Week 4 – Quarters and Servers

What We Did This Week

After last week’s consolidation of all our research, we were ready to present it to faculty on Monday for quarters.  This test of our knowledge went well, especially in how it solidified our own understanding of what we’ve been reading and absorbing the past couple of weeks.  We feel much more confident in our knowledge base after repeating and refining it in all these mini-presentations.

After making small refinements and focalization changes on our Role and Skill Level matrices, which you may remember from last week, we focused our presentation on them.  Explaining how we plan on exploring different role intersections seemed to be the best way to get across what exactly we planned on doing, along with clearing up that we will not be making one experience but multiple prototypes in these different areas.  Nailing down what audience we were going for was a more difficult area. Our views and scope on it were challenged, and led to us changing our plan.

Slightly refined with a more selected audience

We were construing audience research validity as a result of market appeal a bit too much.  As a discovery and research project first and foremost, we don’t really have to worry about making our experiences commercially viable, but we still had to keep true to both Twitch and improv.  We’re still working out this tricky line, but our impression is that it is safe to rely on expert/experienced improv performers as streamers for the purposes of our research rather than try and create for the existing sphere of normal streamers.  While a core part of improv and game design is implicitly teaching their processes, we’re more focused on finding a base level of fun at all in this intersection. We tightened our scope and our audience to be only experienced improvisers and average Twitch audiences.  This isn’t feasible in every playtest, but we do plan on working with professional improv troupes to make it happen.

Our list of design conventions was also heavily updated for the presentation, but ultimately didn’t get much use.  We think it is still integral to our understanding of the extratextual elements of each’s form, important to keep in mind when trying to translate between the two.

More or less the same as last week

Briefly before quarters we also had a phone interview with Seth Glickman, author of some of the research papers we’d been processing.  This was mostly a technical discussion on how to bypass latency on Twitch, but it also brought up the weird atemporality of interest curves with livestreamed content.  If someone can drop in to your experience, your stream, at any time on the interest curve, how could they feel the full experience? We considered this for a bit, but received the most helpful response to it during quarters.  If our content is good, then of course viewers would be encouraged to find out what was all going on. All we should do is keep our experiences episodic and manageable. New viewers should always feel that their potential to understand is within reach, and further be pushed toward finding it by the experience’s own engagingness.

Brainstorming, Ideation, and Playtesting

The other big event this week was kicking off our formal brainstorming for all the experiences we’ve been talking about.

Our goal starting out was still to translate the most basic improv experience to Twitch and stream it.  We’d have to first understand what works on that level before elevating or transforming it. We decided to implement a sort of freeze tag cycle focused on quick changes in scene, character, and whatnot.  So, we went with a rolling suggestion box for the audience and the ability to vote on what the improviser streamers would incorporate to their next brief performance. The main ideas at test here were multitasking and audience agency.

We ran a brief paper playtest of this process, and it went decently well.  It generally confirmed that this process is possible, and the faults in it, such as attention management and content quality, made us more excited to see how they’d change, if at all, on Twitch itself.  More on this after more formal playtesting next week.

Technical Gold Spikes

We had a lot of time to think about how to go about our first gold spikes for an audience input implementation.  We also had a great starting point with Joseph Seering’s bot codebase and various helpful parts from the HCI up on main campus.  Our first technical accomplishments had chatbots up and aggregating submissions quickly, followed by presenting this data for the audience to vote on, and then tallying them up.  We’re still deciding how best to spread the architecture between bots and Twitch extensions as it grows.

We have higher UI aspirations, such as letting audience members click on the screen and other visual input methods, but for now we are satisfied with strictly text based interactions to get playtesting off the ground.  After our paper playtest, we are ready to ease into the weird space of playtesting with people strewn around the world by getting a feel of Twitch next week.