My capstone is actually very related to Lynn’s. But while she was concerned with how photographs are used in the digital space – My capstone is concerned with images that originate from the digital space. For example…
This image is from the MMORPG World of Warcraft. Screenshots are like the virtual world’s photograph.
MMORPGs are visual, rich worlds filled with players from around the world. They come together in this virtual environment to play, socialize, and collaborate together in a variety of activities. While we often think of time spent in MMORPGs as “pretend” or not real” – but when we look at photographs from the “real world”…
We often find that they are very similar to moments we decide to capture in the virtual world.http://blog.tdworld.com/reports-from-spain/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/the_sepa_contingent_posing_in_front_of_the_heliostat_field.jpg
My motivation for this design was to take these screenshots – and create a web service that gives them a home where players could explore them, reflect on their experience, create new meaningful artifacts, and share them with others.
So I did interviews with current and former players. - just looking to understand more about the space. - what players care about, what keeps them playing, and what I might be able to do in this space
I created an affinity diagram of this and what I found was:
These were the results from the affinity diagram – the 3 main clusters. Players didn’t call the game a “game” – they referred to it a social space. They were very concerned with issues of individual satisfaction, identity, and personal stories and memories.
Next I looked at persistent artifacts that were often readily mentioned by the players: stories and memories - and I saw these stories and memories imbued an ecosystem of artifacts that make up the experience World of Warcraft.
Player stories and fan fiction
What I found is that even though this game presents a platform for players to create this ecosystem…
The players efforts in turn inform the design of the game and the way that they experience it
Players explore the game space through internet forums, guides, and maps – and by exploring the creations of other players.
Players seek out opportunities to reflect on their experiences – Not only by using tools like WoW Armory and engaging with other’s creations – but by creating things themselves...
And in creating things, players add their own personal touch to the game space. This ecosystem of artifacts wouldn’t exist without the creative efforts of the players.
World of Warcraft is a shared experience both in the virtual world of Azeroth and in this ecosystem of artifacts. The things players create are shared amongst other players – in the game, in guilds, and all over the internet.But there is one more artifact I haven’t mentioned yet that is the cornerstone of this entire system of artifacts.
The screenshot – much like a photograph…a simple press of a button captures a moment in time of the virtual world experience. It is a creation in itself, perhaps the easiest way to create something personal, because it is a capture of what is on your screen, and the decision to capture it is yours alone.
Also, screenshots are critical for all of these to come to be.
When players offer help in forums they often link to screenshots
Game guides use them to explain tactics
These players had to look a lot of images from the game in order to create these costumes
And all of these pieces of fan art started with a screenshot
Next I looked at some of the places these screenshots can be found in use by players.
Sadly, most of the screenshots live here…buried deep in the system folders
The same can be said of Blizzard’s WoW site – they hide the galleries in with all the rest of their “content” – a big list that is hard to navigate and you wouldn’t come across unless you specifically were looking for it. And to submit to the gallery you have to email the image to them and they decide if they will feature it.
Sometimes they make their way into online galleries – but that is all it is…a gallery – unsearchable and with very little information about the richness of the image.
Flickr and Picasa - they aren’t made for screenshots. Although there are some similarities between photographs and screenshots, it is the differences between them that offer the most opportunities to create services
Geotagging of images is a very compelling way to explore the world and images – but this doesn’t work for screenshots because they don’t happen on earth.
A very compelling aspect of Picasa is the face recognition – where you can just click on people you know on the right and it will show all the pics they are in. But again, this is something that won’t work for screenshots.
The tagging burden is on the players in these spaces, which often results in tags like this – when there is actually a lot of information in the pic that would likely be of interest to players – the location, the enemy in the screen, etc. –
This was something I looked at further by creating a design activity - During my tagging activity I was looking for how different players would tag different images, and I left them up for a week to see how the tags would continue to develop.
One of the most interesting things occurred when Burr did it – he systematically went through and started tagging them by discrete pieces of information – because he said he uses another site to search for images and that is how they make them easy to search … and this is kind of the final insight that informed my design – screenshots aren’t photos – they are instances of digital information that could be auto-tagged with a lot of information.
I did a lot of research that led me to design insights in 3 realms – the game, activities players care about, and with screenshots in general.
Even though screenshots are used in some similar ways to photography – they are composed of digital information that has several advantages that have yet to be leveraged.
If we do leverage that data – we can present the screenshots in a way that better supports the activities that WoW player engage with.
And ultimately by enabling those activities, we can emphasize what players care about most – the fact that it is social space more than it is a game. And this was perhaps my most powerful insight…it sounds simple to say but is much more complex to understand. I realized that this was my biggest barrier to understanding the space when I first began. I never liked playing the game of WoW – because it isn’t the game that is valuable – it is all the ways that the game enables a social space that make it valuable.
To explore how I might be able to do this, I sketched a lot of stuff out – how I might present images along with data…
How to make the information character specific…
What kinds of interactions would be good for players – like captioning and timelines…
Different ways to view galleries…
I eventually started realizing that I could mimic a lot of the layout and functions of Picasa and Flickr – to present albums and galleries
While adding some more world of warcraft-centric stuff in other areas of the site.
How players might sign up and upload images
Further worked through different sections and the flow of the site - this was me trying to figure out how can it provide timelines of character activity – providing images that tell the story of the character.
I realized that some of my work had already been done for me - WoW Armory was a good place for character information, achievement, and timeline tracking. - simply add screenshots to the tracking.
So the design resulted in taking what flickr and picasa do well for photographs…
Adding it metadata from both the virtual world itself and from the WoW Armory service…
Add that to the player screenshots…
And the result is WoW Capture.
Character specific information that lets players reflect on their own experiences through images
Here the recent activity is shown like in WoW Armory…
But with the addition of images taken at those moments to present a more meaningful representation of time spent and achivements
Players can view images of all their achievements here, alternating between a gallery view and a timeline view
Here players can select to view the different achievements – and I added one to the list…
Drilling down to an individual image – showing all the things that could be done with the image since it is purely made of data
I don’t have time to talk about all of the things here, but I would like to point out the more angles option – this could work in two ways – 1. players can view multiple angles of the same location from a collection of images from everyone and 2. players could create a game mod using WoW’s API to snap multiple angles when they hit the printscreen button.
Each account gets storage space for their own albums…
Which by default will put all the player’s achievement pictures in its own album.
Again, since each image can automatically be tagged with whatever is in it – it makes it easy to do the equivalent of Picasa’s face recognition for friends – but in this case you can view the characters in your pictures.
And here players can see how much storage they have used and upgrade to get more storage – something I will talk about later in the strategies section.
The advanced search is very robust since the images contain so much information in them. – for the sake of time I won’t go into all of this but I can give a quick example.
Let’s say a cosplayer wants to create a costume of the Valorous Sanctification Regalia…now instead of having to acquire the armor in the game and take a lot of screenshots…the player can search for it here. These filters are for tracked items that have too many options for checkboxes…
And then she can choose the class and race she wants – in this section of filters that have a finite amount of options.
And finally players can view a map of Azeroth – Using the Google Maps API or something similar – with geotagged images.
Hovering over a box will bring up the image – giving players another interesting way to explore the game world and find interesting things. In my test sessions several user had numerous ideas for how this might get used – scavenger hunts, trivia, and chronicling travel around the world were some of my favorites.
Actually this is something that University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) in partnership with Maryland, RIT, Stanford and the Library of Congress are currently working on.
This sounded great to me, however…
These words didn’t sound quite like what players meant when they expressed that they care about their experiences –
if nothing else, I hope that my design pushes our understanding of our digital selves beyond just data collection. I hope that tools that get designed for people to make sense of their digital selves puts creative and interpretive control in the hands of the individuals.