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DROP7 Redesign

Jason Shifter

rop7 is a number puzzle game for iOS and Android devices which looks

at first glance to be a strange hybrid of Tetris and Sudoku. However it's one of the more innovative and addicting puzzle games out there today. Area/Code(now Zynga New York), the developer of the game describes it as follows: Drop numbered discs into the grid. Whenever the number on a disc matches the amount of discs in its row or column it disappears. Keep the board open to keep scoring, and survive as long as you can. Clear the board or set off huge chains for big bonus points.

So why am I redesigning this game? This data caught my eye- The largest single age group using the iPod Touch is those under 17, accounting for 65 percent of the user base(AdMob). The game doesn't do very well at going after that demographic specifically, so I thought it may be an interesting idea to redesign the game with a younger audience in mind. In order to reach this audience the game has to be thought differently, in visuals and functionality. The redesign will target 7-14 years old. This particular audience doesn't necessarily have a strong sense of numbers in a conceptual sense, so one of the goals of this redesign will be to visualize these numbers so someone as young as seven can understand it. Another goal for this redesign is to create attractive visuals that appeal to both sexes of this demographic. Finally the last goal is to create a game that parents would feel compelled to download for their child, since they will most likely have the purchasing power for this age group. I started with an inspiration board, which is simply a collage of imagery to reflect the emotion and feeling I wanted for the game.(Saffer) I wanted something that appeals to young kids of both sexes that could also visually represent numbers in a fun way. I came up with a farm theme.

I searched farm animals + numbers, which gave me the idea for piling up animals ontop of one another

I started putting together images of farm animals, followed by a search of farm animals + numbers where I started to find images of animals piled on one another. This gave me an idea on how to visualize the numbers in the game. The animals would be piled up on top of one another, so a stack of 4 chickens would be the number 4. To address this change in visuals, the felt the game needed a slightly different perspective. While Drop7 was completely 2D in style, I decided that this game should be in a 2.5d or isometric view so as to easily show the different animals on screen in a more appealing way. That is why you see some images of classic isometric arcade games and a rubix cube, which

feels like the proper representation of the perspective I wish to take. I went about creating several user personas and storyboards to simulate and better understand the interaction between this type of user and the game itself. A user persona is a detailed description of a possible user of the game, product, etc. In this case the three user personas are 7,9, and 12- all within the 7-14 demographic. Story boarding is a technique drawn from filmmaking and advertising. It allows the designer to powerfully tell a story about a product or service, displaying its features in a context. (Saffer)

Mike is 9 years old. He lives in the suburbs of Philadelphia with a single mother in her 30s. She works long hours so his grandfather spends the majority of the time with him. Has one close friend. They share a lot of the same hobbies. Both love dinosaurs, alien movies, and science shows. Wants to be a paleontologist. Has a kids chemistry kit. Here's an example of a possible scenario that Mike could go through while playing this

game:

So this scenario shows Mike playing the game at recess with his friend. They fight over playing the game because they're excited to beat each others high scores. Recess ends and they go back to class discussing strategies for the game.

Amanda is 7 years old. She lives in Brooklyn Heights with her parents in their late 40s. Both of her parents are high ranking executives at major firms. They have three dogs. She takes horse riding lessons in the summer in Eastern Long Island. Shes very good at drawing for her age, but isnt very good at math. A possible scenario has Amanda playing this game on a car trip:

It begins with Amanda's mother giving her one of her phones(She's a high level executive so she has several) to keep her busy on the long drive to horse riding lessons. Amanda's mother sees a game that has numbers and puzzles so she thinks the game will be good for the development of her daughter. Amanda slowly learns how to play and by the end of the trip when her mother wishes to take it back, Amanda begs for it back. Amanda then asks her mother lots of questions about all the farm animals she found in the game. Her desire for knowledge makes Amanda's mother happy because of her curiosity which could

lead to better math skills.

Shannon is 12 years old and lives Charleston, S.C. with her parents. The mother works at the local post office and the father works at a nearby Army base. She has one twin sister and one sister who is 17. Her older sister bullies her and her twin sister. Shannon likes Disney princesses and having tea time with her twin sister.

In this scenario, Shannon and her twin sister have locked themselves in their shared room because they are being bullied by their older sister. They're stuck in their room so Shannon goes on to the app store on her iPod Touch. She sees a cute cow icon and downloads the game, not really comprehending what the game is about. Shannon understands the game pretty quickly. She shows her sister the game and they begin playing together. They both forget that their sister was bothering them as they laugh at the fun animations of farm animals piled ontop of one another.

Now before getting into the actual game interface and UI, I thought it would be helpful to re-imagine the main menu screen with these younger users in mind. So here's a wireframe of what the main menu on the original Drop7 game looked like:

At the top we have a graphic, which is the game title. Below that are the several play option buttons, followed by an instructions button. Further down there's the logo text next to a link to the website. Below that is a menu button for more menu options. This is way too confusing and distracting for a young kid visually and functionally. So here's my redesigned main menu:

I decided to make the game title graphic larger to appeal to the player visually. I have merged the first three buttons into one Play Options button. After that I put a How to Play button which uses friendlier, softer language then instructions. Below that is the Scores button and finally at the bottom is the logo. I've simplified the UI, but also I've made the buttons much larger, which for children is a huge plus. Their coordination and focus isn't as good as an adult in most cases, so larger buttons allows for less mistakes to be made.

OK let's take a look at the game layout:

With the original game UI you got the score textbox at the top, the level increment textbox at the bottom and below that the menu button. The problem I found with this is that the player needs to look at both sides of the screen to get a sense of his place in the game(via score and level). The pieces in the game fall by dragging or putting your finger down on any of the squares on the screen and letting the disc fall to the other side of the board. Here's the redesign wireframe:

So what's new? First, I placed the score and level increment text boxes at the top right-hand corner of the page to account for the player in the original design having to look back and forth to see the information. Now it's all in one place. A new addition are fences(comment 2) that open allowing the animals to come into the penned in area-the game board. It serves two purposes- one as a nice fun animation, but also to project a sense of purpose or reason for placing the pieces on the board. In the original game, you're playing with numbers, while here you're ultimately playing with fencing in farm animals. The latter is

easier to understand for kids because it has bearing on real world interactions as opposed to numbers which are extremely conceptual. Behind the fences is an image of a barn. When a new group of animals come to the game board, they appear in the distance coming out of the barn. This again reenforces the atmosphere and overall emotion we want these young players to feel. The players should feel that there's some sort of simple narrative for them to follow. As you can see the pieces are piled upon one another. So in the example in the wireframe(comment 4) those pieces represent the number 3 because there are three pieces piled upon one another. I used three dimensional image boxes to show the perspective of the game pieces that I wish the game to use. The movement of the pieces stay the same to the original. The main menu button stays in the same location, but slightly larger for the same reasons as making the main menu screen buttons larger. This is a great start to a potential redesign of an already fantastic game. To reach that 7-14 demographic I created a redesign that addressed a young person's weak understand of concepts in favor of real visual interactions- in this case farm animals penned up in an enclosure. I made the button interface have larger buttons since children have poor motor skills and are therefore easily prone to make mistakes when clicking buttons. I created visuals and animations

that reenforce the atmosphere and purpose of the game so the game is enjoyable to look at and interact with for kids, but also give them a better understanding of the world their in. And this friendly coat on a deep complex number puzzle game makes for an easy persuasion to get parents to purchase this game for their kids- parents who value their child's education greatly as seen in the Amanda scenario. So overall this a solid foundation for a Drop7 redesign and a better understanding of this demographic and how it interacts with mobile devices.

Works Cited

1.

" A re a /C o d e I n c . " D r o p 7 . N . p . , n .d . We b .

< htt p : / /a re a co d e in c . co m / p ro j e c t s /d ro p 7 / > .

2.

" M e t r i c s o f A d M o b . " A d m o b . A d m o b , J u n e 3 0 , 2 0 1 0 . We b .

2 5 O c t . 2 0 1 1 . < h tt p : / / m e t r i c s . a d m o b . co m / > .
3.

S affe r, D a n . D e s i g n i n g fo r I nte r a c t i o n . 2 n d . C h a p te r 7