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Question: Why doesn’t the app track the position of the visible sky and enforce the rule that surveys and targets can only be performed on sectors in the visible sky?

Answer: Our main guiding principle with the app integration is that we do not want the app to get in the way of what the players are trying to do. We want the app to have as much flexibility to meet the players’ needs in a wide variety of scenarios. With that in mind, the app does not enforce what sectors are visible. Imagine the following scenarios:

  • What if your phone dies in the middle of a game and you get a different device? You can just start using the app right where you left off. (If it tracked the visible sky, you’d have to re-enter all your actions again to get back to where you were.)
  • What if you conduct a survey and tap quickly through the screen without processing the result? You can just re-enter the survey again. (If it tracked the visible sky, you couldn’t just re-enter it. You’d have to find some workaround, like close the app or get another device and then re-enter all your earlier scans again.)
  • What if two players are using the app? That’s no problem if the app isn’t tracking the visible sky. (If it tracked the visible sky, the app has to know how many players are using it and which player is currently using it to know which section of the sky is visible for that player.)
  • The problem of knowing the number of players is compounded if the number of players using a device changes. What if my phone dies and I want to start sharing yours with you? That’s also no problem. (If the app tracked the visible sky, there would have to be a way to tell the app that another player has started using it.)
  • There is one element that the app doesn’t need to know about right now: the time penalties if you are wrong during peer review. You can simply move your playing piece on the board right now to track that. (If the app tracked the visible sky, you’d have to tell the app about the penalty.)

All this would add complexity to the interface, provide opportunities for the app to get in the way, and introduce more places for players to make mistakes in keeping the app synchronized with the game state. I have played games with apps that just fail if the phone dies or the app crashes; you have to start over. In our early playtesting, we had a version of the software that tracked the visible sky more closely. We had built “Go Back” buttons and other escape valves the players could use to recover in case something went wrong, but they were missed too often. It is painful to watch a group’s game ruined because they can’t figure out how to keep the app in synch with the game state. In that case, the app prevented them from doing what they needed to do: the app got in their way.

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