During our initial meetings, the 12 of us worked to brainstorm and exchange ideas based on our own interests and skills. As practitioners, we ranged from filmmakers, designers, and programmers to actors and historians. We had interests in social issues, history, game design, narrative, and fun, light-hearted experiences. Although we were working with many different people, our structured Idea Labs and presentations set us up for productive and provocative conversations.
We decided to honor the many skills and interests of our cohort by creating an augmented reality ghost capturing game with a focus on history and social issues. We wanted to utilize the technology of augmented reality because of its different affordances on the game experience. We also wanted to create an engaging experience that was involved and intriguing. Additionally, we wanted to establish a narrative that brought different stories to life. Each of the three ghosts had a unique story from a different time period.
As one of two Interactive Design interns, I helped lead the Design team. Our first task was to explore what kind of look and feel the interface and entire game would have. Since our themes ranged from ghosts to futuristic to historical, we wanted to implement a futuristic HUD interface to capture a sense of interdimensionality. Our mood board and design exploration document reflect the Tron-like and other-worldly elements of our experience.
Sketches and Wireframes
The first round of sketches and wireframes had a defined style that continues though our succeeding iterations. We decided to keep the interface simple, with two buttons throughout the entire experience. The two buttons would have different functionalities at different times, but to keep with the theme of an inter-dimensional advisor with a single tool at their disposal, we felt it best to keep the tablet interface uniform. Because of the augmented reality format, there is little else UI, besides the inventory and the ending screen. In our sketches and the wireframes pictured above, we opted for simplicity and tradition so that the technology, art, and story could take center stage. The tablet is the tool through which the player/inter-dimensional advisor can "see" and communicate with the ghosts.
Our high-fidelity wireframes delve into the specific interactions and functionality of the experience. Because the game requires the player to hold a tablet with both hands, look at the screen, listen to audio, walk around, and press buttons, we wanted to think through each interaction thoughtfully and thoroughly. Usability and experience design was of utmost experience because of the nature of the game. The game has a relatively complex story and a relatively complex path (physically and emotionally). During the early stages of the process, we wanted to be able to spell out exactly how the experience would go.
We conducted two usability testing sessions with 10 unique users. The questions focused on experience design and functionality of the interface.
After the first session, we found that the main points of frustration for players were that the instructions were somewhat unclear, progress was difficult to follow, and that it may not be completely ADA-compliant. In order to address these issues, we changed part of the script, added a progress bar, and added captions throughout the experience.
During the second session, we found that these changes resulted in a more positive and more fun overall experience. However, we still found that interactions were not completely transparent. We also noted that players enjoyed walking around, but that it took time to capture each ghost. We worked on adding instructional text and helper animations. We also kept the play area wide, but changed the ghost's movement.
From the results of the usability testing, I tested a paper prototype of the helper animations and I also marked the locations of the markers using a map of the office.
The design frames build on the high-fidelity wireframes, usability testing, and the work of programming. These frames are meant to give a final version of the look, feel, and experience of the interactive. In particular, these frames were given to our "clients" for final approval.
Learning Outcomes and Future Directions
The final presentation was an opportunity for the interns to explain our process and demonstrate our final prototype. Our project was well-received by the company as people watched the presentation then tried the game throughout the week.
For future iterations, I would want to do more usability testing to improve the experience of the game. I would spend more time on the different versions for helper animations and instructional text by conducting A/B testing and other methods.