Student Project: Curve

Universität Hamburg, 2013

Project Team

  • Marvin Kastner
  • Kolja Kirsch
  • Malte Lücken
  • Christian Reichel

Supervision

  • Vertr.-Prof. Dr. Martin Christof Kindsmüller
  • Claudia Wyrwoll
  • Julian Fietkau
Curve 1

Goal

The goal of this project was to develop an interaction concept as well as a prototypical software implementation for the Campus Screens that can be found on the Universität Hamburg campus, in order to showcase their potential for novel and creative usage. Our aim was to facilitate the interaction with all elements of the screens through a casual game that would entertain passers-by, students and visitors e.g. during waiting times and allow them to play against each other.

Because the Campus Screens and comparable installations rarely contain accessible buttons or sensors, we employed the player's smartphone as the primary input device. In consequence, only smartphone owners are able to partake in the game.

Passers-by can meet, prearranged or randomly, in front of a Campus Screen. They can start a new game using their smartphones, play a few rounds, and then part ways again. Newcomers should be met with a low barrier of entry and a smooth learning curve to prevent out-grouping by hardcore players.

Curve 2

Motivation

The Award Project in the Interaction Design course held by Dr. Martin Christoph Kindsmüller provided the opportunity to tackle this big task and to broaden our horizons. The basic idea for the project was developed near the beginning of the summer term of 2013. Our motivation was to find and challenge our own limits, to explore new areas like API and network programming, and not least to bring our own concept into reality.

Curve 3

Approach

First we considered how we could use the Campus Screens as a play area and how we could connect our input device – the smartphone – to the screens efficiently and requiring little effort. Since we had bad experiences with volatile bluetooth connections as well as app requirements, we decided early on that the game would be controlled through a website, which would mirror the typical presentation of an app. Technologies like browser-specific web-app visuals, responsive webdesign and JavaScript make this possible. That is how we achieved compatibility with pretty much all modern smartphone platforms and were thus able to reach almost all smartphone users. During the concept and design phase, Marvin and Kolja had already started programing the game itself. They paid close attention to the seperation of design and logic in order to allow for late and flexible changes to the visual design without impacting the code very much.

The whole project was developed according to agile processes. We used parts of Scrum and Kanban and used the online platform Trello for the project coordination. A specialty of Trello is how it uses cards that are sorted into lists to represent tasks, notes, discussions, pictures and even to-do lists.

We created about five Trello cards daily and each card was edited, delegated, discussed, voted and/or completed over three times on average. After more than 300 cards and over 1000 actions, we completed the first version of the game.

One advantage of the agile process was that we did not get lost in the planning phase, but were always focused on our goal. We were able to split the main goal into several smaller sub-goals and seperate those – as well as could be foreseen – into even smaller sub-goals. Another big advantage was how every tea member held a high degree of responsibility while working on the project. This enabled us to share the workload evenly and fairly.

Furthermore, there were no personal responsibilities for specific areas, so in case of problems we were always able to jump in and help. Our communication channels were direct and we could respond quickly to potential problems and conquer obstacles. The concept for the game was built on personal wishes and requirements moreso than on a unified feature list. In other words, we did not know from the very beginning what the game would look like and what reactions it would evoke. Somewhat surprisingly, this led to an especially productive work ethic.

During the course of the project we often collected feedback from our supervisors and from other students, which was evaluated and incorporated into the concept.