Week 8: Research & Playtests 4-5

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This week I used my new Playtest Schedule to prep and evaluate feedback and observations for two different playtesting sessions. Now that I have this planning document, I won’t use my blog as a dumping ground for everything little thing. Instead I’ll post weekly progress updates and highlights.

Ahead of my playtests, I chatted with Clay Shirky about the game. A few of my notes from our conversation:

  • It’s a good sign if players are making up their own rules during gameplay.

  • Aim to present a viable demo for the final thesis presentation.

  • Check out the improv storytelling game, The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen, which according to boardgamegeek.com, “requires players to sit around telling fantastic (but completely true!) stories” with opportunities for other players to interject and botch the tales. There are specific ways to interrupt and choices for the storytellers to make, but in the end, the tellers of the best stories win. Here’s a video of gameplay.

  • Seek out players of card games that involve bluffing, like poker; he suggested a poker player to contact. (This was confirming, because this was on my original to do list!)

  • Consider building my own custom dictionaries instead of making in-game API calls.

    • If I create thematic lists—e.g. from a move or television show, consider grabbing language used on fan sites.

    • Consider crafting lists by reading level.

  • Consider assigning points to words, e.g. using zipf frequency score = # of points for that word. (More on zipf from the words api that I’ve started using, conveniently called wordsapi.com)

  • Regarding the rules: if I’m wrong in make a guess, is it better that I lose points or help another player? (what about both?)

Playtest 4 • Wednesday, Mar 27
First time playtesting in earnest with ITP-mates, all students and one professor, on the floor. Three rounds with the paper prototype deck and all with players who identify as men. Second rounds were happily played by each group, and I got better at introducing the rules as we went which not surprisingly led to less confusion during the games. Solidified my understanding of how to gain or lose points when calling Gotcha!, but in general, I need to refine my explanation of this to new players. One peer introduced me to the Kickstarter campaign for Throw Throw Burrito (yes! I’m a happy backer now), which reinforced the goal of showing over telling players (and audiences) how to play the game. Notable feedback from each group:

  • Group 1: Interrogation version: what if each player has a chance to spin a tale using as many “secret” words as possible until they get caught by the other players? (This is similar to one of the games I research a while back although the name escapes me right now.)

  • Groups 2: Conversations ran flat, but they decided as a group to choose a new conversation starters. Requested a timer and also the option to skip words.

  • Group 3: Also chose new topics. Proposed a center phone facing up displaying question and timer, with the ability to select the next topic.

Playtest 5 •Thursday, Mar 28
High school students, sometimes mixed with adults, at the Game Center with the same paper deck. Everyone enjoyed themselves, played second rounds of their own volition, made up rules to suite their gameplay, and provided useful feedback, including playing into previously unconsidered situations. Still need to refine the rules for Gotcha! calls…and also make people say Gotcha! during the game (both groups suggested this).

Going Forward, some notes for next time:

  • I realized that need to be more precise with my language in introducing the game—not only with my word choice but also how in the organization.

  • The rules around guessing and the resulting consequences seems confusing: next time guessers will take a word from another player if they are right or give their word to them if they are wrong.

  • I’m going to shuffle the questions cards instead of breaking them out into distinct piles. What happens if a group if faced with less choice when drawing a topic?

  • Based on this week’s observations, a new rule: only call once on person for their speaking turn. If two or more people call Gotcha! on the same person at the same time, the accused gets to decide who to answer.

  • Also, make people call out Gotcha! when making a guess on a word