Home Front: Week Six

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The Work This Week:

Week six was spent building our foundation. It was also an excellent demonstration of how many ways there are to develop design.

One facet we we explored in depth was consulting with our Subject Matter Experts.  Our bi-weekly call with Ms. Goldsmith was incredibly informative towards how best to approach the use of the chorus in our design, and helped us to solidify the demographics we want to aim our game towards. We also spoke with Dave Culyba, a faculty member at the ETC, on how best to approach the design parameters of a transformative experience. On Thursday, we had another call with Jessica Hammer, and talked about currently existing games in the space surrounding end of life conversations that we hope to develop in.

Another area we made progress on was constructing the components of the game. Using selected initial text from Philoctetes, we record place-holder audio to hand over to one of our programmers, Apoorva. She was able to implement the audio files on a skeleton of our app, to make sure we can iterate on functionality as we move forward.

We also were able to playtest our initial player interactions. Getting the game into the hands of players was eye opening, to say the least. It is clear that, to develop a game based around player communication, playtesting will be a key to our success.

Armed with this new information, we’re prepared to go into week seven. We’ll be working towards a better understanding of the mechanics we’ll be using. From there, we’ll be working to have a full first draft of our game by March 8th.


Home Front: Week Five

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The Work This Week:

Week five was spent clarifying our end goals.

We began the week with our Quarters presentations. Being able to have varied feedback from the ETC faculty was invaluable. Our takeaways for the day ranged from new appreciation as to how carefully we needed to mange the discussion piece of the game, to new lists of possible sources to research, to help framing our game play.

Tuesday and Wednesday were spent collecting our thoughts and processing the notes we had been given.  Mr. Doerries also reached out to us with a question about what our deliverable might look like with a focus on end of life care. Taking in all of this information, we evaluated what the core pieces of our design were, and how we could move forward capitalizing on ideas and momentum we had coming into the week.

Thursday was, by far, the most impactful day of the week. Boarding a bus at 9:30 in the morning, the team took off to New York to see Theater of War Productions Hercules in Manhattan. A reading of Aeschylus’s The Madness of Hercules, it was presented to foster conversation about gun violence. The team was able to see the full performance and following discussion. We were also able to sit down with Mr. Doerries and Ms. Goldsmith to discuss our design process in person. Being able to speak with them, especially after having just seen what their process and product look like, was hugely beneficial for the team.

Friday was spent in transit, taking our second eight hour bus ride in less than 24 hours to return to Pittsburgh. The entire day was spent processing the events of the week, and it is clear that we’ll be approaching next week with renewed purpose and vigor.




Home Front: Week Four

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The Work This Week:

Week four was spent preparing for Quarters.

The best way I have found to explain Quarters presentations at the ETC to someone who has not lived through them is “your first pitch to your funders.” Next Monday, groups faculty will tour project rooms for twenty minutes at a time, while teams explain their projects and their goals. Because time is tight for each group, teams must find ways to concisely explain their projects, giving enough detail to be helpful but leaving enough time for faculty’s critiques and expert feedback

The groundwork for this process started early in the week, when Mr. Dorries selected the idea he wanted out of the two final pitches we had presented him; a radio play board game. Armed with his feedback, thoughts, and direction, we were able to take our initial design and begin to develop game-play mechanics.

To understand how to best approach table top game-play that stays emotionally relevant, our research has turned to examples currently on the market. We will be examining games such as The Grizzled, MonsterHearts, and Betrayal at House on the Hill. We’ll also be dissecting more free flowing role-playing  games such as Rosenstrasse, the story of interfaith marriages during Hitler’s rise to power in Nazi Germany, and Little Bit of Lovin’, a three day LARP about the AIDS epidemic in the 1980’s. This week were fortunate to speak with Jessica Hammer, a developer of Rosenstrasse and faculty at ETC. Her advice has been vital to aiming our research further.

We ended our week with a call to Theater of War’s company manager Marjolaine Goldsmith. Having all our ideas collected for Quarters allowed for a solid check-in, and let us clearly communicate our direction to our client. Ms. Goldsmith’s feedback and comments helped us to finalize our direction with our initial design.

Home Front also completed our first major deadline; our branding materials are finished. Our immensely skilled artist Qiqi Feng was able to find a wonderful visual take on the feelings and intentions we hope this project will embody.


Home Front: Week Three

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The Work This Week:

Week three was spent expanding our ideation and narrowing our focus.

We started off the week by reviewing the four final options we wanted to present to Bryan Doerries, making sure they were where they needed to be conceptually, and using them prepare for our call with Mr. Doerries the next day.

That call was very enlightening, and helped us to understand Theater of War’s core values much more clearly. It also resulted in a new design pillar: The audience knows more than we doTaking the lead from Mr. Doerries preferences, we left the call with two options to move forward with; a radio-play  table top  game, and an audio/text experience, both based around Ajax and Philoctetes.

Over the next several days, we fleshed out designs that fit within the scope of our remaining time, fit the values Mr. Doerries wanted to make sure were present, served the texts of Theater of War as well as possible, and matched the skill sets we knew we could best bring to the project.  Those ideas have been sent back to Mr. Doerries for his final selection.

While the deliverable is still in question, the team has started narrowing down what we want our playtest audience to be. Our ideal playtesters are going to look very much like Theater of War’s target audience; active duty service members, veterans, and their families. We’re also aiming to include physiologists in our playtests, to make sure we’re approaching the content in a correct and approachable manner. The team has reached out to our contacts, and is starting to see who is available.

This week, we’ve also made progress on less tangible fronts: Branding materials are on track to be polished and finished by next Friday’s deadline

On a lighter note, we’ve also started to make ourselves comfortable in our work space.  Dealing with topics that have as much gravity as mental health and healing from trauma means that we need to be present with our own emotions, and honest with how we process them. As a way to address this, each team member now has a stuffed animal in the project room.