Monday, 19 December 2011

Presentation to JISC

A PowerPoint version of the presentation given to JISC by Debbie Cooke on 16 December is available to download.

Final project post

The issues

In a difficult market, we had to find every possible area for improvement. Student retention, particularly during year 1, was seen as an increasing threat:
  • The lost turnover represented by an early dropout is considerable - fees are usually waived and we lose the on-campus income also
  • Online case studies from various universities suggest dropouts often contribute negatively to word-of-mouth .  So, they impact on future recruitment
  • Ultimately, as a university charging an average of £7,500 in fees, Staffordshire has to improve its retention rate as part of its agreement with the Office of Fair Access
We wanted to find a way of improving students’ experience of their arrival at University & first few ‘exploratory weeks’.  That’s because we believe failure to settle in is one of the biggest causes of dropout:
  • Anecdotally, Union reps tell us this
  • Internet sources concur, e.g. ‘Homesickness’ is the second most common drop out reason related in case studies on The Student Room.  The first being ‘course issues’.
We can’t control course quality directly, as marketers – but we can ensure as much familiarity with the University as possible.

What we did

Failing to make students feel part of the University before, and immediately after arrival is thus a major contributor to dropouts.
  • Enrolment notoriously busy, chaotic - individualised attention varies
  • Experience showed students did not always read printed/e-mail information provided prior to arrival
  • Such media incapable, anyway,  of providing a true sense of the physical environment and experiences awaiting
  • We needed to bring key information to the fingertips of new students in a more engaging fashion
  • To improve the feeling of belonging, improve ‘orientation’ and make students feel ‘at home’ as quickly as possible
  • We chose an online game


  • Total potential players (2011 UK enrolment only) was 3,600
  • The game was played around 2700 times.  (This will include people re-visiting their saved games). 
  • The stats for the number of players who entered the enrolment hall for the first time was 1,865 (62.2%  of total audience).
  • Individual usage is impossible to precisely establish but this figure is likely to reflect total participation. 
  • Percentage of withdrawals v.’s 2010 equivalent was 5/6 of the previous year’s figure, a minimal change...albeit for the better!
  • However with a negative prognosis at the outset on retention we feel reasonably positive.
Even with a modest improvement ROI is positive in year 1.
  • 9.94 students is the ‘projected loss’ we would have suffered between September & October if 2011 withdrawal figure of 0.87% had equalled that of the previous year – 1.15%
  • We can take a reasonable average for annual fees, and add to that our calculations of the share the University makes from each students’ annual cost of living (as assessed by our Students’ Union)
  • Even without any government penalties that may/may not be incurred by loss of a student, the turnover involved is £149,100
  • Game cost £28,000

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Linking out to the web presence: choosing identifiers

One of the thing we've learnt from linking out to the university website is that URIs need to be short and consistent. At some points in the game, the user is asked to visit an external web page with the relevant URI being displayed not only as a link, but also in a "shortened" form in case they wish to remember the address for future visits. At some points, it was necessary to set up an additional shortened URI if one for the page did not already exist.

Based on this experience, we have developed additional guidelines for "short" URIs that we will be adopting across the whole of the University's web presence. The existing guidelines for short URIs were limited to:
  1. Should avoid ambiguity, e.g. sometimes there's a crossover between "Business School" and "For Business", so URIs containing "business" have to be carefully selected.
  2. They must not contain a year or other date reference, because they effectively go "out of date" and in the case of recurring events, require a new one to be set up each year.

New guidelines for URIs

Future practice will include:
  1. Short URIs must be all lowercase.
    This is because they are case sensitive, and most users assume lowercase as it avoid additional key presses, especially on mobile devices.
  2. No underscores, dashes or other characters.
    When saying the URI out loud, characters such as "dash" have to be pronounced, and many users confuse "dash" with "slash", or even "underscore". An exception may be made if the "running together" of words on the user's part leads to unintentional pronounciation ("Therapist Finder" being a classic example!)
  3. Multiple short URIs to one canonical URI will no longer be approved.
  4. They must not go directly to non-HTML content.
    There must be an "intervening" web page first, in order to prevent "PDF shock".
  5. They must not lead off site, i.e. to somewhere not on
    An exception may be made for linking to the University's official social media accounts.

List of URIs used in the game

Not all of the links from My New Uni are actually shortened URIs, but the complete list is as follows:

URLOwner Accommodation Office Information Services Student Office Student Office Student Office Student Office Student Office Faculty of Arts, Media and Design  Business School Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Technology Faculty of Health Law School Faculty of Sciences Student Office  Information Services Careers Centre Student Office  Student Office  Information Services Information Services  Health, Safety and Environmental Unit Students Union Students Union

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Licensing statement

A Statement from iCreate Ltd

As the creators of the My New Uni alternate reality game, in partnership with Staffordshire University, iCreate is pleased to confirm that this software program is being released under the BSD license - one of the most commonly used and widely acceptable open source licenses.

The "simplified" BSD license has been included in the headers of all source code relating to the game, and also in the meta data associated with the Installation program for the game.  A copy of the license, in text format, has also been included in the root directory of the project.  While the license acknowledges iCreate as the authors and publishers of the code (in partnership with Staffordshire University), it enables others to use and benefit from it, with very light control or restriction.

The "simplified", 2-clause form of the Berkeley Software Distribution License is a short and simple license that permits any user (or 'licensee') of the software to use, copy and distribute the modified or unmodified source code or binary form of the program, providing that all distributed copies also carry the BSD license.  Such open source licensing of software contributes to the overall advancement in knowledge

By releasing the My New Uni program under the BSD license, iCreate is willingly contributing the investment of time, knowledge and understanding undertaken by ourselves and our client, Staffordshire University, in the development of this game, to the wider community.  We hope that other educational institutions will be able to benefit from the learning and experience that we have gained in the making of this game.

By releasing the program under an open source license, we are also providing assurances to our clients and to the wider community that we, as a commercial organisation, will not attempt to hold a monopoly over the intellectual property held within this software program. 

While we would certainly welcome all opportunities to develop the software further or to reuse it, in partnership with Staffordshire University or any other educational institution, we hereby confirm that if for any reason we are unable to undertake further development, or if we are not selected as the chosen supplier to take forward future versions of the code, our client, and the wider community, will not have lost the investment already made in this project, and will be able to use, copy, modify and distribute it without reference to iCreate Ltd.

The Licence

Copyright 2011 iCreate Ltd. All rights reserved.

Redistribution and use in source and binary forms, with or without modification, are permitted provided that the following conditions are met:

  1. Redistributions of source code must retain the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer.
  2. Redistributions in binary form must reproduce the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer in the documentation and/or other materials provided with the distribution.


The views and conclusions contained in the software and documentation are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as representing official policies, either expressed or implied, of iCreate Ltd.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Launch day: early feedback is positive

Well, it was launch day yesterday, and there was an impressive spike in the number of visitors to the page where the game is hosted!

Positive Feedback (via Facebook & Twitter)

Here's a snapshot of some feedback from Facebook and Twitter that Nia has identified:
  • "My uni is pretty good! Nice one! :)"
  • "i like the "my new uni" game, although the one problem i had was the mouse not disappearing in first person mode. despite that, it really helped!"
  • " Not bad at all, takes the hassle out of wondering where to go and what to do, also good to know how close the accommodation is to lectures."
  • "Pretty cool. I was heartbroken that I couldn't find a way to jump off the map :(
  • Just a thought, but what if students could contribute to this each year. Maybe incorporate it in with some 3d modelling or texturing modules?
  • It would be an interesting way to show off to new students in that case. Maybe after time it could slowly be expanded to include some some lecture rooms; perhaps even the surrounding areas like beaconside village, or BASIC routes to town."
  • "definatly suggests giving mynewuni a tryout !"
  • "It's really impressive and definitely useful. Well done to whoever designed it!"
  • " It would be better if you could go into The Ember Lounge :) - Also, we spent ages trying to find zombies to shoot, but no joy!"
  • "It's (taking its time) downloading... but I get the feeling this will be amazing!"
  • "Ahaha, I love the VC's "character" on the My New Uni game - very nice! /cc @StaffsUni"
  • "is loving 'My New Uni' the new alternate reality game that puts you in a virtual Staffs world - fab for freshers "
  • "Having a bit of a laugh with the new @StaffsUni game :)"

Results of e-mail campaign

Here are some figures regarding the HTML e-mail that was sent out to new students:
Total sent 2005 100%
Total hard bounces 14 1%
Total delivered 1991 99%
Total opened 404 20%
Total unique openings 403 20%
Total click throughs 220 54%
Total unique click throughs 176 44%
Total unsubscribes 1 0%
Total forwards 0 0%

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Where should the game be hosted? - part 2

Information Services have advised that the installer can be hosted "in-house", but on a separate server to the website ( Once the final version of the game is ready, they will upload it to the server and we will commence testing.

On a related note, we will also make a number of copies available on disc upon request, and a request form is being built for inclusion in the My New Uni web pages. This is to allow students who may not have internet access when they arrive to install the game.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Where should the game be hosted?

One of the remaining issues is where to host the game. The installer is around 250MB in size, and with around 2,000 new students potentially downloading it, that is a potential half a terabyte of traffic!

That's not to mention other use cases, such as:
  • A user having an interrupted download, so they may need to start downloading again
  • Users from other institutions
  • Users installing across multiple devices
The potential increase in traffic has been raised with our Information Services department, and they will advise as to whether the current infrastructure should be able to cope, or whether the game will need to be externally hosted.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Flyer designs for 'student messageboard' part of the game

iCreate have designed flyers for the game as discussed, using the timetables that Janine sent through, and the events listed on the Students' Union website. Quite a lot of fun things happening!

Monday, 15 August 2011

Initial promotional materials for students

An initial design for a postcard promoting the game to new students is now available. It will be handed out during Welcome Week.

The game will be promoted at the URL

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Beta version demonstrated

The game is now at the beta testing stage, and a demonstration was held in Stoke yesterday with the following attendees:
  • Dawn Lyle (iCreate)
  • Allison Ridge (The Honesty Room)
  • Debbie Cooke / Tim Deville / Sue Lawton / Chris Goostry / Tom Hart (Strategic Marketing)
  • Nia Wearn (Faculty of Computing, Engineering & Technology)
  • Maria Scrivens / Judy O'Brien (Press & PR)
Dawn requested that as many as possible download the beta version and report any bugs so that they can be eliminated in the final version. The deadline for comments is 17 August.

Issues to be resolved

  • Some Students' Union flyers still need to be provided
  • How to 'end the game' to be decided - at the moment, you finish all your tasks and then nothing happens
  • Still need content relating to Week 2 sign-in
  • Chris G is working on providing links to 'Award Handbooks'.
  • Where will the game be hosted for download. Given the size of the file (250MB), and the number of potential downloads, it will need to be on a server that can handle the traffic
  • Credits - there will be a quick screen of credits when the user clicks 'EXIT' to quit the game.  A list of names, organisations and logos is required

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Further functionality to level 2 - Room design

A Ridge had requested further functionality e.g music posters etc so the room had a warmer friendlier feel and allowed the user to make it personal to them.

iCREATE cannot confirm if this is possible and will reserve judgement until they have completed the 'crucial' parts of the game before seeing whether we can add in some more 'nice to have' elements. A Ridge thinks these are important for the overall user experience.

Interface creative V2

These JPEGS show the revised designs for the interface.  If it looks a bit dark, it's because we have 'blacked out' the background when there is a pop-up displaying dialogue or instructions... This might need rethinking.  We have suggested 'MY NOTEBOOK' instead of business cards, so the player can periodically save links and reminders to their notebook for future ref.  BIRDS EYE VIEW takes them to the aerial overview of the model so they can hop from one area to the next.  And just to clarify, this interface is designed to overlay the live game play as an on-screen menu at all times, with pop-ups centre screen when there are instructions or dialogue.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Preview of the Stoke campus model

This is a playable version of the initial model of the Stoke campus, including both College Road and Leek Road. It is an 80MB ZIP file, and runs on Windows PCs only.

This is first stage design and not how the end game will look. Further campus dressing is required to add warmth, to look at "Google versus real city" to check whether correct, and to minimise the look of  surrounding "white blob" buildings (that are not part of the game).

Preview of avatar design

Here is a preview of a possible design for the avatars that will be used in the game:
Chosen 3D and animated models for game - Patrick Hore is a Staffordshire University student who Nia Wearn recommended for the project. This style will now be worked across all avatars from doctors and sports to welcome week and chaplancy.

Updated timing plan

The timing plan from 1 June has updated dates for deliverables that iCreate will need to implement the storylines.

Contact reports, 30 March - 2 June

Here are some notes from meetings on:

Copy sheet (v1)

Version 1 of the copy sheet contains all the storylines and prompts for the game. The copy needs to be tighter, more direct and bite size. Feedback given 14 June.

Copy for the Step-by-Step guide

Here is some copy that serves as an introduction to the project in the Step-by-Step Guide for new students.

Wireframe v4

Here is version 4 of the wireframe. This is the final approved version for iCREATE now to begin technical build.
We have not produced storyboards, as the wireframe was deemed sufficient to agree the flow of the game, but iCreate will present numerous iterations of the work-in-progress version of the game for team review. In addition, iCreate will provide draft concepts showing the user interface design at various stages for approval and feedback.

GUI concepts

Here are three concepts for the game GUI:

These are WIP and the design will chnage to be more in line with our undergraduate guide and UCAS materials. It does not look "in brand" enough at present.

Presentation to Students Union and Admissions team

Here are the slides from the Presentation to the Students Union and Admissions team.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Photographing the campus buildings

iCreate visited the University yesterday to photograph the various buildings on the campuses for use in the game environment. They covered the whole of the locations at Beaconside, College Road, Leek Road and Blackheath Lane, along with selected parts of the surrounding area.

This gives the basis to start work on the 3D modelling that will make up both the game environment and the "flythrough" of the campuses.

The process took approximately two days to complete and the process involved:
  • A guide from the University
  • An account handler making sure that the correct areas were photographed
  • A photographer.
Initially, we shared our static 2D maps so iCreate could grasp the scope of this part of the brief; we are a two campus university and there is also a split on the Stoke campus (Leek Road, College Road, etc.)

The process was to photograph the campuses at set points, and then spend around 3 weeks modelling. Google Maps and other tools will also be used to show more clearly the area surrounding the University. We have supplied further imagery of the new 6th form college and science centre so that the map can be as realistic as possible.

We have another use for these maps already: iCreate (for an extra cost) will put the maps into an "app-compatible" format so we can show our campus more easily at open days and UCAS events. This will be part of the app that was designed earlier this year.

Linking to the University's web presence

At some points in the game, the user will need to be taken to a part of the University's web presence in connection with the relevant "goal". This will either be to complete a specific task, or to get further information that is managed my a specific department.

A provisional list of pages that could be used has been identified as follows:

Point in game Purpose Possible page
Student Card Where they have to upload their photo and complete the e-enrolment form
GP Registration Information on the vaccinations they should get
SU Goodie Bag Introduction to the Student Union
Bus Map & Timetable Local travel information & orientation
Entertainment Flyers Information on upcoming events
[something related to IT] How their e-mail address and user account will be set up
Room Key (non-local only) What to do on arrival No current page
Shopping List To give information about local amenities around the campuses No current page
Timetable (Monday Morning Room Number) Where to go on the first day of term No current single page, but each faculty has a version, so it may be useful to provide and addition central page

A number of these pages will require rewriting as the relevant content is part of a longer page, while three remain to be created.

The next stage will be to identify which service looks after which content, and for Chris to liaise with the relevant staff members who manage the content via the University's CMS.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Levels information and draft wireframe

The game as we have planned it has three levels:

Level 0

Starting with the UK-in-Europe aerial view, and zooming in to the region, and then the Virtual Campus Tours.  The user can navigate around the campuses freely, chatting to Purple Helpers if they wish or to FAQ Avatars to get answers to our list of FAQs. 

Level 1

Welcome Week Journey Part 1 - On Arrival - Collecting your Key and Student Card. The player visits the Enrolment Hall and visits a series of four desks to collect items for their inventory - key, student card, GP registration and goodie bag (highlighted in Green).  When they have collected all these items, they are shown to their Halls and their room by a Purple Helper.  For local students, they are prompted to 'Go Home' -> move on to Level 2.  

Level 2
Welcome Week Journey Part 2 - Your Room - We figure that all students will have a room, whether they are local or non-local, either at home or in Halls.  The level opens inside the generic bedroom, which features a Notice Board.  This has a place for each of the 4 items already collected, and empty spaces for 6 new items.  The user undertakes a series of tasks (which involve walking around the campus to find people / items / locations) to collect the 6 items for their inventory and Notice Board

Story lines

At the moment there are 9 items to collect (IE 9 story lines).  Each item ends up on the notice board, and relates to a URL where the student can access real-world information:
  1. Student Card - URL for where they have to upload their photo and complete the e-enrolment form
  2. Room Key (non-local only) - URL to page about what to do on arrival
  3. GP Registration - URL for info on the vaccinations they should get
  4. SU Goodie Bag - URL for Student Union Website
  5. Timetable (Monday Morning Room Number) - URL relating to their course/faculty?
  6. Bus Map & Timetable - URL to bus timetable/map
  7. Shopping List - URL to page about local amenities?
  8. Entertainment Flyers - URL to SU website?
  9. Something related to IT (eg their uni email address?) 
Wireframe of the game:

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Description of the system and project phases

'My New University Life' will be an interactive 3D game that presents a 3D model of the university including the Stafford and Stoke campuses and the Lichfield building. The user will be able to explore the university grounds in 3D virtual reality, helping them to get their bearings and familiarise themselves with the campus. In addition, the game will introduce the user to various scenarios that new students will face on arrival at the university, and guide them through the steps they will need to take.

It is proven that we retain more information when we are obliged to interact with it and seek it out, as opposed to being presented with static or passive content. Through the use of interactive technology, users will be able to navigate around a virtual world of the university, digesting the information in a visual way, absorbing the key messages, and clicking on highlights to find out more details.

The aim is to create a compelling alternate reality world in which different scenarios are brought to life for new students. The ARG will function as an interface through which the user will be able to access key information on the university website, using hyperlinks from within the game to specific URLs within the website. The game will feature virtual assistants who will offer advice to the user, and this advice will include dynamic text and hyperlinks which can be updated as and when required.

Phase 1 : 3D Modelling

The first step will be to create a realistic and recognisable 3D model of the university grounds. This will include the two main campuses – Stafford and Stoke – and the Lichfield building. We will source high resolution aerial photography in order to show the campuses in the context of the wider area, and we will visit the university to photograph all the buildings and other features. This will give us the reference material we need to produce a realistic and lifelike 3D model of the campuses, complete with trees, landscaping and people, ready for the 3D game. In addition to the exterior of both campuses, we will create a generic interior office environment, for the parts of the game that require the user to inside a building.

We will include realistic animated people in the backgrounds of the scenes in order to bring the campuses to life. Developing the user's avatar and the virtual assistants etc. will be part of phase 1 of the project.

Visual Richness

The whole presentation will be created in full colour 3D animation. This level of visual richness will ensure a 'stand out' presentation that will not only be a highly engaging informational resource, but also a powerful marketing tool for Staffordshire University, offering the ability for people to explore the campus at events and exhibitions.


We will construct the models in such as way as to allow scope for adding interior areas and new storylines at a later date. We will also be able to update the 3D scenes individually should the need arise in future, ensuring that the presentation can evolve over time to keep pace with the developments on campus.

Phase 2 : Creating the Interactive Campuses

The next step will be to optimise the campus models and implement them within the 3D game platform, the iViewer. This involves setting up the navigational controls, and programming the content of each campus so that the user can walk around and explore. Key buildings will be labelled, and the interactive campuses will also function as a 'map' so that the user can find particular buildings or departments that they need. At the end of Phase 2, we will deliver an interactive application which allows the user to explore each campus and click to see what different buildings are.

Phase 3 : Programming the Storylines

The next step will be to program the tours and storylines. There will be different sequences for each of the different faculties, as well as a general campus tour. Each of the storylines will be developed in the form of a flow-chart, with text content for the Virtual Assistants' speech bubbles, so that we can program these sequences into the game. We will design the user interface so that the user can select the relevant storyline when they start up the game, and ensure that navigation is simple and intuitive throughout.

Each storyline will have it's own control panel to enable users to see their progress. For example, this could be a checklist, where items of the list are ticked off as each task is completed.
  • Level 0 – Introduction
    A screen, or series of screens, inviting the user to select their tour / storyline  
  • Level 1 – The 3D Campus
    The user is taken to the start point of their chosen tour / storyline. A virtual assistant gives them their first instruction. They can then navigate to the first location as instructed, where they will meet another virtual assistant with another instruction. The assistants will approach the user when they enter a specific zone, or the user can click on them to elicit the next instruction.
  • Level 2 – A Generic Interior Area
    Depending on the storylines, it may be necessary to enter some of the buildings and we will therefore create one or two generic interior areas for these purposes. These could later be replaced with scenes showing specific interior areas within the university.
Phase 4 : Linking to a database of URLs

Our intention is that all the text content within the game will be dynamic – ie it will reference a database to pull in text and hyperlinks. This means that the text content and links can be updated as and when required. Instructions will be presented in the form of speech bubbles. The text content will be database driven, and can include hyperlinks to information on the university website, such as forms and documents that new students will need.

Phase 5 : Launching the iViewer version of the game

After a period of testing to ensure that the game is intuitive and simple to use, we will launch the iViewer version of the game as part of the University website. The user will need to either:
  1. Install the iViewer plugin to run the application (first time only), or
  2. download and run the application full screen as an EXE or DMG file.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Project plan (7): budget

Management of the budget

In this instance Debbie Cooke will have overall financial control of the project and will therefore act as Grants Manager. All invoices will be signed off by her and the relevant purchase orders raised.


Project plan (6): Timeline

(Click for bigger)

Work Packages
Although we have no formal off the shelf project management software we are well versed in running multi dimensional projects for multiple audiences in a limited time frame.

We have developed an internal system called SMART which allows us to post comments against creative work, share large creative files without clogging up in boxes. The other tool we use is Dropbox. This a remote file sharing service which allows multiple people to view creative work at any given time. It also allows the recipient to download files to their own PC.

Project methodology

At the start of any project we scope out the parameters so all are clear on where we need to get to and their role in achieving this. We call this the 'common vision'.

We make sure we follow the basic principles of:
  • Defining the task and goals, (specifically design, technical and best practise) whilst making sure there is a match to the end user's demands/needs.
  • Measure and identify what areas of the project are critical to quality.
  • Analyse the creative designs based on sound marketing principles. Strive to push forward with the most creative, thought provoking work.
  • Design details. Make sure the design is optimised through integration at a technical and communication level.
  • Verify the design. Allow for testing of the product, make sure integration is seamless.


Project plan (5): Project team

Debbie Cooke, Joint Project Leader. Debbie is also Head of Strategic Marketing.

She will have overall responsibility for the budget and communications plan and will keep close to the project and have regular weekly updates from Allison.

She will view designs/concepts/WIP at each of the 6 phased reviews. She will be copied on notes where appropriate. Debbie and Allison have a weekly Tuesday status meeting to discuss all their joint projects. She will review the blog regularly.

Debbie will have final sign off on all communications collateral.

Allison Ridge - Joint Project Leader
Allison will galvanise cross departmental colleagues and external suppliers to make sure the project comes in on time and budget. She will manage all day to day relationships with suppliers and be the single point of contact for iCREATE. She will be responsible for providing the final flowcharts to iCREATE for development at the end of week 4.
She will make sure work is shared at key times with relevant parties to get sign off/approval.

She will write the comms brief and brief the creative agency. She will manage this task in its entirety, reporting directly to Debbie. She will endeavour to keep the blog relevant and up to date as a way of keeping the wider team abreast of the project.

Chris Goostry, Creative Web Developer at the University

Chris will be responsible for making sure that the iCREATE designs integrate and are compatible with the Staffs University website. He will attend the first meeting to make sure the scope of the project is clear. He will provide all the meta data schemes. He will liaise with the internal IT department and the external supplier to make sure that all URL and URIs are linked correctly. He will manage the database and interface and he will be responsible for testing the site before it goes live. He will be responsible for all licensing once the game is Staffs property. He will also be responsible for inviting new members to the blog. He will work closely with the project managers to deliver the technical side of the project.

Nia Wearn, Senior Lecturer in Games and Design

Nia will be advising both Chris and the Project Leaders throughout the process. She will be part of the mind mapping meetings and will advise on the flow charts that Allison produces. She will bring her wealth of experience and talent to making sure the game's vision is not lost. With Nia's expertise in social media this could be another communications channel that could be explored.

Mark Stiles, Professor and Mentor to the project and Deputy Chair of JISC-JLT

Mark will be project mentor to the team. He will advise if we are fulfilling all our JISC obligations as we progress with the project. He will offer advice to keep the project on track.

Janine Holdway, Business Manager at the University

Her main responsibility will be to share with the project leaders (from her knowledge) the most FAQs by sub sector groups. She will be intergral to the game achiveing its objective of being relevant and intersteting to the new students. It is through her knowledge that Allison will be able to supply iCREATE with the flowcharts for each customer journey.

Matthew Morgan, IT Officer at the University

Matthew will work closely with Chris to make sure the Universities CMS (Tridion) is re-structured to provide the systematic content/data management that the game requires. Matthew will report to Chris and Chris will keep Allison informed that all technical requirements are on track.


Project plan (4): Copyright and licencing

Project plan


We will happily share our work with all other HE/FEs.

Blog Licence
We are using the Creative Commons - Attribution-Sharealike license for our blog and this is posted on each blog page. Will will share all outputs via our University website.

Code Licence
For the code we release this under a BSD License.

Data licence
For any data we will release this under PPDL license.


Project plan (3): Risk analysis

Table 1 Project Risks






Loss of key personnel




There has been a change in the personnel involved (Beebe Chen has re-located). Allison Ridge and Debbie Cooke are now the new project
leaders. Both have delivered many high profile projects both for the university and elsewhere.

Project is over ambitious




Unlikely. The project is estimated to take 12 weeks based on
iCREATE’s timings. If we begin on 1st April this gives us 22 weeks to new launch date of 31 Aug.

Organisational strategy changes




Senior management commitment to the plan makes this unlikely.

Technical problems with connecting to systems




This project is based on existing sound technology. Any issues in this risk area are likely to be minor.

Cultural issues




No adverse objections have been raised to date, however some objections are inevitable and these will be addressed ASAP to when they
are raised.

Failure to communicate and promote to audience




A comms plan will be out in place to actively communicate the game to students. Comms to be sent out week 1 of September in
preparation for enrolment a few weeks later.

Table 2 Game Risks




Games interface is not ready and working on time

This could cause the project to be delayed in launch until 2012’s intake of students

Constant weekly updates from I-Create. Monthly blogs. Meetings should keep the project on track

Incorrect or confusing information sent out in the letter

Hard to get users playing and interacting with the game

Unlikely as the Head of Marketing is now one of the project leaders. All information before it goes live will need final sign
off/approval by key parties

Communications issues

Miss communication about what it’s for and about. This could lead to students having issues with the functionality and the usefulness
of the game overall.

Make sure all parties are clear what this is.
Project leader’s to showcase this at key stages at management meetings to keep buy in high.

Success plan

Table 3 Success Risks



Too many students log on and the game crashes.

Web Manager will make sure all relevant functionality is in place to make sure this doesn’t happen. Any success will be managed
appropriately. As a University we are used to running competitions on-line which cause spikes in traffic so we do not envisage any
successes to be able to be viewed negatively


Project plan (2): Benefits

Institutional benefits

By receiving the funding Staffordshire University will be able to start the project.

A re-usable web application that could be rolled out across our website.

Qualitative benefits are being able to test this system out on new starters before deciding, (depending on its success) whether this should be rolled out university wide.

It is hoped it will make the website more customer focused and intuitive. This will allow us to gain credibility in the university sector and will further add to our 'reputation in the real world' brand thought as testament to being ahead of the curve with our thinking.

This will allow Staffordshire University to be one of the first Universities to showcase this technology.

It will allow a new project team to form a relationship which should increase transfer of knowledge across departments.

Community benefits

The University will ensure that Alternative Reality Game (ARG) is made available as required by JISC to other institutions (as required by JISC's Open Source principles).

IPR access to information will be free at the point of use and access to data will also be free to UK FE, HE and the Research community in perpetuity and in accordance to JISC's Open Access and/or JISC's Open Source Software Policy.
To share, on a proactive arrangemnet information and have open discussions with Southhampton University, University of Oxford and Coventry University.

Benefits to both

To provide, in the form of a survery the results from the launch and website traffic figures, this research/survey should evidence the success of the project.



Project plan (1): Aims and objectives

  • To develop a prototype Alternate Reality Game (ARG) that allows 'new students' to Staffordshire University to view our mainly passive information led web content. It will allow new students to understand what exists on campus beyond their immediate faculty. It allows them to familiarise themselves with both campuses not just the one they will be studying at. It will allow them to see where, for example the Accommodation Office and Finance Office are, where buildings are located, where faculties are, what other facilities the campus has - (cash machines, Student Union, cinema, cafes, library, chaplaincy) in a fun, interactive and stimulating way.
  • Make our website more customer focused and interactive by re-designing URIs to bridge to the the Alternative Reality Game (ARG) and to make our CMS system allow for systematic content/data management. The key developments include: website structure in hierarchical data model, user journey in mind map, URI syntax, HTML + RDFa pages and ARG .
  • Produce (via photography and mapping technology) a 3D image of our campuses.
  • Use mind mapping for information and journeys via distinctive sub sets of students, e.g. local/international. This information will be derived from an understanding of the FAQs students ask. These can then be mapped within our ARG.


  • To produce the project on time and on budget
  • To be relevant to the audience
  • To keep key stakeholders informed on progress as it develops
  • To provide relevant, well thought through mind map information to our creative partner to make sure the ARG is stimulating, relevant, rewarding and sticky to our audience.
  • To allow for future creative and technical developments to be added at a later date - such as improvements to the Avatars and internal imagery.
  • To, via JISC roll this prototype out to other HE/FE's
  • To improve the users experience on-line
  • To maximise the effectiveness of our content management system, (CMS).
  • To programme our URLs and URIs in such a way that they can be pulled out at the right moment within the game by the player
  • To re-organise our URIs according to a specially designed URI syntax


To provide a University Alternate Reality Game (ARG) that can be re-badged and used as a basis for other institutions to make their web copy more customer focused and relevant.

It is a proven fact that we retain more information when we are obliged to interact with it and seek it out, as opposed to be presented with static and passive content. Our game will allow students to navigate around the virtual University world, digesting information in a visual way, absorbing the key messages and clicking on highlights to find out more.

Staffordshire University would like to provide JISC with an open approach to ensure both the details of the project and the results are shared among other institutions. It is hoped the model and methodology will be easy to understand, integrate and tailor.

To provide Staffordshire University with a bespoke product that will maximise CMS and could, if successful be rolled out to other areas of the website.