Game Day at Asatte Press

We spent Monday afternoon at Asatte Press playing games with our Spring 2013 interns.

No, we weren’t just goofing off. Asatte Press is now working on its first mobile game/training app for iOS. We have been very lucky to onboard an intern named Alex Hernandez who graduated from Full Sail University with a specialized degree in game software design and he has been working on a more formal design process. The first step in most software game design efforts is to prototype the game with paper and cardboard and test it to see whether it is fun to play or not.

Game Objectives

This game is actually the first of several concepts we are pursuing. All of our games are learning oriented with an eye to assisting the oil industry with its current training challenges.

This cocktail party game focuses on the problem of transferring historical knowledge from an older generation of workers to an incoming younger generation. The oil industry refers to this problem as the “Crew Change”. The game sets up a mildly competitive test in which the younger workers vie to show mastery of historical information in several different subject areas. During testing we actually discovered by accident that the most effective way to play this game is to have the older worker (me in this case) be the moderator and let the younger workers compete against each other. Done properly, this setup allows the older worker to jump in and explain the peculiar background behind some of the seemingly obscure “trivia” questions.

Initial Design of the Game Board

The game board is in the form of a gear with 8 spokes and a trail of colored mini-gears tracing the circumference,
Initial Game Board Design

Since we don’t yet have an adequate base of knowledge for the oil industry, we decided to base our game instead on the knowledge base encapsulated in our Systematic Martini Lifestyle book.

We decided to implement the prototype game as a around-the-board game similar to Monopoly or Parcheesi. We chose a gear motif to match our Systematic Logo. Tomoko created the board using the Inkscape Scalable Graphic Editor and partitioned it into four pieces which we printed on 11″x17″ paper using our large format Epson printer. Cutting and pasting these together, we were able to come up with a reasonably sized playing board.

Initial Rules of Play

The board has five colors of tip cards as well as some plastic figures.
Prototype Board

We used the Systematic Martini Lifestyle tips developed by our Summer 2013 interns as the knowledge base. We divided the tips into five categories:

  1. Red = Wine
  2. Orange = Food
  3. Yellow = Utensils
  4. Green = Liquor
  5. Blue = Clothing

The tip database includes difficulty levels from 1 (easy) to 4 (difficult). However, for the initial test we did not differentiate and instead used all the tips together.

Tomoko went to the hobby store and found some small plastic players to use as avatars during the game.

The initial playing/scoring approach was as follows:

  1. Each player selects a plastic piece.
  2. Each player places his/her plastic piece on the red gear on one of the spokes of the larger gear.
  3. Players take turns rolling a single six-sided die.
  4. Each player moves forward clockwise around the outer path of small gears according to the roll of the die.
  5. When the player lands on a small gear, the color of the gear determines which category of question will be asked. White is a pass (no question).
  6. Each question is multiple choice with four answers, only one of which is correct.
  7. The first player to have one correct answer in all five categories wins.

Results of Play Testing

Score Sheet from 4/28
Score Sheet from 4/28

We actually did two rounds of testing, one on Sunday 4/27 and one on Monday 4/28.

During the initial game on Sunday, we started out with me as one of the players. However, part way through the game, a late guest arrived and we had her take over my position. Before she arrived, we had been taking turns reading the questions to each other. After she arrived, we switched to me being the master of ceremonies as shown in the video clip. We discovered that this arrangement enhanced both the play (making it a little more festive) and the education factor, in that it created natural opportunities to explain the quirky back stories behind the tips.

Another change between day 1 and day 2 is that we switched to from playing for 3 correct in each category to only playing for 1 correct in each category. This change shortened the play time to about 35 minutes for 5 players. It also created an interesting dynamic towards the end of the game in which players had to pass a lot, because they had already finished the color they landed on. This forced passing in turn enabled lagging players to catch up. This game dynamic is not unusual, a lot of games play this way and we have decided for the moment that this dynamic is a positive feature.

What’s Next

We are going to go ahead and implement this game for iOS and probably for Android too. Although the style and game play approach is different from the prototype we used last summer, we will be able to reused the Google App Engine design that our Summer 2012 interns did in Java (on the Google App Engine) and Objective C (on IOS). After we release this as a “Cocktail Party” game for the general public, we will start pursuing opportunities to customize it to specific knowledge domains for the oil industry.

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