Target Audience Research : User Survey

While the allure of Noir is an assumption I hold about the target audience; it is just as important that the audience is interested in role-playing, interacting with other participants and within the context of their local town. I made assumptions about attitudes towards a product which is tailored to a person’s home town as well as the concept of leaving one’s mark withing the fictional world of the experience. In order to test and respond further to these assumptions I carried out some primary research which I have detailed below.

Although I only polled one hundred people; I used an initial qualifier filter to exclude people who answered no to the question “Could you be interested in a themed digital interactive experience?”.  83% of the initially filtered participants said they would participate in the digital interactive experience if it was to be Film Noir themed. I then tested the perceptions, knowledge and preferences that the poll participants held about both Film Noir and the nature of the type of app I am building. Among the finding were that a majority (61%) would prefer to download the app via an app store and print out any physical assets rather than purchase a boxed product. This is not to say that a boxed product is unpopular; 39% would prefer a boxed edition. However, the survey did not give details of pricing differences. While my original assumption early on in the product development cycle has been to ship the app as a hybrid  boxed app. I have come up against logistical and cost problems with a supplier as well.  Therefore it is very likely, with the data from the research, that the app will initially be distributed primarily via the app stores.

Demograhics Summary

Several other assumptions were validated within the research. 59% of participants prefer an open narrative as opposed to a prewritten one. Although a greater majority (77%) prefer a narrative with an ending. This latter finding suggests that an episodic approach could satisfy a large majority; whereby the participants have control over much of the narrative experience while encountering closure through periodic narrative endings to sub-plots. A staggering 82% of those surveyed agreed to some degree that it is better when a digital interactive experience is tailored to a participant’s local town or city. 62% of participants said they would be either moderately or extremely likely to engage with interactive digital content within their local town as part of the experience; a further 22% said they would slightly likely. Leaving one’s mark within an interactive experience, such as by leaving hidden messages at locations for other participants to discover, was deemed between moderately and extremely important to 82% of people. Those surveyed agreed overwhelmingly (87%) that digital interactive experiences through mobile devices could encourage people to engage with their local towns more if tailored to included familiar content such as well know local buildings and places.

Using the demographical data obtained from the survey I was able to determine certain trends which helps to better identify more specific target audience cross sections.

92% 18 – 24
81% 25 -34
84% 35 – 44
69% 45 – 54
71% >54

While the idea of a digital interactive Film Noir experience is popular in all age ranges; it is most popular with younger participants.When asked about the likelihood of engaging with digital content in their local town; the results where consistent among age groups.

67%  18 – 24
53%  25 – 34
68%  35 – 44
67%  45 – 54

Generally, across the results there was a suggestion of some scepticism in the 25 – 34 age group and the greatest level of interest in the 18 – 24 while over 35s were generally in between these other two groups in terms of levels of interest.There was no disparity in the results in terms of whether the person was using iPhone or Android. Some other demographic filters produced some variations when answering yes to the question whether they would want to participate in a Film Noir experience.

93% Uni
93% PostGrad
76% High School
81% Single
96% Married
96% Male
80% Female

Overall the ideal target candiate, based on this data would be:

Male, Married, University educated and over 35.

Although all demographics in the 18 – 24 age groups responded positively across the survey, the quantity of participants polled is limited; but it serves as a litmus test for the general take up of the idea. Finally, there was one further result which I found to be noteworthy. I asked participants which other themes would be of interest to them other than Noir and the most popular response out of ten choices was Comedy (64%) and Romantic (43%). These are elements which could and perhaps should be included within the ongoing development of the gameplay of Noirscape. Noir film was certainly not without a sense of humour, albeit a dark one.

I always cry at weddings. Especially my own.

Humphrey Bogart, Film Noir Actor

Raw Data: Survey Results from March 2021

The first question seeks to get an idea about the general public’s perception of what people think Film Noir is. The keywords
‘love’, ‘detective’ and ‘crime’ came out on top along with ‘black & white’. This was more of an intro question to serve as a guide and a reminder as to what
is meant by Noir for the survey the participant is about to engage with.

I was interested to understand about perception of Noir in terms of suitability for younger audiences. My assumption is that the app would be for over sixteens.
But, it’s also true that at the time of the height of Noir cinema there was tight rules and regulations regarding content and language. Writers and directors made creative use of language and lighting, scenes and so on to evoke the ‘forbidden’ aspects of the content, without breaking the rules.

I wanted to learn about what an audience would do when given the power to drive the narrative themselves; to understand which Noiresque scenarios could be most popular.

The 100 participants who took part were pre-filtered. They all had previously agreed that they would be open to participating in a digitial interactive experience.
However, they were not told of the theme. So, question four is a good test to see whether the Noir theme is alluring or not. Those who answered no, were then taken straight to question 6.

Question 5 expands further on seekings to understand audience perception and preferences. This time in relation to role playing.

Question 6 was answered exclusively by those who said they would not wish to participate in a Noir themed digital interactive experience.
Six of the initially pre-filtered 100 participants seemingly changed their minds about openess to such experiences. Just 9 out of the initial 100 stated they didn’t like the theme.

Participants who stated that they didn’t like digital interactive experiences in question 6 were not asked any further questions. The remaining
94 participants were then asked about other themes they would be interested in either as well as Noir, or in the case of the 9 people who don’t like Noir, instead of it.
This question provides a good indicator of where Noir theme stands in relation to other more or less [assumed] popular themes.

The remaining questions were theme neutral and sought to find out more about what the audience’s perception of the nature of digital interactive experiences;
and some specific questions about assumptions carried by my proposed app.

Interactivity between participants would be a popular feature. 73% would prefer this. But, 27% is a significant enough proportion to warrant further analysis.
What are the reasons why, for example? Can those reasons be overcome by reassurances? Should the app offer a solo mode? This piece of research does not answer those questions.

The following question is troublesome is some ways, to the premise and assumption that the Noirscope experience can be ongoing and expanding.
Interestingly, it’s a very similar distribution to the previous question and further analysis could be done to look at any correlation between the datas from these two questions.

Question 12 validates an important assumption and premise of Noirscape – which of course is designed to be tailored to a participants locality.

Question 13 re-enforces my locality hypothesis further [along with Q 12].

Leaving one’s mark in a digital interactive experience is import to a large majority of people questioned.

Finally, along with the Q12 and Q13 the user response confirmed the assumption that an experience with elements tailored to ther local town could encourage people to engage more with real local places.

Custom Animated Interactivity #Dialler

Problem: Calculating the button which has been pressed within a Painted Canvas

I created a telephone dial using Flutter’s CustomPainter API. This permitted me to draw the various elements onto the screen relative to the size of the screen. The problem now is : how to detect which number has been dialled. There are no workable Gesture detection strategies within the custom painter which allows me to directly detect on individual elements, like the numbers. I can however detect when the canvas is touched using the hitTest method of the CustomPainter class. This provides me with the screen coordinates (offset) of the x and y position of the ‘hit’; the position where the user has touched the screen.

Now, to be able to work out how that position corresponds to a number (on the dialler) I need to do some math. Given the size of the screen I can easily calculate the center by divided the x/y values by two. To illustrate this I used the CustomPainter to draw to red circles on my canvas; one at the center and one where a hit occurs.

Initial Dial Drawing with center point and touched point highlighted

Now, if I can calculate the angle from the position of the calculated center to the position of the hit I will be able to map the value to a known position of a number on the dial.

In the above example the tapped area shown on the left at the number seven is 50(x)  and 240 (y). It’s important to note that the values used by Flutter are logical pixels and not physical ones. So these values don’t correspond to the actual screen resolution. In the case here, the red spot at dial seven is 50 logical pixels along the x axis and 240 logical pixels along the y axis. These are both relative to the top-left of the  canvas.

The center, in my case, working on a physical Pixel 3 XL, is at 205,205 (the canvas is therefore a square with 410 logical pixel sides)

I can now calculate the angle from the center of the canvas to the hit point using Dart’s built in atan2 function

double rads = atan2(position.dy - (canvasSize.height / 2),
    position.dx - (canvasSize.width / 2));

ref : https://api.flutter.dev/flutter/dart-math/atan2.html

Using the x and y coordinates above equates to the following:

rads = atan2(240 - 205, 50 - 205);

Which returns 2.92 radians (rounded to 2 decimal places)
To calculate the angle in degrees, Dart has a build in function. Otherwise the formula is :

(2.92 * 180.0) / pi

Which returns 167 degrees and is confirmed by Google:

Google Calculator to validate Radians and Degrees conversion
The Dial with a protractor image from Mathsisfun.com superimposed to show the angles look right

Dart’s atan2 function returns a range from -pi (3.14159…) to +pi. And pi * Rad equals 180 degrees. So the final value in degrees will always between -180 and +180. Therefore the sign (+/-) determines whether the hit was in the upper or lower half of the dial.

I can now calculate which number is being dialled  based on the initial hit.  The next step is to prevent the dial from turning beyond the stopper. The stopper was used as a catch on rotary phones to indicate the desired number before automatically returning the dial back to its original position. The caller would therefore place the finger inside a circular opening above the desire number and rotate the dial clockwise until they reached the stopper. The numbers remained stationary and the angle of rotation was used to calculate each digit of the telephone number to call.

A Conceptual Interactive & Spatialised Narrative Design – Part 2

Storyboard of User Experience

The short Youtube presentation below charts the app customer, Kevin’s ste-by-step process from purchasing the boxed product to completing the initial investigation/story.

Prototype of Noirscape

The boxed product is sold on the high street in selected specialised stores.

The product’s cover design will be highly stylised to the ‘Noir’ look and feel.

It is clear from the cover illustration that this is a hybrid board-app game.

The localised nature of the product holds special appeal as it provides a bespoke look and feel and a personal connection through the relationship with the consumer’s home town.

FEATURES / FUNCTIONALITY

  • The boxed product is attractively illustrated and crafted
  • The product includes an NFC ID card which allows a radio signal to be detected by the user’s phone from the ID card. This is used to activate the app, so that only people in posession of a card can play. It, is also used to provide hints to the player when they are stuck on an enigma.
  • The smartphone application is available in English and French.
  • The app uses GPS tracking to anchor gameplay in geographic places.
  • 360 degree video with special effects is used to create a sense of immersiveness
  • All features are widely supported by smartphones including budget models

TECHNICAL EXPERIMENTS

Technical experiments have been validated in the following areas:

  • Applying special effects to 360 degree film
  • Applying superimposed footage in a 360 degree film
  • Accessing the 360 footage via Flutter, the cross-platorm app development platform

DESIGN & THEORETICAL JUSTIFICATIONS

  • Familiarity Hypothesis – building a product which is tailored to a user’s home town generates increased curiousity, intrigue, a sense of personal associated; but, also a level of respect and appreciation for the product innovators for acknowledging their town.
  • Thematic Approach – allows for the possibility of future releases of new editions of the product along different themes : Cyberpunk, Medieval, Victorian, etc. I decided to use Film Noir for the prototype primarily because I am personally inspired by the genre but also because it lends itself so well to the embedded narrative of investigating past events, but also the notion of searching and solving enigmas, which is synonomous with escape style games.
  • GPS/Geo – The arrival of smartphones, which are effectively pocket sized computers, has opened up new ways to experience a crossover between different types of spaces, places and narrative.

“The development of mobile technology, global positioning systems (GPS), and augmented reality counters the tendency of computers to lure sedentary users into virtual worlds by replacing simulated environments with real-world settings and by sending users on a treasure hunt in the physical space” [Ryan, Foot & Azaryahu, 2016, pp102]

  • Embedded & Spatialised Narrative Design – an innovative approach to combining storyworlds with the realword using recent smartphone technologies.

“The search for the hidden story takes advantage of the visual resources of digital systems by sending the player on a search for clues hidden in the storyworld” [Ryan, Foot & Azaryahu, 2016, pp108]

“In embedded narrative, space is there to be searched, since it contains the clues to the story that need to be retrieved” [Ryan, Foot & Azaryahu, 2016 pp110]

SHORTCOMINGS OF DESIGN

  • Some older, lower-end devices may not support NCF card reading functionality
  • App requires above average drive space due to 360 degree video media
  • Potential safety/responsability issues concerning public interaction aspect of app (places)
  • Product can be passed on from one user to another potentially without purchase

EXPANSION POTENTIAL

  • Additional releases for other towns including major cities, in France & worldwide
  • New episodes can be developed and added via in-app purchases
  • More Augmented Reality (AR) features
  • Opportunity for users to ‘leave their mark’ with Geo stamped AR.

DESIGN PROCESS NEXT STEPS

  • Build working cross-platform prototype of Noirscape
  • User test in my home town
  • Prepare Crowdsourcing / Kickstarter campaign for furthet towns

“A storyline becomes an option whenever a chronological or a thematic sequential structure is introduced into a spatial arrangement of coesistent elements in the form of routes and paths that direct movement in space” [Ryan, Foot & Azaryahu, 2016, pp158]

SKILLS AUDIT

The app itself, will be built using Flutter, a cross-platform app development framework created by Google. As an app developer, I have been using Flutter for about a year. I have experimented with a range of concepts including machine learning driven games and narrative based educational apps.

The app will require quite advanced video editing skills as it uses 360 degree film and special effects. To address this requirement, I have taken a number of professional Adobe training courses which lead to industry certification by Adobe:

  • Adobe Illustrator – graphic design/icons, etc
  • Adobe Premier – 360 film editing
  • Adobe After Effects – 360 film special effects & animations
  • Adobe Photoshop – photo editing and effects

I recognise shortcomings in respect to my knowledge and skills in respect to the physical boxed product design & production. To address part of this weakness, I have been working with 3D design software to envisage visual aspects to the boxed product. I have also registered for an Adobe InDesign course in January to help with packaging design of the physical product.

I still need to research how to source and manufacture the box and some of the included items. However, I have already purchased samples of NFC cards that will be used for the detective’s ID interactve card. I have researched printing equipment which can be used to illustrate these plastic cards, too.

The project is being managed using Agile methodology via Trello, a popular Kanban app for organising the development into stages while integrating with the user centered design approach alongside personas and the storyboard.

REFERENCES & CREDITS

http://strangetextsbutcher.blogspot.com/2019/09/elements-of-cyberspace-playhouse.html

Walser, Randall. 1990. “Elements of a Cyberspace Playhouse”. Proceedings of the National Computer Graphics Association 1990, Anaheim, CA, 403-410.

RYAN, Marie-Laure, Kenneth E. FOOTE and Maoz AZARYAHU. 2016. Narrating Space/spatializing Narrative : Where Narrative Theory and Geography Meet Columbus: The Ohio State University Press.

ALLEGORIES OF SPACE The Question of Spatiality in Computer GamesEspen Aarseth 2001https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.459.3538&rep=rep1&type=pdf

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/323651616_Augmented_Reality_Applications_for_Substation_Management_by_Utilizing_Standards-Compliant_SCADA_Communication/figures

FONTS : https://fontawesome.com/license

JOURNAL : https://journal.matwright.dev

TRELLO : https://trello.com/b/Ci1fikwZ/town-based-ar-gamification

PRESENTATION : https://adobe.ly/2JxT79x

A Conceptual Interactive & Spatialised Narrative Design – Part 1

Design Challenge

To design an immersive and interactive smartphone application using 360 video and GPS to send users on a film noir themed investigation into the physical space of their local town.

Overview

Persuasive Purpose

  • To incite people to engage with the narrative of spaces and places of their town.
  • To encourage them to visit their town centre.
  • To promote physical excercise through walking and exploring.

Noirscape
Industrial Design


Noirscape is a physical boxed product that includes several items for gameplay as well as a GPS/AR smartphone application.

People at the mall

Type of Person


Residents who frequent less, or not at all, their local town; instead, favouring peripheral commercial centers and who are therefore rapidly losing contact with their local town’s character, economic & heritage value.

They are likely:

  • Ages 20 – 60
  • Active Smartphone users
  • Suburban
  • Comfortable with technology
  • Yearning for adventure

Persona 1 – Product Consumer

young man bringing groceries home

Kevin Rousseau

  • Age 25
  • Office Worker
  • Earns €3k per month
  • Single

“I seem to spend my whole life shopping, at work or sleeping”

Kevin Rousseau

“I hear there’s a new bar opened in town but I haven’t been down the high street for ages”

Kevin Rousseau

“I’d take a walk around town this weekend; but, no one else will join me”

Kevin Rousseau

Persona 2 – Product Retailer

young woman sitting on couch studying using the phone

Julie Liebereau

  • Age 29
  • Business Owner
  • Earns €4k per month
  • Sells Board Games
  • In a couple

“I’d love the opportunity to work with a local designer and cut out the middle-man”

Julie Liebereau

“I sometimes feel like I’m just selling fancy boxes. There’s so much scope for something new & innovative on the board game scene”

Julie Liebereau

“I love the idea of something local with a bespoke feel.”

Julie Liebereau

Conceptual Design

I am currently working on a conceptual design document inspired by BJ Fogg, founder, and director of the Stanford Behavior Design Lab.

I am looking to emulate the graphical feeland mood of classic film noir as much as possible; studying posters and film titles from the era (1930s – 1950’s) and within this genre.

Product Title

The title for my product is Noirscape. This is a term often used to describe a typical cityscape, townscape or even interiorscape that carries the mood and feel of Film Noir. My concept involves spatialised narrative and is also inspired by my own enjoyment of ‘escape’ games. Thus, Noirscape, is a title that can be interpreted in the sense describe above – a Noirscape (a type of place) or as Noir[e]scape (Noir Escape).

Branding – boxset label

Product Format

The concept is primarily an app based experience. However, it will be sold as a boxed product. The box will include a number of elements which form part of this experience – a mysterious bundle including an old newspaper clipping, an ID card which is used to acivate the app aswell as provide hints during the game via it’s NFC (Near-field Communication) functionality and several other items, pencil, notebook and a set of abstract puzzle pieces. I have used 3d software to create an early concept design of what this might look like.

Early Concept Design for Noirscape

Industry Design

I created a simple visual to convey what form this concept will take from a user’s perspective. Although, this is a boxed product, the main experience will by via a smartphone’s innovative features including GPS anchors, immersive 360 degree video with special effects as well as the NFC feature described earlier.

“Getting this visual into people’s heads early helps them start thinking about your concept in concrete ways”

BJ Fogg, pp 203

Storyboarding

I have begun building a user story board to illustrate the user experience in a step by step manner. Rather than use doodles, I decided to make use of my Photoshop skills combined with 3D object design and renderings to produce a photo-montage type story.

Ideation : imagining a solution

Problem :  Get people to take more interest in local towns
Solution :  Custom, interactive, gamelike experience with a scenario based within local towns.
Features :  

  • Multi language – to allow tourists as well as locals
  • Custom illustrations/animations based on local town features such as prominent buildings and other landmark features
  • Overarching fictional narrative with multiple outcomes based on player decisions
  • Engagement with areas of the town as part of gameplay
  • Geo based Augmented reality features
  • Gamification techniques to keep players engaged.
  • Short version for short stay tourists
  • Multiple missions, each with their own subplots which tie into the overarching narrative

MVP
The aim would be to create a ‘Pilot’ version of the interactive experience at a local town, to which I have easy access and which I know well.
I would be looking to pitch the pilot to the local population as well as the tourist board and local newspaper.
If I can demonstrate an interest in the pilot app I would seek to raise funds via crowdsourcing or similar for further versions in other medium sized towns.
USP
The uniqueness of the product would be largely taken from the town-level specificity. Most apps are generalised and although some geocentered games like Pokemon Go and Ingress have local elements, they are notpurposely created to a local level – the features of Ingress, for example, don’t really go beyond the level of what google maps offers – i.e. my idea would seek to be a much more personal and less objective interaction with the local environment.
Much will count on the quality of the visual work – the illustrations/animations as well as the creativity and strength of the storytelling/narrative.
If done well, the artistic merit of these elements, will initself, constitute a strong unique selling point in the way that a new graphic novel or board game does.
Collaboration
I have contacts in publishing/illustration as well as acting who I may be able to involve. This could allow me to focus on the content and the technical development – particularly if I can delegate the illustration – however this would have to be carefuly negotiated as the artistic quality will be of crucial importance.
Technology
The main app would be build with Flutter to ensure a faster pathway to cross platform publication.Some elements, such as AR features may require companion apps, if they are not feasable within Flutter. But this could be handledcreatively –  for example, standalone apps with a single purpose like a ‘police radio’ app for a detective theme or a ‘scanner’ app for a sci-fi theme.
Theme
This needs a lot of thought and consideration. I need to look closely at graphic novel, narrative board game genres; but obvious themesinclude: 

  • detective / spy
  • cyberpunk / scifi
  • romance
  • surreal
  • horror

Familiarity Hypothesis

Although I consider this app to be foremostly an artistic endeavour, this doesn’t mean I can simply ignore user research. A creative app is quite pointless if no-one ever interacts or engages with it.

My hypothesis is that that people react with greater curiousity and desire to engage with a creative piece when they feel that they have a personal connection to it. This is why I believe that an app that is localised to a person’s own town and which features elements that are familiar to them, such as specific locations and landmarks, will evoke a greater interest and desire to participate; especially if the app has a bespoke creative feel.

The reason I mention ‘bespokeness’ is because I can think of examples of apps which appear to have a personal connection through localisation but don’t succeed in evoking a sense of ‘my town is the feature of this app’; not in a meaningful way. For example, Ingress Prime , a popular GPS based game, uses local landmarks such as statues and other public places like parks and so on, as key features of the game. However, in my view, the attractiveness of the local familiarity wears off quickly. In my village, for example, the local church and war statue are featured in the game. But, they are merely represented as generic sprites on a map. Other than a photo of the monument, when I click on the sprite, the experience doesn’t feel bespoke. It doesn’t feel like the app was made for ‘my’ town. It feels familiar only in a way akin to how any other kind of map based app does. In other words it feels, to me, like what it is: largely a data-driven automated representation of my locality. It’s nevertheless a really fun app. But I think it is missing the more familiar connection with my location that would make it feel more personal.

The connection with local interests is sometimes explored by existing popular games and other media. For example some Tintin books have been especially translated into regional patois, and special editions of famous board games at regional and even town level.

I chatted in a couple of comic-book and graphic novel social media groups about whether special town editions of popular series would be appealing and the reponse the very positive.

This is something I’ll explore further. I’d be interested to run a survey to try and understand how willing people are to perhaps try something that they wouldn’t normally try, if it had this kind of local association for them.