I was looking to create a skill that would be great for families and friends, especially during gatherings for Christmas, Birthdays etc. Monopoly, Scrabble and Battleship are great board games which encourage interaction and communication along with slight competitiveness. I wanted to match that vibe where not only do you interact with Alexa but also with each other.

Therefore, I came up with the idea to create a skill where pen and paper are the main tools for the game. Pen and paper are easily accessible and in the absence of this, they could go digital by using notes on their phones for example.

What it does

When the skill is launched, the game starts and a category will be given. Players can work in teams or by themselves. The timer will start and the player/players have until the end of the time to write down as many words as they can for that category. For example, if the category is Animals, they will need to write down as many animals as they can.

There is an Expansion pack available which adds over 100 more categories to the game. It also gives the opportunity to pick which topic they want to play or a random one will be chosen.

How I built it

I developed Beat The Clock using the ASK-CLI, Alexa SDK, AWS Lambda, Alexa Presentation Language and Node.JS.

Challenges I ran into

Despite Beat The Clock passing certification, it has taught me that testing shouldn't stop there. PLEASE make sure you carry out testing even when your skill goes live, as I found that the live skill was causing errors for APL devices despite not replicating the same behaviour during development. Luckily the situation was fixed and now It’s working.

It became more difficult to come up with new categories. I also had to take into account the different locales as the UK and US, despite speaking the same language, have very different cultures. For example, I added an NFL Teams category for the US but not for the UK as the NFL isn’t as popular over in the UK.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

I am really proud of creating Beat The Clock. It's a very different type of Alexa Skill that I can see becoming a popular family/group game. I carried out some user testing and observed the participants working together, laughing and having fun. This accomplished what I was trying to achieve with this skill.

What I learned

I have definitely made changes to my testing workflow as I've learned to carry out testing thoroughly during development and production. I wouldn't have realised the importance of this, without developing Beat The Clock.

What's next for Beat the Clock

Adding more categories for the Expansion pack. For the APL, add an animation of a clock ticking down so the user could see how much time they have left during the round.

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