Weeks 9, 10, & 11 – Covid-19
The advent of Covid-19 means that CMU is now operating on a remote basis for the duration of this semester. We learned about this towards the end of Spring Break. These past few weeks we’ve struggled to find the time to keep up with blogging due to the large shift, but I’ll attempt to summarize what has been missed.
Getting Back in the Swing of Things
We spent most of the first week back refocusing ourselves and getting situated with remote work.
We were not able to go to the ETC freely in an effort to minimize contact and spread of the virus. Instead, we had a schedule that dictated times for people to show up and retrieve anything they needed – as well as check out anything that would be needed in the future. We were able to take home our ETC computers in case we didn’t have a powerful enough PC at home or needed the software.
DTOX is on the lucky side of things with regards to hardware. We don’t require anything other than a typical computer to run our experience, which made this part of the transition simple.
Keeping in Touch
We’ve needed to up our Slack usage considerably given that we can no longer speak face-to-face. We are maintaining a task journal channel in which we post updates on our progress. These updates don’t have to be huge or even when the task is complete – they just act as a running tally of what we are up to on a given day.
We’ve begun using Zoom to scrum as a team daily. These meetings aren’t long or complex, but it helps to see and hear your teammates sometimes. Likewise, our advisor meetings have increased to twice a week to give us some more guidance and connection in these odd times. Towards that goal of connection we also have a Zoom meeting running at all times outside of meetings as well for teammates to drop in and out of at will, whether to hash out some programming bug with words or just to chill out together.
We have needed to make some changes to our design and ultimate deliverable in the meantime. We aren’t going to be able to playtest an experience designed for a physical gathering of 80+ people anytime soon, so we are switching to a digital-only solution. While the overall structure of the session should be mostly unchanged, we now plan run it via Twitch. This idea fuses together the Presentaion screen and Community screen from our previous plan into one place – the Twitch broadcast.
We will switch between presentation and gameplay on the fly. The gameplay itself now shows all communities simultaneously – a sort of combination of the ecosystem screen and community screen.
At the end of Week 10, we playtested our experience over Twitch. We had prepared a presentation to go along with the game as well as making some modifications to the game itself, of course. At this point, we were testing with a single community and inviting mostly ETC students. The test ran for about 30-45 minutes and went well. The flow of the presentation went well. We ran into some unexpected reactions from people who wanted to ignore reports rather than punish them. We also, naturally, had some technical difficulties. The upgrades weren’t functional, meaning we were unable to run Rounds 2 & 3 as we’d like to. That being said, running it at all showed us several areas for improvement – such as clarity of the UI and player actions. We plan to playtest weekly from here.
Moving forward, our goal for this past week was to run a playtest with multiple communities. We made a lot of changes over this week to accomplish that, both aesthetically and mechanically. We also sought to squash as many bugs as we could that had been encountered in last week’s playest.
It was a successful week. Our upgrades are functional, multiple communities works smoothly, the visuals are improved, and we even got rid of a ton of bugs. However, as we found out during the playtest on Friday, AirConsole only allows up to 20 people to connect at one time. Anything beyond that will kick everyone off and prompt you to get a premium subscription. So, our playtest was cut down before its prime. We have postponed it to Monday, at which point we should have an AirConsole Hero subscription. We look forward to what we’ll learn.