CIRCA:Game of Writing


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Game of Writing Documents

About the Project

The Writing Game is a project supported by GRAND that is developing an online writing environment with gamification features. Users can start projects, challenge themselves to meet deadlines, challenge others to finish writing projects, or use writing tactics to complete projects. The Writing Game is being developed by Matt Bouchard. Geoffrey Rockwell is the project director. University of Alberta GRAND researchers who have contributed include: Michael Burden, Joyce Yu, Sean Gouglas, Betsy Sargent and Shannon Lucky.

Special thanks to the University of Alberta GRAND team for their ideas and support.

Literature and Links

Personas and Scenarios

Meeting Notes

Bugs, Features and Other

Game of Writing

Documents related to the development of a writing game.

Feature list

This is a list of features and feature groups in the application. The purpose in listing these is to provide a way for Dr. Rockwell to rank them in order of importance with some context.

Note: PMT is Project/Milestone/Task

1-2-3 signup/splash page

Sketch: GWRIT-MS3-3 pg 1
Provides brief description of the game, simple account sign up instructions, and existing account login.

  • include a tutorial video

Tree Navigation

Sketch: most pages
Provides a visual indication of project scope, user location, and navigation.

  • it doesn't scale beyond 20 or so items. With good organization, this can be minimized.


  • drag and drop PMT ordering
  • integrated progress bar to show what PMT states are at all levels
  • simple indicator for task completion

Main PMT interface

Sketch: most pages
Provides access to important PMT information and functions: title, description, tags, main content, words/pages written and done/delete/export/save.

  • repetition of done/delete/export/save seems like a good idea but causes space problems


  • Timer and multimedia additions for PEARL v2
  • through font style and colour, visually indicate which boxes are editable

Estimate productivity

Sketch: shown expanded GWRIT-MS3-3 pg 4
Provides opportunity for user to estimate the work involved in the given PMT.

  • it makes the most sense if this panel is contextual, but it could become confusing. Repeating the PMT level within the panel might help or other visual technique
  • progress bar was originally located inside this panel and is now repeated above the main PMT panel. It needs to be in both places, but again some visual distinction might be required.


  • include a column for actual hours worked and actual pages/words finished that works similarly to the progress bar (automatically calculated unless the user changes it
  • there are too many little boxes to fill out in this interface. Visualizing this productivity (in the vein of the progress bar) would be a vast improvement

Profile menu

Sketch: most pages
Provides access to profile information: login/out, username logged in, and a link to manage the profile.

Writing tips

Sketch: most pages
Provides random writing tips. Example tips will be included in the prototype.

  • requires significant development to create useful writing tips


  • drawn from external sources
  • users add their own with a voting system so the good ones rise to the top

Writing stats

Sketch: most pages
Provides very basic textual record of writing and PMT progress.

  • text-based is simple, but research shows that visual improvement is more powerful for increasing game-based drive


  • graphical expression of same stats
  • controls to allow user to select which stats to show
  • automatically feature most impressive stat

Tag search

Sketch: GWRIT-MS3-3 pg 12
Provide results for searched tags so that users can quickly navigate to certain PMTs.

  • multi-tag search
  • multi-PMT edit, based on selected tags


Sketch: Examples shown on many pages near the words/pages infomation at the bottom of the main PMT edit area
Simple pink ? icons with tooltip help to explain parts of the interface.

  • these are appropriate for simple, 10 word or less, information. They should not be used very often or with more dense information. Every ? could indicate a place to improve the interface


  • The first one has been placed beside the words/pages area to say 250 words/page. Where else should these be?


Sketch: MS3-Sketch-5.pdf pg 1-5
Provide basic competition interface with add/remove competitor and comparison of competitor statistics.

  • My stats is not great. Perhaps "my log"
  • "Add competitor" tab is more a control than a navigation so it might be better as a button. The trouble is a) where does that button go and b) where do you go when you press that button. Currently, the context is sensible and predictable to the user. Perhaps a combined approach like browsers do with the + beside the tabs for new tabs. Though when there are no competitors yet, the + will be ambiguous


  • make information/views more contextual
  • add instant message brag/chat
  • more "live" information about competitor actions/progress


Sketch: MS3-Sketch-5.pdf pg 6
Provide basic profile functions for changing screen name, email, and password.


Sketch: MS3-Sketch-5.pdf pg 6
Provide award display for basic game-driven motivation.

  • award-specific view for detailed explanation of award, date acquired etc.
  • an impending awards panel (could be a way to provide missions/quests)
  • a link to a list of all awards


Sketch: MS3-Sketch-Notification.pdf
Provide control over user notification of system events (finished PMT, reminders of work to be finished etc.)

  • This has no place in the menu structure at the moment. It will likely go in the profile menu (with profile and logout)
  • I had hoped to get away with email as an archive of events, but we may need an event log somewhere in the interface. Mo features, mo problems.


  • separate controls over each class of event (PMT finishes, awards, reminders, etc). The real challenge is the complexity of the interface. It might be simpler to contextualize this control, but you would still need a central place to view all of them.


Sketch: not sketched
Provide basic tutorial Project which walks the user through creating their first project.

  • one-off creation is costly and not necessary in this case. In-context tutorial will provide the necessary information but will not require changes to the engine. Further, doing the tutorial while creating the first project will encourage use of the system rather than completing a specialized tutorial that gives knowledge but no useable results.


  • timed help messages to direct attention to remaining goals
  • animations to improve clarity


Sketch: not sketched
Provide mechanism for users to give feedback on the whole interface. It will likely be a link somewhere in the interface though it's not clear where.

  • this presumes some "in the wild" use which will not happen until later versions


  • contextual feedback would be great, but it would require designing a feedback icon (like the ?) so it could be added easily to areas that are already visually and informationally complex


Sketch: not sketched
Provide basic ethics brief before users complete their signup and email them a copy.

  • implementation team has not yet received the text of this, but it should easily editable anyway (for subsequent projects). Either a simple text file or something in the database


  • include a brief demographics survey
  • it would be nice to give them a debrief, but the timing of that is tricky. Could possibly do it based on time using the system (1 hour typing or something).

Done popup

Sketch: not sketched
Provide an informational popup with optional "Brag" box for competitors when users click "Done" on a PMT.

  • can't provide both bragging and feedback boxes. We'll be lucky if they write anything in there let alone two separate things with two separate tones (one flippant, one serious)


  • can be used to notify the user about new awards they've just won


Mario versus Bowser

Persona 1: Mario has held many jobs (plumber, Doctor, carpenter, etc.), lived in many places (New York, Mushroom Kingdom, Space, etc.), and most importantly loves his girlfriend, Princes Peach. He rarely uses the Internet, but often uses word processors. He heard about The Writing Game (TWG) because U of A projects are highly publicized in the Mushroom Kingdom.

Persona 2: Bowser, King of the Koopas, is a megalomaniacal leader, a career criminal and the head of the first crime family of the Mushroom Kingdom. Typing is difficult with claws, but Bowser has persevered and become fairly adept with computers and on the internet. Bowser has always loved Peach, but she has always preferred Mario. He heard about TWG because he regularly hacks into Mario's computer.

Scenario: Competing to write a love letter to Peach

  1. (Mario)
    Mario thinks TWG will help him to write a love letter to Peach to finally convince her to marry him. He has been struggling with it for a while and hopes that TWG will help to motivate him. Mario signs up and selects the tutorial project to learn how the system works
  1. (Mario)
    Mario enters his new project title (My Love Letter), fills in the project description, puts in an end date of two weeks from today, and guesses that it will take 2 pages and 2 days to express his love.
  2. (Mario)
    The tutorial encourages him to break his project into milestones, so Mario creates some milestones:
    1. Our history
    2. Our future
    3. My heartfelt plea
    4. Final editing
  3. (Mario)
    Since he is excited at his progress (the progress bar has moved a little way toward finishing), Mario starts writing the "Our history" milestone and finishes quickly.
  4. (Bowser)
    Bowser has screenhacked Mario and watches him complete his first steps in TWG and decides to mess with Mario by competing with him in letter writing. He copies all of the steps Mario has done (to save time) and adds Mario as a competitor.
  5. (Mario)
    Mario receives an email notification and a message at the top of the TWG window that indicates Bowser wants to compete with Mario. Mario accepts his challenge! He then quickly finishes his Our history milestone and clicks the Done button. His progress bar jumps forward and he feels happy.
  6. (Bowser)
    Bowser receives an email notification and a message at the top of the TWG window that indicates Mario has accepted his challenge. While Bowser is still cackling with glee, he gets another email and screen message to indicate that Mario has finished his first milestone in 45 minutes! Bowser gets right to work and finishes his Our History and Our Future milestones. When he clicks "Done" on Our Future, he types "She is my future, not YOURS!!" into the "Notes for competitors" box.
  7. (Mario)
    While Mario is working feverishly, he gets an email notification and a screen message for all of Bowser's work. He realizes that so many notifications are annoying, so he goes to his notification screen (link in the email and in the screen message) and indicates that he only wants daily notifications.
  8. (Mario)
    Mario writes his Heartfelt plea and clicks the Done button. He navigates to the project level and sees that his progress bar is nearly full! He hits the export button which lets him save his whole project as a plain text file. After printing his new file, he goes to bed to do his final edits.
  9. (Bowser)
    Bowser gets a mail/screen notification that Mario has finished his Heartfelt plea and only has 1 milestone left. Not wanting to be beaten, Bowser quickly clicks the Done button on his remaining milestones and clicks Done on his project (including a competitor brag to Mario). His progress bar is full and he gets awards for finishing a project in 24 hours and for winning his first competition.
  10. (Bowser)
    Bowser clicks the feedback link, fills in the text area with "Thanks for the awards but you guys are suckers" and goes to bed.
  11. (Mario)
    Mario opens his email and sees in his daily notification email that Bowser has finished all his milestones, has completed his project, and has won their TWG competition. Saddened, Mario takes some time to think about his feelings.
  12. (Mario)
    After a few days, Mario gets tired of the daily emails from TWG reminding him that his work on the Love letter is overdue. He pours all of his recent emotion into a rewrite of his Heartfelt plea. He finishes editing his letter in the TWG interface, exports, then prints the final copy. He clicks Done on his Milestones and his Project then he leaves to mail his letter.
  13. (Bowser)
    Because Bowser cheated and did not use the TWG system properly, he does not get reminders and he never finishes his letter to Peach. Consequently, he begins planning yet another kidnapping attempt.

Princess Peach uses PEARL

The PEARL Guidelines module has been moved to version 2.

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