• Week 32

    28 May 2013

    Much of this week was spent refactoring Muncaster – the Playable City codebase.

    It’s the kind of code that gets fiddly to work with quickly. In making a conversational interface, you quickly move away from the kind of architecture that’s very simple to model in Object-Oriented languages and frameworks, and into something that’s much more about flow and state. As such, there’s lots of flow control and logic.

    The catch here is that, in the Playable City design, there’s very little complexity to the “state” end of things, and very little happens on state-transition; instead, most of the weight of the work comes down to the flow control: what to say next, given what we know.

    It’s been very easy to get into a “mazy of twisty passages, all alike“, especially as we try to adapt and modify the code based on playtests; there are so many dependencies that you end up walking through the control flow yourself as you code it a lot.

    So my goal this week was to build something more final to build upon, tearing out things that didn’t work, and removing as many if statements as possible.

    By the end of the week, a large amount of conditional logic had been torn out, and replaced with many, many tiny POROs, all responsible for building up fragments of a conversation, and none of which know anything about state other than the conversation they’re given to work with as input. In some ways, it’s not much simpler, but it’s proving much easier to modify, tweak, and extend, and that feels like it’s been really worth it. Logic has been torn out of the ActiveRecord models, and also become far less dependent on the database, which feels like an architectural win – and should make delivering Week 33’s playtest easier.

    On Tuesday, I took part in a collaborative experience design workshop, run by Experientia. I said “yes” to this in part to see what that process was like from the other side of the table, and watch another design firm at work. It was super-rewarding on that front, and gave me some useful thoughts about future practice; also, I got to make lots of drawings with felt pens, which possibly bemused the other participants, but was a great work-out for my design brain.

    And, of course, the other big news of the week was that Caper launched Concert Club. This is Detling: the project I’ve been talking about for the past couple of months. I’m really glad to see it in the world, even for its limited prototype lifespan: there are some interesting lessons to learn from it, and it’s been a lovely build process. I wrote more about it in this longer post last week, and I’d encourage you to find our more if you haven’t already.

    Week 32 was a lot of code, then, and the usual last-minute wranglings to get a project live, but lots of nice pay-offs. In Week 33, we’ll get to put that code to use.