Bringing our Experience to the Public

Week 10 Updates
  • prototype 3 refinements
  • playtest day findings
Prototype 3 Demo
Playtest Day 

On Saturday we had our playtest day. It was an awesome opportunity to test with folks outside of the ETC. We had about 9 groups of playtesters, each group diverse in demographics. Each group consisted of 2 to 4 playtesters, and we were with each group for roughly 20 minutes. 

Playtest Day Plan

For playtest day, we had divided our prototype into three stages: 

  • The Exposure Stage 
  • The Experience Stage 
  • The Application Stage –> We were not able to test this stage due to time constraints
In the exposure stage, the guests learn about major vs minor via the matching of song to image, an introduction similar to what we created for our paper prototype. This stage functioned as our onboarding to familiarize the guests with the mechanism of manipulating progressions, and exposing them to the concept of major vs minor. In the experience stage, guests then used the manipulation mechanic to explore how environmental atmospheres change in response to different manipulations. In the application stage, guests are able to apply manipulations of major and minor to shape the story beats of a narrative. We present a little and simple game board with a figurine and a series of beats. We narrate a story and stop at each beat and ask them to shape the tone of the scene via major or minor manipulation. Their choice informs the tone of the narration and also modulates the image on the powerpoint. The exposure and experience stages are in VR while the application stage is in reality.

Our overall goal for the playtest was to identify and understand how guests were reacting and responding to the major and minor manipulations, and see if the link between atmosphere and minor/major was clear. We hoped that by navigating the stages of exposure, experience, and application, the guests’ interest or curiosity would be fostered, and that they would look at songs they love and ask themselves questions such as “I wonder if that is minor or major,” or something like that. We were particularly excited for the potential conversations within the room, and were curious to see how guests collectively engaged with the prototype. 

How it Went

We began each group session by first introducing the project and ourselves. We then learned more about the guests, i.e. who they are and how experienced they are with music, theory, and VR. After that, we asked them if they knew what major and minor meant in music. Next, we briefly explained how major typically creates a bright atmosphere while minor creates a darker atmosphere. Then, we put guests into the headset and into the world.

First, guests played our onboarding stage. The directions were understood by all guests. Everyone knew that they were supposed to match the song to the image, which was helpful because there was no grappling with the game rules – attention and focus was chiefly directed on the music. 

We found that some guests were having difficulty discerning the differences between major, minor, and mixed. In the conversation and retrospective part of the playtest, we learned that this was due to the mixed mode acting as a sort of bridge between all the pieces. Mixed, having a series of major and minor, smoothened the transition between major and minor. In order to get from major to minor, the guest had to slide the interface through mixed. The end result was a smoothening effect that diminished the stark transition between major and minor. This was a very valuable and eye opening insight. Additionally, we found that guests enjoyed the opportunity to revisit their picked images, listen to the songs for however long they want, and change their images if they felt like it. All good stuff. Another interesting finding, was that some guests picked a single image for two song variations. They were influenced by the song’s instrumentation, which they believed to match multiple images. 

Guests then entered our second stage, the experience stage. Here, they were presented with a series of songs and environments, where they could manipulate the song to major, minor, or mixed, which resulted in an instant visual change to the environment. Guests really enjoyed the visuals of this stage, and oftentimes, they would lean into the environment and examine the atmospheres in deeper detail. However, we found that some guests believed that they were changing the environment, instead of changing the music. This meant that they were primarily focused on the environment. Our goal was for the audio to be the primary focus, and for the environment to be the secondary focus; to make it clear that they were manipulating the music which was changing the environment, not the other way around. This was a valuable learning takeaway that will prompt us to think of ways to de-emphasize the visuals a bit. Maybe we could a fade to the visual transitions instead of the transition being abrupt. More to come on that. 

We found that guests really enjoyed the music, but again, some were having difficulty hearing the differences between minor and mixed. Another takeaway was that guests were sometimes too distracted by the three environments being enabled and showcased at once. This also lead to belief that the whole environment was connected, and that consecutively, so was the music. We explained how we set-up the board in a way to allow for iteration so that the map can be connected, with each environment representing a story beat. However, in retrospect, we should have made it clear that for the playtest, each environment and piece of music was a stand-alone. To solve the problem of distraction and over stimuli of visual information, we talked about maybe turning off the lights on the environments and interface not being used, or more diagetically, using fog or something to shroud the unoccupied interfaces and environments. Lastly, we found that nearly all guests were craving the ability to have a conclusion to the experience. Next week, we will work on building the application stage, as we march towards Softs – a week where we showcase our work to the ETC faculty. 

Moving Forward
  • Take out ‘Mixed’ as a mode, so that there is just major and minor. 
  • Make clear that the music comes first, environment second.
  • Begin building the application stage.
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