JIRA Quest: A Choose Your Own Adventure Workflow

An ominous rain trickles down in the darkness; a forerunner of the flashes you catch far off in distant clouds. As the glass separating you from nature’s toil taps with the sound of falling drops, the dim lighting about you catches a lone envelope on the corner table. Ah, you had all but forgotten about this curious invitation. Was it a trick of some cruel witch, or merely the local lord taking pride in the people?

A great open house would be arranged to demonstrate the technical feats of ITHAKA to the masses and it is imperative that you represent your own party’s achievements and skills successfully. Yet, as the day draws nigh, you’ve been unable to answer that vexing question: “How do I make it interesting?” Will time run out before you find the answer? Roll the die!

Such was the situation we found ourselves in recently, as ITHAKA prepared its first tech open house. We think the work we do in ITHAKA’s Business Systems is really interesting, but sometimes struggle to convey that to other people. Especially since we handle such a variety of work, from systems administration, to architecting, engineering, support, development, and more. With ITHAKA’s open house approaching, we wanted to find a fun way to help demonstrate our work and culture. Finally, just a few days before the event, we came up with an idea. JIRA is one of the major services we manage and it operates on workflows: a series of choices and resulting consequences. Why not take this feature and turn it into a choose your own adventure-style quest, complete with mages, giants, and a couple riddles along the way? That is exactly what we did. Now is when you can choose your own adventure: either read on to learn more or close this tab.

The Adventure Begins

Once we decided to build out the adventure (dubbed “JIRA Quest”), two of us convened at the Blue Tractor to sip our ale, gnaw on BBQ, and figure out how in the world we would make this thing work. Essentially, we wanted a JIRA issue to walk an adventurer through a story that would prompt them to make choices. Each choice represented a step in the workflow and comments from the Dungeon Master would be added to the issue to explain what happened as a result of those choices. The adventurer would either succeed in the their quest and reach the Rainbow Plains (because we were sipping ale and couldn’t come up with something better), or they would fail and die a horrible death. All of this should be done in less than five minutes, we determined. With that in mind, we quickly got to work writing prose and laying out our workflow.

We used the JIRA Misc Workflows Extensions plugin to create post functions that would add the Dungeon Master’s comments. We also borrowed a couple riddles from Funology and mixed in a bit of Atlassian and version control humor.

Within a couple hours, we had completed our first iteration of the quest. The story wasn’t the most thrilling, but it worked: An adventurer could begin their quest, click on choices, see new comments appear from the Dungeon Master, type responses to riddles, and more than likely get eaten by wolves. We made a few more tweaks over the next couple days. For example, we created a kanban-style leader board. The leader board displayed all quests and their results: failed or succeeded. We were ready.

This post function added a comment from the Dungeon Master

Who is Worthy?

The night of the open house came and we prepared ourselves to present our creation to the world. Well, at least a little piece of the world. Our boss picked up Insomnia Cookies and a few gift cards to help entice adventurers into trying their luck. A total of nine adventurers tested their mettle. It was a bit entertaining to watch them die off one by one. The “Quest Failed” column on the leader board filled up as we wondered if we might have made it too difficult. We were quick to offer people a second attempt, but all declined. All but one, that is. Like a champ, she jumped at the opportunity for a do-over. It was clear she had a shot when her first question was, “Do I have an inventory?” We watched in excitement as she passed each test, solved riddles, and eventually made it all the way to the Rainbow Plains! She would go on to be the only winner of the night. And so, a cookie in one hand and a gift card in the other, she returned to the mortal realm.

The progress of each adventurer was tracked on a kanban board

Future Enhancements

There were many things we wanted to do better, but didn’t have the time. This included adding artwork with the comments, bonus points for unlocking secret rooms/items, and allowing sub-quests so that adventurers’ didn’t have to follow the same steps to succeed. It would have been extra fun to add a Twitter post function that tweeted the successes and deaths of our participants. But, alas, all of this must wait for now. There have been discussions of extending JIRA Quest and using it for on-boarding purposes. This is an exciting prospect, since it is a fairly low-barrier way to familiarize people with JIRA and some of its capabilities.

It was great having the opportunity to work on a project like this and see how JIRA could be hacked into something completely out of the ordinary. It also helped us exercise and demonstrate one of the key attributes of our team: identifying a need (building a quest) and choosing the right tool for the job (JIRA workflows).

Once you’ve taken in all the sugary plunder you care to on this Hallows’ Eve, polish your steel and study your scrolls. It is now your turn to build an adventure!