Murder at the Dollhouse

An interactive, narrative-based AR game on a mobile device for visually-impaired users.

Marina Roos Guthmann (UX Design & illustrations)
Stacey Yao (UX Design & Graphics)
Xianghan Wang (Graphics & Narrative)
Sounak Ghosh (Game Design & AR ideation)

My contribution:
User research, accessibility, game design (ideation & playtesting), audio integration, AR technology research, video prototype

Won the Accessible AR Design Challenge held as part of the UX Design class, and chosen out of seven teams to be developed into an app by the creative agency, Rose Digital.

User research

Primary users

  1. Visually impaired adults between the ages of 18 and 65
  2. Interested in technology and games 
  3. Also includes typically sighted people

Insights & Features

We conducted interviews with our main client for the project, Gus Chalkias, as well as other visually-impaired users. Based on our research insights, we highlighted the key features that a visually-impaired user will benefit from.

  1. Rich audio and sound for clear cues
  2. Training mode
  3.  An attractive storyline
  4.  Connection with other players
  5. Haptic feedback to avoid audio overload
  6. Description and video in the app store

"How come only because I’m blind, I cannot play Pokemon Go?!” - Gus Chalkias

It is important to address accessibility, especially in emerging fields like Augmented Reality. Therefore, we decided to focus on 3 factors to drive our ideation phase.

3 words written in boxes for emphasis - Empowerment, inclusion, happiness

Ideation & Playtesting

Our narrative takes place in a "dollhouse" that is placed in front of the player using augmented reality. We were inspired by noir and mystery genres. We looked at board games like Mafia, Clue, Who’s the murderer (Chinese game show), Papa Sangre (mobile game). Play-testing the game helped eliminate assumptions and refine the experience.

Rough version of game board showing the mansion map from top viewIdeation points on the left and isometric illustration of study room on the rightIdeation points on the left with image of wooden puppet figure of lady to the right

How to play the game

  1. Can be played by 4-6 players
  2. There is always one detective and one killer.
  3. All characters assigned at random
  4. The objective of the game is to catch the killer
  5. Players will look for clues and then  vote on who they suspect
  6. If an innocent player is voted at the end, they lose and killer wins!

User Journey

There would be an onboarding or training mode for players to figure out how the game works before jumping into it. This would also allow visually-impaired users to change the settings to what works best for them. Our considerations included the sign up process, matchmaking and/or inviting friends to play, possible barriers and opportunities.

Credit for creating the journey maps goes to Marina.

user journey map showing onboarding processuser journey map showing first game experienceuser journey map showing considerations and download processuser journey map showing how to invite friends to play
animated gif showing accessibility settings in the app

Accessibility settings

From our research, we knew that providing as many options as we could in the game settings would help users customize their own experience.

Font-size, contrast, separate channels for audio volumes (music, narration, game), and even controls to turn haptic vibration on or off. This gives the user control of their own experience.

Scope and Scalability

Ultimately, such a "dollhouse" style AR game is not new, but still a unique approach to the idea. The fact that it can be multiplayer and other players are seen within the dollhouse is definitely an interesting social experience.

This format of AR gameplay has the potential to be used in many different scenarios. Content can change, while game dynamics remains the same. For example, the dollhouse becomes an educational museum journey where clues become art pieces instead. Or, in a brand marketing campaign, the clues become different products of a brand and the narrative tells the brand/company's journey and story.