Christmas Day games

A TIPi treat for clients and suppliers

John Campbell

Managing Director & Co founder

To get in the Christmas spirit, each year TIPi Group (Rabbit & Pork are one of four agencies in the group) send out a small gift to our clients, suppliers and industry friends to thank them for the past year of partnership. In previous years, we’ve sent out hampers, tableware and portable battery packs, but this year we wanted to do something a little bit different. To celebrate a year of Rabbit & Pork, and reflecting current trends of consumers craving experiences over mere physical objects, we built an Alexa Skill – ‘Christmas Day Games’ – as a digital experience to accompany each Echo Dot we distributed to our partners. Below we’ve walked through our process, from concept to delivery.

1. Concept

Our first task was to decide on the concept of our Alexa Skill; what it would do, how it would work, what content would be required, how the recipient would know how to open the skill and how could we add in an incentive to ensure people used it. After a couple of meetings with the wider TIPi Group marketing team, we created the following concept:

The skill will contain three different types of games to be played by all on Christmas day, voiced over by members of the TIPi Group, with a leaderboard to track the players score. The three games will be based around movie quotes, toys of the year and riddles. The top scorer at the end of the month would win a prize. As we are sending the Echo Dots ourselves, we can include a sticker with the invocation phrase to help our recipients efficiently install the Skill and begin their experience. 

2. Design

We wanted to keep the game engine simple for people to play. We also wanted this to be a game that multiple people could play at once. Often there can be multiple people in the house on Christmas day so we made a couple of specific design decisions on how the game would work.

  • We wouldn’t use a “how many players are there” and then have turns, as if you have more than four people in the room it can make the game really slow to play e.g. there are five questions per round, so with five people that’s a total of 25 questions just to finish one round which would take too long. Instead the game just defaulted into the playing mode.
  • When the question would be given to the user, we wouldn’t open the mic immediately and require a response. Instead music would play and then the user would say “Alexa” and then give their answer. There were several reasons for this, first some of the questions are hard so you want time to deliberate before answering. Secondly, if there are multiple people in the room, sometimes multiple people can shout the answer which Alexa might not be able to handle. Whereas using the “Alexa”… then stating your answer will result in only one person speaking.

For design, we first scripted out conversations on paper, then created the situation designs for the game engine and then mocked up some sample flows of conversations in Botmock.

3. Purchase

While the design process was going on, we needed to purchase the 105 Echo Dots, with black Friday fast approaching, we decided to wait as it was predicted that the price would drop… It did to £22.99. Queue a bit of a scramble to buy them all, and a couple of days later we had our hardware.

Our huge order of Echo Dots

4. Development

Onto development. For this project we decided to give Litexa a spin. Litexa is a new language and framework released by the Alexa Games team specifically for games. You can read our blog by our Developer Katherine on Litexa.

There were five main components to the development

  1. Create game logic engine
  2. Duplicate and amend game engine for all three game types
  3. Create and load in content – all the questions and answers
  4. Integrate the leaderboard system – we used Amazon GameOn system which does all of the
  5. Add in rich audio content

5. Audio Recording

To bring the skill to life and add a personal touch, we decided to voice over the game using our own staff members. Plus, we knew that having voice over can result in improved interaction with games, rather that using the synthesized Alexa voices. We decided on the following format.

  • Ollie our Group CEO & Founder would voice over the opening and closing of the skill
  • We would split each game introduction, Paige (SEO Team Director at ROAST) for toy of the year, Lily (Office Manager at TIPi Group) for movie quotes and myself (Managing Director & Co-Founder at Rabbit & Pork) for the riddles
  • We then would handover to Alexa to read out the questions and answers

We then loaded in hundreds of questions, as it wasn’t feasible to record all the questions ourselves. However, using the handover system still achieved the personalised touch we wanted.

6. Testing

Behind design, the second most important part of building Alexa Skills is testing. For this, we were able to call upon the wider TIPi Group members – placing one of the Echos in a meeting room for the day and getting people to come in and test our game.

Testing time in the office

We were able to track interactions using custom tracking and then simply recorded the audio from sessions to then make fixes later.

7. Putting it all together

With the game ready to go and the office full of the Echo Dots, we just needed to bring it all together. Our plan was to accompany each device with a small instruction card and place a sticker on the underside of each Echo dot with the invocation phrase to remind our recipients of the phrase to open the skill. Each was then wrapped up, boxed up, and sent with a card to our recipients and in the original box (got to recycle!).

 

Echo Dots all packaged up and ready to send

Echo Dots all packaged up and ready to send

The instructions / Christmas card were included in the box

The instructions / Christmas card were included in the box

Stickers with the invocation phrase

Stickers with the invocation phrase

 

You can head over to the Skill Store to enable and play.

Results

We handed out the Echo Dots in the week before Christmas to the recipients and within a few days already we saw the skill being enabled, interaction with the game and high scores being posted on the GameOn dashboard.

Most importantly we received multiple thank you messages from clients for the device and comments on our expert voice over skills!

 

John Campbell

Managing Director & Co founder

John founded Rabbit & Pork as the fourth agency and Voice Experience arm of TIPi Group. John has developed and launched several Google Actions and Skills, presented at several voice events around the UK, spoken on the VUX podcast and authored multiple whitepapers.
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Rabbit & Pork are part of TIPi Group