Bringing The Higher Lower Game to Amazon Echo

April 24, 2017

The Higher Lower Game has had a great success across web and app platforms. It has been played over half a billion times in all corners of the globe.

With the release of Amazon Echo, we saw an opportunity to explore a new context for the game. This set us up with a fascinating design challenge. How do you make a game that relies heavily on visual cues, with just speech and voice?  

Interestingly, the game started out 'verbally' across the desks at Code: 'Who gets searched for more, Kanye or Beyonce?'. At the time, it seemed trivial turning that into a screen based game. It turns out that that was a challenge in itself. We aimed to get the interface communicating the question and game mechanic as clearly and quickly as possible. After a lot of iteration and testing, the game could be played without any instruction.

The game UI could be understood immediately.  This was vital in making the game accessible to a broad spectrum of people. It also heavily informed how we communicated the game via Alexa. We knew we had a strong foundation on how to present the questions. We had yet to find out how that would translate to a voice based interaction.  

The format of the question seems to work well, but here is a list of all the challenges we faced:

  • Alexa will sometimes misunderstand the user or will pick up other voices from the surroundings. This can cause frustration when playing the game so we've had to be mindful of this when constructing the voice commands.
  • Some search terms, particularly short ones, are read quite quickly and can be missed if you aren't paying attention. We found it quite important to repeat the first search term at the end of each question.
  • Reading out large numbers can be quite a mouthful for Alexa, especially when you have to hold that number in your head as a reference. We are still working on ways to make the search volume numbers easier to parse. E.g. Half a million is much easy to say and understand, than five-hundred thousand.
  • With no visuals to give user feedback or reward, we had to use Alexa's tone of voice to evoke similar feelings. By making a hilarious trash-talking robot, we found it to be a great way of substituting the GIFs and sassy messaging found on the screen-based game.  

We've got a lot of ideas on how to keep improving the game, such as bringing in custom sound clips when you get past a certain score threshold. Or having party modes where you can set up teams. We're also playing around with a 'confer' mode where Alexa won't listen to you whilst you discuss the question.  Here's a short video of it in action:  

   Visit the skills in the Alexa app to play The Higher Lower Game.

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