After I had produced the Alpha version of Pioneers of the Atom, I realized that I had more hours left in my project budget than I needed to clear out all of the bugs! That's a great and unusual situation to be in. Rather than just sitting on the extra money, I decided to add some value to the project instead.
During the kickoff meeting, the museum staff said that they wanted to add a game like the one in The Element Factory. After some brainstorming back and forth, we decided that the best way that visitors could learn from the game would be if you could match the scientists with their discoveries or contributions. One of the most popular things about the Element Factory game is that it is multiplayer - teams of people working together do better than people working alone! I wanted to repeat that with this game.
My first idea was to have all of the discoveries at the bottom of the page as little chips that needed to be sorted out, and the fastest time to correctly sort them all would win. However, that turned out to be a big mess and way too hard. I finally settled on making it again just like the Element Factory game - do as many as you can in the given amount of time, and the highest scores win. You're presented with three of these "chips" at a time so people can work together but not get overwhelmed. When you place the discovery chip properly, a new one appears in the old one's place.
It was still pretty hard - even though all of the answers are in the text in the game, I wound up not being able to complete it myself. Not that many people can remember who invented Strontium, for example. I decided the smart thing to do would be to add a "hint" to the game. When people tap the button, a circle forms around the three people associated with the discoveries for a few seconds. However, the hint costs time off of the clock. Seems like a good tradeoff!
Next week I plan to try the game out with visitors and see how it performs.