Instructions for Marbles world

The experiments you are participating in will test the viability of collaboration through networked 3D models which I have created using VRML 2 and Java 1.02 (you don’t need to know this). You will be sharing a 3D model with 3 other people. As a group, you will define much of what will take place during your participation. Yet, you will only be communicating through mouse clicks. After you are done participating, you will be given a questionnaire to provide feedback about your experience.

There is some information you will want to absorb before participating in this simulation. Since you are participating with 3 other people, it is important that everyone has a good understanding of what is taking place. Else, you could make the experience unpleasant for everyone. You will not know who is in control of which objects in the world except your own nor will you know how certain decisions have been made. Since you will be connected to a server and the server plays no favorites, you can be sure you will have the same opportunities as every other participant to control what takes place during the simulation.

There will be time for questions from all participants before we start. Please make a list of questions you want to ask at that time. For now though, please read this document in its entirety. Many of the things you can not control during this experimental simulation can be programmed to be in your control for future simulations. Write down your suggestions as you think of them as I am very interested in your thoughts.

Simulation Objective

Your objective is to work collaboratively with 3 other participants to get four marbles to reach ten goals in the shortest amount of time possible.

Simulation Background

When you first arrive at the simulation, you may see two windows, the model window and the rules window. At the start, there are 2 objects in the model window and a smaller window asking you a question, "How long to make choices?" I will cover the model window first then the rules window. It is possible that you will not see the rules window at all during your participation. You should NOT try to interact with the windows until you have seen a quick marble test which consists of four white marbles running in the model window. Wait for those marbles to stop on their own (they will disappear). The marbles test calibrates the computer you are using with the rest of the computers active in the simulation.

The Model Window

In the model window, the largest object you are looking at is a top view of a painted piece of wood. The wood (also called the board) is painted with 4 triangles colored red, blue, yellow, and green. You will be one of these four colors during the simulation. Above the piece of wood is a turn cube. The turn cube initially shows you your color. When you have noted which color marble is under your control, you can click on the turn cube to see the 4 marbles and the 10 goals of the simulation (the gray dots on the wood). The turn cube’s color changes to show whose turn it is (red goes first). You can not change which color you are. The piece of wood slants in four different directions during the simulation. Any object not glued to the wood will move in the direction of the slant. Your presence in the simulation will be represented by a marble on top of the piece of wood. You will be trying to direct the marbles during the simulation to reach an objective (to be discussed shortly).

You may have the ability to change the slant of the piece of wood during the simulation when it is your turn. Your turn comes whenever the turn cube (at the top of the model window) is the color of your marble. When you first arrive at the model, the turn cube will be your color. Make note of your marble color. You change the slant of the wood by clicking on the board on a colored triangle. The green triangle slants the board toward the green region of the board (top); the blue triangle slants the board toward the blue region (right) of the board; the yellow triangle slants the board toward the yellow region (bottom): and, the red triangle slants the board toward the red region (red). You will be very interested in which direction the board slants at any time. You will be able to see as many as the next 4 scheduled slant changes (4 is maximum). The upcoming slants will appear to the left of the board during the simulation. The bottom most slant object shows the next upcoming slant. When that bottom slant becomes active, a new slant may appear at the top of the slants and the other slants will move downward. The slant controls are never empty. If you do not select a slant during your turn (when the turn cube appears in your color), which lasts the duration of the active slant, the server selects one for you and it becomes another participant’s turn.

There is a region to the right of the board which will show you objects during the simulation. I call that the palette. The palette is a place where you select objects during the simulation. The palette holds 2 types of objects: Obstacles and Effects.

Obstacles represent objects you put on the board to interact with the simulation. You use the objects to help you reach the goals the group has set for the simulation. Each object has its own embedded physics which define how it behaves during the simulation. You will want to be familiar with all the obstacles should you be asked to choose which ones you want to use to your advantage when building the simulation board (by placing them on top of the piece of wood). Those details appear in this document later on.

Effects represent temporary behaviors you give to the marble under your control during the simulation. For example, you may want to make your marble bigger for a period of time. In that case, you can request that the Marble Grower effect be added to your palette during the simulation. You can then choose to use it at an appropriate time. You will choose up to 7 effects for an active simulation round.

To use an object in the palette, you click on it with your mouse. It will become active at that time if the time is appropriate based on the rules of the simulation. You will need to understand why palette items are active only during certain times.

The Rules Window

There are 25 possible questions that may appear in the rules window where the "How much time for choices?" question appears initially. The Rules window is where you and the other 3 participants may define how the model behaves and what the goals of the simulation are. You will not change which question is being asked at which time. The server serves questions to you based on the previous responses by all participants. As you are served a new question, you will see the result of the previous one. You will want to make note of the answers to questions. Every participant in the simulation has an equal say in deciding the answer to each question.

To answer the question "How Much Time to Make Choices?", you choose between 9 options, all of which are present at the same time as a checkbox list. You choose by clicking on the checkbox below the text of the choice you want to choose. Assume you choose "20 seconds" as your answer. The server may then serve you the next question and the text "15 seconds to choose". This feedback tells you that as a result of everyone’s answers you only have 15 seconds to make up your mind on any given question. If you do not respond within the 15 seconds, you will lose the ability to have any input to that group decision.

The Rounds

You participate through various rounds in the simulation. This section defines the different rounds. There are four different types of rounds.

A rules round takes place as a series of questions provided to you in the rules window. The answers to the questions significantly effect how the simulation behaves. You can write down some of the information if you need to.

A design round takes place as a series of building events. Depending on the current rules, you may be able to add an obstacle to the board. If so, you will be taking equal turns with the other participants. You can add an object to the board when the turn cube (above the board) is the same color as your marble. You add an obstacle to the board by clicking on an obstacle in the palette, dragging it with the mouse from the lower left corner where it initially appears, and then clicking on the turn cube to send that obstacle to everyone else (and passing the turn to the next participant). Please be prompt in taking your design turn in order to keep others from becoming bored or frustrated.

An effects round takes place as a series of palette object choices. Depending on the current rules, you will be able to choose 7 effects for use in the next Active round (defined next paragraph). The list of available effects may or may not change from one effects round to the next. You choose effects by clicking on them in the palette. After every participant has chosen 7 effects, the effects round ends and the palette changes to reflect your choices.

An active round is where the simulation comes alive. The board begins slanting, the marbles start moving, and your effects become active as you select them. Borders are added to the piece of wood. The borders color becomes your color to remind you of which marble is under your control. The active round is where you succeed or fail based on the rules set by the group. Remember that you want to work with others to reach all the goals in the shortest time frame. A goal will turn from gray to green when it has been secured. If a goal is green, there is no reason to visit it again. You can watch the counter on the status bar to see how often the slant is changing (its duration is fixed), how long effects are staying active, and to get a sense of the speed of your marble. The counter shows the cumulative number of frames that have passed during the active round. The rules dictate when an active round ends. After an active round, you will get a score to provide you with feedback on your participation.


Scoring is very straightforward. You score one point for each goal you have secured during the simulation. You also get points for how quickly you reached the goals. Others groups will participate with the same rules and board model to try to outperform your group.

Obstacle Details

There are seven obstacles you can use when designing the board layout described here in the order they appear in the palette:
Purple Sphere - Glues a sphere on the board which is the same size as a marble.
Horizontal Stick - Glues a horizontal stick on the board
Vertical Stick - Glues a vertical stick on the board
Diagonal Stick 1 - Glues a diagonal stick on the board
Diagonal Stick 2 - Glues a diagonal stick on the board
Shrinking Sphere - Glues a sphere which shrinks and grows during the simulation
Pendulum - Glues the top of a swinging pendulum to the board.

You need to think about how best to use these obstacles to help you reach goals faster

Effects Details

There are six effects you can use to control your marble during an active round, described here in the order they appear in the palette:
Fly Through - Flies your marble through any obstacles in its way except the border and goals.
Anti Gravity - Moves your marble in the opposite direction of the current slant’s gravity.
Stop - Stops your marble for a period of time.
Goal Grabber - Lets you grab a goal from someone else and give it to yourself.
Add an Obstacle - Lets you add an obstacle during the active simulation
Marble Grower - Lets you grow your marble to twice its diameter

Rules Details

'How Much Time To Make Choices?' asks you to choose how long participants should get to answer a question. After that time period, their answers are ignored.

'How Often Should Slant Change?' asks you to choose how often the wood changes its slant.

'How Many Frames for the Queue Lag?' asks you to choose how long the delay should be before an effect becomes active. 'How Many Frames is Event Active?' asks you to choose how long a selected effect should remain active.

'How High Gravity?' asks you to choose how strong the pull of gravity should be on the marbles.

'How High Restitution?' asks you to choose how much energy is lost when marbles collide with other objects.

'How High Mass?' asks you to choose how much mass the marbles should have. All obstacles have medium mass.

'How High Viscosity?'asks you to choose how much friction exists between the board and the marbles (higher viscosity means marbles slow down more while moving over the board).