Our second project conference day was a resounding success, and we made loads of progress pinning down the practical commitments for the Oubliette. So, get ready for a long email, which you could do with paying very careful attention to! The headlines here are two dimensions of programme update; firstly, on the mathematical activities we’re basing our rooms on, and the teams who will develop them; secondly, on the underlying organisation and mechanics of the space and the narrative which we will embed it in.
Decisions on our Mathematical Mechanisms
Our main commitment was in creating our final shortlist of mathematical mechanisms which we will then prototype and pilot in sub-teams. These agreed teams were as follows (more info on the mechanisms they reference can be found in this document):
Robyn, Sabeeka, Heena, Chloe, Neave :
- Refraction Room
- Dance Geometry and/or Floor Grid
Lucy, Jordan, Anna, Maryam and Santiago:
- Tantrix Puzzle
- Robot Maze
Maaria, Saher, Rebekah and Jade
- ‘Golden Idol’ Weight Swap + Rube Machine (combination of the two)
- Projectile Launcher and/or Pressure Sensors
Sophie, Sanna, Nansin and Paloma
- Equation-Based Padlocks
- Cog Construction and/or X-Y drawing machine.
IMPORTANT: If you are not in this list you need to contact me asap with a preference as to which you want to join … there will be a degree of me allocating people, though, to ensure that groups are balanced. I aim to allocate people by Wednesday – so get in touch quickly if you have a preference.
Each team will now work to develop, prototype and pilot a design for their room. I have encouraged groups to do something ‘quick and dirty’ to begin with. Find a cheap and easy way of creating a version of your rooms which can be quickly trialled and refined/re-trialled with friends and family. Ideally, this will happen quite quickly (the next couple of weeks). When you have a bit more confidence in the design of your room, you can work to create a more refined prototype.
Remember, we are aiming to have working prototypes in place by wb 19th February at the very latest so that we can contribute to the half-term EdLab offer.
In support of your prototyping, you may want to draw on two sources of support;
- Contact me with any small-scale purchases you need. At this stage, things up to £20 are straightforward, and if we need more expensive things, do ask. The easiest way of doing this is to find something on Amazon (ideally, the cheapest version of this) and send me the link.
- Contact James Ferguson for technical support with the fabrication of prototypes. James is one of our Faculty technicians, and can support with laser cutting, 3d printing, basic electronics, wood construction, etc.
Remember, in designing and prototyping your rooms, we are looking to realise the following qualities:
- The activities we design should be based on the fundamental commitments of the Oubliette to be a) collaborative and b) embodied in nature. In other words, players shouldn’t be able to solve them without getting up, moving around and working with others.
- Challenges should be differentiable; we should be able to adapt them to include adults or toddlers (we did note, though, that the latter might be more of a sensory type room, and the ‘challenge’ could require interaction with accompanying parents)
- They should take 10 to 15 minutes to solve (piloting will be critical to this). To support timings, you should consider ways of giving hints/support if participants are struggling, and a ‘playful’ mode for people who finish early.
- We should be able to imagine ways of embedding the underlying mechanism into a meaningful challenge
- There is enough funding to ensure that the space is staffed, but not enough to ensure that there will always be some one in every room. At least four rooms should be able to have ‘light touch’ supervision, with one student looking after two spaces.
- We do have the capacity to use technologies (loud speakers, screens/projectors, etc) as a way of managing spaces
We have enough money, and technological support, to do quite fancy things with our rooms – so do have an aspirational wishlist of you’d like them to work. At the same time, though, it’d be good to have some fallback plans for simpler versions.
Decisions on our Game Mechanics and Narratives
The group were very quickly unanimous that they liked the ‘lost in time’ narrative for the space which was originally proposed by Chloe in the first Saturday session. This approach makes it much easier for us to accommodate the episodic, non-linear experience of players moving around the rooms on a carousel. We agreed a core ‘writing team’ who will meet to take responsibility for the overall narrative. This consisted of Chloe (we assumed you’d want to be part of this), Heena, Robyn and Lucy. These four will also contribute to the room development teams, though they may have to give a little less to make space for the narrative development. Their first task will be to meet to flesh out the overarching story (what greets the players as they arrive to the space?) – and to think carefully about how this would be presented differently to different age groups (I’ll let you decide how many ‘versions’ there will be).
The ‘lost in time’ MacGuffin affords room design teams a degree of creative freedom in how they theme their spaces … we could lurch from the ancient mayans to the distant dystopian future. Room design teams can start to think about this, though I’m going to ask the writing team to take ownership of the balance of the overall narrative so be ready to be flexible and defer to them in terms of theming. We’ll also need to think, of course, about the differentiation of the experience within rooms to accommodate different groups.
Next Key Milestones
I would like to reached final confirmation of the working groups by Wednesday of this week, so please contact me if you aren’t allocated asap.
Ideally, I would then like all groups to have prototyped and piloted something for each of their two rooms in the next two weeks. This can be pretty rough and ready, though, and using friends and family to gain insight. You should also start to form a sense of what your ‘next step’ prototype might look like, and have a chat with James about support with fabrication.
In the same timeframe (i.e. the next two weeks), I’d like the narrative group to have met and be ready to share with everybody else in terms of a bit more detailing of the plot.
Keeping Me Updated: Do Some Blogging
Please can I ask for ‘little and often’ blog posts from each team along the way so I can keep track of where we’re up to. At this stage, it’s absolutely fine for one person to take responsibility for a blog update from each meeting, and the others to simply reblog it.
I would like all teams to have produced a summary update blog post on their progress (prototyping and piloting) by 31st January – will reblog these on this main blog so we’re all up to speed
Bonus Material: Towards a Trip
Heena noted how useful it would be for us to visit some escape rooms – so let’s see if we can blag some free trips in exchange for sponsorship. Claire was going to follow up on this with a couple of contacts she has.