Postmortem: The End of the Beginning

We haven’t posted our progress for some time. In the past few weeks, we were busying making our product usable and easily understandable. After those weeks’ hard work, the project is finished and we end up with a product we are very proud of. In this blog, we would like to share with you about what happened in the last few weeks, what is our final product and what will be the future of this product.

In the past few weeks…

In Week 12, we said that we were adding the last few essential features and starting to focus more on usability and reliability. After Week 12, we started to fully focus on fixing bugs and improving usability. We made important contents more visible, we rearranged our art assets and we made more games. However, during halves, our faculty pointed out two important issues we hadn’t really addressed. The first problem was that in all of our playtest events, we were sitting next to the playtesters to help them. If the product was supposed to be used at home or in a museum setting, we haven’t proved that our target audience can use our tool to create their games without us hovering. The second problem was, for the potential museum setting, we might need a special version for that setting to protect the PC in the museum.

Thus, the main focus for the last few weeks was really about bringing our audience on board. To do that, we designed a series of tutorials with multiple levels. We started with making a very simple game and teaching the basic idea behind the puzzle building process. After the user get used to the puzzle building process, we gradually introduce more puzzles and more narratives into the tutorials. We recorded video and integrated it into our tool and on the web page.

We also scheduled a playtest at Manchester Academic Charter School to playtest our tutorial. We gave the playtesters the tool, the tutorial and thirty minutes to find out whether they can create their own adventure games without us. The result was, surprisingly, successful. Most of the playtesters succeeded in making their own games and they are really smart and creative in making games. We can definitely see the impact of our tutorial. (To try out their games, check this link)

Besides the tutorial, we also developed a museum-specific version of the tool and wrote documentation for handing off.

Now, we have…

Now, the semester has ended, and here are our deliverable:

  1. A puzzle design system: it includes our core underlying game design concepts, state changes, verbs, and backward thinking.
  2. A game creation tool: it is a cross-platform application on Windows, Linux and OS X.
  3. A series of tutorials: it includes three video tutorials and their text instructions.
  4. Hand-Off documentation: it is detailed documentation from both design and technical perspective

Our project is open-sourced on Github and you can see the building instructions on the readme page. To help understand the codebase, we also wrote about the technical documentation on the wiki. You can also download the final product in the release page (Windows version and OS X version)

To help understand our design and our process, we did a good job in our final presentation. Feel free to check out the video:

Next Steps

After the playtest in MACS, we are more and more confident with our product. It can truly teach some basic game design concepts and allow the middle schoolers to create their own games. It has its potential. However, because of the time limit, we still have several unimplemented features. We were focusing more on polishing the tool instead of adding more features in the late semester. Here are the features we would love to add to the tool if we have another semester with this project:

Tech TODOs:

  • Make the editor responsive (it’s 1920×1080 now and not resizable)
  • Make the editor web-based (required skill: webpack or parcel)

Design TODOs:

  • Puzzle editor
    • Puzzle customization
      • Customize complete message
      • Customize sprite changes
      • Customize the winning screen
      • Customize failure message
    • More puzzles
      • Combining puzzles
      • Navigation puzzles
      • Conversation puzzles (distraction and convincing)
    • Puzzle card organization
      • Grouping
      • Showing dependencies
  • Worldbuilder
    • Navigation (arrows or minimap)
    • Conversation
    • Imported audio preview
    • Imported image/audio deletion

The End of the Beginning

We do see the potential of this product and the whole K12 education area. The project has ended but the product has not. The first version is just its first cry. We really hope more people can work on this product or work on more K12 education projects. Just keep in mind, you will need tons of playtests to land your new features to the target audience.