Rooted is a web-browser game designed to incorporate principles from the Pomodoro Technique to enhance player’s productivity when working or studying.
This project was developed at HackUTD in a team of 4 developers and won Best Use of Open-Source.
Our game is designed to solve both the issues of difficult time management and distracting games. The primary motivation for addressing these issues is to find the right intervals to maximize focus, while minimizing stress from studying with deadlines.
In educational environments, periods of procrastination and extended work damage overall productivity. Effective studying requires both freedom from distractions as well as effective time budgeting. Our overall goal for the product was to create a less distracting media source that would increase productivity through regular use
Applications that implement Pomodoro timers are not new; there are many mobile applications, along with web browser extensions, that do this already. However, the majority of these apps are simple timers integrated with to-do lists and charts.
In spite of the lack of diversity in Pomodoro apps, the technique itself has still proven to be effective in increasing productivity and it is important to see how it is currently being implemented. We looked at two popular models, Focus Booster and Focus Keeper Pro as case studies into existing products.
On the other hand, there are numerous idle and collecting games, but many are addictive. Idle games play themselves without user being present, while collection games allow users to gather game objects to create an inventory or accumulate points. We believed that idle-collecting games would be a good complement to the off-time in the Pomodoro technique because some games have a relaxing quality to them that we wanted to tap into.
In order to make an appealing game that would be accessible to a wide audience, our team decided to make the garden display the main focus of the interface. To bring the focus to the garden, we made the inventory/store menu collapsible. We used a drawer-style menu for listing the items in the inventory and store so that they could be easily browsed by the player. The menu itself was made with compact spacing so that more screen space could be allocated to showing the garden.
The timer is placed in the top left position so that it is unobtrusive during gameplay. Once the five minute timer finishes, a semi-opaque black overlay is placed over the screen and the 25-minute timer begins. This interaction indicates to the user that they must begin their productive cycle again, however, the game will still continue to run in the background.
The control scheme for our system is an intuitive drag-and-drop by mouse. Both the inventory items and the garden slots act as large targets for mouse clicking. The decision to maximize click areas allowed for faster item placement. Unoccupied garden slots display an orange disc to show players that an item can be placed. By doing this, we allow the player to check on the status of the garden at a glance, without needing to read text. To return an item to the inventory, the player only has to double click it in the garden. The motivation for this interaction was to shorten the time it takes for the player to rearrange their garden. Since the edition period only lasts for 5 minutes, we wanted to make sure that players would be able to create their arrangement and move on to completing their work.
The visual style of the game was designed to be soothing, using muted colours for the background and visitors to provide a relaxing experience. The colours of the inventory and store buttons are the same muted shade of orange for consistency. There are also icons in addition to the word labels for each button to be explicit about a button’s purpose. We chose a variety of garden visitors to illustrate and developed animations for the visitors when they spawn. Idle animation occurs when an object is not being controlled and it adds interest to the screen in a game like ours.
Testing is valuable for our game if we aim to appeal to a wide population of users and seek to make a product that actually solves the two problems we have identified. Running user studies to test usability of our project would give us better understanding of the interactions we designed to influence future updates and improvements. As the game currently stands, it is more of a high-fidelity prototype than a polished final product. If we were to continue development, we would need to collect substantial qualitative and quantitative data.