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February 6, 2021 Leave your thoughts

Social Sudoku: project description

Ideas from Parham Bahrami and Bahador Bahrami

I was thinking today about an idea and I thought about writing it down and asking your opinion about it. You know the Sudoku puzzle, right? Lots of people play it in their free time. Sudoku, like most puzzles, is a private activity. Unlike Jigsaw puzzles that can be the done together with others around a table, Sudoku is not really something you can do together with others. But, I think, it would be a lot of fun if it were possible to play Sudoku socially, together with others. 

I want to find a programmer to help me create a Social Sudoku SO-SU-DO-KU. It will be web-based. And people will be able to play the game together. I want to make a website for Sudoku puzzles. Suppose you and a mutual friend and I want to play a game together. You go to www.sosudoku.com (the website does not yet exist, but i am thinking of registering it) and click on the button that says START A NEW GAME WITH FRIENDS. 

Then it asks you to share a link with your friends. You send the link in WhatsApp our friend and I click. We click on it and go to the same webpage where your game is. Now all three of us are in the same virtual place and ready to start the social sudoku. You press GO! The same Sudoku puzzle is loaded on everyone’s screen and each one of us starts putting in the numbers that we think are the correct answer. 

Cooperative Games

Direct Cooperation

This is similar to how we do a Jigsaw Puzzle on a table when we are all sitting together and talking. Everyone plays together in the same Sudoku grid. For every location, at any given time, there can only be one number. As a result, people see what everyone else has done. If they want to, every player can make changes in any location that s/he wishes. They can fill new sites, or undo the changes made by others by clicking on the location and typing a new number. A group wins when the Sudoku is solved, pretty much similar to when jigsaw puzzle is done.

Democratic Cooperation

Every time you put in a number in your puzzle screen, others do not see your number but the location where you put a number is highlighted on their screens to let them know that you have put a number there. Similarly, if I put a number in some location, that location will be highlighted for you and others, and so on and so fourth. In this way, everyone gets to VOTE about what number to put in every location. Note that no one sees what others have voted for, only that others have voted. The moment all participants has voted in a highlighted location, the app calculates the majority vote (e.g., mode over 9 alternatives) and displays the outcome in that location if there is a winner. If there is no clear winner, for example if 4 players have voted for 4 different alternatives, then no outcome will be displayed but the location will remain highlighted telling people that they need to change something in their vote. The game then continues like this until the group finds the answer. 

Debate Mode

You can have a different game mode, where one player chooses a spot on the board, and then the number that should be put into that spot goes into debate. The numbers appear on the screen in large text, there will be sound effects, and then, each player is asked if they want to say something in the debate by typing in their preferred number.

Players keep in mind, that if their answer is incorrect they’ll lose points, but if they wisely back off, and avoid giving any opinion when they think others have given the right answer already, then their score remains intact. For every correct contribution, the player who has suggested the right answer gets some points. The person who contributes to solving the sudoku the most, gets the highest score.

Debate Mode (Figure by Parham Bahrami)

There could also be chatting and voice messaging options so that people can talk either about the game, or about other things and play at the same time. Trust me, from experience of playing online games with my friends, having the option to chat and hear the other players is important.

Chatting and messaging options (design by Parham Bahrami)

Competitive Games

Simple Competition

Every time you put in a number in your puzzle screen, we do not see your number but the location where you put a number is highlighted on our screens so we know that you have put a number there. Similarly, if i put a number in some location, that location will be highlighted for you and our friend, and so on and so fourth. I do not get to see what number you have put there. I only know that you or/and the other player have put a number there because it is highlighted. In this way, while I am doing the puzzle, I get to see how far the other players are in solving theirs. Whoever finds the correct set of answers to the Sudoku first wins. 

Competition with social influence

Every time you put in a number in your puzzle screen, we do not see your number but the location where you put a number is highlighted on our screens so we know that you have put a number there. Similarly, if i put a number in some location, that location will be highlighted for you and our friend, and so on and so fourth. At this point, I may choose to put a number in the highlighted location in which you already put your number. Note that I have not yet seen what number you have put there. I only know that either you or/and the other player has put a number there because it is highlighted. Now, the moment I put a number in that highlighted location, i can see what number the other people have suggested. For example I type in “3” for a highlighted location and then I see that you have put in 4 and our friend has put in 6. Now I can change my number to 4 if i think that your idea is a better one or keep my number at 3 and continue. So by putting down a number you get the opportunity to see other people’s numbers. The game then continues like this and whoever finds the correct answer to the Sudoku first wins. 

In this way we have created a Social Game that is both competitive (because one person wins and others lose) and cooperative (because every number you put in will be available to others; others can use your calculations to their advantage, also, they might deceive you by putting in misleading numbers). There is also a tension because you can only see other people’s responses if you yourself also put down some number: you will not get to see others’ opinion for free. 

In games like sudoku, some people are just leaps and bounds ahead from others. Since in this game you can see what others have done after you enter your own number in a highlighted area, then if the result of someone’s work turns out to be correct most of the time, I think it will take away motivation from others to keep thinking. On the other hand, it may also turn out that people who are less good at Sudoku can use other people’s opinion as corrective feedback and learn to do better. So competitive game with social influence may prove to be a good way to learn a skill.

One way to make the game more competitive is if the game’s algorithm ranks the players at the end of the game. For this we will need to collect some data to understand the game and develop some way to score people’s performance. That can come at some later stage of the development of the game.

Some Design Questions and Further Ideas

  • If a player starts a debate and wins (that is, suggests the correct number) then they score a lot of points.
  • If you enter someone else’ debate and find the correct answer, then you score EXTRA points, over and above if you had just done your own debate. That is because you have helped someone else avoid a mistake.
  • If you start a debate and end up with a wrong number in the spot, you lose points.
  • If you start a debate and someone else comes in and gives you the correct answer, then also you lose points.
  • If you get into someone else’ debate and offer a wrong answer, you lose a few points (but not a lot).

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