My project team this semester, Team Athena, has been developing a turn based strategy game on the iPad for 7-11 year old boys studying at Colonial School. Along with Elaine Fath, I am the co-game designer and coming up with levels has been an important task for our game which is very level and strategy-focused. However, for our team, the paper prototyping started all the way back in week 1.
While brainstorming, we utilized paper prototypes to highlight our ideas in a more visual way rather than just use words and gestures. Infact, I feel without the use of paper and poker chips to show buildings, a cat to show the player and dice to show the enemies, we wouldn't have understood the otherwise very complex mechanics of our game. Now, another worry was how the children in our client's school would respond to this game. In an unprecedented manner, we went with our paper prototype right in the first week and made the children play the game. Due to simplicity of the "world" and it's "look", we got a lot of useful information on how the game plays. There were also added bonuses like the children adding in their visuals and sound effects as paper prototyping leaves a lot to the imagination.
In the next week, we went to the school again, but this time, we also had a basic digital prototype for our tentatively named game "Smash", along with the paper prototype with added levels for the children to enjoy with. In this playtest, we also learnt that this game would not be fun to play as a multiplayer game since the children found it boring to play as the AI enemies.
Our first basic levels were designed, as you can see above, using just poker chips and die. However, the board game format really help both our children demographic and ETC playtesters understand what is going on. Infact, during our early weeks of development, we found it very difficult for the digital version to match the paper prototype in terms of juiciness, immersion and enjoyment. However, using visuals, animations and sound, we have managed to transform THIS......
Infact, our team has been using this method for iterating on levels designed as it proves to be a fast way to playtest with people with the option of putting the levels in and testing proving too tedious. This method has also helped us understand the various paths the player can use for beating a level.
To those interested in understanding more about Smash, visit us at http://www.etc.cmu.edu/projects/athena/ or in our room in 2420 in ETC. Below is our gameplay video from our build from April 15th.