Softs Prep

Week 12 Updates
  • Story Part
  • Softs
  • Next Steps

Over the weekend, we developed our story and integrated it into the project. In the story stage, guests essentially are presented with a three-act narrative, and advance the plot by picking major or minor. Similar to the other stages in this prototype, they can audition and listen to the two versions before locking in their selection. 

Beginning on Monday (11/23), we had our Softs playthroughs with ETC faculty. Overall, we received mostly positive feedback. We found that guests were able to understood and navigate our prototype trajectory: a) exposure to concept of major/minor in the onboarding stage, b) learning of concept of major/minor in the experiential stage, and c) application of concept of major/minor in the story stage. The musical backgrounds of our guests varied, but we noticed that the guests who were musically naïve and not familiar with major/minor pre-experience, developed an understanding of major/minor post-experience. It was fulfilling because it was further evidence that our desired transformation – awareness of major/minor and curiosity to learn more – is occurring for our target audience.

Before their playthrough, one faculty did not know what major/minor were in music. But post experience, he explained how he was now capable of discerning the differences between major and minor music. He explained how major sounded bright, happy, and joyful, while minor evoked feelings of mystery and tension. He really enjoyed the story stage, and the opportunity to apply his learnings through an interactive narrative. He illustrated how he was able to further learn about major and minor in cinematic contexts, by mapping particular emotional scores to certain actions.

In this prototype, our hope was that we could scaffold guests with visual feedback, i.e. the images in the onboarding and the visualizations in the experiential stage, so that they could have visual channels to further understand major/minor. For instance, major music represents a sun, and minor music represents a blue sandstorm. Then, in the story stage, we can remove the visual scaffolding so that guests are forced to focus purely on the sonic feedback channel  – the act of listening. Some faculty loved that we stripped the visuals back and leveraged the immersion of VR to create a space where guests can focus exclusively on the music and sound. However, other faculty were surprised and felt a little bit punished by the lack of the visuals in the story stage. We received additional feedback, asking us to clarify the role of the guest in the story stage. Are they using music to direct or screenwrite the story? In other words, is music being used to set the emotional tone of the piece, or to change the beats of the piece. Similarly, one faculty expressed the wish to match music to the moment, rather than music to the resolution. Another interesting discovery was that one guest expressed support for following a linear path throughout the story, and enjoyed ‘failure’ as a learning mechanism, while another guest desired less fixed interpretation from the system and a focus more on matching music to the tone of a story. 

During Softs, we gained more evidence that this prototype is achieving our high-level purpose – to foster musical curiosity through the asking of better musical questions. During a playthrough with one faculty, she remarked she didn’t feel like the experience educated her, but rather functioned as a medium to evoke curiosity and appreciation for music. She explained how next time she is at the Symphony, she would ask herself ‘why the music was doing what it was doing.’ This was a fulfilling takeaway for the team.

Faculty asked us what we would do if we were given more time to develop. With this prototype, we explained how we would spend more time adding genres to the experience so that guests could hear major/minor manipulations in different musical contexts. The current prototype has an ostensible Middle Eastern/Dessert atmosphere and setting, so all the music is set in a certain genre and landscape. By expanding the prototype to incorporate diverse environments and music, guests could better understand how major and minor function in different musical contexts. 

In the next week, we will finish our gameplay trailer, write our Post-Mortem and design documentation, and begin preparing for Finals Presentations. We will also iterate to the major/minor prototype by adding a few differenet genres and additional environments for guests to experiment with. Right now, we are set on adding 8-bit, country/folk, and gospel music. Our semester has been a journey most fulfilling, and we look forward to wrapping it on a great note. 

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