Pearly

  • About:
    Pearly is an online platform where people can play tabletop games and game creators can test their new games
    for design and feasibility. Through the system, they can search for other players to play with and explore new games. Game creators can create new games from scratch or modify already existing ones. For example, a user can create his own version of an existing game, changing some rules or modifying the design of cards. In the system are included some statistics and surveys (for example: how many people played a particular game, how long the match was, the average time taken per turn). These statistics are useful for game creators to test the game, but also for players in choosing a game to play.

  • What: Group project

  • Where: Universidad Politécnica de Madrid

  • Duration: February 2020 - June 2020

Problem

01

There is no possibility to play tabletop games with friends when:

  • they are not in the same place;

  • someone forgot to bring or does not have the game;

  • the game is not available in an electronic version.

02

It's difficult to test new games in terms of the design or feasibility of rules, amongst other aspects.

Game creators need every time to find players to play with.

Idea

Social network to play games online

From well-known to new ones.

Find people to play with (friends or online people around the world).

Discover games looking at people profiles (what they created, what they played).

Game publishing houses can sponsor their games.

Create new games or modify existing ones

Create new games from scratch.

Download templates of existing games and modify them to create a new version.

Create more accessible games for people with special needs (e.g. UNO for color blindness).

Test games through statistics and surveys

How many people played, how long the match was, how difficult it was, the average time it took per turn.

Game creators can understand how well the game works, and eventually change the rules or the cards.

Users can choose a game based on its statistics.

Target users

Tabletop game players

  • Main goal of our team: expectation with ICT.

  • Characteristics: people who are “legally” able to play.

  • Motivations: social activity, entertainment, competing (money)

  • Capabilities: medium-high level of technology use.

  • Observation: difficulty of games increases with the advancement of cognition.

Game creators

  • Main goal of our team: help in getting valuable feedback about created games and provide a platform for expansion.

  • Activities: creation, testing, promoting, modifying, customizing, digitalizing.

  • Characteristics: people who are legally able to create, for profession or for hobby.

  • Capabilities: medium-high level of technology use.

Analysis of Context of use

Ethnographical observations

Tabletop game players

Who: people playing card and board games. From kids, to young adults, to adults over 40 coming with their children. Most of them are students (school bags under the table). Most of them are men.

Where: Epic Boardgame Cafè. Small and a bit crowded, but nobody seems disturbed. Everyone stays and plays in a respectful way. Full of games to take with recommendations on the wall.

What: arrival and meeting at the place, choosing a game, setting up the game, playing the game. Extra: eating, drinking, and relaxing.

Game creators

Who: professional game designers who were seen in their natural context

How: impossible to observe them while creating a game, so we watched videos on YouTube.

Where: their room. Plenty of game-related objects.

What: gaming community is very strong and they help each other a lot. The YouTuber set the limitation (principle) to start out with a game that only consists of cards because the error possibilities are decreased and cards can be multi-purposed and can have more types.

Environment analysis

Interviews

Game players

Game creators

Participants demographic:

  • Students and workers (developer, some engineers, professor).

  • From Spain, Bulgary, Italy, America.

  • Between 18 and 24 years old, an adult of 53 years old.

  • Use smartphone and laptop. Some of them also tablet.

Participants demographic:

  • 2 game creators (one followed on YouTube) for profession, 1 game creator for hobby.

  • From USA, Spain.

  • 23 and 29 years old.

  • Use smartphone and computer.

Findings:

  • On average, men play twice or three times a week, while women play once a month

  • The social aspect of the activity is really important.

  • Time constraints (like duration of the game or schedule of free time) have a great impact on the activity.

  • Some players model games as a hobby.

  • Different games will be played in different situations.

  • Cognitive levels have a big role in decision-making about the game. For example, games played in a family context are different then games played with friends

  • The number of players can vary from 2 to 10 people or more. The major trend of this answer is about 4 people.

  • Play with friends, family members, or colleagues.

  • When the game is not available: choose another one, play the online version, invent a new version. It doesn't happen a lot of times.

  • Not enough people to play: play in couples or groups, make people wait for the next round to play, choose another game. It happens a lot of times.

  • Discover new games from friend recommendations, the Internet, Youtube channels, in places with games.

  • Almost all of them would like to play more. What's stopping them: lack of time, study/work, friends not always available.

Findings:

  • Professionals prefer paper prototyping, while the hobby-creator prefers coding and printing games.

  • Process of game creation:

    1. Brainstorming session (take ideas also from other games).

    2. From a week up to 1-2 months: figure out all the details of the idea.

    3. Make a prototype: physical tools, laminate elements when they feel it achieved a good version.

    4. Playtests: alone, discovering scenarios and new, unexpected outcomes. The rules are getting more fixed.

  • Hobby-creator is influenced by external factors (requests from friends) and is limited by the used technology.

  • Experience and playtests reveal if the design is good or bad. The "core idea" is very important.

  • Important design decisions consider the age and cognitive levels of the target group and the number of players. The competitiveness and excitement of the game have a high priority.

  • Early testing with friends or on their own. Then, testing in game conventions or dedicated events.

  • Considered data during testing: body language, analysis of actions, elements used, questionnaires, and interviews.

  • Time to perform a playtest: length of game * 120% + Q&A.

  • Promote games through game conventions and through online game community-related platforms.

  • Difficulties: discover problems in late-stage.

Design thinking

Task Scenarios

Value Proposition Canvas

User Journey Map

Task organization model

Game players

Game creators

Low-Fidelity Prototype

01

Smartphone

  • People should be in the same room while playing.

  • The user needs to scan the playing surface to start playing.

  • AR Mode during the playing: it is possible to switch between AR Mode (where the cards on the table are displayed) and card view mode (where only your cards are displayed).

  • Search and add a friend manually (like in social media) to play with.

  • Friends, followers, followings.

  • Game-oriented approach: the user first selects the game and then select the action.

02

Tablet

  • People can play remotely.

  • Add a friend sending the code (like Kahoot).

  • No friends, only followers and followings.

  • Action-oriented: the user first selects the action and then select the game.

Usability Testing

Tasks

Observation sheet

  • Is this task completed successfully?

  • Number of errors

  • Number of clicks

  • Actions performed incorrectly related to the errors

  • Non-verbal communication:

Interview

Results

The tablet prototype achieved a higher score amongst users regarding every usability attribute.

SUS

Phone prototype score: 58.33

Tablet prototype score: 76.66

Comparison

Smartphone

Complex

Difficulties in remembering all the cards, due to the changing between “card view” and “table view” (AR functionality)

Interesting idea of AR

Difficulties to interpret buttons

Frustrations with not working buttons (not implemented features)

Mandatory step of reading game rules

Error in the number of participants

Next buttons are provided in the bottom right (accessible in a comfortable way)

Lofical flow of actions

Tablet

Easy to use

All the cards are shown
on the screen
(bigger size of the screen)

No AR support provided

Buttons have labels that help the user

Frustrations with not working buttons (not implemented features)

The user can skip game rules

Participants join automatically the game

Next buttons in the set-up of the game is uncomfortable to click and difficult to see

Confusing flow of actions

The tablet prototype achieved a higher score amongst users regarding every usability attribute. However, if we zoom in more into the problems and certain aspects of the prototypes, we can find problems with both of them.
→ tablet prototype as the basis of the next iteration, including positive aspects of the phone prototype.

High-Fidelity Prototype

Navigation map

Screens from Android App

Usability Testing

Effectiveness analysis

Efficiency analysis

SUS

UEQ

UEQ Benchmark