Challenge: What can be done to improve the player retention & engagement?
Role: User & Game Researcher
Paper (Storyboarding, First Iterations)
Eyewire is a game to map the brain in collaboration with the Seung Lab at Princeton. In Eyewire, players are challenged to map branches of a neuron from one side of a cube to the other. Think of it as a 3D puzzle. Players scroll through the cube (measuring about 4.5 microns per side or ~10x smaller than the average width of a human hair) and reconstruct neurons in volumetric segments with the help of an artificial intelligence algorithm developed at Seung Lab.
The Eyewire team came to NYU presenting a couple of issues to the Game Design for Citizen Science course. As Eyewire by its core is based on data coming from users as the source, it is considered as a Citizen Science game. The following were the two problems that Eyewire was facing:
Eyewire uses the principles of Citizen Science, where the user at first solves a series of pre-solved levels of Eyewire as part of their training. The user attains medals and achievements on the way to understand their own status in the game. One the user receives certain medals, he/she can start working on unsolved puzzles. Based on the actions from the user, a solution is chosen using the majority of the users’ answers. But, as the players solve these puzzles, they wouldn’t know (for sure) if they had actually solved the puzzle. Thus, without motivation to map the brain neurons, the game was facing the issues of retention and engagement.
Introduction of Add-on puzzle games:
We performed a market analysis of famous games like Candy Crush and tried to understand the game theory behind the success of the game. As a team, we decided to add an add-on puzzle game with a story to give Eyewire a theme for player engagement issues. Hence, we created a story-game called “Meow Dynasty: The Rise of Cheese Empire”
In Meow Dynasty, the player is a partially blind rat and to escape from his/her arch-nemesis, the player has to find a numeric code lock to open the door. The only way the rat could escape is by building the brain neurons to make his/her vision better inorder to find the numeric code on the screen.
Introduction of Badges & Achievements (with more transparency):
A new scoring system was introduced, where XP as a parameter was used to track the ability of the player. Based on the XP points, special badges were introduced for the players to understand their own status and how many more achievements they required to accomplish before getting new badges.
Once the player receives a certain set of badges, the multiplayer version of the game is unlocked. Only players with certain capabilities (based on XP points) would be able to participate in the tournaments. Every player in the team have different roles. One could be a supervisor, neuron builder and neuron inspector. The multiplayer environment has the following set of features: