Appearition Enterprise Jam #1

Introduction

Last month, we had decided to start an enterprise App/Game Jam internally. The concept behind a jam is to run a 48h straight event with the objective to create a prototype by the end of it, allowing as much freedom as possible to a given team while they respond to a given theme.

This jam’s theme was “Rewards“.

Why though?

To begin with, the main goal of this jam was to reunite the developers and designers at Appearition together and have them work in a single team. While we had worked together on various occasions and projects, we never had experienced a single project with all of us working towards a single outcome at once.

Although, each of us knew what others do, a jam (along with the pressure it provides) offered us the best way to bond further and learn more about out various skill sets, especially secondary skills and things we prefer doing in a project. During this jam, some of us found out that one of us had artistic skills, another with a preference for developing UI rather than code, and another with a strong desire to learn game programming. Participating in this type of event helped learning about each other’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as working as a team to achieve the single outcome.

While most projects we do are on an individual scale or a bigger scale, this was a great opportunity to test how we would come up with solutions for different time zones and remote work for a project with a tight deadline and heavy pressure.

Lastly, this was a great opportunity to change from what we usually do, which is more along the lines of R&D, enterprise application development, proof of concept, etc. Quite a few of us had never worked on a game before, or not for a long time. Being able to develop a prototype for a different type of use and audience was a challenge to us, as well as being refreshing.

Doing the jam

We started the jam with 6 of us:

  • 2 Programmers (1 lead and 1 mechanic developer, both actual developers)
  • 1 Game Artist (R&D developer but could do game art)
  • 2 UI Designers (one pure UI Designer, one who prefers UI design over development)
  • 1 Project Manager

We used Slack as our main communication tool and ZOOM and Skype for group calls. We started the jam all in a call, were briefed about the theme, then decided to individually explore the theme and return as a group to discuss our findings. Once on the call, we proposed several ideas, projects, talked about them and expanded them. After making sure each of us had something to work on, we started working. The team was divided in two locations: two people
in one house in Australia, and the rest of the team would meet at the office or at somebody’s place.

We agreed to work on an Appearition Simulator, which would be a game inspired from Game Dev Tycoon (2012, developed and published by Greenheart Games), where the player starts as our CEO, takes on projects, expands the team and builds the whole company from scratch. Part of this idea also helped explaining what the origin of Appearition was, and how it became what it is today.

The prototype of the game was meant to be a 2D horizontal management game, where the player controls several employees by selecting them one by one and giving them orders individually. Our CEO would receive calls about a client wanting a project, along with requirements and modules.

Client project panel. Gives some background on the project and client, including salary, time and tasks. The client stats affect the flow of the project, change of requirements, etc; and are meant to improve as we educate them.

Once accepted, all those requirements would appear on a blackboard as tasks (like a Kanban workflow, to-do, QA, done, etc) of different field of practice. Each of those tasks could be assigned to employees, who would have skills and preference in said field.

Task board, where employees select tasks. Here, there is a lvl5 R&D task, lvl0 UI Design and lvl0 Q&A. Those values aren’t meant to be absolutely accurate.

Upon project completion, each team member would receive skill proficiency, happiness if they worked on skills they liked, and food. The company would also get the money from the commission, and the client would gain trust in our company. If the project was not finished in time, the company would not earn a cent and every employee would lose happiness.

Our CEO currently working on a task. No time for sitting animations!

The outcome

Unfortunately, we did not have sufficient time to push the project to a prototype level within the 48 given hours, mainly due to the way we worked as a group and had seek an extension in order to complete it.

However, the primary objectives were more along the lines of team-bonding and having a good time with colleagues by doing something different, and we did great on that. Additionally, most of us learned a lot from working on a non-enterprise project, since this isn’t what we’re used to.

Through most of the jam, we were using Slack to post work in progress of what we were each doing in order to keep the team informed. Once any of us had any struggle or was done with their task, we would get in a call together and keep ourselves updated. On the last day, we had a nearly constant group call ongoing to ensure that we were going to deliver properly and go through the problems we had.

Overall, we were happy with this opportunity given to us. On presenting this project to the entire company, we agreed on expanding this project as an introduction to Appearition, as well as a way to learn more about our colleagues.

The changing face of a workplace

Disruptive technologies like Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are redefining the workplace. Several jobs’ skill sets are constantly evolving, and several others’ scope has been widening.

Appearition and its team of researchers are always working towards solving tomorrow’s problems, thereby enabling others’ success. One such area of our research includes a project on drawing on immersive games experiences to develop tools for workplace support in the digital economy.

It is a collaborative research project between Appearition Pty Ltd and the Swinburne University of Technology. The project combines AR and AI informed by decades of game design, to develop a support platform for future modes of collaboration, workplace learning, and decision making.

‘Appearition is very committed to this research partnership with Swinburne University. Research and Development is one of the three main arms of our company. All our platforms and services have been developed after years of rigorous research and testing. We are also constantly working towards upgrading them to fit evolving technology and people needs,’ shares Vivek Aiyer, Founder, CEO, Appearition.

A transdisciplinary research team from Games and Interactivity, Immersive Experiences, and Data Visualisation are working with us, and the Swinburne Smart Cities Research Institute, to develop a prototype platform for supporting future workplace models in urban environments rich in IoT technologies.

The why

As technologies reshape our workplace, it will require a new understanding of work to support these changes. Ventures such as Airtasker, Uber, and Airbnb are challenging traditional workplace models. They are predicated on fast-paced real-time interactions between employees, often geographically remote from each other. Although relatively simple, the core concepts of these new business structures can be applied within enterprises and between enterprise and external clients. Network connectivity, rapid exchange of data, and mobile display technologies are some of the well-established characteristics of smart city environments in which this work takes place. New platforms are needed to support these new work models, because they require employees to share and respond to real-time data quickly and collaboratively, in an improvisational construct.

The How

Online multiplayer and location-based AR games provide a readymade platform for investigating how to achieve new interactions between employees. Multiplayer games host complex ecosystems of thousands of players with distinctive attributes and experience levels. Location-based AR games embed information within urban environments ensuring data is ready-to-hand. ‘Our project aims to develop a prototype platform to support the needs of workers in the digital economy using proven methods from these game design platforms. Collaborative task attainment, group formation, decision support, environmental information overlays, role management, inventory and setting of goals are key features that the prototype system will benefit from in drawing on game design to enable smart citizens to respond to change in the workplace,’ explains John McCormick, Lecturer in Interactive Media, Swinburne University.

Games are familiar to a large percentage of next-generation work seekers and therefore do not pose a huge cultural shift. The innovation in this project is to integrate widely understood methods for player organisation and interaction with a new approach to integrating AR and AI. These technologies are changing the nature of smart cities to work beyond data collection and IoT networks to explore how these can be made tangible and relatable to those living and working in urban environments.

AR does this through the real-time integration of data with the user’s environment and context. AI filters and connects the rich data of the IoT environments of smart cities to manage interactions between players, non-player characters, and the urban environment. While integrating AI and AR is not in itself new, our project will address how the relationships between users within a company can be supported and facilitated within this type of platform. However, these technologies can be disruptive in the workplace. Drawing upon game design methodologies this project will generate a new approach to the management of dynamic, timely information displayed fluently in the workspace.

Watch this space to know more on Appearition’s research projects. Get in touch with us to know more on using AR for your business!