Brick: an AR Game

FutureFinder

A shared-world augmented reality game designed to enrich human relationships

Context      CMU Independent Study w/ Jessica Hammer
Timeline    4 months, January to April 2018
Client          Verizon, Jessica Hammer
Team           Po Bhattacharyya, Ketki Jadhav, Yein Jo

brick-hero

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INTRO

There are Limited Multi-player AR Experiences

Augment Reality (AR) provides the opportunity for players to explore their environments by placing digital objects in their physical surroundings. However, current games offer limited opportunities for a multi-player experience in AR. Verizon approached our team with the challenge to explore how augmented reality could be used to encourage and enhance the human relationships.

CHALLENGE

How might augmented reality gameplay to explore, enhance, and test the bonds we share with others?

SOLUTION

A Shared-World Augmented Reality Game for Two Players

Brick is a 2-player shared-world AR game that enriches human relationships through challenge, collaboration, and mutual discovery. 

The game challenges the players to complete a pattern individually AND together within the time limit. To achieve this, there are five major rules:

  1. Start: Pattern + Brick Pieces Spawn
  2. Start: Time Begins + Color Assignments
  3. Play: Collect and Place Solo Bricks
  4. Play: Collect and Place Tandem Bricks
  5. Play: Defuse Bombs in the Pattern
brick-example
wall-spawn

RULE 1: GAME START —

Pattern + Brick Pieces Spawn

The game requires both players to have their own mobile device compatible with ARCore. Once the host players starts the game,  the players hold up their phones in unison and the pattern and game pieces will spawn.

Two-players-brick

RULE 2: GAME START —

Time Begins and Color Assignments

At the very beginning of the game, the timer begins and each player is assigned a set of 2 colors (seen on the top their screen). These are the colors they are individually responsible for picking up and placing in the digital pattern.

collect-place

RULE 3: GAME PLAY —

Collect and Place Solo Bricks

Each player is individually responsible for collecting and placing bricks on the pattern. To pick up pieces, the player has to move close enough to the piece, hold down their finger, then find and place the piece on the corresponding spot on the pattern.

tandem-bricks

RULE 4: GAME PLAY —

Collect and Place Tandem Bricks

Some pieces require BOTH players to pick up and place the piece in the pattern. An example of a tandem brick is displayed to the left.

bomb-preces

RULE 5: GAME PLAY —

Defuse Bombs in the Pattern

Every now and then, a bomb will appear in the pattern. BOTH players must find the black defuser piece and defuse the bomb together, otherwise it will knock placed blocks off the pattern. 

Brick has four main underlying goals to enrich relationships...

laughter

Induce Laughter

A playful and lighted-hearted environment fosters intimacy in the face of challenge.

collab

Promote Collaboration

Working together to solve problems helps form bond and trust with others.

communication

Encourage Communication

Open and timely communication is a lead to stronger and deeper bonds.

heart-rate

Spike Heart Rates

Increased heart rate has been shown to increase partners' perceived attraction.

WHAT I DID

WHAT I DID

What I Contributed to the Project

My Contributions to the Project

As part of the team of four, I was the design research lead and one of the game designers. Here are some of my most notable contributions: 

  • Recruiting participants and defining structure of each playtest to comply with IRB requirements
  • Defining research goals for each playtest and writing playtest protocols
  • Facilitating two playtest sessions with over 10 individual testing participants
  • Organizing playtest artifacts / notes and synthesizing major playtest takeaways
  • Providing suggested improvements to each iteration of the game and build

RESEARCH METHODS

Landscape Analysis
Survey Screening
Playtest Sessions
Observations
Pre + Post Interviews
Coding Synthesis

DESIGN METHODS

Tandem Transformational Game Design Process
Game Design Concept Generation
Lo-Fi Paper Prototypes
Game Interaction Design 
Hi-Fi Design Prototypes

 

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PROCESS

Using Tandem Transformational Game Design Process

The design process leading to this AR game spaned four months, and comprised a number of game design sprints. The sprints were roughly split into a three main phases: Game Concepting, Lo-Fi Design / Build /Test, and Hi-Fi Design / Build / Test. These phases were very fluid throughout the entire semester. 

Below I describe some the highlights in our research and design process.

The design process leading to this career exploration app spaned seven months, and comprised of five major phases: Discovery, Generative Research, Concept Generation, Detailed Design, Prototype Build + Validation. These phases overlapped quite a bit as we ran in a lean and research-through-design approach. 

To name some of our most notable activities we did to arrive at our solution: multi-stakeholder interviews, affinity diagramming, co-design workshops, design sprints, concept modeling, personas, storyboarding & speed dating, prototyping (low to high fidelity), and plenty and plenty of user testing. Below I highlight these activities in more detail.

PHASE 1: GAME CONCEPTING

Exploring the Multiplayer AR Landscape to Define Goals

At the beginning of the project, it was important for us to come up with a shared understand of our main goals. To do this, we each did landscape research on current AR multi-player games, participated in a round-robin to spark ideas, and collaboratively brainstormed game goals. We then grouped the similar goals and voted to narrow to our four main goals: (1) Inducing Laughter, (2) Promoting Collaboration, (3) Encouraging Communication, and (4) Increasing Heart Rates.

Generating Different Design Concepts and Narrowing to Three 

With our design goals in mind, we were tasked with both solo brainstorming and group brainstorming which gave rise to several initial game concepts. Each idea was evaluated with the following criteria:

- Does it accomplish at least 2 of our main goals? 
- Will we be able to build it?
- Does it have potential for good / engaging narrative?
- Does it have intriguing game mechanics?

After evaluating all our ideas, we shortlisted four of our best ideas and voted on three to move forward with low-fidelity prototyping and testing.

PHASE 2: LO-FI PROTOTYPE DESIGN + BUILD + TEST

Building and Testing Paper Prototypes for Augment Reality Games

To test our game concepts without fully building an AR game, we had the interesting challenge of creating lo-fi prototypes for our three game concepts. Our main goal with the prototypes was to understand which game would be most successful to move into a higher fidelity protoype.

Some things we had to consider were materials, how we could use physical space, where certain game rules would "show", and when it was appropriate to have 'Wizard of Oz'ing. We found definite limitations with creating lo-fi prototypes. 

With internal testing amongst ourselves, our faculty advisor, and friends we landed on our very first iterations of Brick! Below are the three games we paper prototyped and tested.

lofi-game-design

Creating + Testing Lo-Fi Prototypes for Brick

Game 1: Brick

brick-low-fi

Two players are individual assigned different colors and shapes. They have to complete the revealed pattern on the wall using both solo and tandom pieces.

Game 2: Ice Cream Truck

ice-cream-truck

Two players have to serve up ice cream orders together. Only one player can see the orders and recipes, the other player has to assemble the order.

Game 3: Leaky Faucet

leakyfaucet-crop1

Two players have to solved problems together. One player is given a unique set of problem, the other a deck of solutions. The player with problems describes their solution only using a color and emoji, their partner helps find a solution. 

brick-game-diagram

First Game Diagram for Brick to Understand Interactions

brick-low-fi-playtest

Our first playtest session with our lo-fi prototype for brick for general concept feedback

Major Takeaways from Playtest Session 1 (6 Participants, 3 Tests)

Element of bomb surprise was highly entertaining and satisfying.
When bombs appeared there was laughter, and defusing bombs felt like a success. Some players wanted more complexity and surprise. 

Players requested more collaboration and communication during gameplay.
Felt that there wasn't enough, there could be more collaboration and different types of collaboration peices. 

Players wanted more satisfying micro-interactions with the game
Would like to see fun animations or even sounds when there's something good or bad happening during the game.

PHASE 3: HI-FI PROTOTYPE DESIGN + BUILD + TEST

Designing and Testing to Understand Micro-Interactions

Because AR is still a relatively new space, we focused our Hi-FI Prootypes on understanding and perfecting the game's micro-interactions. Through the next two design iterations, we carefully considered different game controls: their affordances, feedforward, and feedback. With augmented, we had the ability to not only consider visuals - but also haptic and auditory mechanisms.


The Design of Brick Version One

The first build of brick had a couple different designs and interactions we wanted to test out with users.

- Pattern: Blocks appear on grid to indicate color needed
- Pick Up Interaction: Approach with Device, 'Sticky' Audio Feedback
- Release a Piece: Finger Tap (when piece is attached), 'Bounce' Audio Feedback
- Place a Piece: Approach block on wall, Visual Feedback
- Wrong Piece Interaction: 'Bounce' Audio Feedback


 

 


game-pattern-v1

V1 Pattern Design

brick-placement-v1

Approach Pick Up + Place Interaction

Major Takeaways from Playtest Session 2 (4 Participants)

All players initially touched the screen to try and pick up the bricks. It wasn't obvious enough to approach pieces. In the next iteration, we look at a different control to pick up pieces that includes a tap.

Players didn't understand the error or releasing sound (bouncing) when they try to pick up a piece that is not assigned to them In the next iteration, we carefully consider when sounds are necessary (especially error sounds). 

Some blocks were "too far away" or "too high" to pick up. We tried to better account for this in our next build by defining where and how far game pieces can spawn from the wall. 


Screen Shot 2018-09-11 at 3.21.12 AM

A Version One Playtester, and Me Observing Awkwardly 

Working Towards a Second Build

Refining Game Micro-Interaction

After our second playtest, we decided to revisit some of our microinteractions through a brainstorming session. We looked at multiple ways pieces could be be picked up by an individual player, and multiple ways pieces could be picked up collaboratively. 

For individual micro-interactions, we settled on using a simple finger tap and hold to pick up and hold pieces. To place a piece, a player simply has to get it close enough to the wall and release the hold. We considered simple visual feedforward to make these interactions more obvious.

brainstorming-micro

Polished Game Assets

As we continued to refine microinteractions, especially with picking up and placing pieces, our talented designer worked at created more refined game assets seen here.  

game start
game-room
game-board
game pieces
game-pieces2

The Design and Micro-Interactions of Brick Version Two

brick-micro-pickup-piece

Picking Up a Piece

brick-micro-add-piece-to-wall

Picking Up and Placing a Piece

brick-micro-release-piece

Releasing a Piece

STILL IN PROGRESS

Checkback for Updates on Brick!

Brick is in continued development towards a higher-fidelity prototype, the team is currently working on refining the prototype and multi-device functionality. Additionally. we're currently working on an academic paper focusing on core interactions in a shared-world augmented reality experience.  Come back soon to read the paper. 

The design process leading to this career exploration app spaned seven months, and comprised of five major phases: Discovery, Generative Research, Concept Generation, Detailed Design, Prototype Build + Validation. These phases overlapped quite a bit as we ran in a lean and research-through-design approach. 

To name some of our most notable activities we did to arrive at our solution: multi-stakeholder interviews, affinity diagramming, co-design workshops, design sprints, concept modeling, personas, storyboarding & speed dating, prototyping (low to high fidelity), and plenty and plenty of user testing. Below I highlight these activities in more detail.

"I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story." - Sylvia Plath