ARIS is most often used to author content for players to experience. But it also holds functionality for you to send players out to experience the world and share what they find with each other and you. This can be data collection, photo mapping, etc. The Notebook allows players to record geolocated media (video, audio, photo, text) and together to build a collaborative record of their explorations. This functionality has broad potential and combining data collection features with the other affordances of ARIS (making games, telling stories, etc.) is a truly unique thing. Being able to richly establish a context for those who you are sending out to do the collecting is a fantastic opportunity.
Buuuuut, if you’ve actually used the ARIS Notebook, if you really had people go out there and collect some pictures, etc. then you know that clutter is a problem, especially when there is a good deal of non-Notebook content you need players to see. After a bit, the map just looks like a mess.
Clutter exists because every note is marked on the game map for all players. This can be useful for viewing notes later, but it can really get in the way too. ARIS will continue to evolve, so this clutter may eventually be less of a problem. But there are some things that you can do right now as an author to clean things up for your players.
One solution is to use siftr.org instead of ARIS. Siftr is a spin off of the ARIS Notebook that just does data collection. If all the context you’d like to establish is already known by those doing the collecting, or if it will fit into a brief paragraph of instructions, siftr might be a good way to go. In addition to a UI designed to avoid clutter, it has the following advantages:
- Web app – Nothing to install, cross platform
- It only does data collection – no clutter from game features, and easy to set up (~ 2 min.)
- Social media buttons – for sharing outside the app
- Each siftr has its own url – easy to show
- Same backend – your existing ARIS credentials log you in
Using Scenes to Limit Clutter
Siftr is great, but it has many limitations as well. If you need the extra affordances of ARIS, there are still many options for cleaning up notes. The first strategy to keep note taking tasks from obscuring everything else on the game map involves using multiple scenes to set appropriate context for your players. Here is the key:
Notes only show up on the map in the scene where they were created.
If you have non-notebook game content, you can segregate it from the notes people leave behind by making sure that your players only are making notes in a different scene than the one where they are following a map to get places.
Example – Turn on the Notebook Only at the End
Here’s a simple example. Let’s say you have a basic tour, at the end of which, you’d like players to leave a video comment by using the notebook.
- You would create two scenes: Tour and Notes
- Tour would be the “starting scene” (set in the game’s settings, or when authoring new scenes, or by double clicking the scene title in the Scenes tab interface). All of your tour content would go here.
- Notes would be where your players make and see notes.
- You need a “scene change” trigger in the Tour scene that goes to the Notes scene, with a lock that will keep the player in Tour until the appropriate moment.
In this example, let’s say you have a final plaque as part of your tour that thanks the player and invites them to leave a comment. The “scene change” trigger above would have the lock: -player has already seen final plaque-.
Optional – Locking Down the Notebook
In the above example, players would likely be leaving their notes in the Notes scene because you are telling them to and they are not likely to find and use the notebook on their own. However, it is still possible for them to create notes in the wrong scene. But you can prevent this by putting appropriate locks on the Notebook tab.
You can place locks on the Notebook (or any other player UI tab).
To do this, in the Editor,
- Go to Game > Tabs.
- Select Notebook and click Locks
In this case, you would likely want to use the same lock as your did with the “scene change” trigger.
Another Simple Trick – Using Clones of Your Games
The scene-switching trick should work nicely in many situations to keep authored game content visible even in games where there is a lot of Notebook use. What it doesn’t do is keep the notes themselves from cluttering a map of only notes. The redesign of siftr, like the photo map feature in Instagram, does some nifty things to avoid this problem, and ARIS does not have those features. But depending on your use case, there may be again a way to put a little forethought into your design to limit the impact of note clutter: Having each successive audience play a new clone of your game.
In Game > Settings, there is a “Duplicate Game” button. This will create a brand new clone of your game.
- The clone starts with the exact same title. Make sure to retitle right away so you don’t get confused about which clone is which.
- Player created content (e.g. notes, player, world, and group item quantities) do not get recreated in the new game.
- Only the author who creates the clone inherits permission to edit the clone.
If you run your game with successive test groups, separate courses, etc. this may give you a nice way to give each group a pristine experience. If you’re worried about cluttering the “game picker”, just make sure only the current copy is marked as “published” in Game > Settings.
More Complex Fixes
In the first example above, the author controls when the player leaves the tour and starts note taking. This is often a fine way to do things. But in some situations, you may want to give the player (at least some) control over what mode of your game they are in. There are a few ways to do this, to insert a toggle switch of some sort, where the player effects their passage in and out of scenes (and maybe turns on and off the Notebook tab). At least that’s how it would feel for the player. The author has to do some additional work on their end to make it work that way.
In a future post, I’ll detail the additional knowledge about locks that you need to create more flexible scene changes, and show how this knowledge unlocks more options for integrating notes with other ARIS content.