Thursday, September 30, 2010

Warren Buckleitner

In class today we had Warren Buckleitner as a guest speaker through video chat. All I can say is that I would love to have his job. He does Children's Technology Review where he reviews all of the latest children's toys and also runs Dust or Magic which is a Wiki about which children's toys are great (Magic) or which ones fail (Dust). I think this would be a very fun job because 1) he gets to play with toys all day and 2) he gets to work with children. On a more serious note, I am actually really interested in usability. I think that working with kids in "interactive media" development would be a fun way to combine my interests in Information Technology and Psychology plus I have a lot of experience working with kids.

Warren showed us several toys, from the new Sony move to a really obnoxious Mikey Mouse toy, and talked about what makes a toy successful and what makes it fail. I found the Children's Interactive Media Evaluation Form very helpful and will use it to evaluate the software I will be developing in class. The evaluation uses the following categories to evaluate children's software:

I. Ease of Use (Can my child use it with minimal help?)
II. Childproof (Is it designed with child-reality in mind?)
III. Educational (What can my child learn from this program?)
IV. Entertaining (Is this program fun to use?)
V. Design Features (How smart is this program?)
VI. Value (How much does it cost vs. what it does? Is it worth it?)

An important thing to remember is  "kids + creepy people + money = never good"

Friday, September 24, 2010

Lemonade Stand - Fall Plans

The group working on Lemonade Stand this fall will be myself, Nate Case, and JT Mengel (at least those are the people from the Humanitarian Open Source Software class at RIT). We officially met today to make plans for the quarter. The following are our goals for the quarter:
  • Week 3:
    • Get JT's sketches into image files
    • come up with more events and weather ideas
    • add recipes
  • Week 4:
    • new background image
    • get into
    • define what difficulties entail, implement lowest difficulty
    • nail down ideas about overlays, startup screen
  • Week 5:
    • implement two difficulties, simple and insane
    • Get counting game images
    • implement basic splash screen
  • Week 6:
    • Get store images
    • implement counting game
  • Week 7:
    • Get activity log images
    • Implement store
  • Week 8:
    • Implement activity log
    • Get images for other parts of the game (events, weather, etc.) 
I will be focusing on adding more features to the game, like events, and working on making the game more user friendly especially for kids. JT has the artistic skills of the group so he will be working on improving the graphics and adding graphics for the new features. Nate has been working on the programming for a while so he will likely do most of the coding. 

I think we have a good group for the game and I am excited about what we can get done in the next 7 weeks (such a short time).

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Lemonade Stand - Random Events

I was looking at the Lemonade Stand Wiki and one of the wishlist items is "Random events that may influence supplies and/or cost and/or customers."

One idea I came up with is having sales on items that are needed to create the lemonade. The sample I created shows an example of a sale on lemons making them $0.25 instead of the usual $0.35. I think that this could add an extra element to the game in that a user will have to think more about when to buy particular ingredients. I noticed that there is currently a feature in the game where items "decay" after a certain period of time (I believe 5 days) so this would require the user to think about how much they should buy based on current price and anticipated sales. A small note with the decay feature is that I think it should be announced to the user when items decay because it took a while to even realize that it was happening.

A good opposite of having items decrease in cost is to have them increase in cost due to a shortage. This event would also be random and would pretty much do that same thing as having a sale but would instead increase the cost.

I think I want my primary focus to be implementing a better system of counting money but adding more events also seems feasible especially if someone else would like to help me with the coding.

Lemonade Stand - Globalizing

I have received a couple comments about using images of US currency in a game that is designed primarily for children outside of the US and that got me thinking about other changes that might make the game more realistic for children.

One thing that I have been thinking about is will the concept of a lemonade stand make sense to children in other countries. The concept of buying and selling goods is pretty universal but do other places have lemonade as a common drink or are there others things that kids might sell to try to make money. I feel like I need to get an idea of where our game would most likely be implemented and what aspects of the game need to be changed to be culturally appropriate. I think for right now though, I am going to focus on the functionality but try to focus the design in a way that text, images, etc. could easily be replaced to apply to various cultures.

I personally don't have much knowledge of any of the places the OLPC program is being implemented so if someone could shed some light on the subject it would be greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Lemonade Stand - Money Counting

Unlike most computer scientists I actually really like graphics (although I am definitely not and artist) so one of the things I want to work on is not only improving the GUI for Lemonade Stand but also the user experience.

I should probably explain my background a little bit to give an idea of why I am interested in doing stuff with user experience. I already said in my introduction post that I am a 4th year Information Technology and Psychology with a minor in Computer Science. I switched into those majors from Computer Engineering so I do have some (but very limited) experience with hardware. I am also involved in eye-tracking research in the Multidisciplinary Visual Research Lab (MVRL) here at RIT. I have yet to decide what exactly I want to do as a career but I am hoping to combine my technical/coding skills with psychology to work as sort of a go-between for clients and programmers.

Anyway, back to Lemonade Stand... One of the things I want to work on is possibly changing the background image and another is adding a feature to help with calculation of money.

This is an image that I made in Photoshop of how I would like a user to be able to do money calculations. Basically it is an interactive form where the user can input numbers (in the gray boxes) signifying the amounts of each of the coins and they would get a total from those coins (0.10 & 1.25 in the example). At the bottom it would give a total number of coins and also a total dollar amount. For the dollar amount I would like it to remain black if the total is under the desired count, green if the total is the correct amount, and red if the total is over the amount. The idea behind this is that it would be more user friendly and a player could keep trying until they get the correct amount of money. I think this would better promote learning than simply loosing the money if they get the total incorrect.

My image also includes a total number of coins used to make the amount. I think it would be cool as a more advanced feature to have stipulations on the number of coins used such as fewest coins or even using a specific number such as 10. I think this would be useful because it would allow for more complicated problem solving and also would prevent the player from selecting all pennies to get the total.

Again, as I said previously, I have never programmed in Python and am new to the OLPC and open source community in general so I am not sure how feasible my idea are. Also, as a newbie, I welcome feedback/advice about any of my ideas or potential other ideas.

Lemonade Stand - First Impressions

I think I have officially decided that I want to work on Lemonade Stand as my project for this quarter. I remember playing the game when I was younger and it was pretty simple but fun and I definitely think there are things I could add to the game.

So this is the main screen for Lemonade Stand. I have never used Python before so I have no idea how to do graphics but I would like to try to improve the interface. The background seems like a static image so that might be an easy change.

The game works by the user buying supplies (Sugar, Lemonade, and Cups) and then the Day Log says how many cups of lemonade are sold. The user then has to enter the amount of money made in terms of dollars, quarters, dimes, etc. When I first played the game I tried just entering the amount made by selling lemonade and kept getting a message saying "You dropped your money while trying to count it." This was very frustrating because I didn't know why I kept dropping the money and I couldn't seem to make any money. I would find that I would run out of money and there was nothing that I could do but start over.

Eventually I figured out that I needed to find the profit (sales - supplies) and if I got it right I would actually get to keep the money I made. Eventually I started actually making money in the game. I got to several hundred dollars in the game and would buy and sell a lot of supplies when I made a math error and lost everything. This was very frustrating because I didn't even have enough money to try again.

Overall, the game seems interesting but it isn't necessarily as user friendly as it could be. I am hoping through my involvement I can add more features but also make the game easier to use.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


My name is Sarah Wagner. I am a 4th year student at Rochester Institute of Technology double majoring in Information Technology and Psychology and minoring in Computer Science. I am getting involved with Sugar and the open source community through the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program. I will be working as a part of the Math4 project getting involved with some of the existing projects.