Tactus: My Dissertation Game

Hello! You’re probably here because I asked you to download and try out Tactus. The elevator pitch for that is: it’s a pac-man-alike Android mobile game with three different control schemes. I want as many people as possible to download it, play it – it should only take about ten minutes- and allow it to upload some tracking data that I can analyse for my dissertation. A whole blog post about the game is below, if you scroll down, but if you’re not interested in the details you can just click here to download, install the APK as usual, (you’ll need to allow apps from “unknown sources”) and play on. Two things to note:

  • The legal details of what I want the data for and why are listed at the start of the app. Legally, you have to agree to them to play it. There’s nothing personally identifiable, but I have to get your permission as if I were sticking electrodes to your head or something.
  • If you’re under eighteen, I can’t use your data. Sorry! It’s a legal research thing – I would need your parents permission, and there’s no real way to verify that online. Play the game if you want, but don’t click “Upload” when prompted.

That’s all you need to know if you just want to play – have fun! Otherwise, stick around, read the rest of the post, have a drink. Take the weight off your feet.Unity_2017-07-27_16-51-06

In more detail: I’m nearing the end of my studies at Anglia Ruskin University, and currently working on my dissertation project. I’m studying how players control touchscreen games, specifically comparing three control schemes.

  • Tilt mode allows you to tilt the device to control the character.
  • Tap mode lets you tap on the screen – the character automatically navigates to where the tap was.
  • Swipe mode allows you to swipe the screen – swipe left to turn the character left, up to move them up, etc etc.

I want to find out how these three controls – Tilt, Tap, and Swipe – compare. Which is easiest to learn? Which is most fun to play with? Which one do players feel most in control of? To do this, I’ve built (based on previous work by Neall Dewsbury) a game called Tactus. It’s sort of like pac-man – run around a maze, grab powerups, get chased by things. The game asks you to play through each of these control schemes in a random order, and while playing it stores a bunch of information about how you play – what’s happening in the game, and how you’re controlling it. After three rounds of one control scheme, you answer a few questions, you can upload or discard the data, and then move on to the next. Playing three rounds of all three schemes takes about ten minutes, and when you’re done you can choose which you want to play next.

What I want to do with this data is drive decisions about how touchscreen games should be controlled, and what design aspects of games lend themselves well to different control schemes. It’s outside the scope of this project, but ideally we could take the information gathered from this and compare it to other games, other control schemes, and so on and so forth, and try to interpret what makes particular mechanics and control schemes well-suited to each other.

And you can support that! By playing ten minutes of something sort of like Pac-man. Thank you!

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