A Videogame With/out Rules – First Public Playtest Session

This is a quick video shot during our first public playtest session of A Videogame With/out Rules (project codename). People are having fun discovering their own forms of play!

Our Own Odyssey!

Because of Spring Break, we didn’t have any official team meetings this week. However, those of us who were in town did manage to get quite a bit done. Josh and Chris did a great job pumping out mockups of what will become our final overlays. Meanwhile, Wang figured out how to get extra controllers working for the game, so we can have up to four players at once (or just four movable sprites that people can position around the gamespace, depending on the rules). We’re still working to get four actual joysticks functioning, so we’ll keep you updated on that front.

I had a meeting with Al to determine the best way to physically present the game in a museum space. We discussed several ideas that we had come up with as a team, including building the game into an arcade cabinet and simultaneously projecting the on-screen visuals onto a large wall, building a podium for the controls and displaying the game on a large wall-mounted screen, and even setting up the space to feel like a ’70s living room. The one we’re leaning toward is the podium and large screen, but there is still a chance that could change. It simply allows a very open, public experience to occur, and we can put text and image vinyls on the walls around the screen to give additional context to the exhibit.

However, whatever form the physical presentation takes, it will include a display case bearing an original Magnavox Odyssey…which arrived this week! We now have of our very own 41-year-old Odyssey console, complete with all the extra tokens and overlays it originally contained.

A Time for Decisions

We made some executive decisions this week, finalizing the number and types of overlays that will be available to players. With a strict goal of eight unique overlays, each based on a different style of play, the players will have a great foundation from which to start negotiating objectives and rules.

Furthermore, we narrowed down possible choices for how we’ll physically construct and exhibit the game. The two strongest options we’ve come down to are A) an arcade cabinet with an accompanying large projection of the on-screen action (so that visitors can see what’s happening even when they’re not one of the people playing) and B) a simulated living room, complete with a TV set, a couch, and a small stand that has the control peripherals attached. Regardless of our final choice, there will also be a display of an original Magnavox Odyssey to give visitors some historical context. I’ll be meeting with Al from the Leonardo next week to get his thoughts on which is most museum-friendly. However, if we move this game around to different venues after its tun at The Leonardo, we certainly have the option of different physical setups.

Given the Go-Ahead

ImageWe continued development on the game without too many hitches. Alex Johnstone, our Leonardo contact, dropped in on our meeting to try the game out, and he gave us his mark of approval. The concept is pretty much set, though we’re now tinkering with the possibility of providing physical tokens, dice, timers, etc. to allow players more options to play games and track their own details.

I worked with Roger to manage our blog/site (though the theme and aesthetics are still very much under construction), and we also continued developing our Facebook page so that we can share our production process with everyone who is interested in how these sorts of things work. I also worked with Rachel (our assistant program manager) to get some new toys ordered for the project: trackballs! Though we’ve been researching them and trying to figure out our best hardware options for a few weeks now, we finally took the dive and ordered three more from different companies that we want to try out. Should be fun to play with once they arrive!

Christine knocked out some killer overlay mockups, and Wang got all the joystick controls working smoothly (the next step is getting multiple trackballs to work–cross your fingers!), and Charlie kept working on various rule sets based on the original Odyssey games. Josh mocked up a few different proposals for displaying those rule sets, so we’re trimming away the bad and focusing on the good in every category!

Play By Your Own Rules

Look at that mash-up of tech. Good times.

What was once known as The Leonardo Project has its first official working title: A Videogame With/out Rules! We had another playable prototype this week (thanks to Wang!), this time with a functioning joystick. We tested it along with Charlie’s rule-selection form and the chip-tuned music that I put together, and it made a pretty cool showing.

We even had Rachel (our assistant program manager) and Bob (the head of our program) test it together, and they enjoyed the experience. Bob particularly felt that the idea behind the game is fascinating and that the concept and system are truly fun to explore.

Hopes for the upcoming week or two: multi-trackball controls!

Joshin’ ya!

Hey Everyone,

Josh here – this week I’ve been working on mocking up rule design screens that Chris has been so kind to turn into works of art. Those should be up on the Facebook page or on here soon. I sketched them using a fun app for my iPad called Paper. I’ll put them below in a mini-gallery. If following this flow, players would be presented with our pre-made rule sets and could have the option to create additional rules with those sets or create a whole new rule set of their own for the particular overlay. Right now I think we need to decide if they will choose from a pre-made set of options via a drop-down or drag and drop menu, or if they can type out their own rules.

Another think I’ve worked on this week is finding the original sets of rules from the Magnavox Odyssey games so that Charlie can distill them for our overlays for participant use. I used this link to create a folder for our group in our Google Drive to access for reference. I think one of my favorite overlays is The Haunted House and I’d love to see us create a sort of homage to that game in our overlays should Chris and I have time to mock one up.

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