Today we presented our second project prototype. At this point I feel more confident about our project’s progress, because we have figured out the majority of the hardest implementation problems and from now on it is mostly a matter of populating the application’s framework with content and refining its features and appearance.

The things we focused on implementing for this prototype were the physical tokens and the basic screen transitions. Currently, the application exhibits most of the fundamental functionalities we described in our earlier prototype session. The planet tokens interact correctly with the surface, and the image of each planet on the surface can be manipulated by touch. The planet will also “activate” when it is over its correct orbit ring, allowing the user to travel to the planet’s surface using the rocket ship and astronaut tokens.

There are still some things that need to be fixed, such as the fact that the planet images persist even when switching modes, but that can be easily done– I actually already have methods that deal with this, but did not have time to figure out where in the program they needed to be invoked.

The main challenges we ran into were retrieving the coordinates of elements on the canvas (like the planets) and writing accurate hit testing methods. We investigated some methods provided by the Surface API, like VisualTreeHelper.HitTest, but did not have much success with them, so we basically had to write these from scratch by determining whether the coordinates of a planet’s image were in a certain range of points, and while this would probably work fine if the hit-test area were a rectangle, because the hit testing region is in the form of an ellipse, it’s not very precise. It would probably be better if the rings were shaped in perfect circles, but that would not be an accurate depiction of the solar system, so I’m not sure which is better.

As for the tokens, we tried using different materials to convey the physical properties of the planets. We added fluffy coverings to Jupiter and the other gaseous planets to imitate their gaseous state. When it comes time to make the actual tokens for the final product, we’ll add the right colors and put weights into the tokens that represent denser planets.

For our next steps we will choose three interesting planets and fully implement an experience for each one, since we don’t have time to do all eight. We are probably going to go with Mercury, Mars, and Jupiter, though I think Saturn might be more interesting than Mercury.

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