It is currently the goal of the DGD2 research to produce a series of 'game tests', which present the player with a set of micro-games with varying parameters. The player will determine which arrangement is most enjoyable for them through a dynamic process, and in studying both their final choices, and their actions towards this final decision, we will gain data which might reveal new patterns in the way people play and enjoy games.
To say that progress on the research towards the DGD2 audience model has been slow would be rather like suggesting that watching paint dry is mildly diverting. The sad fact of the matter is that all our research is self-funded, and right now we're extremely short of time and money as various paying projects are keeping everyone insanely busy, and surplus cash has been invested in Fireball. But, with luck, I can still manage something akin to glacial progress towards the new model. I'm trying to post at least once every two months, although I confess, I don't always have much to add.
This research is informed by hypotheses formed on the basis of Temperament Theory; you can learn more about the hypotheses in an earlier post (How Do You Play Games?) I should stress, it really doesn't matter if the research validates the hypothesis or contradicts it - that's science. Either way, we learn something.
Although I haven't made any progress towards determining the nature of the games that will be used, I am starting to identify possible elements that can be varied in those games, or used as the basis of the games:
The hypothesis suggests that Logistical play is tolerant of repetition, and enjoys optimisation as an activity. Therefore the Logistical versions of the games should:
- Allow the player to repeat the play actions multiple times.
- Play might include sorting elements into categories, as it seems that Logistical skills may be geared naturally towards sorting and taxonomy (this might only apply to Logistical + Tactical)
- Score points for the player as they optimise the process that they use to complete the presented challenge, and for implementing a known pattern efficiently
In principle, Tactical play thrives upon separating signal from noise, and making making on-the-spot decisions. Therefore the Tactical versions of the games should:
- Presenting situations with multiple elements from which the player must make a relatively rapid decision as to what action to take.
- Play might relate to a continuous spectrum of some kind (versus a discrete set of categories c.f. Logistical, above)
- Score points for making approximately correct decisions fast, and for devising new solutions (if this can be determined reliably)
- To avoid being purely a test of reactions, there should be a grace period of a few seconds during which the player will score maximum points, and after which the score declines.
The essence of Strategic play should be planning ahead and anticipating solutions to problems. Therefore the Strategic versions of the games should:
- Present situations with multiple elements from which the player must carefully consider the best action to take.
- Score points for making the best decision.
This one still presents a problem. However, I'm currently thinking that the Diplomatic versions of the games should:
- Present incomplete situations for which a pattern or action cannot be derived intellectually, but can be derived intuitively.
- Score points for aesthetically pleasing choices
I have absolutely no idea if this is plausible, possible or even sane! There's no doubt that Diplomatic play presents something of a dilemma. The empathising element of Diplomatic play is only derivable in a mimicristic sense - but if we have a layer of mimicry to the game, then we might end up testing people's narrative or setting preferences, not their play preferences.
To minimise the effects of representation on player enjoyment, all the games will be made of very simple objects - lines, coloured balls, crosses etc. It will be minimalistic, but since they will all be minamilistic it shouldn't be a biasing factor in the results.
The way I am currently thinking of presenting the tests is as a roughly twenty to thirty minute test interval. I'm assuming four games with four configurations, for sixteen game tests in all. The player is presented a random game configuration, which they play for a fixed interval - perhaps 1 minute. After this time, a non-moded alert message warns the player that a new game version will be presented shortly. They may also be asked to decide if they were enjoying the game or not. This continues until the player has played all versions of the games. Additionally, the player will always have the option to quit their current game (if they hate it) and move to the next one.
Once all the games have been played, the sequence is then repeated - with the player being asked to stop on one of the games as their 'favourite' and play it until the clock runs out (a 4-5 minute period). If we ask them which ones they enjoyed, we would only present them the games they enjoyed in the second phase. Perhaps the high score they get on their favourite game will enter into a public high score chart, as a perk for those who are motivated in this way; perhaps the player can decide if they want their score to enter the charts (this might be a useful datum in itself!)
The data collected will therefore be:
- How well they score on each game
- Whether they skipped the game, and how quickly they came to the decision to do so
- Whether they reported enjoying the game
- Which game they finally settled upon, and their final score
- Ideally, a cookie will detect repeats of the test and report this activity as supplemental data - and (critically) to eliminate repeat test data. Players who have completed the test will be able to get back to any game they want directly.
Plus, of course, we'll gather some basic demographic data - age, gender, amount of time spent playing games, Myers-Briggs type (only if known - this is just 'free data' this time, not the focus of the study) and possibly DGD1 type if the mini-test (which has been completed but isn't 'live' yet) proves useful.
The DGD1 mini-test is a 16 question test to provide a person their approximate DGD1 play style preferences. The test has been prepared, and is set up - but the webmaster needs to find time to add the form to collect supplemental data, and report the results to us by email. I will of course plug it here when it goes live.
What I have presented here is not the conclusion of careful deliberation, but rather a snapshot of where my thinking currently lies. There are a lot of issues to address still, and we still don't have a partner organisation who could produce the Flash games that would form the basis of the study. I figure until we have the designs, it's premature to worry about who we do this with - and I also figure there's any number of Flash game portals who would be happy to invite extra traffic in this way.
As ever, I invite you to share your thoughts and ideas.
Have a great weekend!