1. Preface

“Order is Heaven’s first law”, a quote from Alexander Pope that I hold dear. Design to me, is about creating specific order and organizing elements within it, which best accomplishes a task and establishes a framework for future improvements. Incidentally, this also almost coincides with Charles Eames definition of design [1] - “Plan for arranging elements to accomplish a particular purpose.” Having said that a true designer must be reflective - this factor adds the disruption and the fluidity to the concept and art of design. Despite the fact that, my academic and professional qualifications are coming from a technical background in the past, I have always explored the avenues of design and finally taken a plunge to make design my purpose, my identity.

2. Introduction

I come from a background of computer science engineering and working for about six years in web performance and front-end optimization. Therefore, my natural form that I choose with design is always embedded in the digital world, the web and relating to the Internet as a whole. I tend to step away from physical computing and analog work, except unless my design process calls for it - for example during prototyping. I have taken my initial months of my first formal design education to understand what design means to me, its process, its impact and the values that I want to build into my work. Therefore, as I experiment, I want to force myself to explore the domain of game design - a discipline that I would otherwise not end up venturing into. Hence, I have chosen an analog card game for my game design as my core idea for my final project. My end goal is to design a game experience and in turn package it into a finished marketable product.

3. Idea

Below is a mind map that led me to my final idea. It started with the 'Ideas in Form' assignment series where we had to take any idea and conceive it in a different form, with an addition of each dimension, from a 1D story, to a 3D object, to a 5D interactive setup, etc. My interactive pieces ended up in digital design as mentioned before, and therefore this project is the next interactive iteration in the form of a card game.

Image 1

My work with building an interaction for strangers in a public space was the other project that subconsciously influenced my idea - where I took a weekend trip to the MIT hackathon and understood VR, AR in more depth and discovered something called as the Merge Cube.[2] With other strong influences and inspirations(4) of bouncing my thoughts off friends and my surroundings, and from some current precedents(8), I finally decided on this idea. Last but not the least, academically and as introduced before game design was a challenge that I wanted to take up as well. It will also contribute to my study of interaction design and my goal to become a successful interaction designer.

4. Inspiration and Theme

  1. WWF Trump Cards: When I say card game, the only two thoughts that come to my mind are the regular 52 playing card pack and trump cards. As a child, I used to play WWF trump cards [3] with my brother. While I was a huge fan of entertainment wrestling, I never knew the character details of any wrestler in depth, until I started playing trump cards.
  2. Travel and Monument Collectibles: I love to travel and travelling to all the seven wonders of the world is one of my goals in life. I have visited three so far. As a child, I never had the opportunity to travel, and therefore I hope with this game, children and others will be able to at least get a slice of experience, appreciate and value travel and the many cultures of the world.
  3. Tarot and Crystal Ball [4]: This inspires the central look and feel of my gameplay where people are seated around a central piece of mystery, the crystal ball while they use their cards in front of them to decide their luck or destiny.
  4. The Crystal Maze: [5] was a British game show in which a team of contestants take on a range of challenges set within a labyrinth of the same name consisting of four time zones, winning a ‘time crystal’ for each one they successfully complete. This was another game from my childhood where players had to hunt for a number of crystals that will help them reach their ultimate goal.
  5. Once Upon a Time: [6] is an American fantasy drama television series that follows various fairy-tale characters who were transported to the real world and robbed of their original memories by a powerful curse.

5. Domains

The domains that I am exploring with this project are analog game design, travel, specifically the seven wonders of the world and the 21 finalists [7] of the campaign of choosing the new 7 wonders of the world, and augmented reality to add a digital or modern touch to this traditional format of card game, via the Merge Cube.

6. Concept and Statement

I am creating a game for users of ages 13 onwards to have fun, compete and connect with friends, family and colleagues - one that is engaging, killing boredom, that has an underlying aim of subconsciously educating the players of the various wonders and cultures of the world.

Finally, to choose a name for a project and product like this, I want it to be meaningful, catchy and marketable. Therefore, after some thought, I chose the name “AJOOBAA” which is the Hindi translation of the word “Wonder”. I feel this satisfies my criteria for the name and also reflects my personality and origins.

7. Historical Research

The earliest playing cards are believed to have originated in Central Asia. The documented history of card playing began in the 10th century, when the Chinese began using paper dominoes by shuffling and dealing them in new games. Four-suited decks with court cards evolved in the Muslim  world and were imported by Europeans before 1370. In those days, cards were hand-painted and only the very wealthy could afford them, but with the invention of woodcuts in the 14th century, Europeans began mass-production. It is from French designs that the cards we use today are derived. France gave us the suits of spades, clubs, diamonds and hearts, and the use of simple shapes and flat colors helped facilitate manufacture. French cards soon flooded the market and were exported in all directions. They became the standard in England first, and then in the British Colonies of America. [8]

One of the strongest and most straightforward interests of playing cards for designers is that they represent a cheap and very widely distributed form of applied art. They can combine the satisfaction of getting one’s illustrations to a large audience with a sound commercial project. Other applied arts – glass, pottery, fabrics, fashion clothes, even furniture – only reach a relatively small audience. Playing cards are items which people want to use, rather than having to be persuaded of their cultural importance, and which even in the more sumptuous packs are relatively inexpensive. [9]

Trionfi was the earlier or original name of Trump Cards and that evolved over time with the idea of ‘cards to win’ that is, Trionfi, Triumph, and eventually Trump.[10]  Edmund Hoyle, the first systematizer of the laws of whist[11], and author of a book on games, and his rules on card games helped me get a kick start on framing the rules for my game. His sample card game rules[12] were a good way of starting with a rule set to help prototype.

8. Precedents

8. 1. Metagame[13] 

This is a social game that essentially works around building social connections and understanding or debating each other’s opinions. It’s a game where you do what you already love to do with your friends: talk about culture.[14] This was an inspiration to Cards Against Humanity. By its title, this game encompasses several other games in one and can be played as per one’s current feeling.

8. 2. Cards Against Humanity[15]

is a party game in which players complete fill-in-the-blank statements using words or phrases typically deemed as offensive, risqué or politically incorrect printed on playing cards. This game is similar and inspired in part by an early version of The Metagame in 2010.14

8. 3. UNO

You must have played UNO [16] which was the colourful and numerical translation to the traditional 52 playing cards, with a few fancy action cards. Its interesting to note that while UNO has action cards than can complicate the direction of gameplay, skip a player, make players draw more cards and generate other competitive emotions, the interaction is directed straight towards the cards pack and that keeps everything grounded and simple.

8. 4. Genesis and Skylanders

Genesis[17] and Skylanders[18] are AR games with a touch of analog cards, something very opposite of what I am attempting to create. They claim they are ‘the right way to game’.16 Skylanders series managed to become one of the most surprisingly huge hits in gaming over the last several years, so it’s no surprise Activision has branched the series out to everything they can think of. Skylanders has been hit and miss on mobile platforms, but with their latest, Battlecast, they’ve entered the ever-crowded world of collectible card gaming and, after a fashion, augmented reality.17 Genesis also, similarly says that ‘this isn't a typical Trading Card Game,16 however, essentially we are playing most of the game on the device itself, and so the cards can clearly become just a gimmick.

8. 4. Merge Cube

The Merge Cube claims to be the world's first, holographic object you can hold in the palm of your hand.2 Forbes says that ‘This is a completely different way to experience augmented and virtual reality because it provides users with a handheld cube essentially allowing the child to hold a hologram in her hand.’ [19] I am not only considering this as a precedent but using this as an integral part of my game since this is what the Merge Cube was made for. This will add the factor of attraction to younger players and will satisfy my criteria of adding the modern digital touch to the traditional card game.

8. 6. Understanding popular card games.

Looking at Amazon.com’s best-seller card games today [20] you will notice that the gameplay, the ‘fun’ quotient and the expansions all lie in the content of the card and not particularly in the rule set or the gameplay itself. All these games come loaded with hundreds of cards without which the game cannot survive. This in my view is a step back of better game design, when traditionally, the 52 playing cards deck has shown us that with just so many, we can have a game of fun, thrill, cunning, strategy and play for hours together. Hence by this, I wish to limit my card size limit to, and keep the focus on the gameplay and the rule set to generate the true game experience than to focus of the content of the cards itself.

9. Goal and Context

My goal is to create a game, packaged in a aesthetically good looking package, with cards, and a nice board to place them down, have the users sit around and have fun, keep their secrets, play their cards right, team up to win, take revenge, play strategically and most of all have fun. This game could be played in dice and dine restaurants, or parties, after parties, in high schools, office breaks, killing time, etc.

Criteria

Expectations

10. Process

As shown below (Image 2), the process went with an iterative approach of ‘Conceptualize, Prototype, Playtest and Evaluate’.[21] 

Image 2

While my concept was firm, the concept for the gameplay, that is the rule set, needed to be tested. My focus was on the gameplay experience and my rule set had to reflect that, since my theme and concept was constant. This process was the consistent process that I learnt out of my research resources.[22] 20 Moving further in this paper, the game experience design process revolved with this approach mainly on the rule set that should encompass all my criteria.

11. Prototyping

Image 3                                                  Image 4

Prototyping must serve its well-defined purpose, single or multi-dimensional, and my purpose was the rule set. While I did start with a concept prototype (Image 3) and then the aesthetic prototype (Image 4), the aesthetics was only the last part to consider and the game design process was mainly for the rule set as stated above. Referencing Stephanie Houde and Charles Hill’s article of Prototyping,[23] my focus was mainly on the ‘experience’ than the role or implementation.

Image 5

12. Iteration and Evaluation

After forming each rule set, they were refined and reduced for efficiency by prototyping with one or more of these four methods:

  1. Self-Elimination: After writing down and printing the rule set, I used my prototype to play with myself as three players. The confusion for myself was very apparent with certain rules, and hence they had to be eliminated. These complications do not arise when I imagined them within the system. Hence this method was valuable.
  2. Snowball Effect: Adding one simple or small rule to the game seemed fine until a playtest was done. With each passing round of the game and that simple rule snowballed to become complicated further into the game. These rules had to be eliminated.
  3. Pitch Perfect: I tried an exercise of explaining my rules to my peers from the other design studio within 1-2 minutes. This was done for about two hours constantly. With each visitor that I made my pitch too, I realised the complications in understanding the rule set. Towards the last visitor who checked my game, the pitch became shorter, clearer and simpler and the user was able to easily understand the essence of the game.
  4. K.I.S.S. Principle: ‘Keep It Simple Silly’ was a principle suggested by my studio Professor Morry Galonoy. This, in essence, reflects all the valuable inferences I obtained from the above three methods.

13. Conclusion

I obtained a rule set that satisfied my criteria for the whole game experience and complimented my inspiration, concept and end goal of the overall gameplay. I hope this game stands to be marketable as one that entertains my users and make them aware of the various wonders and cultures of the world.


[1] Eames, Charles. "Design Q&A Text". Palais de louvre, 1972. <http://www.eamesoffice.com/the-work/design-q-a-text/>

[2] “Merge Cube” <https://mergevr.com/cube>

[3] Plex Media. "History of Wrestling Cards". <https://thewrestlingcardpriceguide.com/history-of-wrestling-cards/>

[4] Loren, Sophia. "Crystal Balls and Tarot Cards". <http://tarotprophet.com/>

[5] “The Crystal Maze” TV Game Show <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TrDUdOgpNsI>

[6] "Once Upon a Time" TV Series <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1843230/>

[7] New 7 wonders of the world - The 21 finalists <https://world.new7wonders.com/wonders/>

[8] "History of playing cards" <http://www.playingcards.co.in/history.php>

[9] MacPherson, Hugh. "The History of Playing Cards". <http://textualities.net/hugh-macpherson/the-history-of-playing-cards>

[10] Trinofi.com. "Trionfi - not only Playing Cards". <http://trionfi.com/0/t/>

[11] Web Archives <https://web.archive.org/web/20100401090250/http://www.1911encyclopedia.org:80/Whist

[12] "Hoyle's Card Game Rule Finder" <http://www.hoylegaming.com/rules/>

[13] The Metagame. <http://www.metaga.me/>.

[14] Macklin, Colleen; Sharp John; Zimmerman, Eric. 'Local No 12'. "Metagame - About the Game". <http://metaga.me/press/>

[15] “Cards Against Humanity” <https://cardsagainsthumanity.com/>

[16] “Original UNO Rules” <https://www.unorules.com/>

[17] “Genesis - AR and Gaming the right way.” <http://kck.st/2kyy1rq>

[18] Skylanders Video Game <https://www.skylanders.com/>

[19] Choi, Jenn. "Cutting-Edge Schools Show How Education Is Everyone's Business". Forbes. AUG 1, 2017.

[20] "Amazon's Best Sellers in Card Games" <http://amzn.to/2kyJMy2>

[21] Macklin, Colleen; Sharp John. “Game Design and Play”. May 19, 2016.

[22] "Valves Playtest Principles" <https://www.gdcvault.com/play/1566/Valve-s-Approach-to-Playtesting>

[23] Houde, Stephanie; Hill, Charles. Apple Computer, Inc. "What do Prototypes Prototype?". 1997