Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ideas for using trivia resources

Dave and Devon discuss what they might do with the trivia boardgames being collected.

Dave: When I bought the first trivia game -- Trivial Pursuit, the main purpose was to collect trivia games to use them as information resources. In other words, I'm treating them like books on cards.

Devon: Then we found out there are too many editions of TP to get them all, and in fact there were many other trivia games available. There were trivia categories that we had little interest in. So getting "all" trival games was not practical given budget and storage limitations.

Dave: I found that I have more interest in the science questions, and had an spark of an idea to use them for personal projects. So the purchase criteria focused on getting games with Science questions. The current plan is to do an online quiz or a question of the day generator for websites.

Devon: Or maybe even a simple game in Perl. That might lead to an interactive kiosk application that could be useful as an activity station in a learning centre or in a science centre.

Dave: The first major hurdle is entering the questions. Manual data entry is very resource intensive. Scanning might be useful, but my OCR program isn't very good.

Devon: Practical consideration aside, what about making our own trivia game, using the existing cards as the source of questions. It could be a general trivia game, just plug in your own questions.

Dave: That's sounds like a very good project idea. We always have opinions about other people's game design, so it's time to walk in another pair of shoes.

Devon: Another idea, if we have the proper storage environment, is to display the boxes of cards along side the reference books, treating them like printed sources of trivia.

Dave: Would there be any copyright issues involved in using the questions in our own product?

Devon: Trivia represent known facts, and cannot be copyrighted. Using an entire collection verbatim might be a problem, but using a combination from different sources is just ordinary research and data gathering. After all, when the trivia questions were created they came from different sources too.

Dave: It is the game design and gameplay that can fall under copyright. But the general concept of answering trivia questions for points is a well known idea already.

Devon: So the first question would be "When did the first edition of Science Trivia Universe first appear?"

Monday, July 21, 2008

Trivia games that got away

Dave and Devon reflect on the trivia games that they didn't collect.

Devon: We hesitated on certain trivia board games, which were then promptly snapped up by our competitors. On hindsight, some of them could have been worthwhile buys.

Dave: How true. The Da Vinci Quest was one such game. With categories such as Genius and the Grail, People Places, Faith and Fable, and Quest Curiosities, it encompassed science, religion and mysticism all in one theme.

Devon: The geography game was another interesting one. It used geographic trivia, flags of the world, world map locations, and captial cities as categories. Geography buffs may be the only ones who know enough to play it.

Dave: Ditto for the Chapters game, where you need to have read a large collection of books, or manage a bookstore or library, to answer the variety of questions.

Devon: Then there are other category specific ones based on Friends, SNL, and sports that we didn't even open. I think there was also one for Lord of the Rings.

Dave: One family oriented trivia game has two questions on each side of the card, both on the same category. The top one is easier and meant for kids, while the more difficult one is on the bottom for adults.

Devon: How about the slew of "over priced" Trivial Pursuits such as the DVD edition, 20th anniversary edition or Millennium edition. There were only $3-$6 higher than average, but that was enough to lower the value proposition below our comfort zone.

Dave: But we did get the Junior edition and also Table Talk (food themed) and they only had about 1200 questions, so their value was actually less than the pricier ones. The value rationale may need a little fine-tuning.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Elements of a good trivia game

With a slowing growing collection of trivia board games but not any actual gameplay, Dave and Devon conjecture about what makes a good trivia game.

Devon: Although factors such as gameplay and design are important issues, I think the most vital part is the trivia questions themselves.

Dave: I agree. When one plays a trivia game, it really comes down to the challenge of answering the questions. The game Super Quiz even omits the board and pieces, and highlights that as an advantage of being able to be played anywhere.

Devon: I like questions that you can almost answer right, but still has to put some thought into it.

Dave: Questions can't be too easy, but also can't be too obscure. That's the challenge of fact based questions. If it is too field specific, only specialists can answer. One example was the Chapters boardgame, where one really needs to be very well read, or work as a librarian, to get many of the questions. At least that's what I thought as someone who's not into fiction, literature or history. Likewise trivia based on sports or a particular media series (e.g. Friends, Lord of the Rings) have very segmented appeal -- you have to like both the topic and playing trivia.

Devon: The generation based questions have a similar disadvantage. If you grew up during that era, then you can relate to many of the questions. But everyone else would be completely stumped. This almost shows that it is difficult to have a trivia game that appeals to the general population.

Dave: There are several things that help with alleviating the difficulty of the questions. One is to put hints in the question itself to help trigger your memory. Jeopardy does a good job of that. Some games split questions into easy and hard categories, which I think is a nice way too. Another way is to use multiple choice questions. And as for the problem of having to score in every category, I saw a game where you have to get N credits, where each category is limited to a max of 2 or 3 credits. This is a nice way to overcome being stronger in some categories and weaker in others.

Devon: There's also brain teaser type of questions used in Mindtrap and Wit's End. They are more problem solving oriented rather than fact oriented. That transcends the generation and knowledge issues, but could put-off those who hate problem solving.

Dave: Gameplay also plays a minor role in enjoying the game. TP allows another turn when a correct answer is given, which allows one person extended play while others are just waiting. One way to overcome that is to stop the turn when a wedge is obtained.

Devon: Interestingly, the game In Pursuit, by the makers of Trivia Pursuit, does away with the wedges altogether. Instead, it is a race by 2 teams, but at the end only the "team leader" will win. On your turn, you ask the question to the other team, and one team will move ahead depending on the correctness of the ansewr. This speeds up gameplay, keeps more people involved, and makes for a good mix of teamwork and an internal race.

Dave: The games Psychologizer and TP Bet You Know It have you predicting other player's guess, but uses a wager amount to reflect the confidence of your answer. That adds an interesting element to the voting process.

Devon: And the game Numaro has all numeric answers, and everyone makes a guess. The person who is closest to move ahead. This is good because you can be way off, but as long as you are closer you still have a chance.

Dave: As with game design and play testing, one has to play the game to get a feel to see if the rules work out as well as they seem on paper.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Bargain hunting price inconsistencies

With the recent discovery of possible competitors to Dave and Devon's quest for question based boardgames, the plot takes another unexpected turn with ... betrayal!

(Dave and Devon had just returned from an excursion from a thrift store)

Devon: I still can't believe those prices... and such limited selection of games.

Dave: I'm surprised too. I thought stores from the same chain would have similar pricing. The store close to our house was the one that had TP and other games for $2. Yet the same stores, albeit in a more upscale neighborhood, were selling games for $5-$6.

Devon: And those were the same games that the "big corporate store" were selling for $3. Perhaps we have aligned ourselves with the wrong axis.

Dave: It could be most larger chains are expensive, and our nearby store is a renegade. I noticed that they have a "sub-lease" sign out right now. So they are probably not making enough money to cover the rent.

Devon: That makes for an interesting dilemma. We like the nearby store because of their lower prices. But to help them survive we have to want to pay higher prices, which makes them no different than other stores. But if they don't survive then we have to shop in the more expensive stores anyways. So either way we have to pay more. The only difference is whether the store is one block or ten minutes drive away.

Dave: But let's also remember that the games are still at least 1/4 of what the regular retail price would be, if they were still available.

Devon: I wonder if our expectations would be the same if we bought the first TP game for $4 instead.

Bargain hunting competitors

In the fiercely competitive, dog-eat-dog world of bargain hunting high drama, I've portrayed myself and my alter ego Devon as the protagonists. But for each protagonist there must also be an antagonist. And now, I sense a disturbance in the force. There maybe another...

Devon: What gave you the suspicion that we have a competitor?

Dave: In the past several weeks, we've made multiple trips to the thrift stores. I've noticed what was still on the shelf, and what was disappearing within days. And it is the uncommon question-based boardgames that are moving fast. Take for example the geography game that we looked at but didn't get.

Devon: That was an interesting one. It had four types of questions: geography trivia, capitals, flags, and map locations. I had wanted to get that because of its uniqueness and educational value, but you thought our geography knowledge was too weak to fully appreciate it.

Dave: In hindsight, you were right. That game was gone in a few days. The Da Vinci boardgame was another example, with categories in covering both science, religion and mysticism, and the renaissance.

Devon: The reason we didn't get it was because of the price, $6 for around 800 questions. The question/dollar ratio from TP really have spoiled us.

Dave: That game too was gone in a few days. So someone with a bigger budget is snatching these up.

Devon: Maybe it was just general moving of the merchandise.

Dave: But there are two telltale signs from what didn't move. The standard items such as Scrabble and Clue Jr are still there. Common question based games such as TP1, Balderdash, Pictionary, Outburst are still there.

Devon: So it is the uncommon question based games that go fast. Just like what happens when we visit.

Dave: Someone has the same interest as us. And remember the stack of TP's and the People Magazine boardgame in the other store. They were also gone relatively fast.

Devon: Must it be the work of a single person? Perhaps there is no conspiracy and it is just a bunch of regular shoppers picking up the good stuff.

Dave: If it was just regular people, I would be surprised if they all focus on the same genre of games. This would mean I underestimated how popular trivia games are. But the decline of trivia games seem to contradict that view. And the worst case scenario is that there are several trivia hunters out there.

Devon: Wow, I never thought a $1 purchase could lead into such intrigue and tension.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

thoughts while browsing in a thrift store

Is there any etiquette for bargain hunting?

When you are looking at several boardgames, is it OK for someone pickup something that you have just put down, but intend to look at again while you think about it? Is it consider greedy to hang on to several items, knowing that you'll buy only one or none, just to keep other greedy hands away? The term bargain hunting says it all -- it is a hunt and the survival of the fittest. Do what you have to do before your competitors do it to you. For example, I was look at the game Tri-Bond, where you are given three things and have to find out what they have in common. I was undecided because some of the questions are generation specific. Not wanting to be a hog, I put the game back on the shelf while I pondered and browsed, then someone else came and picked it up. Evidently careful consideration of budgetary spending and showing consideration for your fellow human beings means getting trampled. Next time I'm hiding the box behind other stuff...

What's with the sealed boxes of games?

If I'm going to part with my hard earned dollar (or four in the case of big corporate thrift stores such as "VV") then by gosh I'll want to make sure I'm getting all the parts in some reasonable condition. I understand the stores want to keep the parts from spilling all over the shelf from uncaring browsers, but taped up boxes just mean I'll either ignore it, or more likely covertly take the tape apart so I can check the contents. I've seen a box of pentominoes that had one of the twelve pieces missing, and the store VV was still selling it for $2 like it was an untarnished item. If they have a reasonably knowledgable staff that can price boardgames from $2 to $10, then surely they can quality check better or price incomplete stuff appropriately.

Where's the really good games?

I have yet to see top-rated games such as Carcassonne in a thrift store. Is is because those games are so good and replayable that no one gives them away? Or so popular that they are instantly snatched up by boardgame-savvy public? Or is the distribution for those games so limited that not many people even have it? I suspect it is a combination of the first and last reasons. I've never seen Carcassonne in my local ToysRUs (though they did have Settlers of Catan), and a collectible store only had it for a little while. I consider myself lucky for finding Amazeing Labyrinth and Numaro (2007) for a bargain.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

trivia questions in bulk

My alter ego Devon and I had a chat about my developing love-hate relationship with thrift stores.

Devon: I thought bargain shopping is all about thrill of the hunt. When did it become an emotional issue?

Dave: In visiting nearby thrift stores, I've noticed these stores can also reflect typical issues in retail marketing. One example is the difference in the "little guy" vs "big corporation". The stores operated by non-profit organizations tend to be smaller, have less selection, but lower prices. For example, one table for boardgames, and most are fifty cents to two dollars. The stores operated by multi-national companies are bigger, have more selection, and higher prices. For example, several shleves of boardgames, with prices ranging from three to ten dollars.

Devon: I see, so it comes down to money. You want good stuff for less, but reality is based on getting you to pay more for less.

Dave: It's closer to say it comes down to value. When I bought the first Trival Pursuit (6000 questions) for $1 in a smaller store, that's good value. That's 6000 questions per dollar (Q/$). Even if I only want one category such as science, that still works out to 1000 Q/$. Then came TP4 for $1, which is 4800-800 Q/$. In a bigger store, the price starts at $3, so that's a sudden drop in value. I picked up TP6 with 4800 Q's for $4. The value of that ranges from 1200-200 Q/$, which is a big drop from the expectations set by the first two purchases. And TP Millennium edition in the big store was $10, which I did not get. The value of that, assumming 4800 Q's, would be 480-80 Q/$, which is ridiculously low. For comparison, one of the $1 Professor Noggin trivial games I got at a small store, has 30 cards and 180 questions and thus has a already low value of 180 Q/$. Another example is a Da Vinci trivia game at the big store, 800 Q's for $6, which is 133 Q/$.

Devon: But there must be more to trivia boardgames than just questions per dollar.

Dave: There are, such as quality of questions, subject matter, board and game design. But since the core of the game is in the questions, that takes up a significant part of the value equation. And I am in it for building up a collection of trivia reference, so the number of questions really is everything.

Devon: So you love the big store because they have better stuff you want, but you hate to pay a few dollars more?

Dave: Sad to say, that sums it up in a nutshell. Once I was in a store and heard someone haggling with the clerk about how something she bought a week ago was only fifty cents, and now it was a dollar and she refuses to pay that extra fifty cents. At that time I thought such is the pathos of modern life, stressing your neurons for just fifty cents. And now, I emote the same angst over two dollars.

And while I'm on the soapbox, here is another example. The big store had a TP Disney edition, and inside was also the TP2 questions. So I was excited at such a find, until I saw the price. Six dollars. A regular TP with box, board and pieces is $3. So I am actually paying the same price for TP2, but without the board and pieces. Love and hate, such internal drama in a thrift store.