Settlers of Manhattan

Project Title Settlers of Manhattan
App Type
2009.11 / Launched on Playtech event
7scenes platform on Nokia
Locative / Game
Simeon Poulin, Kelly Nichols,
Dong Yoon Park
David Carroll, Colleen Mcklin

Locative game design based on the platform 7scenes by Waag society. the New School for Design in New York City. This project is a product of a semester-long Independent Study at Parsons The study was directed by David Carroll and Colleen Macklin in the Design and Technology program.

The main impetus for the project was to explore new ways to design and prototype locative games that run on mobile platforms to help educate High School-age children about the Dutch Settlers of Manhattan in the early 1600’s.


It is the year 1620. You are a team of settlers working for the Dutch East India Trading Company. You have travelled from Holland to explore and settle an island called Manhattan. You are among the first settlers to reach the island. You need to prepare for the next wave of settlers coming from Holland. There are three ships coming, each with unique needs. You need to gather the resources
they will need before they get here.?

Introduction – Game

Teams are seeking resources. Resources are found in the land between their starting point and the piers where the ships will arrive. They are shown on your map within the 7scenes application. The teams gather the required resources for their ship and meet them at the pier before the other teams.

In addition to finding resources by exploring, teams may also trade for needed resources with other teams of settlers. Teams may send a trade request in 7scenes if they are close enough to the other teams. There are also Trading Post locations in the game. Teams may trade any item they have for any other item. (The rates are higher than trading with other teams though).


After the initial prototypes—where we were primarily concerned with testing the 7scenes application—we turned our attention to the narrative theme of the game. We wanted to focus on the early Dutch exploration and settlement of the island. We felt this provided a rich narrative vein. This is the point where we discussed a resource collection and trade mechanic. The 7scenes application lends itself naturally to this type of game play. Within the narrative of the game, we developed the concept of settling and maintaining a colony of settlers and specifically the resources needed to thrive.

We wanted to distinguish the game from other “settlement” games that had been created in the past. We came up with the concept of diminishing resources. Food and water were resources that early settlers had to be constantly aware of. People needed to stay alive in order to settle! We set out to paper prototype this mechanic by replicating the 7scenes environment as much as possible using simple tools.

Final Design

Through our prototyping and discussions, we realized that we would need to further adapt our game idea to fit the functional possibilities of 7scenes. Mechanisms such as resource depletion that are not already present in 7scenes would require technical solutions that we did not have time to implement and test. To compensate, we adjusted our narrative so that it would fit into the 7scenes
functionality. The teams are now “advanced scouting expeditions” for the Dutch West India Trading Company looking to collect resources in order to help build the new settlement. Each of the three teams has a different focus – Main Settlement(building), Farm Settlement, and Hunting Lodge – and accompanying resource list to complete. Each team is also assigned a “ship” that needs to be found along with the resources.

Nodes for the different resources were spread out in zones on the 7scenes map. The beaver traps were in one area while the farming tools were in another. Food & Water, a common resource, was spread evenly across the map. In order to promote interaction between teams, the zones were laid out so that teams would have to traverse each other’s zones in order to get to their own. The ships were located along the shore and teams worked towards them from further inland. Since the content of 7scenes nodes is not visible, we designed a map that roughly outlines where each resource could be found. This gave the teams a basic idea of where to go.

The PlayTech Event

The success of Settlers of Manhattan is probably best gauged by what was learned from it. Starting at the most granular level and working outward, we can look at what a single locative node within the game taught. With each node, players could have learned a bit of Manhattan trivia through a multiple-choice question, learned of the Dutch origin of a familiar street name(and its pronunciation), or engaged their surroundings by photographing related items and interactions.

Throughout the entire game, the players worked cooperatively within teams to complete tasks and decide where to move next. Voting was a decisionmaking mechanism that sprung up from the kids themselves and was often used to determine a team’s course. Additional game time could promote a more immersive experience where the larger narrative could emerge more cohesively.

Several players were also intrigued by the game as a whole and by the technology behind it. The context of being at a university and being administered by game designers could reinforce the accessibility of game design and mobile technology as career pursuits.

During the course of the semester, we came to see 7scenes not only as a gaming platform but also as a prototyping tool. Our design exploration showed us that 7scenes could be a very useful way to prototype locative game components even if the game concept includes functionality not included in 7scenes.

In and of itself, what 7scenes does wonderfully is to promote the design and development of game narrative. Within the constraints of the 7scenes game genres, the designer is allowed – and required – to focus creativity towards narrative and immersive content production.

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