Sunday, February 14, 2010

Is Trivia Trivial?

The enhanced version of history bomb has been posted on Blazing Games. My rant on efficient programming will continue next week, this week I am going to talk a bit about trivia as the game just releases is a type of trivia game.

On the surface, trivia games seem to be something that is easy to create. As someone who has written a fair number of them, some for third parties, my knowledge of the subject is fairly high. Programming a trivia game is in fact very simple. The game logic for a trivia game is in fact trivial to write. The server-side database/score handling and the user interface were what took up the vast majority of time. This makes sense when you think about it as ultimately trivia is just a variation of the simplest of all computer games. That game being the pick-a-number game. The difference is that the numbers are answers and random numbers are used to scramble the potential answers. There is one thing that makes the trivia games on my site different from the third-party games that I have written. For the third-party games I wrote, I didn't have to come up with questions.

Coming up with the questions for a trivia game may sound simple but it is a fairly time-consuming process. First you need to come up with a subject that you think that the people playing the game will be interested in that you also have some knowledge of. Next you have to come up with a question. This would be similar to writing a question for a test, except the question has to fit a particular format. In Trivia Bomb it was a simple multiple-choice question. History Bomb, on the other hand, is a sorted list. I will say that multiple-choice is much easier to come up with questions as one only needs to make sure his or her answer is correct then come up with wrong answers. Sure, it is time consuming, but it is very flexible. Lists requires finding something that has a distinct order to it. Then verifying that order. In some cases, this meant not only researching the subject, but then having to do additional research on each item on the list.

The bright side, though, is that the extended version of History Bomb has no time limit for its development. When the game-in-a-day pressure is removed, researching questions was much more enjoyable though probably even more time consuming. What trivia-question-writers probably don't want you to know is that just diving into a subject to verify facts often leads to much further exploration of a topic. I suppose there is the obvious "looking for other potential questions" excuse.

While coming up with questions is not hard work, it is time consuming work. Still, when creating a trivia game, it is probably best to remember that the questions are going to have to be created (unless you do the low-life thing and steal questions from other people). When I play a trivia game in the future, I am going to remember that each question probably took far longer to create then I will ever spend answering it.

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