Wed Nov 6th Playtest: The Day Destructo Disappeared

This morning we had a long time (an hour and a half?) before most of the all elements were working. So Adam and Brian kept making changes and uploading new builds to check if the changes made it work. For a long time, Destructo our trusty giant robot couldn’t be seen (see pic below). But we got it working finally.


There was a big change in the way Destructo looked when behind the doors, and after. As you can see in the image below, Destructo is reddish in colour and partially hidden by the doors.


But then when the doors open, Destructo is bathed in more golden light (see below).


What I loved about these golden shades is that it immediately reminded me of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. The guys didn’t know the film, so I explained that since it was released in 1927 it is perhaps the first ever robot movie – and a golden woman at that.


I love the look of the doors, with a new bar between them (like a bank vault internal bar). The lights are took quick for the moment, so they’ll need to be tweaked so they obviously turn on enough when the doors are half open and the visitor can see them. There was no lag with the upper door because it looks like the frame rate issue has finally been resolved. It is locked now and all the animations work fine. This has been part of the learning process here: figuring out what design and art changes we have to make to accommodate unusual behaviours with the screens. As we’re going, we’re realising some of the things can be fixed on the technical side. This is some of the knowledge we’ll pass on to the next people in residence. But another thing with the doors is Destructo does look a bit short behind it. Paul and I spoke about moving Destructo just slightly higher in the space again to see if that would work. That is needed too, to get the top arm animations happening above the touch-screen-to-projector-space line.


In the left area, Simon has taken out the switches in the background. This is because previous tests revealed people try and switch them, of course. Simon also added the Robot Uni numbering system. This is something we spoke about earlier in the project. I wasn’t that keen on having a big banner in the space, but it is important to have something more communicating what the setting is. Last week’s playtest revealed the need to get this small door-numbering system (ala University or company zone numbering) in to test. When designing this door label, I made sure the numbers or letters didn’t imply any ordering. So there was no 111 or AAC, along with a 243 and FFD. Someone could easily believe that this means the 1 or A robot section is meant to be experienced first or something like that. So I tweaked the labelling accordingly. Now that it is in, it looks great. But the one he put on the right side is right behind the UI for Destructo.


There isn’t much room on the right-hand side as there will be objects floating around ButlerCat and so we don’t want text behind them. Paul and I had a talk about moving it to the bottom-right of the Destructo space – which I’ve considered before. But it then the visitor is right in front of Destructo – obscuring the view of the animations for themselves (by being too close) and others (watching). And so it may be possible to put it in the upper area above the touch-projector line.


There was another unexpected user behaviour that emerged too. People come up to the installation and tap away at it while we’re there. Which is great, because it helps with testing. Indeed, I invite people to come along to the playtest each week too. This week there was a lady who ran up to the Destructo UI and started clicking away. We watched her and it was clear she wasn’t looking up to Destructo and it’s responsive animations. Then Adam noticed that both she, and the security guard watching, were both keeping on eye on ButlerCat. They thought the UI was for ButlerCat. Now, this is completely understandable as the UI is in the same space as ButlerCat. What struck me with this is that we now have to make sure the UI visually looks like it is for the Destructo environment.

At present, the initial design brief Simon worked out for the Destructo UI is similiar to the look of the top aqua frames over the ButlerCat space. I thought the frames looked great, and saw how that would tie in nicely with the UI. But now that we’ve seen this visitor behaviour, we’re going to have to change the art treatment for the UI. This is what testing is for.

Another thing that happened with this user is they left the UI unfinished. They left because they didn’t see the robot they thought they could control move. We’ve already resolved how we’ll deal with this with art. But the other issue this revealed is that Destructo’s doors were just left open and Destructo was just standing there. While we do have a head-moving-to-watch-the-crowd, with momentary weapon-flex for the idle state planned, the next user would be confused by being half-way through the UI session. So now we’re going to set the UI to reset (close doors etc) after 1 minute. We’ll have to watch to see if that 1 minute is the right time during testing.

The UI for Destructo is still using placeholder images, but there are some errors we need to fix too. The “Destruction training failed” or “passed” message is missing. I also need to use a current image of Destructo to make it clearer for people when teseting. And we need to add that addition of the “stand back” message after they press “fire”.


Also, ButlerCat looks so adorable. Paul is rightfully proud. This robot model is just about finished and so next week it’ll have a bow and more refined edges around the eyes. Adam also worked on the Kinect programming. The Cube has only just temporarily installed a Kinect and so Adam has to do all the testing and programming in this last few weeks, along with all the other tasks. But with the help of some advice from Tim and quick and clever thinking by Adam, it looks like it will all be resolved. We played with being chased by the mini robot flies in the upstairs area. We’ve also been working on the dialogue for ClunkyBot. But more about that in another post.

The next playtest is next week! So we’ve got things to do!

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