Weekly Blog

Week 13: Thanksgiving

Work Done This Week

Come on, it is Thanksgiving this week, what do you expect:)

Plan for Next Week

We are going to be the final group of the semester to present our deliverable. What a dramatic way to end an amazing semester!

Weekly Blog

Week 12: Softs Presentation

Work Done This Week

Softs Presentation

This week is our Softs Presentation week! With the list of improvements we gathered from softs playtest, the team continued to iterate on all four mini games and the overall experience. Sincere thanks to everyone who participated in our playtests!

Putting Everything Together 

The team compiled a huge list of feedback from Mike and Ruth after our Monday Softs opening. We are so happy to find that they in general loved our mini games. The team agreed that at this point the major task was to ensure the stability of the game and enhance the user experience as much as possible. a major part of that boils down to re-designing and tweaking some of the UI elements so that playing the games feels more intuitive and natural. Additionally, our programmers talked with folks back at Cylab on integrating our experience onto their servers.

The team also decided to make changes to the house sorting questions and make the experience more of a collabrative problem-solving task than what the game is now, which puts too much unnecessary emphasis on competitions between houses.

Our mini game experience has an official name now: “Katalyst”. One day the team suddenly decided to stop working, go outside and have a walk. Then we were simply inspired by a signpost on our way. That was how “Katalyst”, the name, came to be.

Lastly, our project has a trailer now! You can find this trailer on our media page. Enjoy

Plan for Next Week

It’s certainly been quite a wild ride to look back on everything we’ve gone through and accomplished since September! Things to do next week:

  • Post-mortem
  • New team score system
  • Slide deck for Final Presentation
Weekly Blog

Week 11: Final Mini Game & Polish

Work Done This Week

Final Mini Game Implemented

What a way to kick off the week with the programmer on the team showing off a working implementation of the “Matryoshka Potion Making” mini game! The prototype even included auto-indentation, a concept that was not on the list of ideas the team need to cover. With the working prototype completed, art quickly started creating assets for this final mini game. The final look and feel of this mini game are the closest to, among the 4 mini games, a real-life programming interface. The team feels confident in this decision as the game will come with detailed tutorials. The team also made sure that the interface to control and receive feedback from the game is intuitive.

Quality-of-life improvements

Besides the implementation of the final mini game, the team summarized the playtest feedback last week and started to implement quality-of-Life improvements. To improve the onboarding and offboarding process for the overall experience, the team improved the original intro scene and text in addition to adding an outro scene that plays when the player finishes all the mini games.


Our programmers have also been working hard to implement adjustments and changes to our overall experience.

1. Clean up the clear-stage tracking.
Changed the method of progress clear-stage tracking from using boolean array to a new logic. The boolean method was originally implemented since old mini games had only one level. However, new mini-games have more than one level. Additionally, “Cleared stages” is not only related to mini-games but also to reading content and scoring system.

2. Update “Professor Koh”
To support tabs, our programmers brought back a custom Class “Lesson.” It was a bit painful because they removed the “Lesson” class and used string primitive data types in the previous iteration. The new code is now more extensible.

Lots of room for content!

3. Added animation to the intro text
Our programmers added a lot of new text before and after queries in the intro scene to our game. To make the visual and experience more interesting and alive, they also added text animation.

Also, fireworks!

Plan for Next Week

Next week is going to be our Softs Presentation. The team made a build of the entire game on Friday and will use it during Softs week. Other than that, the team will try to finish all the features for the game by the end of next week. In terms of production, the team will start preparing the deliverable trailer and any necessary ETC festival materials.

Weekly Blog

Week 10: More Playtesting

Work Done This Week

Playtest, continued

On Wednesday this week, design locked in on the mechanics and layout for the final mini game, internally named “Matryoshka Potion Making”. With this final game the team introduces the idea of “loop” in programming. We do not have anything presentable to show at this stage, but you can think of it as a lean version of visual scripting tool, with cyber-magic theming.

On Saturday, the team had two extensive playtest sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, that really helped the team find out some overlooked areas and issues that ellipsed our attention.

During one of hour playtests…
During another session…

Here are some questions the team asked during playtest:

  1. Why did you…? And why? (especially when they have done something you didn’t expected)
  2. What do you think the game is about?
  3. What do you like about this game?
  4. What do you don’t like about this game?

Room Escape Game
Pay attention to: order that they check on objects, where they get stuck, how they react to dialog box.

Pay attention to: where they get stuck, the time they spend on each level, how they understand what each jigsaws do, how they figure out the rules, how they understand about the assignment.

Cookie monster
Pay attention to: where they get stuck, how they interact with the control panel, how do they figure out the rules, emotional curve when doing and receiving feedbacks, how they react to the monster feedback.

Iterate, iterate, iterate…

Client Meeting

During our client meeting the team showcased the latest iteration on mini game 3, the “Circuit Fixing” experience. Our client really loved the how the game plays, saying that even though they have seen the basic mechanics in other games before, our new twist on this idea feels fresh and interesting, in addition to effectively introduces the idea of “if & else” statement in programming.

How the third mini game looks

The team also explained how all the mini games unfold when the player jumps into the experience. The player will be able to freely choose any game to play from the start. In other words, there is no particular order how the experience should be approached.

Finally, client asked the team to, if time allows, come up with some basic marketing material for the team back at the Cylab to use. It should not, however, take up the team’s production time.

Plan for Next Week

The team plans to have the basic features of out final mini game teaching the idea of “loop” in programming finishedat the start of next week. Right alongside with that artist is going to populate the mini game with assests and start iteration. Additionally, this week’s extended playtest session helped the team see areas in the previous three mini games that still need improvements, new features or changes. The team is going to go through all the feedback, sieve the best bits, and make adjustments accordingly. The game package is really coming along nicely, and we can’t wait for more people experience it!

Fiat Lux
Weekly Blog

Week 9: How good are our games? TESTING!

Work Done This Week

Most of it, playtesting

The focus of the team this week has been carrying out playtesting to see if our games are fun to play and easy to understand to naive guests, in addition to satisfying client’s requirement. The team knew beforehand that there is going to be a ton of problems to address, yet many of those turn out to be surprising and a bit unexpected.

To prepare for the upcoming playtest seesion (hosted by ETC) of a larger scale, the team has been busy polishing the previous three games, as well as making playtesting questionnaire.

Lastly, a update on the production of our third mini game. Our client rThe game now is at a playable state. Mechanics is solid, bugs have been fixed, art assets have been added in. All that remains is making several “boss” levels that makes the game challenging.

During our playtest workshop, the team came up with the “experience goal” sheet:

People were so nice with their sticky note feedback…

Playtesting and feedback

The team kicked off this week by conducting playtest with students at the Cornell High School in Pittsburgh. This playtest helped the team see many areas that the games and the overall experience could improve upon. For example, more than 60% of our playtesters ended up in the green team. That means our “house sorting” questions aren’t really doing their job…

Lewis, our amazing producer!
Playtest session

Besides testing our games and overall experience with students, the team also tested them with two faculties, Mike and Ruth. It was quite a valuble lesson. The faculties asked many specific question and provided tons of feedback when they finished their playthroughs. Just to give a taste as to some issues we need to address:

  1. Ruth went first to bulletin board, instead of playing the game. This is opposite to the original design
  2. Display that you have no concept available to learn
  3. Some definitions on prgramming concepts are unclear and need improvements
  4. Throughout the experience, the visual screen felt every empty.
  5. Opinion: overall theme feels off, magic and cybersecurity does not go together well.
  6. Interface needs consistency
  7. Programming concepts need to be repeated throughtout the experience. “Make them stick!”
Ruth meticulously playing our game

Client Meeting

In terms of client meeting, Ivan showed our previous two mini games to the group back at CMU CyLab. The group felt good about the two games, which is such good news. Additionally, the folks at CyLab all think our third mini game idea and mechanics, which uses circuit fixing puzzles to teach “=” (assignment) and “==” (comparator) concepts in programming, are good. The team felt assured and encouraged. One thing however, which had also popped up during this week’s faculty meeting, was that the team needs to change “witchcraft”, a word that appeared in many places in the theming of the second mini game, to soemthing else to avoid potential backlash from some paticular audience. The team will promptly carry that out.

Plan for Next Week

In the upcoming weeks, the team will diligently carry out playtest to ensure that all the previously mentioned problems and improvement suggestions are addressed and implemented. We will spend time giving out and analyzing playtest surveys, as well as conducting interviews if possible. In the meantime, the team is going to finish the third mini, implementing all the levels to be more exact, at the start of week 10. Further more, the team managed to settle on the specific design of our forth/final mini game. Design will come up with a list of levels for programming to implement while art creates modular assets to streamline production.


Also Lewis
Weekly Blog

Week 8: Moving forward

Work Done This Week

This week the team is taking in the feedback from all the faculties given on our presentation. Good reflection realigns the team’s progress with the vision from the client and faculty expectations. Turns out, we are on the right track.

The team was somewhat lucky to land on an efficient production pipeline that proves to work. Design goes first, providing design documentation, tentative implementation plan and levels if needed; programming and art carries out production following discussion with design; and finally the whole team review the result and polish. We wasted little to no time.

Client Meeting

We showcased our latest game, the polished “Cookie Creature” experience the picoCTF team on Friday. The feedback was positive. Ivan from the team liked the gameplay and thinks the game conveys the necessary basic knowledge that the pico team wants to cover. The consistency of art style was also something the client appreciates.

The game is now up on the internet running smooth in webGL. You can check out the game here. It includes the first 2 mini games:

Plan for Next Week

Next week, the team plans to finish all the circuit fixing levels for our third mini game, art, design and programming all integrated and functional. Stay tuned.

Weekly Blog

Week 7: Halves!

Work Done This Week

The team, 404 Productions, had our halves presentation this week! We are the first ever team to deliver a presentation back in the RPIS room. Grateful, honored. Feel free to check out the slides and video:

Halves Presentation Recording
Presentation Slide

Right after the halves presentation (that did take up a big chunk of production time), the team resumed production promptly. The internally named “Cookie Creature” experience is being polished to a presentable state with interaction and sound fully integrated.

Progress Update by Department

Art: Our artist feels more confident about the art style now that feedback from the faculty is coming in. Overall, there is nothing wrong with the combination of magical and cyber element as the wrapper although some did express their concerns and dislike with the choice. However, the team believes it is the most realistic and practical theme to make, and to wrap the game in.

Design: The team is on board with the third mini game idea, which is “fixing the circuit” that introduces the idea of “=” and “==” sign in programming. The design documentation is done, and the team will discuss detailed implementation plan next week as it pushes to deliver the “Cookie Creature” experience.

Programming: The team has started integrating the game into the picoCTF network, and there is no major hurdle to the process. The complexity of the “Cookie Creature” experience has definitely given programmers a headache, but nothing major, if you are aiming for a high standard:)

Plan for Next Week

We are on a good schedule. We are wrapping up production for the second mini game, and will start full production on the third mini game. The team will push hard on delivering something good for playtesting week!

Weekly Blog

Week 6: Preparing for halves

Work Done This Week

Up and running…

Thanks to our talented programmers, our game is up and running in WebGL on the official picoCTF website. Duing production, the team made sure that the game would run on any platform with the lowest spec by asking for “the worst” Chromebook the ETC could provide. We ran our game on the Chromebook. It worked without any hiccups.

Game Design

During our faculty meeting this week, we not only asked for feedbacks on our game, but also rehearsed the presentation for the two to smooth out the flow. There was no major problem with our presentation, but there was indeed some minor structural problems and design decisions that needed improvements:

  1. Heather suggested that we randomize the final door code to our room escape experience as in real life, groups can easily exchange the actual code that the game breaks.
  2. Looking at the “cookie creature” experience (which we totally renamed for potential confusion and legal reasons), the cookie machine reminds the faculty a bit too much of a cocktail machine of some sort. Maybe it needs some iteration.
  3. In our final rehearsal on Friday, one other faculty pointed out that to make the presentation better, we need to make it more “juicy”, less “boring”. That, is going to be a myth to solve… As currently, we do not yet have a complete stroyline that ties all the mini games in.


Our talented artist took in the feedback from the faculty and iterated on the final look of the “cookie creature” experience. This honestly really goes well for the consistency of the theme:

Plan for Next Week

The team will be the first group (of the entire ETC) to present, on Monday. Having spent quite a bit of time this week tweaking the halves slide, the team has nothing else planned outside of continuing working on the “cookie creature” experience to a shippable level, as well as starting production on the “encapsulation” mini game. Finally, on Monday we will have our final rehearsal at 12pm. Stay tuned and see you on Monday!

Weekly Blog

Week 5: New week, new prototype

Work Done This Week

In week 5 the team finished up our first mini game, the “Room Escape” experience and promptly started production on the next mini game that is internally code named “Cookie Monster”. With this new mini game, the team aims to introduce two fundemental programming ideas: the command line interface & hashing. In general, the team is making steady progress in delivering the mini collectioon as promised.

Here are some in-engine screenshots of the “Room Escape” experience:
The team added more audio elements to make the game more immersive
The map of different areas/mini games the player can go to
A sneak peek at some work-in-progress stuff of the “Cookie Monster” experience:
Rough sketch of the experience
Mockup for the game interface

Client Meeting

Some key take-aways:

  1. Since the team is including a “Teachers’ Longue” functionality that explains in detail the programming concepts introduced in each mini game, our client asked us the question: Do we want to go through the full game first then guide the students to the detailed explanations in the longue vs. jumping back and forth between mini games and the explanations?
  1. Another question: in terms of needing a strong goal, which one is better: Completing all the questions, or getting a high score for the house?
  2. People hate reading in general, don’t force them to read first, play second.
  3. Having some kind of “resource” that is consistent throughout the mini games and the real competition will be quite helpful through the experience.
  4. Make sure the game appeals to a broad audience. The goal is to get players to attempt picoCTF questions

Our half-sheet is done!

Plan for Next Week

The team will push hard to deliver the “Cookie Monster” experience, ideally, by the end of next week, as well as clear up any design hiccups that might pop up along the way. Design/UIUX will output a new design document detailing the next mini game that introduces “assignment” (“=”) and “comparator” (“==”), as well as encapsulation. Stay Tuned.

Weekly Blog

Week 4: Creating the prototype

Work Done This Week

The most important step towards making this educational game/progress this week came out out of one of the questions the faculty advisors asked the team: Is this experience/game’s overall goal to teach programming from ground zero, or is it to teach/introduce the most basic programming & cybersecurity concepts and ideas while making sure the learners have a fun time problem solving?

It is rather tricky to tread the line between teaching programming vs. teaching just the concepts and ideas, as past weeks’ progress have proven. The team, when it came to answer the question, was hesitant to put out a definitive conclusion.

Client Meeting

Our meeting with the client made it clear that we will only be teaching the basic concepts, not the actual programming. Framing it in their words: “Aim for introducing something that is potentially intimidating in a fun and new perspective.” Additionally, addressing the team’s concern about bridging the gap between this game and the picoCTF competition in terms of difficulty level, the client reassured us that we do not even need to worry about the competition existing at all.

Prototype Showcase

Lastly, we showed our prototype for the room escape experience to the client, as well as the faculty, for feedback. The team was so glad to find out that they both liked the art style and the presentation of this mini game experience. When it receive more polish, the game will ideally serve as a benchmark for the other mini games to come. Meanwhile, by the end of this week the team has also fleshed out the basic flow and design for the next mini game, which will introduce the concept of command line tools as well as “hashing”. Stay tuned.

What the player will see right when they jump into the game

Plan for Next Week

Next week, the room escape experience will receive more polsih. And now the we have a clear vision (teaching concepts and ideas, NOT programming), the making of the next mini game will stay more focused and get the message conveyed with more clarity.

PS. what our brainstorming at the end of the week looked like: