Bradford Scenarios – First steps

January 6, 2013 at 5:18 pm Leave a comment

I’ve mentioned before that I’m planning to tackle some scenarios we are writing for University of Bradford as an interactive gamebook.  To explain a bit further: these scenarios are being written as part of an extended portion of the University of Bradford Course Data Project – part of the Course Data Programme funded by JISC which involves the implementation of XCRI-CAP in the University.  In case you don’t want to go to all those links, in its simplest form the project is about applying the UK standard for course marketing information in the University so that it can be more easily shared (which, after all, is kind of what you want to do with marketing information) particularly for “hard to find” courses which includes just about everything that is just bog-standard undergraduate courses goign through UCAS.  Projects in the programme are encouraged to review their processes and systems around course marketing information as part of it and approve where possible/necesary.

The University of Bradford project has taken the opportunity to go a step further and look in depth at a possible overall of all their courses information systems and processes, not just marketing.  Anyone familiar with Universities will know that this is something of a large task, but it’s just the kind of meaty project that APS Ltd like.  A chance to really get into the nitty gritty of processes, talking to people from across the university (anyone who touches courses information at any point) and pulling it all together into something coherent.  And I have to say that Bradford have been a joy to work with.

We have provided a formal statement of requirements and process diagrams, but for those not from a systems or information management background they can be quite abstract and difficult to tell what might change and how those changes would affect individuals’ day to day work.  And so we are writing scenarios to go with them which take a fictional character (in this case Dr Smith) and follow her as she works her way through the processes we are recommending using the proposed new electronic systems with its recommended functionality.

What’s handy about tackling these scenarios as digital stories on the blog is that they shouldn’t be influenced by political or commercially sensitive factors.  We are not recommending any particular software: only what the system must be able to do.  Similarly the scenarios don’t go into any processes that currently go on in Bradford, just processes that may happen in some form (like this or modified) at some point in the future as yet completely undetermined.

Currently our scenarios only describe Dr Smith doing everything correctly: illustrative, in one way, but limited.  I’m hopeful that using an interactive format will not only mean that we can show it from many more angles, but also be more engaging that just a read through.

So far in my gamebook Dr Smith can’t even start entering data for Phase 1 approval and this has taken 10 gambook pages and about half a day of fiddling with it.  The new Bradford processes we are recommending do have a phase before phase one, but it wasn’t nearly as long or as fiddly to write in the prose scenario, taking a few minutes rather than hours.

Page in the game

Page in the game

Settign up the gamebook is straight forward

Settign up the gamebook is straight forward

Writing a page

Writing a page 

Current issues:

  • Cutting the text down to manageable chunks for the gamebook pages

The gamebook pages seem to work well if they are fairly brief and stick to exact things that happen and the choices that are involved.  This means editing fairly heavily which so far has stripped out much of the extra explanation we had worked into the scenario.  Also I think that working from an existing document means that I may be cutting too heavily to make it look right, rather than read right to someone who had never seen the original version.  I’ve read through it so many times, my brain is filling in any possible blanks I’ve made by trying to fit it into this format.

  • Finding and editing appropriate pictures

I am not an artist.  Nor am I a particularly visual person – I like words, it’s why I like writing.  Since this is mostly just a proof of concept exercise I’m trying not to spend too long on looking for appropriate pictures, but even then I find it’s taking me longer than I expected.  Interestingly it is also the pictures which I now find myself tip-toeing around, rather than the political ramifications of the text.  Will images from the Bradford Schools make it look like those Schools endorse this?  Will the wrong choice of pictures make it look amateurish and distract people from what is actually being said?

  • Explosion of size when adding in multiple options

The more options there are the more pages need to be created and pictures found and there are potentially hundreds of choices and outcomes to consider.  It’s a balance to get enough choices for the story to feel interactive, but not so many that it takes forever and a day to put it all together.  Of course some options will result in the same dead ends, so won’t need new pages written wholesale, but the links still need to be created.

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Entry filed under: Digital storytelling, Interactive stories, Quest. Tags: , .

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