EAE Fest

EAE is holding a festival Tuesday April 28th, which is basically a massive gathering in which everyone gets to show off the games and projects they have been working on this past year. It’s definitely going to be Awesome, so if you have time come check it out! As for our thesis game, we will have a few computers set-up at the EAE Fest with our published game on it. So come on by and play some games with us!

EAE DAY

Playtesting, Publishing, and Presenting

This week was quite busy. On Tuesday I conducted our last internal playtest with our fellow classmates. It was great hearing from some friends on how fun our game has become and how far we have taken it. They seemed to really enjoy it. We did manage to find a few minor bugs that we intend to fix before publishing. It turned out to be a great playtest.

As well, later this week we had a guest come visit EAE. He was a potential professor for the program and the faculty asked if we can show him our game. He was really amazed with the amount of polish we have put into it and he really likes the concept of “Indirect attacks” to destroy your opponent.

Also, earlier this month we submitted our game to Desura (A publishing website) and they have recently reached out to us asking us to fix a few minor bugs and to add a game tutorial. We hope to have those fixed by the end of the week so we can resubmit for final publishing. We still hope to reach our release date of April 28th.

We have also spent a majority of this week as a team preparing ourselves for our final thesis defense which will take place on Thursday April 30th. We will be presenting on the evolution of our game from beginning to end and the lessons we learned along the way.

All Hands presentation

This week I volunteered to give our teams presentation at our class wide ‘All Hands” meeting today! Our full cohort, professors, staff and extended faculty were there. The presentation went really well and the faculty are really pleased with where my team and I have taken our game they love the new theme and the polished look of the whole game.

Here is a list of a few things I talked about:

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GDC & Disney

Things were super busy at the very start of the month as we were all hands on deck in getting everything polished and finalized for our GDC submittal! Our new character was in place and our game environment is looking really cool. We also did daily rounds of playtesting and bug fixing, so we submitted and bug free game build. Super proud of my team this week!

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to make it out to GDC this year, because for several weeks leading up to GDC I was in several rounds of interviews for two separate positions at Disney interactive studios here is Salt Lake city and I wanted to make myself completely available to them if they needed me to start asap. I am happy to announce that I have accepted a position as a QA tester with Disney! I very excited about this opportunity to work in a real game development studio and playtest one of the coolest games out there, Disney Infinity!

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It is going to be very interesting how the rest of the semester plays out as I am going to be working nearly 40hr work weeks and still attend school! Graduation can’t come soon enough!

 

Playtesting and further improvements

A few days ago our class cohort conducted a class-wide playtest of each of our Thesis games. We all thought this would really help get a new set of eyes on our games since we have been working solo for the good part of the semester. The majority of each team was instructed to go and playtest other games. This turned out to be a great success and it was great seeing the work our fellow classmates have put into their games. As well, this playtest allowed us to gather some really great feedback on our own game as we prepare for the GDC submittal.

In addition to the class wide playtest, we also had our “All hands” meeting. All hands meetings are meetings where each team has the opportunity to discuss changes that they’ve made to their games and show of some new gameplay. As well, each team talks about changes they plan on making in the future. Last semester we held all hands meetings once every week, usually just among ourselves and professors. This semester, we’ve backed down from once a week, to once every three weeks. This last all hands meeting was the most important to date though, because not only was it our pre-GDC all hands meeting, but we also had most of our extended faculty and staff in attendance giving us their feedback on the current state of our games. The biggest concern people had of our current game build was with our new character/avatar. Everyone really liked our new art style and theme, but the new character we were using, seemed to cause unintended problems to the game play. The new character was causing viewing issues with our camera and shooting mechanisms in game. Our new character was designed from a cyborg concept and had its shooting mechanic come from the center of her. Previously, our old character threw minions from his hand, off to his side. However with our new cyborg character it became clear that shooting felt broken, this was because the player couldn’t see the projectiles shooting from her chest as the rest of her body obstructed the view. The tube structures arising from our characters head were obstructing the player’s view of the environment and took up way to much Screen “real estate” causing some confusion. The professors chatted suggested that we should simplify our character as to allow the player top have maximum view of the environment and the shooting projectiles. Our artists went back to the drawing board and made a new basic character, a cool looking mobile laser turret!

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Enhancing the game play

Within the past few weeks we have made some really fun and exciting changes to our game. You may first notice our new avatar and cool looking environment that more closely matches our theme of DDOS attacks.

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As well we have been working on enhancing our gameplay experience and creating more fun opportunities for our players to fight each other. One such enhancement is the implementation of fast and slow lanes within our game. This work when a player shoots and claims territory if they run over their own territory they will run faster but if they run over the opponent’s territory they will slow down. This helps the gameplay by adding another strategic element in the game that our players can use to their advantage either going faster to catch up with their opponent or surrounding the opponent in their territory causing them  to slow down.

These next few weeks are going to be crazy busy as we get closer to GDC submittal!

 

Beginning of the end…..Of school

It’s crazy to think we are entering out last semester of the EAE Master’s program. It has gone by really fast. So much has been accomplished in the past year and a half. I have learned a lot about the gaming industry and about the programs that are used with in it.

I am excited to see what comes of this semester and where we will become graduation in May. We have one primary goal for this semester that is to publish our game. This is not necessarily a requirement, but it is strongly encouraged by the faculty. To meet this goal we had to make some changes right from the start, Based off of feedback from last semester we realize that our current art style is not matching our theme of a hellish underworld and instead lends itself to a more technology/ Sci-fi theme. Coming from break, our lead designer thought of the idea of DDOS attacks, as it has been very relevant in the news lately of hackers attacking some prominent gaming companies and games in the industry. Therefore we decided to use this issue as our new theme for our game. Luckily it didn’t require mass overhaul of our game, as all of our game mechanics will stay the same. We do however have to create and new character and enhance our game environment to more closely match our theme.

The team seems motivated and ready to tackle this semester, I hope the motivation last through to graduation. As well we managed to add on another producer to our team, Owen Peterson, is a fellow classmate but has left this semester part time to work at EA as a sound designer here in Salt Lake City, he is allowed to still be a part of the program so he asked to join our team. It will be great to have Owen’s sound design experience on our team.

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A Little Reflection

This has been quite the semester, definitely one of the busiest. As a team we have come a long way from our start nearly a year ago. This semester we were able to work together to submit a polished game to the International Games Festival competition, an achievement we are all pretty proud of. However, getting to the that point was a tough ride, and looking back on the journey so far I see that we have had to endure many growing pains both physically as a team, as we added a couple new members to the team, and in our game which has had its fair share of changes through the months. Personally, I feel that I have faced the most challenges in this semester, but I also feel that I have experienced the most growth as a student developer.

My major contributions to the team and our game have come in the form of both of my roles on the team, as a producer and a level designer. I have always known that producers tend to wear many hats and fill many roles on a team, but never have I experienced that more than this year. More often than not, I found myself being the team’s primary motivator, cheerleader, peacekeeper, and chief support officer for our leads. Working on a team of 15 individuals you are bound to have a couple people who just don’t see eye-to-eye and rub shoulders with each other. On a couple of occasions I had to personally take individuals aside to help them address any issues they were having with the team or the game, and if I felt they’re attitudes were damaging the teams morale I let them know it. Most of the time the individuals were just stressed out and needed someone to vent with. On the other hand, on a weekly basis I would try to really motivate and encourage team members who I saw were stressed but were doing a fantastic job, so I would make sure they knew that I appreciated them and their contributions to the team. For the team leads I always made sure that they knew I was there to support them and that I always had their back when it came time to talk with the faculty or confront any troublesome teammates. As well, my other main role on the team is the primary level designer. From the start of the semester I spent most of my time “white boxing” (prototyping) several design options for our player environment. I especially enjoyed this work, I love level design and getting the chance to be creative in a tangible way. Each week my team and I would playtest another design of mine until we narrowed it down to one primary design that we used for our IGF submission build. I was really proud to have created something that was submitted to a national competition.

As I mentioned before, this semester did not come without its fair share of challenges and setbacks, and looking back I see that there were probably a few things I could have done differently to help solve or alleviate some of these challenges. For instance one primary concern that followed our team during the semester was the games design, many times the engineers and artists weren’t quite sure what direction we were taking the game and that tended to bring up some issues. One thing I could have done was to try and help clearly communicate exactly what we were going for and clearly re-iterate vital feedback that we received from the faculty and public during playtest. A few other issues that came up during the semester that I felt negatively impacted our development was the decision to change our theme from a unique “topical” issue to a generic theme, based off of a team consensus. Which brings me to my next point of criticism; I feel that the development and design of the project was great hindered because of this “Design by committee” mentality we developed early on. Getting a group consensus may have worked well at the very beginning of the year, but allowing all teammates to voice their ideas about why or why not a feature should be in the game  a few weeks before key deadlines was not a good idea or strategy, mostly because we have a team of 15 people which means we would normally get 15 different ideas of what to do which ended up either trying all of the ideas or just a couple, which would than cause some backlash from those who we didn’t go with. On the upside, I fell that our game has some of the best art in the program. I have always felt and am fortunate that we have two of the very best artists in the school; we have an amazing concept artist and a wonderful 3D modeler whom have made our game look really great and has received many praises from the faculty and the public. As well, I feel one of the most positive decisions that was made, was the decision by our lead engineer to have “engineer Fridays” where our engineers would come to class on Fridays and work together to get some of our most vital features in the game completed and polished. This decision greatly boosted our team productivity.

This year has been quite the roller coaster ride, but it is one that I have enjoyed being on and one that I will see to the finish no matter what. . I feel that I have substantially grown in my abilities as a producer, and leader this semester and I know there is still much more for me to learn, I can’t be more excited for it.

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EAE Open House

EAE is holding an Open House this Friday, Dec.12, which is basically a massive gathering in which everyone gets to show off the games and projects they have been working on this past year. Some of these games include the Undergraduate capstone games, The GAPP lab applications/games, and last but not least, my Cohorts thesis games. It’s definitely going to be Awesome, so if you have time come check it out! As for our thesis game, Hostile Territory, we will have a couple computers set-up with our latest build of the game. We would like to have as many people play our game as possible. We know this time will be invaluable for us to get free playtest feedback and really get to see what the public thinks of our game.

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Build Presentation

I volunteered to present our latest build to the faculty and cohort today in our weekly all hands meeting. I spent last night with a fellow producer preparing for today’s presentation. Adhering to our team schedule, our engineers merge code each Monday to provide a new build to be presented each Tuesday. This week’s build is extra special and something I am proud to present. In our latest build we have implemented our two primary mechanics based off of last week’s prototype playtests, the “Switch on/off” mechanic where the player can claim a part of the environment and be able to toggle it on and off. We have also implemented the “detonate” mechanic where the player can shoot out a minion and choose when to detonate it blowing up the tile underneath it permanently deleting it from the environment. The presentation went well and the faculty are proud of where we are taking the progression of the game. The provided some really great feedback and helped us further enhance our current build. One main idea they presented was the possibility of merging both mechanics into the same build possibly being used as weapon upgrades.

The team was also very productive today, together we were able to narrow our schedule down to the last remaining days of the semester so that we know exactly what we want to present at our final EAE Open House event that takes place on the last day of school in December. As well, the artist our working on updating our games art style to match the new mechanics. Morale is high and things are moving forward. Can’t wait to show case our game at the Open House in a couple weeks.