Jul 252012

As Weez said in her last post, we’re changing the look and feel of Just Press Play for the new academic year. But that’s not all that’s changing, not by a long shot. Some of the changes are technical, and we’ll devote a post later to the nuts-and-bolts of the infrastructure. This post is about how things will be changing for the players.

The most obvious change in the mechanics of the game will be around the collectible cards and awarding of achievements. There will still be cards associated with achievements, but there will now be cards for *every* achievement, even the ones awarded automatically or based on materials you submit online. Once you get an achievement, you can stop by the IGM office to pick up the associated card. The cards will be professionally printed playing-card format, and later this year we’ll be developing some card games that you can play with them.

The cards won’t have those impossible-to-enter codes on them anymore, either. We know that lots more people participated and got cards than ever entered them into the system. That meant the mechanic was broken, so we spent a lot of time thinking about how to improve that aspect of the system. What we decided on was to equip anyone who can award an achievement (professors, staff members, etc) with a mobile app that can scan a QR code. Students will still get a keyfob for the game, but instead of RFID transmitters (which we were never able to integrate properly with our game engine) the keyfobs will hold a unique QR code linked to your game ID. When you qualify for an achievement, the person who can award it will scan your code, instantly giving you credit for the assignment. Sometimes they’ll have the collectible with them, other times you’ll need to pick the card up at the office. Either way, you won’t have to enter anything online to redeem the achievement. (For faculty and staff who don’t have mobile devices, we’ll provide a web interface they can use to assign the achievement.)

Another big change is in the core mechanic of achievements, quadrants, and “leveling.” We’ve changed the quadrants to four distinct categories–Create, Learn, Socialize, and Explore. Every achievement is worth 4 points in the system, and the points can be all in one quadrant, or distributed across 2 or more. There won’t be levels in the same sense that we had them in the past, either. All achievements and quests will be available to all players. We’ll reward players with achievements for reaching certain milestones (for instance, 25 points in each quadrant), but the levels will simply be progression markers, not restrictive barriers.

We’ve also added repeatable achievements into the game, which we’ll use for things like the “Flocking to Hockey” achievement. Go to one hockey game and find the JPP rep and you’ll get the base achievement. Go to 5, and you’ll get the next achievement in the series. Go to 25, and you get yet another achievement. We’ll use that mechanic for a variety of repeating events.

For every achievement you earn, you’ll be able to upload an optional text narrative and/or photo to help remember the activity. We hope this will allow people to build a nice record of the activities they engaged in to get the achievement.

And finally, you’ll now be able to make your achievements public if you’d like. By default, your achievements will be visible only to your friends in the JPP system. But you can opt to make them visible to the outside world, and even share them on Facebook if you’d like.

We’re excited about these changes, because we think they’ll make JPP more accessible and enjoyable for our players. What do you think?

Mar 082011

So I’m at my favorite bar and ask Erin, the bartender, “What would you like an achievement for?” I’ve been springing this question on random people since the project began. She answers without skipping a beat, “Random acts of kindness.”

Brilliant! an achievement one would give to someone else to recognize that unasked for something that made the day better. Not something I would get, but something I would give!

Liz said, “Yes, but…” because it is her job to be the pragmatist and to tell me that unicorns do not exist. How will you prevent 25 kids from gaming the system? What is the validity of such a system if they do? F I N E. I will make this work.

Here goes…

The hero’s journey narrative lends itself to the idea of leveling and this can be gauged with meaningful experience points. (XP) In fact, one cannot beat the game unless they graduate. This does not eliminate a subsequent alumni level, but that is so next week.

Parallel to this are badges and achievements that do not necessarily contribute to XP. These would be badges created by the players and reflect things they value.

When a player submits an achievement for acceptance, or when they submit the accomplishment of an achievement or badge, they will have to submit a story/proof of completion. The community will be able to “like” it. This unit of “like” is distinct from XP; what it indicates is street cred (CRED).

The value of CRED is that at some threshold beyond the noise, there is an indication of investment in the game. Those “like”s translate into others’ appreciation of their wit or way of doing the tasks. I say translate that CRED into a superuser (but with a sexier name).

Ultimately, the community should be self-moderating. It’s the superusers who should be the moderators.

There could be button or some way for someone to “call shenanigans”, and the superusers could sort it out. But I digress a little…

Maybe another benefit of cred is this, for x units of cred, you earn the ability to bestow a random act of kindness to someone else. So the cred is a currency used to take recognition you’ve received and reflect it on someone else. After seeing how quickly these units accrue, we can make the cost of giving that award a real sense of preciousness and honor.

What other tangible value could CRED have?

 Posted by at 10:35 am