Participatory Design Workshop

Workshop Layout

Questions before the workshop:

1) How often do you play Dark Heresy (or similar games)?
2) How long did it take for you to pick up the game?
3) What type of problems do you encounter during game play?
4) How do you think making an application for the game would be helpful?
5) What type of application would you think is best? (eg: shop list, battle map, item list, inventory, etc)
6) How do you think an electronic application related to Dark Heresy could be integrated into your games?
7) Do you like to make your own story instead of following the Dark Heresy instruction book? How? Why?


We walk in, re-introduce ourselves to the group, and ask them to start off playing their normal game of Dark Heresy.  We explain to them that we’re going to be including them in the design process through a participatory design workshop.  As a group they’ll have the opportunity to design the interface for our battle app as they see fit.

After they re-cap the Dark Heresy story as normal and just begin to play we’ll place a blank piece of paper in the center of the table.  When they ask what it is for we’ll tell them that we noticed them having to flip a lot of pages during battles in our previous observation of Dark Heresy and that our app is meant to make the battle phase more efficient.

“As you’re playing and enter a battle, please think about what you would want to see on our app screen such as the map, the grid, terrain, etc.  Whenever you flip a page please tell us what you’re looking for and if you think it would be good to include in the app or if you’d want to see it in the book still.  If you think it would be good in the app where would you want it and how would you want to access it?”

We’ll also have pre-cut pieces of things they will likely request such as the map, items inventory, turn order etc.  We can place these pre-made pieces down, and see if they have any feedback on the design of them.  We know they will want the map in the interface and when they ask for it we will enter into a side map generating activity.

As we place a pre-made piece down we’ll ask “here is what we thought this element might look like, how would you change it if you could?”  And we’ll write down their response.

If they forget to think about the app we’ll politely remind them and ask them that “we noticed that you have stopped thinking about the app, is there any reason why?  Is it getting difficult to use or think of?”  Answers to these questions may tell us that the app is reaching its limit in terms of complexity.  We realize it can’t do everything and it shouldn’t do everything.  Using the actual book is part of the experience of playing the game.  We wish to enhance the game-play not provide substitutes for it.

After the meeting we’ll ask them as a group to voice their overall opinion on the prototype, ask them to make any final changes.  We assume that their opinion and thoughts on the app will change as they go through the design process from start to finish.

Questions after the workshop:

1) Do you find our paper prototype intuitive? Is it easy to use and understand?
2) What other functions do you think we should add?
3) What functions do you think are not necessary?
4) If this application actually comes out for IPad, will you use it? Why?


Some of the responses to the questions were that they don’t play Dark Heresy often because it is quite difficult to get everyone together as we’ve learned from our group and previous scenarios we’ve done.  Because of this they are very slow when playing the game since they have not had enough time to familiarize themselves with it.  This is compounded by the fact that Dark Heresy is incredibly complex and in depth.  As the Dungeon Master (or Game Master) told us “Just the amount of actions available in combat are staggering.  As the GM I have to keep track of the billions of NPCs (non playable character) Dark Heresy employs and I have to know all the player’s actions because the players and GM share the same move set.  That alone takes hours of just studying to really get a handle on.  We are always flipping to the actions page.”

All players seemed to think making an application could be helpful as long as it wasn’t intrusive.  Some of them said things such as “we already use laptops to record notes and things, so incorporating technology isn’t a problem for us.  The only reason why all of us aren’t using laptops is because there just isn’t enough physical room at the table.”

It turned out that the group had no idea what type of application would be best when asked initially.  We returned to this question after the design workshop and players unanimously wanted a map application.  They said “a map is just way more interactive and way more fun.  It will give us the flexibility to make our own maps in future campaigns that aren’t just straight out of the book.”  Another participant said “I would much rather look at a map on a screen than text on a screen..  flipping through a combat list in the book is much easier and feels much more like we’re playing the game than scrolling through it on a screen.”  A few other players mentioned that “I still want to use the book.  We all have electronic copies of it but it’s just not as satisfying.”

During the design process all players and GM continually thought about the app and what would be good inside of it.  They said that the map is the most frustrating part right now because they use scrap pieces of paper to hold their position.  They thought the map should be the main focus of the app.  They said it should display the players’ position, the monsters’ position, and the turn order for each of the players.  The map would be the main screen with additional information on pull out tabs.

We noticed as more functions were being added to the app such as an inventory list attention to our app began to fall as they started to play without it.  We asked them why and they said “well we’re trying to use the app as we would normally but going to these other screens is making us think too much.  I know the page in the book I need but I can’t remember how we thought it should work in the app.  Rather than look stupid, I’m just gonna flip to it in the book.”  This told us that we need to keep our app simple in order for it to be effective.  During the post test interview members of the club said “yeah once we started adding too many things in like inventory it just got confusing… We’re probably just better off keeping track of that on our own.”

One area we had not thought of that the dungeon master brought up to us that he was concerned with was that our app currently only contained maps that already existed in the book.  He wanted to know if custom map generation would be possible and he suggested that a random map generator be created so he didn’t have to make it from scratch.

So over all we found out that the players are accepting of new technology which was a big concern of ours.  We imagine “old school” players would not be as accepting but because our group is mainly young university students like ourselves they were more than willing to accept technology as a supplement to their game.  Using the book is still a large part of the game they wish to keep intact.  That being said it is important for us to keep our app simple but effective at what it does which is visualize the map and battle scene along with keeping turn order data available.


Throughout the workshop, we learned that the Dungeon Master wanted to have a faster way to create a map, so he does not have to always build from scratch. In the future improvement, we plan to integrate a new function, the random map generator, in our application. The application can satisfy the needs of dungeon master to create a quick battle. Consider that our target user are familiar with technology and games, we probably can remove the help button. In exchange, a cleaner and simpler interface. 


Introduction of the workshop:

Character generation for each player:

Players’ desired icons:

First Activity:

Second Activity:

Finished results:


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