Monday, February 11, 2013

No use listening to shoutcasting if you can't hear what's going on with team Dignitas!

If that title has you utterly confused, you're not alone. Several months ago, I would have felt the same way. But relationships have a way of changing our interests, or at a minimum, our knowledge-base. Our assignment this week followed in a similar vein. Continue reading to find out what I mean...

The Mission
Observe two individuals participating in an activity. Document observed "successes, breakdowns, and latent opportunities" relating to the use or lack of mobile devices. Interview individuals and look for inspiration.

The Match
As I mentioned above, relationships can expand our horizons. For this event, I chose to observe a group of friends playing Dungeons & Dragons, something with which I have absolutely zero experience! I was "fortunate" enough to have also been observing their session the previous week, which enabled me to focus my thoughts and questioning for this event. Here are some of the observations I had, as well as the input from my participants about opportunities to turn break-downs into successes!

Nihil Dice Roller

The Noob
1. Breakdown: too new to have his own dice
    Success #1: used a virtual dice roller
    Success #2: late friend arrived and brought entire bag of dice!
2. Breakdown: unfamiliar with rules/character options
    Success: printed "baseball cards" for each skill
    Latent opportunity: virtualize these cards
"The Noob" finally got his dice
Mr. Tardy
3. Breakdown: didn't show up on time
    Success: DM played his character for him
4. Breakdown: argumentative, disputes rules
    Success: What DM says stands

The Almighty (Dungeon Master)
5. Breakdown: members didn't show up on time (yep - this one affected had multiple     effects)
    Success: tailored game on-the-spot to fit current characters
6. Breakdown: difficulty in keeping track of non-player characters
    Latent opportunity: character portfolio
7. Breakdown: difficulty keeping track of initiative order
    Success: representative tokens placed in order after initiative roll
8. Breakdown: has to re-draw map for each battle
    Latent opportunity: virtual game board
9. Breakdown: monsters must be tailored for each battle, can be hard for new DM
    Latent opportunity: monster generator
DM must redraw this map for every battle
The Crowd
10. Breakdown: players got hungry!
    Latent opportunity: ping the girlfriend - can she bring food? (saves delivery charge)
11. Breakdown: splitting the food bill
    Latent opportunity: restaurant can charge multiple cards rather than a single one for delivery items
12. Breakdown: table does not have room for much growth
    Latent opportunity: each player has virtual machine with stats, abilities, etc.
13. Breakdown: can't see teammates' stats
    Latent opportunity: big scoreboard on the wall (whiteboard suffices)
14. Breakdown: week 1, there was no mat
    Success: borrowed pieces from another table top game - sufficed, but ordered mat, arrived for week 2
15. Breakdown: difficulty keeping track of status
    Success: borrowed runes from "Ascension" game to visualize more quickly

The Muses
This game, mentioned in item 15, has been converted into an app for the iPhone. The designers for this did a wonderful job with their layout. They essentially use thumbnails grouped into sections according to the card's type. And despite the overwhelming amount of information displayed on the screen, they have still managed to achieve the look of a board game. While there are many takeaways from this app, the main one I notice is the ability to keep information concise and organized. 
Star Wars Soundtrack
Any epic adventure needs a soundtrack that is just as epic! While a D&D scoreboard may not need a fully fleshed-out feature-length soundtrack, the music and sounds included need to fit the app. They should augment the experience, not annoy the user.
I cannot imagine my childhood without Legos. The way these toys fit together with each other is just incredible, isn't it!? I think a well-designed app will be the same, in that the components will complement each other, they will build off each other.
An app does not need to be a "one-size fits all" product, but should be tailored for the target audience. If designing an app that times children brushing their teeth, the app should be simple enough for a child to use. This concept should encompass everything from aesthetics/color choice to functionality to word choice. Keeping the target audience as center focus will help designers hit the elusive "bullseye."
And now we have come full-circle. The quote in this blog's title is the first thing I heard when my boyfriend walked in the door tonight. It references his excitement of watching the webcast ("shoutcast") of the North American Qualifier Tournament of this game. The popularity of the game is astounding! With an average of 12-million players daily from around the world, a designer considering League of Legends has to be thinking, "What keeps them coming back?" A good app will not be a "one-hit wonder" but will welcome the user to continue the experience over and over. 

And speaking of coming back, remember to stop by again next week for a closer look at native apps! In the meantime, if you would like to hear a few ways to improve the spa experience with mobile devices, I have made a short video: Mobile Devices at the Spa


  1. Aloha Allison,

    I enjoyed reading your post thoroughly, your friends seem very close to mine, with their dungeons and dragons, and their online dice rollers to their league of legends. (I can particularly relate to the bit about having a third party retrieve nourishment from the local fast food restaurant to fuel our nerdy antics.) I also enjoyed how you broke down the entire assignment before diving into it, to inform potential foreign audiences.
    Until next week,

    -Chris from the otherverse.

  2. Nice teaser with the incomprehensible title, followed by the immediate explanation, sort of; although looking back having read the entire blog post I realize that I still don't know what the title means ...

    As Chris says, great statement of the mission to provide context

    Was slightly confused about who was having which breakdown due to line run-on:

    The Almighty (Dungeon Master)5. Breakdown: members didn't show up on time (yep - this one affected had multiple effects)

    also, as I think I mentioned previously (hmm although can't find the comment I thought I made now ...), I really recommend avoiding underlining for emphasis in a blog, can easily confuses user between what is clickable and what is not. I recommend bold or italic for emphasis instead.

    Many thanks for including links to apps in this blog post. Great muses, and great overview of breakdowns, successes, and opportunities in D&D

    Do embed your vlogs straight in the blog if you can - increases chances they'll be watched - makes blog look cool :-)

    great vlog!! yay first vlog!! I made notes:

    1. difficult to find
    2. reception area was living room waiting was boring
    3. door was locked
    4. no free parking
    5. confusion over elevators

    1. turn common landing into reception
    2. provide free parking
    3. have system to alert people to being ready
    4. play videos to introduce salon
    5. nails groupon issue with needing to grab info from phone

    thought vlog was for summarizing something from two observations, but hey it's all good :-) I think you could offer consulting services to these organizations - command a good fee for your insights!

    p.s. please add me to your blog so I can avoid typing in these captchas:

  3. Thanks for the comments! I have edited the post as follows:
    -Fixed run-ons (they didn't appear that way when I was originally typing...grr)
    -Removed underlining except for big headers, and changed color of non-clickable text

    I wanted to show something on the vlog that was different from the blog. I hate when I visit someone's blog, and they have a video with the same thoughts as the text! I'll try to keep more in-line with the assignment next time (as well as actually embed it!) :)

    And if I had any idea how to get started as a consultant, I'd be all over it!

  4. great formatting improvements, although I'd still be tempted to drop underlining on things that aren't links, but at the end of the day that's your choice.

    Don't worry too much about getting the assignment precise - I actually value your creativity more than your ability to follow assignment instructions slavishly to the letter.

    As regards getting started as a consultant, I think a blog like this is a good start :-) Seriously though, keep polishing your professional profile online (LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs etc.) and do some volunteer/pro-bono projects to get started. Get a simple app out in the app store etc., and you're well on your way. Also take my Software Engineering class :-)