Week 8 – Playtest and site visit

Feb 28 – Mar 5

This has been a crazy week for us.

In the first half of the week, we finished up a prototype of our web interface for the audience to key their questions into, and came up with a simple storyline for our playtest on Thursday. We held 2 sessions of around 4-5 American ETC students each. The agenda for that playtest was to see:

  1. What sort of questions the audience will ask
  2. How the audience will respond to on-screen information
  3. If the audience can follow along with the storyline

At this point in time, we weren’t really that interested in playtesting the story or the acting, and as such, just got 2 ETC students to act.

Our results were quite promising. We had preempted the majority of questions from the audience, and the actors were familiar enough with the topics to ask and answer the questions naturally without breaking the flow of the game. This helped the audience in understanding the story.

The audience also responded really well to the backstory facts about the character whom they were trying to convince to give up his gun, asking questions which were directly related to the facts which we displayed on the screen. However, they completely ignored the data driven statistics (e.g. 60% of gun owners own a gun for protection), suggesting that we needed to make the game a lot more story instead of intellectually driven.

The playtest also revealed a couple of glaring issues with our game. The first was on the topic of agency – the audience felt like they weren’t in control of what was happening on stage. This was mainly caused by the backend team choosing which questions to show to the actors in order to forward the story. We plan to mitigate this in part by implementing a voting system, in which top voted questions are sent to the actor. Points will also be awarded if your question gets asked.

The second was the style of delivery by the actor the audience was controlling. This was caused by the actor whom the audience was controlling starting off with a very passionate, though not tactful manifesto about why he wanted the other character to give up his gun. Things like “that stupid gun” and “we can’t be friends anymore” (even though they have a close relationship) did not rest well with the audience. That actor came off as a bit mean, while the other actor (gun owner) was being very nice and reasonable about everything, leading to some of the playtesters saying they didn’t want to help the former actor even though they shared the same views as him.


 

With that playtest over and done with, it was time for a site visit. On Thursday night after the playtest, our team made a trip down to Parsons the New School for Design in NYC, which is where our experience is to be held at. We arrived really tired early on Friday morning, but thankfully our hotel rooms were ready so we could get some rest before our meeting with the G4C and Parsons staff.

It was a fruitful visit – we were shown three different rooms in which we could hold our game at. The first was the main room, Tishman Auditorium, which had all the technical things we needed (stage, backstage, proper lighting, etc.) and could fit a couple hundred people. The next was a much smaller hall which could also work, except that it was in a separate building a few blocks away from the main conference, and we had concerns about the flow of human traffic there. Lastly, there was a small classroom in one of the upper levels of the main building, which we felt was a bit cramped and might not be able to meet our needs.

Of course, our first choice of location was the Tishman Auditorium. Unfortunately, G4C has no idea if this will be possible, and has said that they can only get back to us about it once they settle the event schedule in a month or so. Fingers crossed!

We also started preparing the content for our Half presentations, which is in two weeks time. Next week is Spring Break, followed by GDC, and immediately after that, Halves. It’s gonna be a really crazy period, so hopefully we manage to get everything done in time!