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METHODS AND PERSPECTIVES
The MIT Press Cambridge, Massachusetts
© 2003 Massachusetts Institute of Technology All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means (including photocopying, recording, or information storage and retrieval) without permission in writing from the publisher. Cover and book design: The Offices of Anne Burdick, Los Angeles Designers: Anne Burdick, Stuart Smith, and Megan McGinley Cover photo: © 2003 Susan L. Burdick Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Design research: methods and perspectives / [edited by] Brenda Laurel. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-262-12263-4 (hc : alk. paper) 1. Engineering design. I. Laurel, Brenda. TA174.D483 2003 745.2-dc22 200359969 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3
to meet people. Although it is true that we can create and play games for a particular function (for exercise. It is this curious quality of games that makes them wonderful case studies for Design Research through the process of design. when it occurs through the practice of design itself. As a form of designed "delight. The prototype is tested. new questions come into being. games are played for the intrinsic pleasures they provide. And repeat. in an iterative process design decisions are based on the experience of the prototype in progress. This chapter outlines one such research design methodology-the iterative design process-using three recent game projects with which I have been involved. rather then the fulfillment of utilitarian needs. to learn about a topic). by and large. the design." the process of interacting with a game is not a means to an end. In this book's conclusion. As a game evolves (through the iterative process outlined below). Brenda Laurel alludes to the difference between designing to meet needs and designing "for delight" O:::'3!6 . Test. Because the experience of a viewer/user/ player cannot ever be completely predicted. but an end in and of itself. When Design Research is integrated into the design process. is a way to ask larger questions beyond the limited scope of a particular design problem. new and unexpected questions emerge directly from the act of design. it defines and redefines its own form. Through this play of design itself. The creation of games is particularly well suited to provide a model of research through design. refine. and the project is tested once more.n Proce s s Needs and Pleasures Design is a way to ask questions. game design is particularly skewed toward the creation of delightful experience. analyzing and refining a work in progress. and the very questions about design that it can ask. and the testing audience. Iteration Iteration Iterative design is a design methodology based on a cyclic process of prototyping. While all forms of design partake of both of these categories in some measure. revisions are made. . In iterative design. the experiences it can provide for players. analyze. present themselves to the designers. and sometimes are even answered. testing. interaction with the designed system is used as a form of research for informing and evolving a project as successive versions or iterations of a design are implemented. In this way. Design Research. the project develops through an ongoing dialogue between the designers.
This iterative process of design is radically different than typical retail game development. then adjust your design and playtest again. You have as many people as possible play the game. Other people in the office play it. at the start of the design process for a computer or console title. making for highly social gameplay. Invariably. a low technology barrier. DESIGN ANALYZE TEST The iterative design process Case Study 1: SiSSYFiGHT 2000 Summary: SiSSYFiGHT 2000 is a multiplayer 3 to 6 players vie for dominance online 9ame in which players create a schoolgirl avatar and then take part in games where of the playground. ranging from teasing and tattling to cowering and licking a lolly. Throughout the entire process of design and development. The rest of the development team plays it. something that was in concert with the smart and ironic Word. will not only conserve development resources. You organize groups of testers that match your target audience. but will also result in a more robust and successful final product. the final game never resembles the carefully conceived original. and finally. ask them questions. a game that was easy to learn and play but deep and complex. iterative design means play testing. The list of play values we created included designing for a broad audience of non-garners.com sensibility. a game designer will think up a finished concept and then write an exhaustive design document that outlines every possible aspect of the game in minute detail.PUW AS RESEAPCH ZlivIMERM!\ [ rc In the case of games. on the other hand. SiSSYFiGHT 2000 is also a robust online community. You play it. I was hired by Word. The outcome of an action is dependent other players' decisions. More often than not.com to help them create their first game. your game is played. People visitin9 your office play it. In each case. We initially worked to identify the project's play values: the abstract principles that the game design would embody. . game at You can play the In the summer of 1999. A more iterative design process. you observe them. gameplay that was intrinsically social. Each turn a player on selects one of six actions to take.
get ahead moment is that which will get you to your next prototype. the shape of the initial prototype played became clear. important to understand the big picture as well-the larger conceptual. and acting as the prothe actions each turn and reported requires strategic back to the players. had begun to develop . The very first version a conference the results post-it-notes a handful of basic actions each player could take. I mapped out. While we tested the IRC prototype gameplay via the text-only into the Director iteration. code with programming for for the final version began in Director. technical and design questions that drive the project your design as a whole. Technology although begun some kind of conflict. Can you create a paper version of your digital pattern of a massively multiplayer game game? Can you design a short version of a game that will last much longer in its final form? Can you test the interaction with just a handful of players? In the iterative design process. of course. keeping score on a piece of paper.These play values were the parameters sions. the most detailed thinking you need at any It is. actions the base ruleset-the a player can take each turn and the outinto a spec for the first digital prototaking turns sitprototype allowed comes that result. text-only us to focus on the complexities of t~e game logic without worrying about implementing interactivity. Designing a first prototype quickly implement uncertainties in a meaningful thinking about how to most the project's chief a playable version that can begin to address way. and other aspects of the game. modand it with group play of computer-based little girls in social conflict on a playground. visual and audio aesthetics. the project's visual designers little alteration. but leave room for play in your design. I "processed" basic to be table. a game concept emerged: While every game embodies production limitations for a series of brainstorming and non-computer sesgames. of your assumptions The project paper prototype. for the potential from your play testing. SiSSYFiGHT 2000 early prototype to change as you learn the fact that some be wrong. we were drawn towards that the game would be turn-based. and the core game logic we had developed was recycled Parallel to the game design. Constructing version on IRC. which we played hotseat-style. that early. formal with could involve real-time Once these of SiSSYFiGHT was designed gram. in a game. These rules were turned type: a text-only ting at the same computer. to develop the coopWe accepting will undoubtedly team continued seeking the balance between eration refined and competition that would become the heart of the final gameplay. ~tl:I:t~~IT1:J1:1~~~ Keep your eye on the prize. interspersed Eventually. Just be sure not to let of your iterative research. and conceptual questions around had eling a conflict that we hadn't seen depicted previously meant chat.
larger play patit was highly In response. but our beta users could come online anytime and play. we launched the game to an invitation-only beta-tester community grew in the weeks leading up to public release. the development team played it. we descended com companies them down cold in front on our friends' dotand letting helped us The after the workday had ended. sitting of the game of SiSSYFiGHT as a multiplayer them play. These early drafts of the visuals (revised many times over the course of the entire develinto the Director version of the game. Certain time slots were scheduled as official testing events. while also laying a foundation game design.the graphic language opment) were propped hewn iteration of the game and chart out possible screen layouts. ers into the game's social space. In the case of SiSSYFiGHT 2000. And as our ugly duckling grew more refined. to contact us and email in bug reports. We made it very easy for the beta testers terns emerged. Even with this small sample of a few dozen participants. All of this testing and feedback refine the game logic. As the game grew more stable. many design revisions and dialogue with our testers the results of each turn what had happened was completthat slowly unambiguously When the server infrastructure Top and bottom: SiSSYFiGHT 2000 final version ed. the rest of the Word. after each testing session. and technical elements at each stage. the game logic to discourage this play style: any player that "cowered" easing new playcycle of iterWe debriefed of the previ- twice in a row was penalized our loyal beta testers for acting like a chicken! When the game did launch. As soon as the web version was playable. We used written and online questionnaires. early versions of arbitrary. . com staff was roped into playing as well. aesthetics ing the relationship outcome: dependent and interface. became the core of the game community. and the first roughonline game took shape. matches. the testing and prototyping ative design was successful because wanted to test and how. we games. ous versions. Only through the game felt frustratingly did we manage to structure to communicate that round and why. And we strategized would incorporate the aesthetic. as with many multiplayer leading to standstill advantageous tweaked to play defensively. inspired by Henry Oarger's outsider art and retro game graphics. biggest challenge turned out to be clearly articulatbetween player action and game because the results of each turn are interon every player's action. For example. we clarified exactly what we about how each version of the game for the final form of the experience.
the player must capture a certain numbefore the sun sets. they emphasize interaction. colored butterflies.Case Study 2: LOOP Summary: LOOP is a sinf}leplayer f}ame in which the player uses the mouse to catch flittering. . which manifest types do not emphasize tent. what is the activity is actually of the game? Rather than as they an asking what the game is about. mechanic Top and Bottom: prototypes LOOP early Ideally. To finish a level. the questions rules and play. as the internal logic of the game. click or click-and-drag mouse interaction on the level of player input. or of f}roups in which each butterfly is a different color (the more butterflies ber of butterflies more points). and the game can express itself through the screen and speakers. action or set of actions that players will repeat over and over as they move through the designed system of a game. initial prototypes and begin to test it through LOOP grew out of a desire invent a new core mechanic. the around f}roups of butterflies of the same color. aspects address. The f}ame includes three species of butterflies by gameLab and a variety of hazardous and is available for play at bugs. game design. Asking questions as well as successive about your game's core mechanic ation of your first prototype. LOOP was created Initial prototypes are usually quite ugly. we had a notion to cast aside point-andin favor of sweeping. The prototype ity becomes meaningful should help you understand what this core mechanic is and how the activcan guide the cremodel this core play. There are ultimately with a computer to intervene not very many ways to interact Deciding game: the player can express herself through the mouse and key- board. fluid gestures. tied to the player's Visuals. Virtually all games ask what tile player to moment have a core mechanic. iterations. audio and story are important but the core uncertainties that a prototype elements of of is to should of a game. at gameLab to over time. The player draws loops in a loop. Another lie in the more fundamental way of framing this problem ask. Game protoaesthetics or narrative conthe game rules. doinf} from moment play. all with different behaviors.
and several other variables. "club. were only answered possibilities adjustable As the game code by actually solidified.Vladimir Nsbokov levels or did the game just go on until the were met? Was there element? These fundamental tions. our official play testing An entire game evolved design. by the person playing as well as As see sort adjustable the game. we played the game. gameLab to include a larger circle of players. In the end. allowing the player to draw lines. from a simple idea about mouse control. entire screen need to be cleared of butterflies the player just have to catch a certain "My pleasure. and immediately adjusting the rules to arrive at a different is a technical butterfly strategy of of building accessible design into account. are the most intense known to man: writing and butterfly hunting" number them? Did the butterflies or did their number discrete loss conditions time-pressure gradually fill up the screen constant? Were there some kind of quesproto- remain . moving outward from the game creators opment of LOOP. structure of play.The first prototype tested only this core interaction. the high score system and integration with the host site-was LOOP followed a testing pattern similar to that of SiSSYFiGHT. The length of line and detail on the curve could be tweaked. parameters of the game were placed in a controlled everything text file that was read into the application ran. Our next step was to have the program detect a closed loop and add objects that would shrink and disappear Each of these prototypes the number had parameters when caught in a loop. This programming different parameters of objects. That is the power of iterative . which grew out of our core mechanic typing. These parameters different numbers the behavior of game creatures of butterflies gression of the game's escalating game designers Top and Bottom: version LOOP final to points scored for in a loop to the prodifficulty. trying out the many when it from and coming to a conclusion through play. approach iterative emerged. under construction. Thus the game variand transitions could focus on refining ables and designing levels." to facilitate the process of testing and feedback. As the game design tools into that takes the game overall Did the or did of a game prototype content about the so did debate and victory game's and loss conditions. their speed and behavior. but nothing else. LOOP managed to achieve the fluid interaction we had first envisioned. while the rest of the program-screen help functionality. we could tryout how they affected the experience. During the develcreated the gameLab Rats.
character. which embodied philosophy. as a way of analyzing and understanding of LEGO play. LEGO wantwith a target that could also be played ed a game about brick construction 8. The player doesn't control junkbot directly but instead uses LEGO and reconstructing by brick. and play with a whole LEGO play into a digital game? Our first step was to purchase the subtleties mess of LEGO bricks. LEGO. The conceptual starting point for the creation of LEGO audience of and LEGO junkbot came from gameLab's boys that client. The first playable prototype idea: was the simplest possible iteration of the core interactive protagonist the player could use the rnouse to drag bricks on the screen. These values. to recreate the sublime How could we translate Yet in no way could we ever hope of plastic LEGO bricks. problem-solving. there was a single. there were goal flags td touch. Then. his environment brick helps the robot character junkbot the mouse to move deconstructinq factory.com. building stairways and bridges that help junkbot get where he needs to go. junkbot levels can be solved in multiple ways and the game structure encourages players to go back to previously solved levels and complete them using a different method. and there were rolling wheel All: LEGO Junkbot early prototype . included concepts struction. A variety of helpful and hazardous objects and robots add variety and complication to the game's 60 levels. The concept character centered around qualities of LEGO as well as the cultural ethos of the LEGO play like modularity.to 12-year-old tasked enjoyed by adults. a number of game play and engineering. autonomously-moving hazards to avoid. Here was our challenge: game Lab had been with creating a web game in which real-world interactivity play was the clear referent. imaginative concepts.Case Study 3: LEGO Junkbot Summary: LEGO junkbot is a singleplayer game in which the player empty trash cans throughout a bricks around the screen. we began to design by identifying the project's play values. open-ended multiple-solution design creativity. we brainstormed LEGO selected was called LEGOman (the and it help a character and storyline of junkbot had not yet emerged) moving bricks to indirectly move through an environment. as with most game Lab projthe material and experiential conects. Using these play values as our limiting parameters.
a create and save with game eleand visual design tool that let the game designers levels. so we implemented vertically on the upwards. the game and code that let players stack bricks and move them as a group. sit back and see what your audience how it is supposed . fun to play). our main con- school computer sat kids down in front of the game. features Play testing web-based planning for the next iteration continued refining the overall experience of the prototype. the character the process. that responded to junkbot embellishments screen. we utilized a level editor.We played the prototype. testing is to err on the side of observaactually does. addressed something of the previous prototype: it was to move bricks one by one. which float junkbot duced robot hazards And as these storyline interactive deepened (which was actually becoming of junkbot Throughout emerged. out of bricks. At such an early juncture in the iterative altogether through. Each new element lacking in the experience monotonous bilities. so we added fan bricks. and started we could have scrapped the design fresh. had trouble picking up basic game concepts. so we introin real time. Because gameLab projects And it was not very fun. We chose the latter. the essential ideas. Gradually we added elements the game. This testing the design of the game. design process. and let them play cold. using a data about the core mechanic so we visited an and confirmed directly form to collect and collate testing the basic brick-construction by our target audience. This testing our fears: too many of the testers such as how to make a stairway influenced interactive tion rather tester's telling them for junkbot was invaluable. The editor allowed them to experiment ments and level designs. While it may be difficult to keep your hands off the to work. we sometimes find that our initial prototypes are just not that enjoyable to play. often try to invent new forms of gameplay. What you observe designing the first several game levels to more clearly communicate A good rule of thumb for iterative mouse. and we slowed down the overall learning curve. putting in new kinds of special bricks and robot hazards. rather can sometimes than be than guidance. We needed a way to move the main character The game obstacles all felt too deterministic. classroom. difficulty and enjoyment cern was whether elementary would be understood Top and Middle: LEGOJunkbot level editor tool Bottom: LEGOJunkbot of each level. However. with the game Lab Rats. refining the interaction. building on insights learned from or we could dig in and push on to expanding the level possithat was the unsuccessful prototype.
but only indirectly. designers explore and manipulate the sysand it. sensation and emergent and inter- To design a game is to construct design is not to have players experience play. form of what this book is . Game design is therefore enacted by players. Play arises out of the rules as they are inhabited and action. tem. of design through tions you didn't even know were there. experiencing In iterative design. creating a second-order emergent patterns craft play. bend them. of the interactive design process. of discovering tion them. break them and re-fashion process of iteration. Thus the necessity advance. using it. The principles experience: a designer too complex balancing requiring the improvisational of this process creates are clearly applicable domain of games. there is a blending of designer create systems player. But the point of game rules-it design problem. Rules and play are just game design terms for structure some kind of structured inhabit. play.painful to watch. It is a form of design through and play with them. and people encounter. is to have players experience a set of rules. tion of rule and play is something ing can provide. The delicate interacto script out in that only testing and prototypbeyond the limited and a (a typeface. Part of iterative Conclusion Iterative design is a process-based design methodology. but it is also a form of emerged out of Design Research. is just another about: Design Research. in which designers of behavior. creator the reinvention of play. playing with it. answered through iterative questions the process of design-questions that were not part of the initial problem but that design and play. Through iterative new. This to ques- design. a car). but only in order to questhem into something the answers play. were nevertheless In each of these three case studies. system building. and user. but it will help you design more successful design is simply learning how to listen.
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Being at the forefront this is particularly of any imporas a kind of field means that you have to have a sense of what is going on. As a consequence. For designers tant. in order . science sections. we will mostly be concerned from and contribute and being in between be willing to break between disciplines to such processes. I am a frequent emerge. neuroscience. Third. and have often reflected and categorized. SVENSSON Intel'sections It is becoming increasingly critical to be able to relate ideas and experience categorized. The world is not neatly pigeonholed and research and this chapter about intersections of thinking and doing that you will not find shelved in a bookby search engines. "languages" we need to be about current used in the first and second sections of this book). out of discipline-specific or departments do not exist only in the academic the different Second. to be open to new possibilities we also need to know something willing to change the way we think about the world and what we do. cognitive science has not only moved from being multidisciplinary the following. you might observe categorization. organizations [Klein 1996.TR!h. the late 1980s in the form we now know it. products process and tool. as linguistics. At least in some parts world. from is many different shop or distinctly fields. First of all. and in this chapter we will consider interdisciplinary Design Research example to illustrate bookshop the concept of interdiscion for of in visitor. we need to be open to the ideas and language of people who have different backgrounds and ideas about the world (for example. as we all know. as it is all about fuzzy boundaries categories [Nissani 1997].~. It encompasses time. might best have been described ment has been accompanied and professional disciplinary. as multidisciplinary. how bookshops instance. and where new ideas. how we as designers Being truly interdisciplinary established is rarely easy. established biology. scheme in fact reflect some kind of categorization changes of the world. In with exactly the stage at which somecan both benefit thing new is coming into being. Let us use a fairly concrete plinary research. Over time in the way books are shelved how new fields slowly make their way into the established research An example would be the field of cognitive science. have introduced by growth of cognitive science journals. but is also on its way to become a new discipline in its own right. walls world. cognitive Over the last decade.P. we have to structures. and indeed. the relevant academic bookshops was spread in areas such For a long many and the field This developconferences of the to inter- out all over bookshops. literature computing science and philosophy. 57].
How can we achieve that? petence is especially relevant to interaction design and expe- it makes good sense to have an overview of the . in this context. The examples but many of the basic ideas apply to other on the mobile phone. culture as well as two case studies fields and contexts and I will discuss the field of digital set within this field. The second case study. we need to has a tendency process. the Interrupt with increasing information flows and time fragmentation. Some aspects as it involves so many different In the past. Design com- lives in the form of PDAs. for instance.194 SECTIOl~ T:-. and increasingly we are becoming more and more digitized.~:. The cultural. there is a common acceptance design. through context. PDAs and blogs? And how can we design new products make it easier for humans to mange the emerging Digital Culture A very clear example of intense might be called digital culture. disciplines. examples. namely. 1]. everyday inherently industries interdisciplinary activity today is the area that elsewhere. Fourth. deals How do we as humans flows such as email. emerging in computer Technology here serves not so much as a tool as an arena and textured" [lhde 1990. learning in industry. The two case studies learning environhave· as learning as collabolife-long where students potential culture. to be shallow as it brings together is absolutely people who in the about maintain a strong sense of who we are and where we come from. engaged with new kinds of activities and text messaging. computer. online forums Many of us spend much time on the computer. and thinking that culture? pagers. design research and using it focus on exploring new arenas and not giving in to standard The process of carrying out interdisciplinary is probably best described technology and its cultural as well. relevant fields and people in relation to our own field. and that computers Many of us find that we spend a fair share of our lives on the are also moving out of the gray boxes and into our and wireless academic networks. and games. Interdisciplinary work sometimes interdisciplinary know a bit about many things-we But what should take care not to lose ourselves vital is being passionate solutions. much industrial and interdisciplinary nology-based. innovative virtual worlds instead paper essays environments.::r:[ PROCESS themes. this is an area that is activity has been techof the necessity knowledge. activities and In the western world. but increasingly. field. for virtualized. Clearly. This is true of processes. participatory teams with multiple competencies rience design and. We will look at a project of traditional our world is to some extent "technologically societal and commercial focus on specific aspects ments created and the interrupt graphical of digital culture. multiple information interrupt with our evolutionary past manage in supporting Culture Project. communication. of this arena is enormous. mobile technology of our lives are becoming multidisciplinary and competencies. Graphical virtual environments have a great potential rative and creative spaces that can be used.
above the field of digital on one such platform. In techno-industry. There are also tools that allow you to visualize thought might be useful in laying out a network.First of all. Digital culture brain We are usually not equally interested ing point or focus. reputation. This is a long list that at first might seem a bit clutthe field. blogs. can be found at interpretation here the focus is on "immersion. (or its converse). This is not something ly learned. where you can investigate interactive Let us look at the immersion you a wide visual field filled with my personal of digi- node a bit more carefully. My personal list would probably include cyberspace. hypertext. We tend to have a theme. it is a good idea to identify some of the salient aspects ital culture. Even though these issues might seem new and particular to digital media. reputation systems. of dig- spatial design. immersion has become . online communication. online environments. narratives. with expensive technology graphics. interfaces. The nature in all the nodes in an interdiscipliwork requires us to follow conthat is easistructures and nary network. digital art. sion (among other things). immersion. and these and being open to "cross-thinking" In the illustration certainly help." tal culture in an associative. virtual reality. If you are involved in designing about social aspects of gaming worlds. com- social aspects of online life. that gives sometimes computer-generated closely associated . but having a holistic understanding and links. socialization. culture is represented The full network way. project or question that provides a startof interdisciplinary nections and relate things in unexpected ways. for a long time now. anthropologists and researchers have been conwork with repstudies have in literary reception about how young people get immersed in the worlds that are created through texts. Looking at just one or two of of what we are dealing games you need to know identity and immercomputer but it does help us to approach these aspects will not be enough for a real understanding with here. identity. we rarely find that is the case. Sociologists cerned with social behavior utation thought and social structures. tered. embodiment puter games and emergence. virtual communities.
we might be helped by .196 SECTION PROCESS THREE employing through head-mounted ment. 30] involved with high-end 0276 nature DAMER. Moreover. graphics at the expensive Such representations Also. How do we create truly immersive tant? social depth? Evidence and research sphere is admirably represented this page. presence.RI\. It would probably also be worthwhile in literature [Walton 1990] and immersion in art [Grau 2003]. as the audience is given such a "filled out" presentation. From the point of view of design. One such Scott Mccloud in the illustration environments makes sense to listen to experts and interaction concerned on visual communication like Mccloud. who work with recreating sound. animation recreating puter-a lenge games 0268 I know many peoabout chal- ple who work with 3D graphics who are obsessed "real" water particularly DAVIS in the comdifficult Computer important to how we environthat entire issues. For someone certainly concerned with the creation of immersive environments? How much should we rely on photorealistic by cartoonist graphics? in text environ- and highly relevant are imporreal on it Can we create What features come from many different spheres. this is an interesting area. online looking Other sources would probably include literature communities at literature with representation on 3D graphics. and poetry as about 0109 NAI" headaches" It could be argued that creathas become far too depth in of social and narrative ing immersion Scott McCloud on immersion [McCloud 1990. graphics People spatialized CAVE environments displays. humans are very good at detecting faults with visual presentatend to be non-symbolic Immersion is not tion that is highly photorealistic. and people may be perfectly well immersed ments (such as MUDs) and literature. are becoming and an relates immersive states increasingly photorealistic. or is 3D There with much focus on the visual environdesign frequently seem to reality and be concerned in the computer. ET AL. design concern best ments. create Naimark industries work with these and that "[tjhe goal is less about creating metaphor not creating ~M. of course. and" magical realism design. only visual.