Thursday, October 21, 2010

Lemonade Stand - Updated Goals

This week the Lemonade Stand group met (Nate, JT, and myself) and revised our goals for the quarter. It is almost half way through week 7 (out of only 10 weeks) so we have about 4 weeks of class left to work on our project. One of the main things we discussed is what we could realistically get done over the next 4 weeks. Unfortunately, we are not going to be able to get nearly as much accomplished as we originally set out to do at the beginning of the quarter because 1) we overestimated the amount of time we would be able to dedicate to the project (all of us have other classes) and 2) we underestimated the complexity of the new features we wanted to add to the game.

With the limited time left we have decided to focus more on making the existing game and its features more user friendly verses adding new features. Sadly, this means that the money counting system will not be implemented (one of my favorite features). One of our shorterm goals is creating a new background image and having 3 different versions to indicate the 3 weather conditions (hot, nice, and rainy). This will give a visual indicator of the weather instead of just a single line of text. We will also be working on making a visual interface for the store where a player buys their daily supplies.

Right now our biggest problem is that we are stalled by a need for art assets. The main improvements that we will be working on will be improving the usability of the game which requires a lot of updating to the GUI. The code base is pretty much established so there isn't a whole lot to do with updating the code so that kind of limits our progress. Hopefully we will be able to come up with some other tasks to do in the meantime to improve the game.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Usability Testing - Eye Tracking

I just found out that we might get a chance to test our games with actual kids at the end of the quarter. I love kids so I am very excited about the chance to hang out with kids and get their feedback on our game. We will hopefully be going to a 4th grade math class to allow the students to try out our games.

I am also considering the possibility of using eye tracking to do some usability tests on our game. I have worked in the Multidisciplinary Visual Research lab here at RIT for a couple years so I have a lot of experience using eye tracking. For those who do not know what eye tracking is (I am assuming that is most people) the general idea is to be able to pinpoint exactly where a person is looking as they do a task. We usually use eye tracking to understand how people are processing stimuli in ways that they may not think about and often cannot vocalize. Using eye tracking while a person is playing Lemonade Stand could be helpful for usability testing in that we can see what areas they are looking at for game controls. Part of our current goals involve completely redesigning the interface so seeing how a user processes the game could be helpful.

I am not sure how feasible it would be to use eye tracking with getting people in the lab and also using the Sugar OS with the eye tracking software (eye trackers are incredibly finicky) but it would definitely be a great tool if we can work out the details.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Lemonade Stand - Money Images

This is a prototype image of my idea for money counting. The design is supposed to represent a cash register where a player manages their money. In this design I didn't really show what values the user enters and what values are calculated automatically but I figure those can be customized based on difficulty level. The user would definitely enter the amounts of each coins but the amount of math they are required to perform can vary. The right side of the cash register is set up like a typical addition problem so it will hopefully be a familiar format. As always, your feedback is welcome!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Lemonade Stand - Shop Ideas

I have been testing (playing with) Lemonade Stand and one of the features that needs to be improved is the process of buying supplies. As a group we have decided to create a shop-like interface where a player purchases supplies at the beginning of the day.

This is the current buying interface which is text at the top of the screen. One of things I found difficult the first time I played the game was that I didn't notice that sugar and cups were sold in bulk. Starting out with $10.00, if you buy more than 1 sugar then all of your money is gone but you don't have enough supplies to make any money. At that point the only options a player has is to quit (startover) or just go through the game hoping for "raining cups" or a lemonade truck crashing in front of the stand. I think that an important aspect of a new shop would be to indicate if the player is trying to spend more money than they have verses just not receving the items with no feedback.

This is the new interface that I would like to use for the shop feature. Some of the goals of creating this style of an interface is to make it more visually appealing but also to make the game more usable and less frustrating. Each item has a small icon which helps for kids who struggle with reading, plus, I have made mistakes and bought sugar when I thought I was buying lemons and wasted all of my money.

The image on the right is another example of the same shop view but in this one the user is trying to purchase items that total over the amount that they have so the total is in red. In this situation, the user would not be able to complete their purchase until the total was less than or equal to their total money available. When the quantities are adjusted to fit the available balance the total will turn back to black (or maybe green) and the purchase can be completed.

To vary the difficulty of the game I would like to be able to choose which of the values the user needs to input themselves. In the images above the user only inputs the quantities of each item and the individual and grand totals are done automatically. A possible variation would be to have the user calculate/input the totals themselves requiring more math practice. A higher difficulty could be to not display the subtotals requiring more mental math.

Please let me know what you think of this as a potential interface!