The Bravura team at finals!

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The semester is over and Bravura is done with TuneTrain! …or are we? Find out!

Final Presentations
Final presentations went really well. People seemed very impressed with our product, or at least the people that nodded when we talked about things we discovered. (e.g. some of the EA guys when we said that a tile-based level select is more user-friendly than a swipe through level select).

Otherwise, we got really good questions about specific choices we made (Why is sheet music hidden by default? Because it can get in the way of the main screen, and not all kids wanted it), questions about development (How close are we to releasing and is it all native? Very close and yes, Xcode / Sparrow), and questions about playtesting (Were we able to measure learning? Not specifically because we designed for incidental and gradual learning but we did notice that some kids were able to draw connections when we explained the underlying music theory in our app).

Finally, we got a lot of great feedback during the post-presentation demos. EA folks, ETC alum, current ETCers on co-op, and even people from other companies all stopped by to try our app. In particular, we would like to thank ETC faculty Jessica Trybus for flying out from Pittsburgh to SV just for today to see the ETC-SV finals. Bravura appreciated your encouraging comments.

Wrapping Up
The semester is officially over. The team is archiving our work; we’ve written our post-mortem and self-assessments; we shot and edited final footage of our app for promo videos. It looks like we are ready to move on.

But we’re not done yet. Some team members will be around until the end of May to put finishing touches on TuneTrain in preparation to release it on to the app store by June. We’re really excited about TuneTrain, Jiyoung and Carl are really excited about TuneTrain, and a few of our playtesters and their parents have been exciting about TuneTrain. While there are many features we did not complete, we see a wonderful opportunity to showcase what we have made this semester.

We would like to thank each other, Jiyoung, Carl, the other ETC-SVers, and everyone who helped us this semester for a wonderful 16-weeks, and we wish the best of luck to everyone wherever they may go from here.

The new tutorial in action!
The new tutorial in action!

This week between Softs and Finals has been a busy one as the team began wrapping up loose ends as well as pushed to put final touches on our app. We’ve made a lot of exciting improvements in content as well as interaction polish and our app is almost done.

Many new features happened this week as we have been clearing off our backlog.

First and foremost, our app has a final name, TuneTrain. We had been considering a variety of names, but playtesters and even some EA folks passing by our work area have really liked the concise alliterativeness of TuneTrain. TuneTrain is official!

Up until recently, only levels that had been written in the key of C were able to be played, but, now, all ten of our levels have been successfully implemented. TuneTrain now has levels in various keys and of musical flavors (some happy and some a bit more eerie). We have also tweaked the levels for appearance and flow by changing some note placement as well as by adjusting horizontal spacing for notes that occur very close together.

Further polish this week included: adding a parallax effect to the background of our levels; adding sounds to our menus; as well as creating a symbol/button for the accompaniment style-changing UI.

The other most exciting thing that happened this week was the successful implementation of the tutorial framework. We now have a basic tutorial that isolates and guides players through specific UI elements and interactions, and we can add/remove steps as needed. Most amazingly, the code merged with our main branch in Git with no conflicts. It was a good week for development.

Feedback and Playtests
Last weekend, Nathan tested our app with CMU design alumni as well as students at the San Francisco Conservatory, and this week, we also had two playtests scheduled with families.

These last few opportunities for feedback before finals have been very helpful for refining our interactions just a bit more. Level scrolling had been changed from a two-finger gesture to scroll buttons in response to softs. However, feedback over the weekend showed that what people really wanted was one-finger scrolling so we implemented that. The playtests during the week then further helped us balance the variety of functions that now need to react to one-finger gestures, which include placing notes, editing, de-selecting, and scrolling.

Looking Forwards
Next week will be a time to tie up remaining loose ends: Getting TuneTrain ready for the App Store; updating promotional media to reflect the final app; writing post-mortems and archiving our work. Moreover, next week is final presentations, and the team is really excited to share our final results with the ETC alum and EA employees who have been following us throughout the semester.

Mike explaining our app to Greg Dismond
Mike explaining our app to Greg Dismond

This week the team polished our game and prepared for soft opening on Wednesday. Soft opening at EA went extremely well, and we have spent the rest of the week continuing to polish and playtest.

Soft Opening at EA
The ETC Silicon Valley campus held our Soft Opening within the Atrium of Electronic Arts at Redwood Shores, California. We demoed our product and answered questions to interested EA employees.

We got a lot of valuable results: Our current level selection system which uses scrolling is difficult to use and we are considering switching to a traditional tile-based level select. The current method of removing notes from the melody by tapping above or below is also not consistently intuitive. Finally, we found that most of our UI is intuitive, even if one skips the tutorial, all that is, except for the accompaniment style.

In addition, in the afternoon, a group of Girl Scouts who were touring EA also stopped by to visit the project teams. The 11 girls and 1 boy were all within our target demographic of 8 to 12. Using two finger scroll to navigate the levels is a stumbling point, even sometimes with the tutorial. We will most likely implement actual UI for level-scrolling.

Cheng showing TuneTrain to Girl Scouts
Cheng showing TuneTrain to Girl Scouts

Polish was the big theme of this week, from polishing in preparation for soft opening to polishing in response to feedback from soft opening.
Going in to softs, our programmers did an amazing job cleaning bugs and memory leaks. While previous builds of the game would occasionally crash if one tried the exact wrong combination of actions, our build for softs was robust enough that we did not experience a single crash the day of.

After Softs, with the system proven sturdy, the team began to add polish to our content. The people now change to a very visible red color when selected so that you know whether or not they are part of the melody, especially when the line seems to go through them. And in support of the story of our universe, there are now train terminals at the beginning and end of each level and people disappear when the train drives by and “picks them up.”

Looking Forwards
Next week is the last week before finals. We will be putting the final touches on our game, and implementing our other levels as well as the latest tutorial, which will reflect changes made to our final UI. In addition, we will have two more individual playtests next week to confirm changes that we have made since softs.