Chris Filip dissertation blog

Deconstructing and analyzing crowd-sourced games

Feedback on iteration four

I playtested my game today at an awesome place in Bucharest that’s not on OpenStreetMap but should totally be, called Creative BoardGaming (CBG), with a friend of mine, Alexandra (Alex), who also helped me finalize the board by doing the very meticulous task of writing the individual amenity numbers on the board.

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These are a few shots of sorting and writing everything for the playtest:

IMG_20140610_145203

DSC_2954

DSC_2950

DSC_2949

I should mention that I’ve added the QR codes because I wanted to see if it were possible, they aren’t part of the gameplay experience.The playtesting came and went, with some really good feedback in the end. I’ve been told the game is “fun” and “has very interesting mechanics”, as well as “an awesome concept, of exploring your town”.

In terms of what I could improve on the game, I was told that the map feels a bit too big, especially as we were playing the game with two players in mind. It’s been suggested I make it smaller. Another idea that sprang to mind when I was told that was to only allow a certain number of regions based on the number of players. Thinking more about that, it’s possible that that would conflict the missions, so it’s unlikely that I will restrict the playable regions just because of the number of the players.

I had tremendously positive feedback on the minigame mechanic, with the only comment there being that there weren’t enough minigames. I will think about some more and see what to do with them. It’s also been suggested that instead of keeping the circular structure of the minigames, each amenity card should randomly have a sequence of minigames ON it, so that the players will find it easier to remember. This suggestion was inspired by the Activity board game.

I’ve also been told that it might be an interesting idea to have the game be played in cooperative mode, thus increasing the number of players to 8 or even 12. Interesting and I will think about it, although not too likely, given the time I have left to finish this project.

I think the most interesting dynamic I have discovered today is that the players did not feel motivated to move off of an amenity hex once they landed on it, and they wanted to complete it all while they were there. Quite an interesting dynamic, and definitely one that I will investigate further. Fifth iteration will be up soon.

Chris F.

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Creating the board

In the previous post I discussed the fourth iteration, which had the most changes for a while. It was no longer just a map with a colour overlay, or with some amenities randomly on it. It took most of a day to get it to the final form I presented in the previous post, and here’s each step of the process.

The board that I used before this one had yellow roads and green parks, on top of which I overlayed the 4 coloured regions. This was the board with the nicely and randomly arranged amenities. It looked like this:

Board v3.2 coloured

I then had the talk with Rob after which I decided to keep the amenities in their original geopositions. Here’s what the first mock-up of that looked like, in order to give me a feeling for how the map would look like:

Board v3.3

I made all the amenities black, and noticed that while clusters existed, it did look quite organic. My next move was to identify each amenity as their different type (pub, post_box etc.) by changing the symbol’s colour. I made the necessary changes in the code in order to get a different colour based on the amenity type and this is the result I got for that:

Board v3.4

As you can see, the random colours chosen were slightly similar, as well as discovering a behaviour I did not expect, having the pubs and bicycle_parkings being assigned the same random colour. This was a bug that I encoutered later as well, although I had not realized it at the time. I thought, however, that the amount of map showing in that map was too big, with too many amenities, which led to me zooming one level and re-rendering. I got this:

Board v3.4 zoomed in

As I mentioned, at the time I did not know that the pubs and bicycle_parkings were rendered with the same colour, which got me slightly confused (I also couldn’t get the clickthrough functionality to work well, an issue I’ve since fixed on the ITO Map). In addition to that, I also had to make a way in which people will be able to know which amenity card to use, in order to stick to the “amenities on the map are amenities on the ground” principle. What I decided to do was to add the name of the amenity next to it, or, in the absence of the name, add the amenity type. This is the result:

Board v3.4 with annotation

As you can see, it can get slightly confusing. I did a second version of this, in which I only showed the name for the amenities tagged with name=*.

Board v3.4 with annotation 2

I then realized what the problem with the colours was, and that adding the names really wasn’t helping me, especially in the crowded area in the town centre. I took the names out and focused on giving each amenity a unique hand-picked colour.

Board v3.5

Two things hit me, then: the colours that I had chosen weren’t that awesome since my monitor wasn’t properly calibrated, and the amenity green was FAR too close to the park green for me to like it. Also, since I was going to have a lot of colours on top of the map and the full-colour regions, there wasn’t really any reason for me to keep the roads yellow, since they were easily lost on the orange layer. I turned back to the grey layout, however keeping the water blue and parks/forests green. This is the result with the updated amenity colours and road colour. It’s quite close to the result I’m currently working with.

Board v3.5 new

With the amenities sorted, I needed a version without the amenities on it in order to put the hexes on top of and have it look clean (it looks really messy after creating the coloured hexes due to amenity nodes on the edges sometimes). This is the version of the map without the amenities on it:

Board v3.5 clean

I thought it might be a good idea to include the key functionality of ITO Map in the map render because it’s so much prettier than what I could come up with as a key. This is the map after I added the key:

Board v3.5 with key

I liked the key, but it was hiding some amenities under it. I decided to move it to a place without any amenities showing and hex the map. Almost done 😀

Board v3.5 almost final

I was really happy with the result, and I started writing down the total number of amenities for the report I gave you earlier, but then I realized something: there were only five colours on the map. The burgundy wasn’t there. Where were all the churches? I went back through all the iterations and it took me about 5 minutes to realize: churches. No. Amenity=church nope. It’s amenity = place_of_worship, because while a church is a place of worship, a place of worship isn’t necessarily a church. I went back through my code and replaced church with place_of_worship. Suddenly, the churches popped up:

Board v3.5 with places of worship

At this point, I had managed to fix the clickthrough problem and was able to click on each amenity in order to get all its tags and see more information about it generally. I realized that since the symbols were set at the same depth, sometimes the less important ones would hide the more important ones (a bicycle parking hiding a bank underneath). I changed the depth in order to reflect the order of importance that I gave them and this was the new result, with fixed depth and places of worship in order:

Board v3.5 with places of worship fixed depth fixed key

At the end, as I was hexing the map, I realized that having the regions be full-colour was a big over-doing it and taking away from the context of the map, so I just used the outlines of the regions in order to separate them. The final map for iteration four, as I posted above as well, is this one:

Now with key :)

That’s the process the map went through in order to become a board.

Chris F.

Iteration four

After my discussion with Rob and the previous post, I decided it’s time to iterate again. This pot contains the updated rules, map and cards.

First, I made the changes that I was talking about in the earlier post: I have added the real-life (or as close to as I could get on the hex map) locations of the amenities. What happened, especially in clusters like the town centre was that I had a ton of amenities stuck together (I will describe the step-by-step making of the board in a future post) so I had to make a decision about how to represent the hexes. I decide to create a hierarchy based on how rare a feature was based on my chosen features, and then show the top-most one in each hex that it appeared.

The hierarchy is bank>fast_food>place_of_worship>pub>post_box>bicycle_parking. With the final rendering, I have the following number of amenity hexes:

8 banks
13 fast food
36 places of worship
18 pubs
48 post boxes
20 bicycle parkings

The hierarchy that I created works, with the exception of pubs and bicycle parkings. I imagine that the reason why this might happen is that sometimes the pubs are very close to the post boxes (can you please post this on the way to the pub tonight, dear husband?) and that most of the amenities I decided to cover have a bicycle parking nearby, as well as most bicycle parkings being in clusters of at least two in commercial areas. I think the numbers are perfectly ok for what I need from the game for now.

Now with key :)

Now with key 🙂

The rules are as follows:

  • The goal of the game is to gather the most points.
  • At the beginning of the game, each player draws one Mission card. As they finish Missions, each player can draw another mission card.
  • The players take turns, starting at the black hex.
  • Players can move up to 6 hexes during their turn, following the road network. You can’t cross over water.
  • A player can choose to stop on one of the 6 types of amenity hexes and “scout” it.
  • Once a player has stopped on an amenity hex and they decide to scout it, the player then reveals the amenity card that’s associated with that hex.
  • A player can start “unlocking” key/value pairs on the card to gain points and “claim” the card for themselves.
  • In order to unlock a key/value pair, the player will need to win one of three challenges, played in this sequence:
    • They need to win at rock-paper-scissors against another player
    • They need to throw an even number on a 6-sided die
    • They need a “tails” on the throw of a coin
  • If a player wins one of the challenges, then they have unlocked the key/value pair, are awarded the point value of the pair and can continue with the next key/value pair on the card during the same turn, following the rest of the challenges in sequence. When the sequence ends, it starts again from the top.
  • When a player unlocks the last key/value pair, they will have claimed that card. The player that claims the card receives a point bonus and the card is no longer accessible by other players.
  • If a player does not pass the challenge, then they end their turn. Next turn they can continue to unlock key/value pairs on the same card or continue with their movement.
  • Two or more players can unlock key/value pairs on the same card during each of their turns till the card is claimed by one of them.
  • The game ends when all the amenities on the map have been claimed.

The scoring system.

Each player is awarded points, as follows:

  • 1 point per each key/value pair unlocked
  • As many points as tags on each card for each amenity card claimed (a card with 5 key/value pairs will give the person who claims it 5 extra points)
  • 5 points for the most banks claimed
  • 5 points for the most fast foods claimed
  • 5 points for the most places of worship claimed
  • 5 points for the most pubs claimed
  • 5 points for the most post boxes claimed
  • 5 points for the most bicycle parkings claimed
  • 10 points for the most PoIs claimed in the orange region (If two or more players hold the same number of PoIs in a region, then the 5 points get divided equally amongst them, rounded down (i.e. 5 points between 2 players will be 2 points per player).)
  • 10 points for the most PoIs claimed in the blue region
  • 10 points for the most PoIs claimed in the green region
  • 10 points for the most PoIs claimed in the red region
  • 15 points for the most PoIs claimed throughout the game
  • 10 points per mission completed

Missions

At the beginning of the game, each player draws one Mission card. As they finish Missions, each player can draw another mission card.

These are the 12 mission cards available at the moment:

Mission – 10 points:
1 claimed pub
3 PoIs claimed in the RED region
5 “name” tags unlocked

Mission – 10 points:
1 claimed bank
3 PoIs claimed in the BLUE region
5 “postcode” tags unlocked

Mission – 10 points:
1 claimed fast_food
3 PoIs claimed in the YELLOW region
5 “opening_hours” tags unlocked

Mission – 10 points:
3 claimed bicycle_parking
3 PoIs claimed in the GREEN region
5 “phone” or “website” tags unlocked

Mission – 10 points:
5 claimed post_box
1 claimed BANK in the BLUE region
3 “cuisine” tags unlocked

Mission – 10 points:
5 claimed place_of_worship
1 claimed BICYCLE PARKING in the GREEN region
3 “ref” tags unlocked

Mission – 10 points:
2 claimed pubs
2 claimed PLACES OF WORSHIP in the ORANGE region
5 “capacity” tags unlocked

Mission – 10 points:
1 claimed bank
3 claimed POST BOXES in the RED region
5 “postcode” tags unlocked

Mission – 10 points:
2 claimed fast_food
2 claimed PUBS in the ORANGE region
5 “religion” tags unlocked

Mission – 10 points:
3 claimed bicycle_parking
1 claimed FAST FOOD in the GREEN region
5 “royal_cypher” or “cuisine” tags unlocked

Mission – 10 points:
5 claimed post_box
5 claimed PoIs in the BLUE region
1 “atm” or “website” tag unlocked

Mission – 10 points:
5 claimed place_of_worship
3 claimed PoIs in the RED region
5 “bicycle_parking” or “atm” tags unlocked

I then added numbers on the board and amenity cards in order to let the players know what card they need to pick when they land on a certain amenity, and then I also added the same numbers on the amenity cards.

Time to play the game and see how it plays 😀

Chris F.

Discussion on iteration three

I met with Rob and talked about my new iteration. We didn’t exactly get to play it, but I went through all the steps with him to see what he thought of how I took his advice and incorporated into my game.

Geolocation

As I walked Rob through the new iteration I had made, I was pleased to see that he seemed to like it more than the previous one. It was more game, as he would put it. Still, he had one very important comment to make, that I think I will focus on a lot for the next iteration.

“Does the location of the PoIs on the map accurately reflect the location of the PoIs in real life?”

What Rob told me when I presented the third iteration to him was that it still seemed very random. Yes I did have the PoI points back on the map and everything, but at the same time the player had no reason to go and explore a particular area, which is the point of a mapping party. When Rob first posed this interesting statement to me, saying that at the moment the game is random, I thought that it might be a good idea then, in order to make it less random, to have the PoIs assigned to a PoI hex at the beginning of the game. To which Rob asked if it wouldn’t be more important and interesting to have the PoIs accurately reflect the real life PoIs on whatever map I make. I said I’d take this into consideration and see what I can do for the next iteration. There are some other things that we discussed about, though, that I will talk about before going back to the current answer I have for Rob’s question.

The first thing that we discussed about after the PoI location accurately reflecting the actual PoIs, we talked about their positioning on the map. With this map that I made for iteration three:

Board v3.2 coloured

while the PoI distribution is proportional with the actual PoI distribution that you will find in OSM, the position of the PoIs is not. I placed the PoI hexes as I saw fit, roughly evenly distributed, taking care to have more distance between the PoIs in the big areas (that are also fewer for that territory) and less distance for the more dense PoIs, like the ones north of the river.

Rob’s argument for actually having the PoIs in their proper location and having them distributed as they are in real life, distance-wise, is this: as a person who I’m trying to get to use OpenStreetMap, if I find an error or something that’s missing in an area that I know about and your map reflects, then I’m more inclined to go and change it myself, using OSM, as opposed to just finding out random things from around town. That’s a very important point that I think I can use as a core for my next iteration.

Then there’s the issue of movement. I told Rob that if I were to use the actual PoI locations on the map, then I would have a lot of hotspots, such as the centre of town and the Cineworld area, where there are a lot of PoIs, as demonstrated in this map I posted earlier:

Example gridding

If I were to make red every hex that has red in it in that map, I would get some areas that are very red, and some that are not at all red. How would I stop the players from grinding and camping? I then thought about my real-world experience with mapping parties: I went up on the main street of Swindon and took note of each and every shop and all the information I could find about it. All in all that took me about 1 hour and a half. Then I walked down to the return point of the mapping party and took note of everything along that way as well, but since I didn’t have that many things to note, it only took me 30 minutes, although the distance was much larger than the one on the main street. So, in a way, if I were to continue applying the breadth vs depth system that I talked about in the previous post, the game could balance itself as it does in real life. Two suggestions that Rob made regarding this was to either implement a system in which I modify the amount of movement each player has somehow, or a system in which a player needs to unlock the higher PoI density areas, such as levelling up or having a key. I will consider both of these.

The last point that Rob made was regarding the minigames that I talked about in the previous post, which you had to pass in order to unlock tags. The minigames that I had thought about seemed too complex for something that you should be able to know the result of in a few seconds. What was suggested was that I have a simple system in which the player needs to do one of a few easy minigames every turn in a sequence in order to unlock a tag. For example, the sequence could be throw of a die, rock-paper-scissiors and tossing a coin. Each turn, the player would have to do one of these in order to unlock a tag.The next turn, if they choose to continue wanting to unlock tags, they would need to do the next in the sequence. It’s a better system than the one that I devised, albeit one that relies more on luck. I’ll include this in my next iteration to see how it plays.

I will also take Rob’s other two suggestions and put the current PoIs permanently on the map, choosing one of them if there are too many to put in a hex, and see how that plays out. I will probably play another game soon and then post back my results.

Chris F.

Idea dump

I did my best to organize the notes and thoughts that I had during the meeting with Rob over the past two blog posts, but there are still some things that remain on my notebook but not on here, that I believe are important. I will write them down in this post.

Bunch of notes

Most of those notes are covered in the previous posts, however there are a few clarifications that need to be done:

First, I made a note saying that players should get points on quantity or points on quality. This is very important when you are part of or host a mapping party, as you need both quantity and quality in order to add new good things to the OpenStreetMap information. As such, the system where players get points both for having the most PoIs collected and having the most complete PoIs. As Rob put it, there is a difference between having breadth and depth as two concepts in the game.

I also took note that a way in which I could divide Ipswich up could be based on the United Kingdom Ward administrative area. I haven’t put the wards yet on the map, but that’s something that I will definitely try and see how it turns out. Here’s a general image of the wards in Ipswich:

Another note which stands out is the QR code note that I took when Rob mentioned that in the second iteration, in order to see ALL the tags of a PoI, not just the three that I took for the game, you had to go to a computer, open OSM, search for the specific feature you were looking for and then see the tags. I thought that it might be a good idea to include a QR code that points to the OSM way or node link on the PoI card. (a link would look like this: http://www.openstreetmap.org/node/745747211) This was before agreeing to put all the tags on a card but I still think it’s an idea worth considering.

Something that I thought about as I was talking to Rob was this: If I were to still keep the Information card system (deprecated now but talking about it for the sake of historical recording), then players could literally play information at each other. If player A were to pick up a PoI that player B had a correct tag for, player B could attach their Information card to player A’s PoI and reduce their point total, or leech the points for their own benefit. As ar as I remember there’s a similar system in the Tile Rummy that I used to play at home as a kid, where a player can attach a useless tile of theirs to an opponent’s suite in order to get the points for that.

And again, Rob’s quote which got me thinking a lot “I need to paint a post box red for it to be recognized as a post box”.

That’s about it in terms of notes, I will meet with Rob again tomorrow to discuss my current iteration, and then I’ll be back with more notes on that as well.

Chris F.

Third iteration

As promised, here is my third iteration of the game.

Board v3.2 coloured

I’ve done three modifications to the board:

  • I changed the colour of the roads from grey to yellow, since Rob said that grey isn’t necessarily a very good colour for a game board.
  • I divided the map into four roughly equal in size territories that I will refer to as North-West, North-East, South-West and South-East.
  • I took out the Information hexes on the map. Instead, the coloured hexes are Points of Interest (PoIs). Their spread has been done by counting the number of named and unnamed amenities in each of the areas and then dividing that number by 10. As such, NW has 10 hexes, NE has 13 and both SW and SE each have 6.
    Original numbers:
    SE: 67
    SW: 63
    NE: 135
    NW: 109

In terms of the game, it now looks like this:

  • The goal of the game is to be the player with the most points at the end of the game.
  • Players start at the same point on the map.
  • Players can move only up to 6 hexes during their turn. If they land on a PoI hex, their movement stops
  • When a player lands on a PoI hex, they pick up a PoI card from the PoI deck.
  • After a player has at least a PoI card, they can now choose to move again or spend more time trying to find out more about the PoI they just picked up.
  • If a player chooses to spend their turn to find out more about the PoI, they can “unlock” each feature posted on it as follows:
  • If the tag that they want to unlock is a yes/no tag, then they must roll a die. If the die roll results in an even number, then they unlocked it. If the tag is a Post-code or a phone number, then they must come up with the largest number that can be made using basic arithmetic on the numbers in the tag value, i.e. IP2 8LA would have the largest value of 16, with 2*8 as the operation. If the tag is a string of letters, create an anagram using all the letters. (I have yet to think of what to do with things like opening time which are a non-elegant mix of both numbers and letters)
  • Scoring:
    • Each PoI card that you collect is worth 2 points.
    • Each tag you unlock from it is worth 1 point.
    • If you unlock all of a card’s tags, you gain an extra number of points equal to the number of tags.
    • If a player is the player that collects most PoIs in a region, they receive 5 extra points at the end of the game.
      If two or more players hold the same number of PoIs in a region, then the 5 points get divided equally amongst them, rounded down (i.e. 5 points between 2 players will be 2 points per player).
    • The player with most PoI cards at the end of the game gets 3 extra points.
    • The player with the most complete (all tags unlocked) PoI cards at the end of the game receives 3 extra points.

Also, in order to help the creation of sets (haven’t added the scoring for those yet), here’s how I divided the 35 PoIs:
5 post boxes
7 pubs
5 banks
7 churches
5 Fast foods
4 bicycle parking places

I have not yet implemented the missions into the game, but will do as soon as I can because I think it’s a very good idea. I think I’ve done enough changes to the game at the moment, and I need to playtest it before I can actually see how the modifications have affected it.

Chris F.

Feedback on the second iteration

I met with Rob last week and showed him the state that the game was in. We played a bit and then discussed the purpose of the game and how it should be tailored more towards reaching that goal. This opportunity gave me a lot of new ideas and I believe I am now much closer to a complete game than I was at the beginning of last week. Let’s dig into this:

While playing the game, Rob observed that the game in its current iteration seems to be quite random and does not have enough competition. He suggested I add a territorial aquisition mechanic in the game, dividing the map into different parts that the players could vie for during the playing.

Another point that Rob made was that there was a lot of randomness coming from the fact that I had taken the PoI hexes from the map. At the moment, paraphrasing his words, he was walking blindly from one Information card hex to another, without knowing what he’d get next or having a strategy in min. He suggested I keep the PoIs on the map as hexes or something similar, in order to let the players get to them and learn more about the area that they are playing in.

Something that stuck with me from the conversation I had with Rob was this: after playing, Rob helped me make a list with the things I wanted from my game in regards to the players. I want the players to explore, I want them to understand more about OSM and to want to contribute to OSM with their explorations. As Rob put it, it will get to a point where the player will need to understand that they need to paint a post box red in order to fit to be recognized as a post box.

The next iteration that Rob suggested is an interesting one and I think it will create some major changes in the game itself. What he suggested was, as I mentioned earlier, divide the board into territories, take out the Information hexes and re-add the PoI hexes. Also, it would be interesting to give players missions at the beginning on the game, so that they have a goal and should be able to formulate a strategy. The goals that they could receive would be something along the lines of finding a post box, getting all the PoIs in a territory and things similar to these.

In terms of scoring, you would be able to give players points based on the territories conquered, sets completed (all post boxes, all pubs etc), on the number of PoIs found and on the number of PoIs completed. When it comes to complete a PoI, Rob suggested that all PoIs have all the tag information on them, but then the player would need to complete small challenges in order to unlock them as found, such as rolling a die for a yes/no tag.

I believe that this talk was very lucrative. I understand more about my game and goals now and can’t wait to see how the next iteration will look like. I’ll post more about it tomorrow.

Chris F.

Board considerations

Throughout my last few posts, I updated the design of my board with imagery rendered using ITO Map. When you looked at that map, you probably saw the problems that I am going to discuss in this blog post:

Map/Board in question

Map/Board in question

First, there’s the large number of amenities that are stacked closely together. This is normal for real life, considering high street shops and shopping centers. The problem that I might have with this is that when tiling the board from the map, I will have more than one amenity, indeed, even 3 or 4 on the same square.

Example gridding

Example gridding

As you can see from the example gridding, there are quite a few hexes which have more than one named amenity in them.

The solution

I thought this might come in handy but did not think it would be so soon. In my second iteration post I mentioned that I removed the PoI squares for that iteration, choosing to focus on exploring through finding Information cards.

Secondly, I need to decide where to add the Information hexes. I have given this some through and although in the final board design there probably won’t be Information Hexes as much as removable items on the board, at the moment I need to see how to deal with the hexes in order to give the players enough diversity if people want to build their own maps. First, I need to make sure there won’t be any Information cards in non-accessible places. Considering both how diverse the world’s geography is and the number of uninhabited areas, that might be a problem, but I can do my best to avoid it. This is the overlay I am currently using. I will design at least a couple more in the coming days and I think that this number of overlays should be enough for now, and I will take it from here if things turn out different, depending on player feedback.

export

Chris F.

Good news for board design :D

Just wanted to let you guys know that I’ve talked with Peter at ITO and he allowed me to use ITO Map in order to create my board instead of using the default Mapnik rendering engine of OSM.

Here’s a first iteration of the map, with all the named amenities from Ipswich:

Ipswich named amenity grey map

I just need to decide which amenities I keep on the map and then add the hexes on top.

Chris F.

P.S.: I know I could’ve used Mapbox as well to design my board, but I personally like the things I can do with ITO Map much more than Mapbox.

Second iteration

One of the things that I have mentioned in my previous post is the minimized importance of the PoI hexes on my game board, because people had to do a run of the board in order to collect the Information cards, and then another run at the end to put those cards on the PoIs. While the Information cards serve the purpose of exploration, the PoI cards made it a bit of a race to the finish which I definitely didn’t want as part of my game. So, as I mentioned in my previous post, I want to take the PoI hexes out and just keep the cards as targets for the players.

That’s my second iteration: I kept the board and everything else the same as it was before, I only took the red hexes out, instead keeping all the PoI cards on the table from the beginning. The players can assign an Information card to a PoI card as soon as they pick one up, and you can’t assign two of the same Information card to the same PoI card.

At the end of the game, the PoI cards with all the tags are revealed, and the scores are tallied based on the score base of each Information card that matched and the winner is chosen.

I will playtest this iteration and come back with the feedback from my players.

Chris F.