What Do Prototypes Prototype: Questions

Should we include penalties for when users say the forbidden words on their respective cards? 

We are still ironing out the mechanics of our game, and one of the largest rules we have in place is that users cannot say specific words written on their respective card during their turn. Similarly to Pictionary or Charades, our proposed game relies on a level of trust between us as the game-makers and the players; if the players say the words they receive in Pictionary, for example, then, what is the point? 

The above question is one we must answer because we hope that users will not cheat or often say forbidden words because the game would not only be over quickly, but also the sense of fun would be greatly diminished for all players. 

The prototype we have mocked up is one including a moderator in the hopes of providing a judicial presence within the game. We are not sure if people will say the forbidden words often, since many people play Pictionary and Charades despite the ease of cheating; yet, we plan to have a moderator identify if a forbidden word has been said. If so, then the player who said the word will be penalized by losing their turn in the next round. If the player repeats the mistake of saying a forbidden word twice, they are ejected from the game by the moderator. 

To help the moderator effectively identify a forbidden word while someone is speaking, we plan to host a small instance of the game with only 8 people, so that the list of forbidden words the moderator possesses (which is an amalgamation of all the forbidden words listed on each player’s card) is not too lengthy to check quickly. 

We hope by using this prototype we will not only know how often people are saying the forbidden words, which would be a good indicator, immediately, whether or not we need penalties, but also whether a moderator is necessary in the game. 

My hypothesis is that players will not say the forbidden words often and having penalties will not be necessary; however, we will be testing our prototype in a normal setting rather than one involving alcohol or other party dynamics. If alcohol or substances are involved (which we should plan for as a safeguard), I believe forbidden words will be said more often and therefore penalties would be necessary. 

I’m not sure we will be able to test out a version of this prototype with players who have been drinking, but if we can, we will try and see how they react. 


Should we allow multiple players to win? 

Our proposed game currently revolves around match-finding. As a summary: every player currently has a match that is another player in the game; each player’s goal is to find their match through a series of objectives; it is currently possible that everyone can find their match and everyone technically could win. 

This question is critical for us to answer because if players are unamused by multiple winners and find the incentive of winning lackluster, they will be less likely to play the game. Winning is an exclusive right usually held either by an individual or a team of some sort, but when winning is shared by multiple teams as in our game, we are not sure how that will affect the players’ view of the game in relation to the worth of their time. Who wants to win if everyone can win? 

We plan to create a constant and independent variable group. The constant group will be our game as it exists currently, with multiple winners. Our independent variable group will be the same game as the constant group except there will be some roles that allow players to match with more than one person and some roles that limit players to only match with one specific other role: for example, a “nurse” role can match with “doctor,” “civil engineer,” “teacher,” “zookeeper,” whereas “doctor” can only match with “nurse.” Therefore, the nurse-card player has the ability to find a match with someone other than the doctor. Since all players must have matches, if the doctor does not match with the nurse before the nurse matches with someone else, the doctor-card player loses. The plan is to have 8 players with four players only able to match with one other player’s specific role, while the other four players could match with one of multiple roles. Therefore, it is possible that there could be losers and only one pair of winners in the game. *We are not sure if all cards where the role can match with one of many roles (the nurse example above) will have the same number of match options (i.e. doctor, civil engineer – 4 options); some cards may have varying numbers of options for matches.

I think that by creating this A→BCDE and B→A type of competition, we are creating incentive for players who can only match with one person to try extra hard to find their match and link up by the end of the game, thus creating suspense. This would also eliminate the possibility of “everyone” winning. We would then see if players’ happiness with the game despite the added complexity of “multiple possible roles one could match with” is higher than with the constant group; if players were more happy with the experimental version of the game, we would be able to make adjustments accordingly. 

I hypothesize that players will enjoy the increased difficulty of having a smaller number of winners as in the independent variable / prototype group. They will find the game more suspenseful, challenging, and difficult to “game” which would not only make the game last longer but also be more enjoyable for the players. In the end, there will be one pair of winners and the other players will have squandered their matches by the end. 


What should be the minimum and maximum number of players? 

This question highlights a problem I feel is inherent to games that rely on a social framework of some kind in place to play: if there are too few players, the challenges of the game are eliminated; the “guessing” portion is reduced to a process of elimination or deduction between the few players. In our game, which is dependent on players slowly guessing to figure out their matches, if there are too few or too many players, it will be nearly impossible to instill a challenge that is appropriate and fun while staving off boredom. 

We currently have designed the game with a minimum number of players to be 6 people and no maximum number of players. So, in our prototype, we will stick with the minimum number of players and test our prototype of the regular game with every player receiving a match and a card with forbidden words etc. and we will play another instance of the game hopefully with more than 20 people. I am not entirely sure how I can wrangle more than 20 people to play this game, but with 20 people, with the rules staying the same as the 6-person game, the game will be more complex: players will now have to find their match out of many more people and have to remember what everyone says (players will say what they are looking for in a partner i.e. athletic, intelligent, medical, etc.) during their turn to figure out who’s their match. 

Our prototype will test to see whether 6 people is too small and makes the challenge of the game too easy; if the players find their matches too quickly, we will have to increase the minimum group of people necessary to play. If the game dynamics break down at the 20 or 22 person mark, such as people not finding their matches at all, then we know we must decrease the maximum size of the group. If there is no breakdown on either end, we could possibly increase the maximum number of players to be beyond 30, but decreasing the minimum players below 6 seems improbable to be fun. 

My hypothesis is that 6 players will be too small of a player pool and that they will guess their matches too quickly, causing the game to end prematurely. Furthermore, the game with 20+ people, 22 for example, would not be too many people, but actually more fun, adding a sense of heightened challenge to the game. I believe that the game could include around 26-30 people effectively without causing confusion for the players.

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