For the last few months I have been working on an Alternate Reality game that uses the phone as to deliver stories to players.  The player is instructed to visit different locations, solve puzzles at those locations, and then are rewarded with more of the story.

As this is still a work in progress, I do not plan to elaborate too much about the idea, but I do want to talk about some of the systems I am working with.

This game is made in Unity and C# due to my familiarity with the system.

So far for this project I have developed a few different puzzles of varying mechanics:

1. The player must search an area for specific objects and mark their location on a map. At present all player tracking 

2. The player must solve a logic puzzle based on provided clues.  They interact by highlighting the possible selections on the image provided.  In the provided picture, a story character is hosting a dinner party and needs to determine where everyone sits.  The player need only swap the position of 2 different pairs to solve the puzzle.

3. The player needs to rearrange objects based on rules, while learning about that thing in the process.  In the provided picture, the player is ordering Kangaroo from smallest to largest in size.  They can tap on the kangaroo for more information at anytime.


Current Struggles with the design

I ran play tests during late June of this year bringing in what I thought was my target audience for the game.

The results were less than stellar.  Most of the complaints seemed to be based around the players calling themselves lazy and not wanting to walk the distances required for the stories.  I do not actually think the players themselves were being lazy, I think there was not enough reward at each stop for them to feel like the journey was worth it. The stops at the stories themselves felt too short compared to the time spent travelling.  Additionally, the players perhaps felt forced to go to these locations thus making the walking seem like a chore rather than a choice. 

One issue that was encountered early on was the problem that the game imparted a strange urgency to the player.  Making them want to hurry from one stop to the next.  This feeling can be useful for the story being told, but for most stops in the story I plan for players to move at their own pace.  To compensate I changed the text to remind the players that they should look at the other exhibits in the zoo along their way.  The wording was changed to compensate for this.

The biggest problem came with the activities the players would participate in at each stop along the way.  The puzzles were too hard or too easy for the content of the story.  Due to this, I thought to change my target audience tofamilies visiting the zoo.

The second biggest problem was the overall motivation of the players to actually complete the story other than hearing the end of it.  Right now I am wrestling with the options of creating a larger world within the zoo that the players would interact with.

Finally,  one of my goals is to better tie the physical aspect of the zoo to the digital aspects of the phone.  Something I had not done effectively up until now.

Actionable goals

- Modify puzzles and story to target families and elementary and middle school children.  Then playtest with this group

- Create a world which the stories tie into so there are reasons to complete the stories outside of just hearing the end of the story itself

- Reorganize the stories so that the players can plan out how they complete the story along with the other available tasks at the zoo.  (monthly quests? an ever changing array of tasks?)  I think tasks can be the key to spicing up the experience.