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Dev Log

Version Archives

Current Version: First Edition

The first edition of UNFUNDABLE is now available for purchase at the UNFUNDABLE shop page on TheGameCrafter or as a free download on the Print-and-Play page of this site.

Dev Log Timeline

2019.10.21 First Edition

The first edition of UNFUNDABLE went up for sale at The Game Crafter. It also went up as a Print and Play download on this site. This edition is essentially the same as prototype v3.2, but with updated graphics for improved readability. It also included a reduced number of Event cards and a changed Blue token shape to decrease the cost of the game on The Game Crafter. It also included the additon of a "rules at-a-glance" card.

2019.09.01 Sandbox Innovation Fund

I was awarded an MIT Sandbox fellowship for this project, including mentorship and a $3k grant in startup funding.

v 3.2

An updated Game Crafter print prototype with the same rules, Goals, and rebalancing as v3.0. This version included updated visuals to increase contrast on the cards and differentiate the brown and green shades more.

2019.08.10 Playtest

This playtest was with a group of board gamers to see the effect of the rebalanced rewards & resources.

v 3.0

This version of the game included 2 new, more competition-focused Personal Goals. It also featured a rebalance of resources and rewards on all Grant cards so there would be more tradeoffs and imabalances in negotiations. It also featured new Event cards to add more variety to the game.

2019.07 to 2019.08 Playtests

I completed 3 playtests of this version of the game included a group of board gamer friends, a public health lab, and a group of undergraduate students in a summer health research program. I thought the game was more competitive based off of the first playtest. However the playtest in academic settings showed that competition still wasn't baked into the balance of the game. Players wanted more competition, but in the academic setting, they wanted it built into the structure of the game itself.

2019.07.16 Printed Prototype

The first prototype printed from The Game Crafter, with updated graphics and a formatted rulebook.

Prototype v2.2

This was one of several versions of prototype 2, with tweaks to the balance of resources required and papers rewarded to reduce the overall number of tokens needed to playy the game. The visuals were also being tweaked for readability.

2019.05.16 Demo at MIT Media in Transition Conference

I demoed this project at an opening event of the MIT Media in Transition conference. I received reassuring feedback on the overall representation of the tension between competition and collaboration in academia.

2019.05.20 Pitch at Boston New Technology Meetup

I made a brief pitch of this project at the BNT Meet-up at Hult International Business School.

2019.05.23 Demo at MIT Media in Transition Conference

I demoed this project at an opening event of the MIT Media in Transition conference. I received reassuring feedback on the overall representation of the tension between competition and collaboration in academia.

Prototype v2.1

This was mostly a visual update to clean up the Grant cards a bit.

2019.04.26 Playtest at Public Health Lab

I brought the game back to the Viswanath Lab at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health to play with a different set of researchers, mostly established career scientists. The players enjoyed taking on different roles int he form of their Personal Goals. One noted that you kind of can accumulate resources in academia, which wasn't modeled in that prototype's method of resetting at the end of each round. They also gave me the suggestion to give more background info about grants in an instructional booklet or video.

Prototype v2.0

This prototype presented a major change in rules, pretty close to the First Edition rules. It was the first prototype to feature 3 rounds of gameplay with no set turn order. Tokens completely reset at the beginning of each round. It also featured a major rebalancing of resources for each Grant to increase the chances of running out of resources by the end of a round.

2019.04.14 Game Night at MIT Museum, Cambridge Science Festival

I was able to bring this game to the Cambridge Science Festival for play tests with multiple groups, ranging in age from preteens to adults. On the younger end, the scenario seemed to kind of go over the playteesters' heads, but they enjoyed the negotiation mechanic a lot. On the older end, players enjoyed the negotiation mechanic just as much. At the end they thought it was funny that they took the negotations seriously even though they all ended up winning in the end. This experience showed me that the central mechanic was engaging, but there were still a few too many rules/steps to remember and a few too many tiles moving around the table.

2019.04.12 Playtest with Public Health Researchers

I brought the game to test out with researchers at the Viswanath Lab at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health. The partcipants ranged in experience from an undergraduate student to post-doctoral fellow. A major takeaway from this playtest was that the prototype was too easy. It was never that hard to accomplish your Personal Goal or work together, since everyone's Goals were very different from each other.

2019.04.02 Feedback from a Game Lab Professor

I had a meeting with Philip Tan, from the MIT Game Lab. He provided helpful feedback and questions for me to figure out if the mechanics matched up with the scenario I had in mind. This prompted me to think edit the event cards and rethink what happened to the resource tokens between rounds. He also gave me the idea to put the post-game discussion prompts on the back of the Lab cards.

2019.04.12 Playtest Public Health Researchers

This playtest showed me that the game was not very competitive. It was very easy for every player to win as everyone's Personal Goals were very different from each other. The players also acknowledged the element of chance in the game, and said that it fit the funding situation being modeled.

2019.04.11 Presentation to Civic Media Group at MIT Media Lab

I presented on this project to the Civic Media group at the MIT Media Lab and received positive feedback about the overall direction of the proejct. One interesting suggestion I received was about folding or fitting tokens together to fit inside an available grant.

Prototype v1.32

This prototype ended the game after every player had 3 turns, and updated the "point tokens" to be "paper tokens".

2019.03.14 Feedback on Prototype v1.31 as Final Project for EDU T810A

Prototype v1.31 was my final project for EDU T810A at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, for which I received positive critiques and inspiration to figure out how I would actually test it out in my intended setting of a research program.

Prototype v 1.31

This prototype did not feature rounds of play, but relied heavily on turn order. Grants simply stayed on the table, with a new one drawn once once players took one off the table. Each player took turns inititating negotiations, and the game ended after 15 Grants were received. Players constantly picked one resource token right before their turn. This was the first prototype with individual goals. There were no built-in losers, and players were not really in direct competition with each other over points or Grants, as all personal goals were very different from each other.

2019.03.07 Presentation of Prototype v1.31 at American Academy of Arts and Sciences

This was the final presentation of this project in the Harvard class "Cultivating Public Engagement with Science." I received some feedback that the game might be a little too complicated, the tone a little too negative, and the academic references a bit too insular. This did prompt to prioritize a more streamlined game and experiment with a little bit more abstract representation of labs and resources. This also prompted me to double down on the tongue-in-cheek phrasing throughout the game, contrasting it with even brighter and simpler graphics.

2019.02.26 Feedback on Prototype v1.3

A quick walkthrough of the game took place at the MIT Open Documentary Lab, with one undergraduate student and 2 Master's students. Feedback included suggestions that something should happen that effects all players and that grants could do something more than mark progress. There was also an interesting idea about a version of this game that let someone play as the NIH.

2019.02.21 Play Test of Prototype v1.2

This playtest was carried out with 4 players. Key observations from this playtest include the confusion of using "rounds" of gameplay when resources constantly respawned. People started talking about "buying" grants and using the term "negotiator" to describe the player whose turn it was. This highlighted the need to make the theme of the game a bit clearer.

2019.02.21 In-Class Demo, Prototype v1.1

Classmates in the Harvard Graduate School of Education class, "Cultivating Public Engagement with Science" provided feedback on a demo of the game. Feedback included the need to make the different kinds of grants more meaningful to the gameplay, the need to provide more guidance for a post-game discussion, as well as the possibility that all players could have their own unique win condition. Classmates also highighted the way this prototype conveyed the negotiation process of doing research, as well as the potential to spark conversations about "war stories" and past experiences with these dynamics.

2019.02.14 Playtest of Prototype v1.0

I ran a playtest with 4 players, and one dummy player to fill in the extra spot. The main lesson was that the punishment mechanic was not helpful for the pace of the game. This distracted from the negotiation mechanics, which were the most interesting part of the game. There were also too many tokens flying around, and it was hard to keep track.

Prototype v1.0

This initial prototype featured a turn-based mechanic in which every player had the same goal: get the most points. Players were encouraged to negotiate through a punishment mechanic: if players let 3 Grants go by, everyone would lose. This version of the game was designed for exactly 5 players. It also featured a constant re-spawn of resources.

2019.02.11 Meeting with HGSE Instructor

A meeting with the instructor of "Cultivating Public Engagement with Science" at the Harvard Graduate School of Education provided useful prompts for game development. Should there be a piece written for mentors and instructors? Are there mutiple levels of winning, like one cooperative goal and individual goals? Is the game set up so one is obviously more important than the other? Is each person representing a lab or an individual?

2019.02.10 Name Brainstorm

It was difficult to incorporate lessons from previous rounds of background research into a rule set. Brainstorming about the name provided useful guidance for the tone and thematic focus of the game. It was important that the name include letters that could easily be swapped out for math and science symbols in a logo. These symbols would work in tandem with colors to differentiate players. Alternate titles included: CONFOUNDABLE, BOLDFACED, FUNDABLE, and FORMIDABLE.

2019.02.08 Interview with Research Scientist

This interview with a research scientist at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health provided useful background information. A flexible timespan and number of players would help the game be more usable. It would also be good to frame the game as part of a system of contact between scientists and students.

2019.02.07 Playing Startups

Startups provided helpful lessons for developing UNFUNDABLE. It's very helpful that the game doesn't require a board. UNFUNDABLE should similarly fit inside a compact box. Startups also creates an interesting mechanic where all players have the same goal, but can take different routes to get there. It also keeps a litlte bit of information secret, while keeping most of the players' progress out in the open. These elements inspired the development of UNFUNDABLE's Personal Goals and accumulation of papers.

2019.02.05 Playing Castle Panic

Castle Panic was a good game to try out and compare to the ideas for this game. It highlighted some mechanics to avoid in the multiplayer setting of UNFUNDABLE. The game should not basically comprise one collective hand. An element of competition matches the setting of academic research more closely. The game should not double down on the collective goal to determine an individual winner. An element of hidden information or secret goals could help provide more unique motivations for each player.

2019.01.30 Inception

This project began as an idea for engagement between college students and academic researchers. In the class room and in pipeline programs, there is a lack of focus on the long-term interpersonal dynamics of grant-funded academic resarch. This project began with the question of how to model this competitive yet collaborative world for students to engage with and question. A board game was the initial format for this project idea, in which players would compete with each other but be incentivized to work together at times.