Final Project - Inform Extension

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My term project for EL405: New Media Projects will be an extension of my Inform Seven "Rebellion Run" game. Not only do I intend to add more detail, but I want to make a fuller story, closer to my original desire for the unit two project. I am not yet sure if I want to create it as a separate chapter/a whole new game, or a new scene, or just an add on to the rest.

By Thursday, I will have the rest of the rooms created and, hopefully, detail in the appropriate places. This will challenge me to come up with a creative storyline (extended from where I am now, and shortened still from my original thought). This will also challenge me technologically because I will need to create more commands and interaction with characters. I also will have to more closely understand what my players expect from my wording because the end won't be so simple now.

By Tuesday, I want to have an understanding of what commands will be difficult to implement and where I need to spend my time. I want to be able to reach/make one distinct ending (though overall I'd like to have several endings).

I feel confident in my understanding of Inform Seven and abilities to work on it by myself if necessary. I also find this to be the most fun option out of the three to work with. It gives me creative ability not found in Scratch, but with structure so I'm limited and don't overwork myself.

So recap:
  • Extension of Inform Seven Game
  • By Tues - all rooms and simple descriptions
  • By Thurs - one working ending
  • Goals - To have fun, not be too stressed
  • Refresher - On code for keys and locks, and character interaction
  • Confidence - Creative capability

Revised and Updated: New Media Portfolio

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Since my last portfolio, I have conducted more usability tests that were recorded and uploaded to YouTube. I have continued to show my mental flexibility in creativity and technical writing. I now not only have complete projects, but projects that are more detailed and complex throughout the game or website.

In this I simplified the keys for the user, added more instruction, and expanded the original game.

For this revision, I worked on deeper descriptions, a way to encourage the player to interact with another character, and a last ending for those who get stuck.

This was the easiest fix by far, mostly because I had Dr. Jerz and Maddie Gillespie's help. I plan to further this project for my final project. My goal is to create a more complex website for Eye Contact, and a simple way for submitters to download the Guidelines as an app. I forsee a problem though because I cannot find my own iPad to work with at this time.

It's Really A Resume

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My last project was an html page that was suited for the iPad. I would like to be able to download it as an app for my final project. Though the webpage is not optimized for every browser (explorer), the page shows up well on the iPad.

Before my first test, I changed the color to a darker red as some had suggested before. I also centered my picture and made all the links even.

After my first recorded usability test, I found that my tester did not realize the home page was a resume. So I added the word resume to the title and inserted three supplemental resumes as pdfs to the homepage. Maddie Gillespie was able to assist me with this.

A last problem was the format for the iPad. When turned on its side, the screen wasn't fitted properly and would not zoom in or out to compensate. This would have been a big issue, but Dr. Jerz had the coding answer and I was able to simply plug it in.

The last thing that came up was the preference to color. My tester actually did not like the darker red and would like to see it lightened up. This may be something I explore further for my final project.

Money and Conflict

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"Instead of yearning for a bigger budget, decide how to do things differently and successfully with what's available. Start thinking from zero-based premises" (110).

I found this interesting and I must have missed it in the original source. Eye Contact's budget is shrinking and it seems like we're trying to do everything with what we have and still raise money. Recently, we've decided to cut some things. We're cutting the amount of copies so as to have a larger book. We've raised just enough money to have a color cover next year.

We've put off ordering T-shirts, pencils, and other things that we'd like to have. We aren't printing the Pirates issue, but putting it online. We have a thermometer poster to show us how much we've raised. We're cutting corner's where we can and focusing on what we do have rather than what we don't.

"Anticipate trouble. Move quickly to confront it. When appropriate, apologize fully" (111).

This doesn't always help and my main problem is: "Don't bear grudges. Have an argument -- then move on to new business" (111). 

This also interferes with the Setonian. When someone fails to write an article or gets into a personal conflict with me, it is difficult for me to let go and move forward with them. Really, I end up excluding them and I'll have to work on that.

See more from other students

Informing Users On My Inform Seven Skills

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In this blog, I demonstrate my ability to find and fix coding errors in a code more flexible than Scratch. This also gave me the ability to create my own commands (like to flush). My Inform 7 game "Rebellion Run" first needed to be expanded in the ways of synonyms.

Before testing, I implemented (to the best of my ability) changes to the game that my three previous testers discussed.

Like most Interactive Fiction, players want to be able to use different words for the same action. This fix was easy: "understand 'object' as synonym" or make multiple commands with the other word inserted.

I had some scenery as well that needed to be elaborated on even though it had little to do with the story. I had included it and therefore should do something with it.

A big difficulty was the secondary character. To get to endings, you must interact with her. My first tester did not know how to ask her things and I didn't want to give too much away. There are "ask [character] about 'blah'" would end up with a result, and so would "tell about" or "show". I tried to give these hints to her verbally. To solve this problem, I changed some of the verbiage and added more synonyms or responses that would lead to the proper answer. My second tester was able to not only find an ending, but the winning one.

The last major problem was that when the user got so far in the game to move the secondary character, I forgot to add a description of her in the room she entered. So there was some mix-up and the tester didn't know what to do until the timer ended the game for her. This can be heard at the end of the first screencast.

End Scratch: Still So Late

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After my second go-round of usability testing in which I recorded screencasts for Late to Class 2.0, I realized that though taking out the clicks helped, the testers were frustrated having to sit through the whole beginning again and again. 

I tried clicking the screen to change the background, but the character's costume needed to be synched up as well. I started to make a skip button, but I couldn't get the code to match up. I went back to my first idea of the screen and found a way (creating a new broadcast) to link up the screen and the costume.

My next major change was to the text and directions. I gave two hints/tips. The first to click the screen to skip to the action. The second to not hold down the keys. I didn't say which keys to click to move (I didn't want to make it too easy), but I found the testers were holding down the keys to move the player and that would inevitably lead them the wrong way.

The last change actually came up after the game was uploaded. I found that the character showed up on the FAIL screen and the caption did not. Dr. Jerz helped me work through this because in my coding offline there was no such problem. It ended up that script stopped too soon. So I moved the "stop script/all" button to after the character is hidden rather than immediately after the background showed up.

Another student played the game and, though she brought up new ideas, she showed that I was able to fix the major kinks.

Logging On and Importing Pictures to Layout

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As a New Media Journalism student at Seton Hill University, I realize the difficulties in creating a print paper in Quark and InDesign. Because I am the arts and entertainment editor of the school paper The Setonian, its part of my job to help students new to the program. For EL 200: Media Lab, I have created two screencasts that demonstrate how to log on to the server (different from logging on to the computers) and how to import pictures into the layout.

Below you will find my written instructions:

  1. Know what pictures you need. Talk to the photo editor about which ones need to be imported. If there is no photo editor, talk to the section editor or the layout editor.
  2. Make sure the photos are in black and white. To do this follow step three to log on, but at "j" choose "Photos" intead of "Layout". If they are not B&W, start the grayscale process.
  3. Pull up the proper Quark layout file. It will be in the Setonian server, in the current semester/year/issue.
  4. First connect to the server.
  5. Go to "Go" on the Finder menu screen and scroll down to "Connect to Server" 
  6. Choose the long "afp://" and click connect. 
  7. Enter name and password as shown on papers beside the computers.
  8. Select Users and click OK
  9. By this time, you should have connected. If going on the internet and it asks for a keychain, click cancel.
  10. In the list of Users, find "setonian"
  11. Open Setonian file
  12. Pick appropriate semester and year 
  13. Pick Layout 
  14. Open working Quark layout. There should be only one.
  15. Find the pages that still need photos inserted and start.
  16. Click the empty picture frame you want to put a picture into. Picture frames should be black and 0.5 pt.
  17. Go to File. Then Import Picture. 
  18. Make sure you're choosing from Setonian, the proper issue, and photos folder.
  19. When you single click on a picture, it will pull up a shot of it. If it is not in black and white, do not insert. Make sure here the blacks and black and whites are as white as possible for the best final image in the paper. If the picture is not bright, go to Photoshop and fix it please. When you're satisfied you have the right and best picture, click open/insert/ok/return. 
  20. The picture should now appear in the frame. To move the whole frame, use the item or compass key above the content key.
  21. To move just the picture, use the content key as seen in the top left corner here. 
  22. This picture is not big enough for the picture frame. Once a photo is in Quark, it cannot be formatted. In this case, record the X and Y readings (seen here in top tool bar, second set of measurements) and take those numbers to Photoshop to resize. 
  23. Save the new picture on the Setonian server under the Photos folder and under an identifiable name with the tag "- resized".
  24. SAVE ALL CHANGES in the under the original name. Do not create a new Quark file. 

Look Again, Late Again

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Today, I looked at my Scratch game for the first time in a few weeks. I was surprised I remembered so much about my code and how Scratch worked. I had remembered it being really difficult, but this approach was much less stressful.

In only two class periods, I was able to add the down movement, two more levels, solve the problem of giving one arrow key specific directions for specific times and costumes, and add another costume to hide my main character as she goes down a hole.

I also edited some of the backgrounds in order to make them more professional, though my artistic ability is far from professional.

The one thing I very much dislike about Scratch is that only one text box can be used on each background.

Better Me Time

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"Getting the problem focused and then getting stuck, and then getting away from it -- to something else -- has always been useful to me...It's when I get distracted." - Jack Fuller

I can agree with this latest section of Coffey (Personal/Work Balance). When I'm trying to write a paper (and I have no idea), the best thing for me is to get distracted or relax and nap until I come up with an idea. The same thing when I'm brainstorming for Eye Contact. I'm trying to think of new ways to update EC and get the campus more involved. The best times to think about that are right after a meeting when my mind was on it to begin with or while clearing my mind.

"Work can be 24/7 if we let it."

I forget this all the time. I forget to shut off and do things that I enjoy. This really impacted me this weekend when things didn't go as smoothly as planned with Eye Contact and other school responsibilities. There are things more important than my fake job and grades. I recently spent a weekend in MD and loved it. I wanted to spend more time there, doing the things I used to, and so I'm looking forward to winter break.

The hardest thing is to figure out how you balance your own personhood, your true self, with the demands of the group."

This was another problem this week. I've wanted to be myself because I get sucked in and have little fun. But at the same time, I cannot lead a group that way. I'm at an impasse now and I need to find what's important to me. Leading EC, being myself, or finding a balance. I can say now that if I can't find a balance then I'd rather be myself.

For now, I'm going to do what Tom Johnson suggests and keep a private list of the things I wish to accomplish for myself.

Newseum - More Than You Want

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Earlier this week, I visited the Newseum. As a leader in EL200, I invited students who could not attend the SHU-sponsored D.C. trip. At the last minute, a few spots opened up and those students were able to take the bus. I then visited the museum at my own leisure and it wasn't what I expected.

Newseum Interior.jpg

There were several floors with walkways, glass elevators, and several moving exhibits. 

Newseum Interior Two.jpg

I realized afterwards why the lady at the ticket booth said we could return the next day. There was just so much emotion in once place that it couldn't all be seen and comprehended in one day.

If I had not had class on Wednesday, I would have gone back. I learned a bit about journalism there as well, not really about my goals established in Ex 1, but about journalists and journalism in extreme conditions/tragedies.

Here are three pictures with AP style captions:

Aja On Issues.jpg
Setonian journalist Aja with headphones at the ethics voting booth in the Newseum, October 12, 2010. Aja finds it surprising that more journalists believe in shooting the picture of the child with the vulture on standby rather than feeding the child. (Setonian Online/Carlos Peredo)

Bastards! in the News.jpg
After 9/11, The Examiner ran "Bastards" as their sole headline, October 12, 2010. During national tragedies, the formal format of newspapers can be replaced by something more emotional. (Setonian Online/Aja Hannah)

Honored Journalists.jpg
Panels and panels of names of journalists who died in their line of profession, October 12, 2010. Names are always being added as wars and crimes (especially against freedom of speech in other nations) wage on. (Setonian Online/Aja Hannah)

So though I did not attend the museum with any other Setonian students, I did reach a goal of reaching out to them, offering them my assistance and time to bond. Though I learned nothing about the actual skill of laying out the paper, I did learn about the differences in a paper under pressure and during a tragedy, the importance of plans, and how rules can be bent.

Paper Under Pressure.jpg
Setonian student poses in front of "We had a plan" display at Newseum, October 12, 2010. Despite the government's lack of plan during Hurricane Katrina, a New Orleans paper had a plan and continued to produce issues that chronicled the storm. (Setonian Online/Carlos Peredo)

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