Editors Note: From August 14-20, 1971, a team of researchers led by psychology professor Philip Zimbardo at Stanford University conducted the Stanford prison experiment (SPE) which was a study of the psychological effects of becoming a prisoner or prison guard. The experiment was conducted at Stanford University. The results of the experiment favor situational attribution of behavior rather than dispositional attribution (a result caused by internal characteristics). In other words, it seemed that the situation, rather than their individual personalities, caused the participants' behavior.
When first learning of CopQuest: Bob's First Day, and hearing the story of the insipiration behind it, the messaging around its social importance was clear. More importantly, it placed the player in the role of Officer Bob. Games are a great medium as they place the player in the role of Officer Bob. The intent is to help the player understand the decisionmaking process that Officer Bob goes through and how those decisions lead to various outcomes. The team, Verge of Brilliance, is currently finalizing a Kickstarter to complete the game. We urge you to check it out here.
In this Edition of Stories behind the Apps, we are speaking with Evie Powell of Verge of Brilliance LLC regarding their new app: CopQuest: Bob’s First Day. Hi Evie, please tell us about your app!
"The shooting of Walter Scott became available on YouTube the day before our scheduled game jam… We pulled up the video and watched it and, of course, there were many emotions that erupted in the office that day. We were ranting: outraged and baffled. We laughed. You know, laughing that incredulous laughter that really doesn't indicate humor as much as it indicates confusion and despair. We laughed at how overwhelming evidence had to be on the side of law enforcement before any kind of justice or accountability could be seen. We were then given the theme of our game jam event: social change." –Evie Powell
CopQuest is a game about police brutality in America. Its game narrative is based on real incidents reported in current events. It’s lighthearted where you wish it wasn’t. Conflict resolution is almost always heavy handed. It’s unendingly apologetic, sympathetic, and lenient to a system that is desperately in need of reform. No matter how many mishaps, things never change for the better.
Please describe what your app is and why it’s different from similar apps or competitors.
From a technology standpoint the game is novel in that it features a language understanding model trained by many players/testers. We often describe it as a text-based adventure game with a modern twist but more informal than text-based adventures in years past. The players act as Officer Bob's conscious and suggest actions for him to take. The player can type these actions in natural written language – so a player does not have to subscribe to a set format.
The game has been featured as a museum exhibit in Seattle. The game did well at the exhibit and feedback stated that many people would like to see the game in more places. As it exists today, the game is too short. We want to make a bigger, better, more polished version to release on many platforms.
Could you describe how you designed your app icon and user interface?
The app icon features Officer Bob in a defensive stance. We are still working on the specifics to make the icon as snappy and telling as possible
CopQuest is a text-based adventure game where the player makes use of an advanced text-parsing engine to interact with the observed game elements on screen. The player controls the protagonist by commanding him to interact with his environment, for example, “try looking at the desk” or “speak with the chief”. The player assumes the role of Officer Bob Allegedly, a rookie learning the ropes on his first day as a police officer. The UI is pretty simple and we have plans to make it even simpler with a "Speak to Bob" option, where the player presses a single button and verbally suggest actions for Officer Bob to perform.
What software development tools, people, or communities particularly helped you in creating the App?
Unity Game Engine Assembla (Project Management Tool) YouTube (for research) Loggly (Data Collection / Analysis tool) Adobe Creative Suite (Art and Design) Slack (Team Communication tool) Our backers on Kickstarter Original writer and advocate: PinkTreeLeaf Friends and family Historian – Daniela Hansen Musicians – Tom Miller and Evan Witt Ending Theme Musicians – C.O.R.N. Gang
What lessons did you learn in using these resources?
It takes a community to get a message like this out to people. It's when people truly believe in a project and what it stands for that you get to see the best in people. I hope we can continue to build a game that inspires caring and positive change.
What would you say went right and wrong with development and release?
So far the kickstarter has been a challenge. We learned that prior to launching a kickstarter the majority of your funding sources should be secure.
Also, that UI is something that needs to be evaluated across many different player demographics when making a game that is socially conscious. Harder interactions or more old school interactions are fine for the "gamer" population but non-gamers really want to get behind the message as well. We are currently investigating more ways of making the game accessible to all.
Who is on the team and what are your roles?
Evie Powell, Ph.D. – Programmer / Designer / Writer
Havilah Farnsworth – Designer / Artist / Writer
Tom Miller – Music
C.O.R.N. Gang – Ending Theme Music
Vida Powell – Biz Ops
PinkTreeLeaf – Original Writer (now just a supporter)
Evan Witt – Original Musician (now just a supporter)
What was the team doing in life and work before you started building the app?
We were working on contracts and another internal project: Mebols. Mebols is a social game that features Pod Play, where people are using several mobile devices to form one big play space. The primary contributors of CopQuest form a development studio called Verge of Brilliance LLC. We are all about making games that create meaningful experiences.
What are some apps you can’t live without or that inspire you?
Game Dev Story – a mobile game about being a game designer. Its inspirational; Facebook; Spotify – a music app AND social network; and Alpaca Evolution – a game that captures the heart of being and indie game developer.
What platforms are you publishing your app on?
iOS, Android, Web (via WebGL). Hopefully also Ouya, Xbox, and Playstation
What is the current status of your app?
iOS – The app is currently in development on iOS and there is no link available. Go to our website to monitor its status.
Android – Ask for special preview link for Android build which is not yet available on Google Play Store.
You can currently play the demo on a non-mobile web device here.