This past week, we had Soft Opening (which is similar to beta testing/opening in the industry; abbreviated as softs commonly at the ETC) for our projects. We also ran another show on Friday with the improvisers and we had a lot of fun, as well as some more ideas to work on.
I was told that traditionally softs is done in a manner similar to quarters with multiple faculty members walking to a project room and taking a brief look of our project; this year, however, four faculty members were assigned to us to chat with us for an hour long session. We asked the faculty members to watch our show before they come into softs as part of our product. We also prepped a series of slides of what we have been working on since halves, as well as a live demo to showcase the tech that goes behind the show.
It was good to see that the faculty was curious about what we have managed to achieve. We have received very valuable feedback from them, and the ones we managed to work on the most this week is adding more audience interactions and more elements that will juice up our show, since lots of them said that they found having too much time without anyone speaking in the show was awkward and dry.
With Softs behind us and finals only a week away (scary!), we took in the advice from faculty and decided to try whatever we could fit into changing in a week (or two), so some cool advice that is suggested by faculty (especially the one that is mentioned by Jesse with doing puppets) was not something that is within scope. If there is a Commit to the Bits third part, however, it will be really cool to have that kind of interaction!
In the beginning of the week, Brenda and I evaluated what went well with the last show, and what could’ve gone better. Both Brenda and the actors said that they felt prepared and warmed up with the current list of the games that we play for our show, so that was definitely encouraging. Upon that, we decided that we are going to extend the list of the games we play from five games to eight of them.
After our programmer’s hard work, we managed to incorporate the gifs that was created by Namrakant into our show. Now, if an audience member says “haha” or something similar in the chat, the gif will be trigger on a little corner of the screen. We thought this extra layer should make the audience feel like they are a part of the show a bit more.
We also decided that we are going to experiment with a laugh track. We found two different laugh tracks that could be used and incorporated that as a part of the show. We wonder if this will brand the show with a 90s sitcom like feel, but playtesting is a ground that allows for trial and error, so why not?
We adjusted and made sure to the best of our abilities that the game description output by the bot is accurate and straightforward. We tried to also tried to add a “chit-chat” element with the improvisers in order to fill the time gap of host giving out a suggestion prompt to the time that the audience actually receive that on their end.
Prior to the show, we decided that we are going to do a rehearsal with the actors the day before so we could talk through some games in more details, therefore avoiding confusion. We found the rehearsal to be profoundly helpful – having this one hour beforehand was very nice; I think psychologically, having a rehearsal not immediately before the show starts made it seem less daunting and it felt like we weren’t under immense pressure to both fix tech problems that we may have and also explain everything we will be doing in the next hour. We didn’t even do too much in our hour long prep time on Friday, but it felt nice to be able to fix all the tech problems we have and chat the actors and get to know them better.
The show itself went fairly well! It ran fairly smoothly; the lag time was filled up a bit more with the chit chat with the actors, but it felt sort of unnatural and forced.
But in general, all that participated seemed to have fun! I tried to pick a suggestion from everyone in the audience, as there are a lot of good ones. Some people did mention that they wonder how this is going to work with a larger audience size, and we are curious about that too!
We are going to prepare for finals week, finish up on all the documentation for the project, and possibly run another final show with the improvisers while making some more changes! Stay tuned.