Eco-Duel: A brief intro to the prototyope

We are working on a game which tracks household usage of resources and produces a daily rating of 1-10 for each player (Eco-Score). This rating is then used as the strength of players in the game. The core idea of the game is ‘Real life actions lead to Virtual Vulnerability’.

We are creating a paper prototype to test the core interactions of the game. The prototype is a Live Action Role Playing Game where players attack each other and wager ‘gold’ by trying to predict the opponent’s score, the winner of each duel is the person with the better score, but the amount won/lost depends on how players interact (their confidence in their own score and prediction of the opponents score).

Design narrative

    • Does the game work as intended? Are there loopholes? Are the rules ambiguous?
    • Is dueling fun? We are testing if the core game mechanic is fun or not. This is important because we expect players to do this over and over again and if this interaction is boring then there is no reason for players to engage with this media. 
    • How does the Eco-Score affect player actions? Will players want to have higher Eco-scores? Will they be motivated enough to change their real life actions to improve their game progress?

Method

This week we did an in-house playtest with one external participant to get some outside perspective. The goal of the playtest was to polish the gameplay derived from the rules which were created last week. We used the rule sheet to play the game to completion. The reason to do this was to refine the rules to remove ambiguity and loopholes in the gameplay.

We plan to do an external playtest in the coming week with the following details:

  • Participants: 8 Players | Young adults who are acquaintances | Share a work place (Office / School/ Workshop)
  • Measures: Direct Observations | Video Recording (Single camera for group) | Semi-Structured Interview
  • Method: Fill out personal info through online form -> Brief intro to the game -> Start of gameplay with guided instructions from coordinators -> Play until completion or 20 minutes -> Players will be interviewed in 4 groups of 2 players each (By 4 coordinators).

Results

  • In this playtest we found out that there were several gaps and loopholes in the rules. During the playtest we refined the rules until we could play a game to completion. We also tested made-up scenarios which were vulnerable to ambiguity and contradictions.
  • We also found that the core game mechanic was not fun, walking up to an opponent and sharing scores wasn’t fun at all.
  • We also found out that players with a bad Eco-Scores were easily disengaged from the game

Design Implications

  • We changed the rules to incorporate a more fun way to ‘duel’, so that the core game mechanic isn’t boring.
  • We refined the rules, and are considering making it a mobile RPG rather than a Simulation RPG, as we want to leverage the direct interactions between friends & acquaintances. We have changed our prototype to reflect this interaction.
  • Moreover we want players to be engaged in the game and hence we have added mechanics in the game to support players even when they have a bad Eco-score, so that bad Eco-scores don’t lead to withdrawal from the media, but rather drive players to make gradual changes in lifestyle.
  • As mentioned above the next key step is to do an external playtest to further confirm the  social-emotional aspects of our research questions. 
Image Source: "Yevgeny Onegin by Repin" by Ilya Repin - [1]. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

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