Sunday, September 03, 2006

Live blogging the 1st Cruel 2 B Kind Playtest

3:19 PM Successful playtest is over! Already many of the players have registered to play again next week. That's what I love to see-- a sticky game that encourages replayability!

2:39 PM Half the teams have been assassinated-- excellent. Seems like timing is working perfectly. We have also encountered a few interesting human error bugs-- one player had his Blackberry set to interpret our messages as Spam, another team used the wrong text message commands, another team used the wrong text message address-- all good to know so we can fix and simplify, fix and simplify!

2:12 PM Well, no one has been successfully assassinated yet-- phew. I was worried that the game might be TOO easy, that all the players would find each other quickly, kill each other, and the game would be over in 5 minutes. Well it has been SIX minutes so far, and the game is not over! :)
2:06 PM The game is afoot! Eight teams of benevolent assassins, a perfect playtesting number, are on the loose in Mission Dolores Park. I wish I could see the live action, but I hope to get juicy reports at the assassins picnic afterwards...

1:48 PM Five teams have checked in! That's the critical number to hit-- the game is designed to be played with a minimum of five teams. Woo! Gameplay begins at 2 PM! I wonder which teams will get assigned which weapons and weaknesses... I'm really proud of the database of benevolent actions we've created for the game.

1:35 PM While I am celebrating the technological success of the game so far, and the fact that players have indeed shown up to play, might I remind you to REGISTER TO PLAY in the next San Francisco Playtest (September 10), the World Premiere Game in New York City (September 23) or to HOST YOUR OWN Cruel 2 B Kind game anywhere in the world there is cell phone coverage?

1:34 PM YAY! Two teams have checked in already. Outstanding!! Did I mention... it is WORKING?? I'm so happy.

1:31 PM YAY! It is working! I just did a little dance in my cafe chair. Check-in has officially begun! Here's who it works, as explained on the Rules page:

No earlier than 30 minutes before the game starts and no later than 5 minutes before the game starts, show up anywhere within game boundaries. Use your cell phone to check-in.Because it's essential for players not to know who the other players are when the game begins, we do NOT meet up at a common location. Instead, you choose to show up anywhere within the game boundaries. You use your cell phone to send our game system an email with only "hello" in the body, and we know you're on-site and ready to play.

1:29 PM The game should turn on in one minute!

1:20 PM Mission Dolores Park is getting more crowded. Excellent. I am really curious to see if the players will pick each other out right away, or if they will be forced to engage with ordinary park-goers in their hunt for their game targets. I know one team has a pretty elaborate "blend in" disguise strategy planned! Of course, the game scoring is rather elegantly balanced (I'm happy to report) to minimize incentive to hide the entire game--survival points are worth only a quarter of the kill points, so players have strong motivation to actively play, rather than lurk until most other teams have been killed off.

1:13 PM I'm staked out in the Mission Dolores Park Cafe. WiFi connection seems stable enough-- keep your fingers crossed. Technically, the game can and will run itself, with automatic real-time scoring, kill tracking, help, weapons (random act of kindness) assignment, and so on. But I'm planning to watch the server event log and keep track of the game's run state throughout, just to make sure it's all going smoothly. This is the first game I've ever run where players don't meet up at a central location, so I'll have no way of knowing how many teams have arrived and checked in unless I check the event log. Okay I think I'm a lot more nervous than I thought I was. This post will likely be quite verbose as the only thing I can think to do to be less nervous is to type what I'm thinking out loud while I wait for the game to being. The game check-in is supposed to turn itself on in 15 minutes! I hope it works!

12:45 PM OMG. The San Francisco Mime Troupe is doing a show in Mission Dolores Park that coincides EXACTLY with the time of our playtest! Awesome! What great possibilities for intersection, friction, and other kinds of synchronicitous game play.

12:39 PM The playtest today is at Mission Dolores Park. The crowd is sparser than usual for a Sunday afternoon—lots of San Francisco folks out of town for Labor Day and Burning Man this weekend. But there is definitely a critical mass of ordinary park-goers among whom the Cruel 2 B Kind playtesters can immerse and disguise themselves. 11: 48 AM I decorated a cooler this morning for the post-game assassins’ picnic, at which bloody red velvet cake will be eaten and Top Assassins Awards will be given out. The cooler now reads in sparkly paints: “Cool 2 B Kind.”

11:35 AM I’ll admit it. I’m nervous. (And excited!) This is the very first real Cruel 2 B Kind game. I can’t wait to see what it looks and feels like live, on the ground, with real players! I’ve playtested the game by myself several times already this weekend to test the technology. (Picture me with multiple phones and email addresses proxied as phones playing as five teams simultaneously.) As far as I can tell, the game system works. But is it fun? It is it exciting? It is really socially adaptable and sustainable, as Ian and I hope? Today we will find out how the game PLAYS.

11:09 AM My co-conspirator in designing and developing this game, Ian Bogost, is profiled in the New York Times Sunday magazine today. Seems like an auspicious opening to the day of our very first Cruel 2 B Kind playtest!

No comments: