Week 12: Word Ninja

Playtesting was a blast, and playing the game, which went quite fast for some groups, nodded towards familiar themes from the class, such as who leads and who follows? There's an awkwardness to negotiate as players try to authentically contribute to the conversation while sneaking in their words. Successful strategies included talking fast, first, and often, as well as responding to everything. Overall it forced us to consider what makes for good conversation.

Problem to Solve 1: Increase the Challenge
As always we received useful feedback to consider for our next iteration and final presentation. A key takeaway from in-class playtesting was it was too easy to cheat. As Hadar mentioned, we needed to develop an “element of danger around the saying words.” 

In our post-class meetings, we considered many options, but in the end, incorporated the following constraints: 

Converse naturally but keep the conversation focused a randomly-provided topic, now displaying once the game starts. Options include: career, politics, money, food, religion, music, hobbies, family and relationships, travel, school, and environment. We feel the topics are balanced between easy-going and possibly-more sensitive areas of discussion. Word lists, unrelated to the topics, were randomly generated and hard-coded into the JSON file. 

Players can catch others sneaking words, but at the risk of a penalty if they’re wrong. If one player challenges another, the challenged player must reveal their previous word, now programmed to appear in gray at the top of their screen (they can cover their current word with their hand). If the challenger is right, then they tap to their next word. If wrong however, then the other player taps to their next word.

Problem to Solve 2: Duplicate Words on Mobile Devices
Fortunately a few fellow ITPers were ready for a game break after we implemented the new conditions. It was quite successful, in that instead of racing through each round, participants took their time conversing. On several occasions, however, Dan reported that after a word tap, his new word would appear twice on his phone: once at the bottom AND also at the top, now reserved for the previous word. After nearly an hour and half of troubleshooting, we confirmed that the issue was on the input side; the server was indeed sending out one word at a time as intended. Not only that, but we were only able to reproduce the problem on mobile devices. We eventually determined (thanks to this recall from ICM to debug mobile Safari) that screen locking was forcing a disconnect from server and upon reconnect, any new words were duplicating in the input device's word array. The solution? For now, just tell players to disable auto-lock on their phones before the game start. 

For Future Development: Consider implementing a dictionary API to call for random words. Currently our game can be played for as many times as we have separate word lists, which right now is eleven. 

Go ahead, be a Word Ninja!
Play and remix on Glitch

A quick demo: output screen above with two inputs below. Imagine each input is a mobile device and hidden from other other players. Try to sneak the word in white into the conversation. Once accomplished, tap for your next word. 

A quick demo: output screen above with two inputs below. Imagine each input is a mobile device and hidden from other other players. Try to sneak the word in white into the conversation. Once accomplished, tap for your next word. 

Feedback from guests and classmates during final critique: 
Reminded our visitors of Taboo and activities in the party game genre. Jellyvision Games also mentioned.

The instructions to get up and running (especially for our class visitors) could be more clear. It was suggested to put them on the "Play" screen.

There is confusion if a word challenge issued before the challengee taps to their next word. Players wanted to know how that person could "go back" or pick up a penalty word. We assumed that users would have already tapped to their next word and did not foresee this situation.

The conversation felt forced and awkward (oooh, but we like this aspect!), even with a topic. More constraints were suggested to structure the discussion. Maybe everyone tells a story together, each person adding on a sentence? Maybe the game is to say a sentence and have everyone guess the word.

The content of the conversation was inconsequential. It was also suggested to pose more specific, perhaps polarizing topics to encourage folks to express their opinions. 

Consider increasing the difficulty of the words as the game continues. 

Users reported feeling no pressure to say their words. Perhaps include a timer or add words after a certain amount of time. Perhaps provide feedback on the output screen indicating when a player (maybe anonymously) has one word remaining. Also refresh screen every 10-15 seconds to publish the already-spoken words.

Anthony mentioned that calling out someone on their word disrupted the flow of the conversation. Maybe there is a way to do this through the mobile interface instead?

Thank you, everyone!