of Hope D

http://scratch.mit.edu/projects/funnyman1120/1177753 - Mad Libs

Jessie Krehlik and her maze

http://www.pennsylvaniamentor.org/campustour/undergraduate/660/Seton_Hill_University/Seton_Hill_University1.html - Seton Hill picture

Usability Testers - Jen, Brian, Katelyn

 

 Usability Report for "Late for Class":

 

Abstract

In testing my first scratch game, "Late for Class", I found the majority agreed that the directions were unclear and the game too short. Players also believed the game was intended for children because of its simplicity.

If I were to spend more time on the game, I would add two more levels after the second level so that the game was more challenging for a player. I would also make the game more maze-like, taking from Krehlik's code. For example, the player would have to avoid a piece of paper on the floor or the character would slip, like Krehlik's pawn who avoids the floaters for fear of starting over.

To solve directions, I would take out the "Poke Me" in the beginning and make the sequence timed to switch screens/backgrounds automatically, leaving the player to work only with arrow keys.

 

First tester: Jen, female, 20s

Took 1 minute to click the girl. After clicking twice (click stopped working), immediately went to arrow keys. After win screen, she tried again with same result. Then asked if it was over. Total playtime: 1.75 minutes

 

2 positives -

Amusing and relatable about being late

Told a story

 

2 negatives -

How quickly it ended

Not challenging - good and bad

Unclear instruction

 

Game was funny/fun: Agree on both

Game is finished: Disagree - needs more levels and directions screen

Directions are clear: Disagree - Don't know to click the girl to start.

 

What is age group?

Elementary

 

What can be improved?

Add more levels and detail to second level screen. Add directions page.

 

After this tester, I added words to the second level screen and added, "Poke Me" to the girl's salutations in the beginning. I also stopped the commands/arrow keys from firing the fail screen if the player wins.

 

Second Tester - Brian, male, 20s

Took 10 seconds to click the girl. After click stopped working, he tried to drag the character to the school. After 3 click/drags, he used arrow keys. Failed once, going down the stairs on second level. After win screen, he tried again as he asked if it was all. Total playtime: 1.5 minutes

 

What are three striking aspects of game?

Polite - gives you confetti so as not to kill your self-esteem

Tells a story

Graphics are fun, but childish

Short

Not difficult.

 

(The last 3 are negative.)

 

Game was funny/fun: Agree on fun, not funny. - There is one punch line at end

Game is finished: Disagree - needs length and instruction about where class is

Directions are clear: Disagree - Goes from clicking to arrow keys

 

What is age group?

5-10

 

What can be improved?

Pick either arrow keys or clicking. "I don't normally see both in games." Tell the location of the class at the beginning like second floor in such building. Add levels/make it longer. Make it like a maze where target can be seen, but it is difficult to reach.

 

I noticed that both parties guessed about the ending, not knowing it's a win screen. However, they did not list that as a negative or say it needed to be changed when asked. I changed the text for my last tester so that it reads "You win...Kinda" with further explanation and confetti.

 

Third tester - Katelyn, 19, female

Immediately poked/clicked the girl and went through the screens, but at first level with arrows took four click-and-drag-tries to then use arrow keys. Clicked the wrong arrow key on second level, but then clicked the appropriate key. The FAIL screen is late in coming up so it showed up on the last screen. Took the player three tries to realize this error. Total playtime: 2 minutes.

 

What are three striking aspects of game?

Fun speech bubbles

Lack of instructions

Fantastic Lab Coat

 

Game was funny/fun: Agree on fun

Game is finished: Disagree - (Kinda) There is no win, but it has all the parts. There could be more levels.

Directions are clear: Disagree


What is age group?

Elementary


What can be improved?

Give a clue on what to use (to move character).

 

In this test, I found the player did not ask if it was the end. She knew it ended. She did mention the not-so-win screen though. After this test, I changed the glitch with the late FAIL screen.

 

Conclusion

The directions are ruled unclear on every test even after changes. If given more time, I would take out the clicking and leave on arrow keys and test that before adding more direction.

I would also add more levels and make the game more challenging by adding more maze-like qualities.


See other game reports and portfolios on the class blog.

Useful Usability Review

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The Usability Testing Tips were mostly review because I took Writing for the Web my freshman year, but everyone needs to review. I had forgotten that I should ask questions that have a quantity (disagree strongly, disagree somewhat, agree, etc.) and to balance that with a short test.

This will be challenging because I want to know so much about different aspects of my game. However, this will not keep my volunteer's attention so I will have to test multiple people.

"Sequence Your Subjective Questions from General to Specific...By simply mentioning something in a question, you call attention to it."

I actually forgot about this part, but it is a good way to direct the test without focusing in on one spot too swiftly. I may be concerned about the direction of the characters, but if I ask first where they found problems with the game. The player may decide an issue with instructions was more important than the direction.


Later while writing questions:

I'm having a hard time making up questions that aren't opinion, but also aren't specific. I have two general questions so far:

"How would you improve this game?" and "List 3 postives/3 negatives of the game"

 

My First Scratch Development

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For EL405 New Media Projects, I am to develop a game using the tool Scratch. It's been a long process, but I decided on a text-based adventure game. I started with a character who is late to class and needs the players help to get there.

So far I have several scenes and costumes, but only two in which the player needs to click up or right. I plan to develop another interactive scene in which the player needs to click left.

At this point, if the player clicks up or right when they aren't supposed to, the game will take them to a "Fail" screen. If they make it past my preliminary levels, the gamer will get the "End" screen where they earn confetti.

My plan is to better develop the down and left buttons as actions and (if touched at the wrong time) will send the player to the "Fail" screen. I will use the "when player clicks down" then "broadcast fail." However, for "left" I will need to copy my previous directions which include: "when player clicks left" then 'if - touching color - else broadcast FAIL" then "switch costume" then the desired movement.

Note that I have a copied costume for each level. So that the character's look doesn't change, but if it's not the right costume number for the right screen, then she won't be running all over the place.

At this point, the buttons do nothing. I also need to do usability tests to see if my simple directions will be enough for a player to know when to click on the character and when to push an arrow key.

Difficulties I've had include getting the character to only move on the desired screen. I've solved this with the help of my professor Dr. Jerz and the "if/else" statement bars.

I also attempted to have confetti pop up, but when I succeeded I found it very static. Shelly Polly, classmate, helped me by suggesting the background be multiplied with different confetti and then switched back and forth to give the appearance of movement.

Another point of contention, I wanted the character to go behind the background I had set and appear to go up the steps. Dr. Jerz told me to design a box that appears in front of her, but blends into the background going the speed she goes. There was a lot of tweaking done there to get them both to move at the same incline, at the same time.

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