The main purpose of our project was to create a simplistic game that involved a competitive style competition between two users. Our goal was to have the project replicate an arcade styled game, that could be played and understood in a quick and efficient manner. As many people have been introduced to arcade style games at some point in their lives, it’s clear to notice that many of the games follow a specific formula that keeps users interested and entertained. Two of the main components of said formula are both a challenge and a reward. To cater to this successful strategy, we designed BackFire to be a game that would require the players to compete against each other and be challenged and rewarded at a relatively fast pace. To beat your opponent, you need to have a quicker reaction time. Our game tests the players’ ability to react to a signal in a very fast way, and the more you fall behind the harder of a chance you have to come back and win.
Literature and Art, Perspectives and Contexts:
There’re many different methods for creating a challenge in a game and we explored a variety of examples, including mimicking used in the game Simon Says, and forms of strategy like in the game Battleship. We ultimately chose the challenge of reacting fast(er) not only because it didn’t present many challenges, but because it’s a valuable characteristic in every-day life. To verify the importance of one’s reaction time, we referenced an article on the website CogniFit titled “Reaction Time, Cognitive Ability-Neuropsychology”. The author explains reaction time to be “the amount of time that takes place between when we perceive something to when we respond to it. It is the ability to detect, process, and respond to a stimulus.” The article also discusses the different ways reaction time is important and affects our daily life, and even claims it can be trained and improved. When my partner and I were brainstorming how our game would be played, we wanted to know if testing user’s reaction time would be a significant challenge to base it off, and this article confirmed the importance of this skill. Our game BackFire tests your reaction time in a competitive manner and playing the game can ultimately enhance your ability to respond to a stimulus.
Throughout the process of creating our game, I had two main concerns. First, if the task and objective would be easily understood by the user. Second, how we would design the physical appearance of the game to be structured, uniform, and not flimsy in any way. I had these concerns because I believe these two ideas are up there with the most important elements relating to game design. I wanted to convey my thoughts to my partner to make sure we were on the same page. To assist my effort in doing this, I used an article by Chris Cosentino titled “Simplicity in Game Design”. The author explains how the importance of having “tight controls and a clear objective” contributes to the ability for anyone to pick up a game and start playing it, which is something we wanted our game to involve.
My second concern relating to the physical structure of our project came from viewing our classmates’ creations. I saw multiple projects that I thought were amazing, as well as a variety of creative ways to interact with technology. Despite this, I was always disappointed when the project was made of something like three pieces of cardboard connected by a bunch of wires and tape, requiring two people just to carry it somewhere without falling apart. I would imagine how “it could be so much better if it just, well, looked better!” This made me realize the importance of having a structured physical design of our game. Because we kept this in mind, the final product of BackFire has no wires hanging out of it, no pieces that would fall out if flipped over, and is all packed into a strong casing. Although, the consequence of having all the wiring and hardware packed inside made it very difficult to make changes and secure connections.
Researching fundamental ideas about the concepts we wanted to include in our game validated our questions on what was most significant while exploring other projects gave us an understanding on how we wanted to structure the physical appearance and steer away from certain design flaws.
Our project, BackFire, is a two-player game where both players compete against one another. The game tests your reaction times against each other, and the quicker you are, the quicker you’ll win.
The left side of this photo can represent where player one is, and player two on the other side. To start, both players sit across from one another and places a finger on the button respective of their side. When ready, both players need to hold their button down at the same time for three seconds. After this is done, all the lights on the board flash a couple times indicating the game is about to begin. Then, complete silence… Both players readily stare at the LED on the top, waiting for it to flash. Once this random increment of time is over, the LED at the top flashes, and the player who presses the button first wins the round. If player one was had the quickest reaction time and pressed the button first, the green lights on his side flash, then the indicator piece pointing out from the top controlled by a servo motor will move an increment in the opposite direction, pointing at player two. Then, after a random number of seconds, the light will flash again. If player one pressed the button first for the second time in a row, the indicator piece will move in another increment in player two’s direction. Although, if player two won that round the piece would have gone back to the starting position. Then, after another random number of seconds, the light will flash again. If player one was the first to hit the button quickest for the third time in a row, the indicator will move to the last interval, concluding player-one to be the winner. The lights on player one’s side will flash a bunch of times indicating who won.
My partner and I believe that the significance of our game lies upon the fast-paced competitive aspect. These two elements are what makes a game intriguing, challenging, and entertaining. We hoped to grasp these elements and replicate them by the end of our project, and we believe our game BackFire is a strong representation. The core elements that BackFire is built upon can appeal to audiences from all demographics, and there is no specific audience we wanted to target most.
Design & Production:
My partner and I decided to make a game for our project for the main reason that games are often a strong way of representing interaction. We also believed that making a game would allow us to utilize our creativity and ability to alter ideas/concepts. We decided that we wanted our creation to include a strong competitive aspect and involve no more than two players at a time. After this was established, we spent a considerable amount of time brainstorming different games, as well as creating many sketches modeling how it would work. A strong contender was the idea presented in the sketch below:
The thought process behind this concept was that each player would have two buttons and be challenged to use them in a (undecided) way to influence a motor in order to raise an object to the top. The winner would be declared by whoever reached the top first, and the objects would be connected to a string that acts as a pulley system, with the motors being hidden inside the base platform. We ended up moving away from this concept because we wanted to avoid using strings since that proposes the possibility of them getting tangled or not performing how we want them to.
Both my partner and I understood that if we found a suitable object to use as the base/container, we would only have to alter the board on top. We also wanted to avoid using cardboard, as we agreed that it usually doesn’t end up looking too clean or sophisticated. We scavenged through the materials closet on the 8th floor and found a plastic box that would work perfectly. We traced the outline of the base onto a piece of foam board. After that was done, we placed each piece of hardware on top of it and played around with different layouts to see what we thought would work best. Once that was established, we used a pen to mark the areas for where we would need to cut to insert each component, such as the LED lights, buttons and servo motor. We used the box cutters in the class and discovered that making clean cuts took a lot of patience and precision. We then signed out a drill from the equipment room and alternated between a few sizes to make the proper hole dimensions we would need in order to fit the buttons and LED’s.
Creating the circuit and code for the game came as a huge challenge, and we found ourselves looking up almost every statement that we didn’t understand how to use properly online. At many times we had to ask other students for help with troubleshooting the issues with wiring we came across. While very time constraining at the moment, this process of using outside sources to help us solve issues ended up being a significant learning experience and massively increased my ability to understand the wiring of circuits as well as the code used in Arduino. Something I didn’t have much experience with prior but was required to do was soldering wires. For the wires for the buttons to reach our breadboard, we needed to solder extensions onto them. This was a cool experience though and I enjoyed learning the process behind a technique I see myself using in the future.
We got very unlucky when it came to our presentation. Since we were behind on schedule, we only finished the model the night before. When we took it out to present the next day, we found out that the battery died. We quickly signed out a new battery, only to discover that one was dead as well. We later confirmed it wasn’t a hardware issue because it worked when we hooked up an adapter and provided power from an outlet instead. We didn’t lose hope because we remembered we still had a video demonstration of the game working included in the slides for our presentation. When we went to go play the video, it said that it needed authorization from our Google account to play, which we didn’t even think about since we had no issues viewing it from our own computer, and the presentation was being viewed from the professors account. The inability to have our project functioning made it almost impossible for our audience to understand how the game worked. Rudy seemed very disappointed.
At the end of this process, I believe that our game achieved the goals we had. When working, BackFire is a simple, fast-paced competitive two-player game that my partner and I had a fun time testing. Although the end result appeared to be a failure to my professor and classmates, I know that our errors could’ve been solved by managing our time better to allow for more testing prior to presenting. If we had more time, me and my partner both would have liked to add more of a design and theme to the game, as well as a speaker to add more elements such as buzzing a certain melody when there was a winner, or when the game is starting.
In retrospect, I realize that this midterm wasn’t about coming up with the most unique and fancy project. More importantly, this was a way to challenge our abilities to turn an idea into a product and tackle the countless obstacles that are presented by the process that follows. Collaborating with your partner and agreeing on the same goals, organizing the order for what steps you need to take, prototyping different concepts, using the resources available to fabricate a physical product, and even utilizing the constructive criticism presented by classmates during user testing is not an easy task. I can confidently say that this project was a powerful learning experience, and I took valuable lessons away from the process. I realized that I’m good with organizing what step needs to be done first in order to move onto the next one, but I need to improve on my time management skills for certain parts of the process. For example, I found myself still thinking about other concepts to pursue while we were already halfway finished. I shouldn’t have spent so much of my thought process on redesigning the entire project and instead just stuck with what we decided in the first place. One thing I hope to accomplish in the future is to choose an idea that would require the use of different fabrication processes, such as 3D Printing, laser cutting, or the CNC Machine. I would like to have the opportunity to experiment with those machines and learn more about them. Regardless, the freedom we were given to create an interactive project we could think of gave me the opportunity to really test my ability to follow the creative process and stay organized. I had the pleasure of working with different tools and materials offered by the course and discovered ways that I could improve my ability to be more productive and effective for the next project.