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  Who uses physical prototyping?  (Read 3914 times)
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Offline purpleguitar

Junior Devvie

« Posted 2008-07-10 15:46:00 »

In Tracy Fullerton's "Game Design Workshop" (, she extols the virtues of physical prototyping. For those who have never tried it, the main idea is that you can explore a game design idea much more easily with physical artifacts than software artifacts.

I have never tried physical prototyping. Does anyone in this community have any experience or thoughts on it?
Offline Jackal von ÖRF

Junior Devvie

« Reply #1 - Posted 2008-07-10 20:46:34 »

I use paper prototyping all the time when designing and testing user interfaces (it makes it possible to quickly measure and improve the utility, performance and learnability of an UI design), but at work I make only business applications. I haven't tried prototyping game designs.

Offline DragonsRage

Senior Newbie

« Reply #2 - Posted 2008-07-11 14:55:05 »

It depends on the type of person and how they think as to whether or not physical prototyping is more effective. Personally, I had to do it as an exercise in my high school java course and I bloody hated it.

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Offline purpleguitar

Junior Devvie

« Reply #3 - Posted 2008-07-12 13:18:31 »

Interface design processes such as Constantine and Lockwood's Usage Centered Design call for a formal round of "physical prototyping" in which interfaces are built out of Post-It notes. This allows for group brainstorming and convenient abstractions. I have used this methodology for designing interfaces with teams and found it very useful.

The physical prototyping advocated by Fullerton (and others) is really a gameplay simulation: take the core of your computer/video game and do it on the tabletop. In essence, it feels like making a board game out of your computer game idea, and using that to determine if your idea is fun. I love board games, and so there's something appealing about this idea to me. However, there are some oddities. For example, to prototype a FPS deathmatch, she recommends using a hex grid, miniatures, and using cards to encode actions. Each player has a hand of cards with actions like "walk 1 space", "run 3 spaces", and "fire rifle". Each turn of the game, the players choose and simultaneously reveal their selected action. In this way, you simulate the continuous gameplay of a shooter in a turn-based board game. You can experiment with different character, class, weapon, and statistic ideas very cheaply and easily. It sounds good on paper (pun intended), but I'd love to hear from anyone who has actually tried this. I only know one team that did try it, and they claim it worked well,... except I think their final computer game wasn't any fun to play!
Offline beowulf03809

Senior Devvie

Medals: 2

We live for the code, we die for the code

« Reply #4 - Posted 2008-08-12 18:59:32 »

I think like most techniques you need to determine how well it applies to your situation.  Trying to physically simulate a FPS's game play (without breaking out the paintball guns and making a mess of your workspace) may not be very appropriate.  But physically simulating the interface mechanics may be.  How well does your eyes take in the information presented?  Where do you instinctively look for something? How often do you look for information or controls in a sequence that would suggest logical grouping?  Things like that.

But for turn-based, city-building, simulation, etc. games then a physical prototype may well be worth it.  Remember however that there have been some pretty dismal failures to translate otherwise fun board games into computer games.  So if you have some ideas that don't feel perfect in the physical model you may not want to just abandon those in favor of what seems right "physically", since that reverse translation may leave you wanting during computer play (hope that made sense).
Offline Eli Delventhal

JGO Kernel

Medals: 42
Projects: 11
Exp: 10 years

Game Engineer

« Reply #5 - Posted 2008-08-12 21:25:45 »

I just use a pencil and paper. I've got a notebook crammed with tons of interface and functionality designs, and not only is it useful but I love to tote it around. It's like my mad scientist notebook.

See my work:
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