Our team has been working on this game for about eight weeks. In that time we've gone through many rounds of edits, play testing, and lots of planning. But before we get into the process, it may be useful to know a little bit about the constraints that we set as we went about designing the game.
Audience was our most important constraint. The game is primarily intended to help educators see the potential of games as learning tools so we knew that we needed to provide some easy-to-translate examples of applicable game mechanics. However, we also knew that a wider audience would make the game much more fun to play. To this end, we asked at every step "Will this be fun? Will it help people understand the potential of games?" If the answer wasn't "yes" to both then we kept thinking.
We also knew that most of our players wouldn't be familiar with ARGs so we wanted to be sure that elements of the game were familiar and easy to understand. As the game unfolds you'll see how this played out in the design.
Our second constraint was time. The academic schedule is predictable and we knew that spring break would be right around the corner. Students and faculty would leave campus and take the steam right out of the game. This was actually helpful to us because it meant that we could design a shorter game with tools in place to ensure that everything would be wrapped up before everyone left for break.
We wanted to provide a wide range of game play experiences to attract players with varied interests. The puzzles should be interesting to everyone who decides to play but they should also attract players who might not otherwise play. We addressed this by creating suspects with as wide a range of backgrounds and interests as we think our players may have. Thus, every player should be able to identify (or vilify) at least one of the suspects. Each member of the team took on one of these suspects and created a bio, a persona, and a set of puzzles. It was great to see all of this work for the first time. The creativity and range in the puzzles is amazing.
We'll share more on the structure of the game once it's kicked off (can't give anything away) but I can say that we focused on a calendar and created a production schedule to build and run the game that we shared in a Google Doc and now it serves as game-central for us puppet masters.
Well, that's all for now. I have to get back to writing blog entries and other game content that will be released throughout the game. Stay tuned and feel free to post any questions or ideas you have about designing ARGs whether for learning or for entertainment.