Wednesday, January 19, 2011

End Course Project 14: Conclusion

The full PDF report for this project can be downloaded at the following address :

Discussing and planning a lot at the beginning of the project helped us defining an achievable goal that did not change much during the process. We therefore agree on saying that we have fulfilled our main task and that we have created a game interesting to play and with only minor flaws. We are however aware that there is still room for lots of improvements.

The tests went even better that expected; by placing both computers at the middle of the sides of the battlefield, we were able to have a full coverage of the area. We had for sure to fix some part of the code before having a fully working game, even when we were on the playfield for the first time, but once done, we could be confident.

The final test happened almost seamlessly and we were able to play our game as we expected it to be. Once the process of starting the game is understood, one never encounters communication problems at all.

One added value of our game is that it can be played everywhere in numerous configurations. We basically only need a floor with obstacles (that can be doll or LEGO houses or chairs and tables as well), and the players can even play in separate rooms thanks to our All-Wireless communications. A user can play sat in front his computer or can follow his robot unit by moving at its sides.

Since a video is better than a long description, below are some excerpts of our games played during the testing (shown during our presentation, on the 13th of January 2011).

A first person point of view while wandering through the city

Overall presentation of a game

So we realized after our examination presentation and the interest from the company Rezultat (see part below: 16.4.2) that maybe we had something good going here. It was clear that it was working from a Technical perspective. But is it working from Kids perspectives, which don’t care about WiFi and BT interfaces?

We decided to benchmark our game against our top priority from the beginning. Is it fun to play?

So we invited two kids to play the game for an hour, and filmed their response. It was Laurits 8 years old “almost” and Frede 9½ years old.

Before showing them the game field, we did a small test where we had them playing the classic game of Simon[1] to get a sense of the length of color sequence they could remember, since this would prevent them from winning as CTU if the sequence was too long.

The result was that we should not expect them to remember more then 5-7 colors in the game.
To adjust this during the game we just helped the remembering the remaining 5 colors of the 10 in the sequence. This strategy worked well.

They really fast understood the strategy of the game. And after 2 games they were controlling the robots perfect. Using the Xbox controller clearly helped them adopting the control part of the game. It was a major advantage that the controllers were wireless. They quickly adopted that they could just move freely around the game field and back to the computer. And it was very interesting that we could se them moving to and from the computer several times during a game.

CTU Wins !

CTU loses... Great remarks and reactions to the result from the boys, in the end.

Video that has some good elements where we see Laurits start of the game by running to control the unit on the field. and a little later we see Frede go from the field instead to use the computer view mid-game.

As they had played the game +5 times, they started to challenge the game a lot.
·         They started to drive around the edges of the play field where the Bluetooth range was a little challenged.
·         They started to fight with the robots, and obstruct each other from pushing the ball of the bomb, which clearly uncovered a few weaknesses in our LEGO constructions.
·         They started to insist that they wanted to remember more of the color sequence them self.
·         They started to have stronger opinions about whose turn to place the bomb or defuse the bomb. There was a tendency that it was more fun to defuse the bomb. Mainly because it was fun to push of the ball, and cut the wires.
After the hours of playing we did a small interview, about the game. They had some good comments. The journalistic quality of the interview can most likely be disputed. But we are quite satisfied about the comments received from the boys. It was clear that was very fun for them.

Interview of the two boys who tested the game (in Danish).

Thanks to Frede and Laurits for helping us testing the game.

Why is it so funny and interesting to play such a game, that is neither like Counter Strike (a videogame) nor like playing paintball (real game) but rather in-between? It may precisely be because it is a different kind of gameplay that involves both reality and a virtual world. It is nice to play Counter Strike since you just need some computers and a not a lot of material with a big playground; it is fun to play real paintball since you get thrilling and real sensations, with the added feeling of playing almost like “for real”, with good equipment that provides great feedback.

In a 100% virtual world, you can get the advantages of getting things you could not have if you would like to play the game for real, with for instance an improved head-up display and other augmented reality features. In a 100% real world, you don’t have to comply with some developers’ constraints and you can go wherever you want and do whatever is physically possible to do – the world seems less closed and provides the player with an improved feeling of freedom.

Our game is in the middle of those worlds and tries to take the best from both. And in fact a player can also choose to limit himself to one of those realities, either by only focusing on his screen and almost leaving aside the real robot behind the game, or by never looking at his screen and following his real robot (like sometimes the kids were doing during our experiment). Obviously, you always have to take both virtual and real parts into account while playing (you have to be aware of the physical limitations of the robots and you need your screen to at least defuse the bomb by cutting the wires).

Besides, having physical robots playing in a small but “real” city implies more fun for spectators that can physically move around the playfield to have their very own point of view on the action. They can act as supporters for the player and be part of the game themselves by providing them with information on the action.

And there may be a lot more reasons to explain the interest of such a concept. Still, watching the enjoyment children may have while playing this game is a satisfaction that may asks for no explanation in itself…

“What could we do if we had some extra time?”

This is the question we’ll answer in the next part. Indeed the version of the game is the v1.0. We cannot even stop to come up with new ideas every time we make brainstorming. But here is a list of things that will are likely to be implemented within the next months (knowing that it’s highly likely that we will continue this project).

·         Being a terrorist is thrilling when you’re the one deciding where and when to plant the bomb. The only thing is that when you’ve planted it, there’s nothing left for you but trying to block the counter terrorist in the defusing mode. So as to change that, we thought about
o    Giving perks to the terrorist as soon as he drops the bomb
§  Disable video of the counter-terrorist unit
§  Invert commands of the counter terrorist
§  Reverse the defusing sequence
o    Implementing a combat system between the terrorist and the counter-terrorist in which every unit gets life points (losing all the point would lead to a temporary curse).

·         Put another webcam on the field (this could be linked to the perks: a unit could use the “sky view” in order to have a better understanding of the map and locate some strategic points). See the video below to get an idea of this feature.
Switching the video feed in real time

·         Improve the program so as to have a quicker way to get the game started and upgrade the “Server-Client” protocol (as we mentioned before).

·         Improve the mechanical part: robots more aggressive, more stable, a new system of claw for the bomb (which would lead to the ability of re-attachment for the bomb…).

·         Add autonomous units on the field which could be decoy or try to search and defuse the bomb. Those units could be deployed when the bomb is planted or at another time.

·         The latest testing with the kids revealed that users are not always as careful as we are while we test our game by ourselves, and as a consequence, some mechanical flaws are to be fixed :

o    The spear pole is not sturdy enough and may break when robots collide into each other (and kids love that!) or into a building.
o    The claw that attaches the bomb unit to the CTU may open by itself if the carrier unit makes a sharp turn or run over a small obstacle. Once the children noticed that, they were yet more careful and managed more often to plant the bomb where they wanted. Still, the mechanism needs to be improved – we already have ideas for that.
o    Since running into the opponent is something quite fun (even if not yet really awarded by the game rules), we have to make sure that the robots are more steady and can systematically keep their balance if they run into or over an obstacle. This is especially needed when dealing with children users.

·         Play again, again and again in order to balance the game and see how things can be even more improved (settle the game time, the penalty that the bomb chooses and many other details that we didn’t think about yet).

… since a company is interested by our project!

As a part of developing this project we had the opportunity to apply the concept working for at specific and well developed game field. The motivation for using the game field was mainly to increase the quality of the play experience from the Point Of View video stream from the robots.

This game field owned by Rezultat, was agreed to be used for our free disposal[2].

We started the project by going to see the game field mainly for Inspiration, on how to use it to our best advantage.

But we did not return to the game field before entering the New Year, because it did not make sense to go there again before we were ready to begin testing the concepts.

The last two weeks of the project we were at the game field several times testing the concepts as it grew more and more complete. While we were doing this testing the owner of the game field became more and more interested in the game concept we have developed. As he saw the final tests occur. He mentioned that he found several of the concepts of our game much better than the game he is using today, and asked us if we would allow him to adopt our game and shape it to suit his concept. He also asked us if we would like to be a part of this process of finalizing the gamer into something that can be used in a commercial context. All members of the group agree to this, and all would like to some extend to be a part of the finalization process. The process for the finalization is TBD. But the group expects to meet week 4, to discuss the plan with Rezultat.

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