Aggressively Patient

hurry-up-and-wait1So now is the time that all we have to do is finish the game. A tall order, but there’s not too much for me to do.

True confessions of a producer in the EAE. I do what I can, and I’m more than willing to do anything, but the engineers have a good grasp on what their doing. The artist are doing well and getting the assets done. I really have to try hard to find something valuable to contribute to the project.

I have taken upon myself to put together some music, which when it comes to rapid prototyping, it doesn’t always end up getting in the game. But hey! I’m learning something new, and trying to add. Audio engineering isn’t easy.

This is the game that Zaxxon built

Well, last I left you you might be thinking, “oh man, I hope that Zaxxon remake works out for them…”

I have come to inform you that after we had our internal pitch review with Bob and Roger, we have changed our game almost completely. Roger explained to us how generic the space shooter is for student projects, and I agree. He just wasn’t buying what we were selling.

So, we had a pow wNarwalLaserow session where we came up with a whole new game. We’re keeping the isometric design, but now we’re Narwhals, rotating through different rotations, think tetris pieces, to get through ice walls coming at you.

I want to talk about our brainstorming session. It was interesting. As a producer and fledgling game designer, it’s really easy to start talking big about your idea, or to take a certain aesthetic and run with it, anyone can do that. But what I needed to do was step back and look at the base mechanics. While thinking about what you want to change, you must not think about the end product but the simple actual mechanic.

For example, I came up with the idea to have rotating swarm of space ships and the “human tetris” idea. But we kept getting off track and started talking about “instead of space ships how about this! or that!” And I got frustrated that we were losing the point of the session, that we got lost in the “weeds.” All we really need to do was find the fun and define the new base mechanic.

Also, there is this term or ludo narrative dissonance.  A critique that came up in my first game. Basically, why would there be bananas in a castle and why would the bat want them? The fact that the game makes absolute no narrative since.

People! This can be fixed later! We just want the fun gameplay now.

Game 2 – Zaxxon

Zaxxon_flyer

Alright this time around I have decided to “apply in my daily life” the lessons I learned from my last project.

We have been tasked with creating a game, based of and arcade cabinet game from before 1983. All the game is allowed is an input stick and one button.

My new team got together and we immediately started brainstorming to which I thought, brainstorming like this doesn’t work. I proposed we take 10 minutes to ourselves to find and game and then bring it to the group as an idea.

This worked out SOO much better. In the end it came down to two games, Zaxxon and Arabian. Two vastly different games. I also wanted to incorporate the idea of, NO LOW HANGING FRUIT ideas. Zaxxon is a isometric scrolling shooter, and Arabian is a Donkey Kong Jr clone.

I was playing devil’s advocate in the discussion and really making people think about what we’re doing. With Zaxxon, remakes of these shooters are pretty generic. With Arabian I wanted to add a whole new fighting mechanic akin to old school RPG and random monster encounters all based on rhythm button fighting. After all, we only have one button.

But it was apparent that half the team was really really really set on doing Zaxxon. So, I split us up. Half took Zaxxon the other half took Arabian and we came up with internal pitches. Zaxxon won out because we were able to get an isometric engine for HTML 5, and with that we’re off to the races.

zaxxon

Now, mind you, we only have 3 weeks to do this. Not 4 and I only hope that that doesn’t come back to bite us in the end.

Bat Sim…Part 3 – A Producers Thoughts

start-4Behold! Our start screen. 🙂

This was literally finished the night before the final presentation. Thanks to our wonderful artist Robert Zhu.

In this last part I want to give my parting thoughts about the project and the lessons I learned from it.

1. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind. If the game isn’t good. SAY IT

2. If things aren’t getting done. TALK about it.

3. Put your heart into it.

Let me talk to that third point. For the trial run, I knew going in that the game wasn’t in a good state. And when I was preparing for it, I was a little depressed about it and I didn’t go a good job at hiding it. I was wearing my emotions on my sleeve. And in the feedback, that was mentioned. Or, at least that was my take away.

So, if you’re going to do something, do it well and give your all. I learned this lesson and fortunately it wasn’t too late. I was able to really do better for my second and final pitch. The game showed well and I was having a good time up in front of people.

Being a producer is a learning experience. I have had to learn how to really communicate and I’m still having a hard time with it sometimes. That will come in my next series of posts.  Onward and upward.

TO ZAXXON!

(my second prototype)

 

Bat Sim…Part 2 – Learning the Hard Way

So we went with our original idea. Playing it safe.

Shortly there after, one of our engineers was able to get things up and running quickly. This was a blessing and curse at the same time. Let me explain.

Bat Timeline

This is a graph that whipped up to show you what happened. Amount of effort is on the Y axis and time on the X axis. With the two arrows pointing to key moments in the project.

The first is the blue box. At the top of the hill we had a sim up and running and looking decent for how short of time we had been working on it. We then decided to take it easy and not focus on it and let it slip. And you can see for a while there not much happened.

The second arrow is the trial pitch of the final game. At this point, we had our heads handed to us for how, not good, the game was. And because of that we got out butts in gear and pulled the rabbit out of the hat.

Let me give you the producer side of this. I had noticed that the game wasn’t progressing as well as I was hoping, yet I didn’t really do anything. Acting on blind faith that everyone knew what their tasks were. WRONG!

There was confusion and poor communication. My take away from this was, when I need to, be a hard ass. The other was, I need to learn how to effectively communicate with artist. I know we need art, but how, what and when are very key questions to ask.

Bat Sim…Part 1 – In the Beginning

landing-right-recover           Bananas

 

I’d like to introduce you to Simon the bat. Our little protagonist for Banana-nana Bat. He lost his bananas and must find them. Duh!

Now you might be thinking, oh, that’s clever. Well…it is, but it was pulled out of the hat at the 11th hour.  This post will be slightly longer because I haven’t been posting all month and I have a lot to cover/say. My apologies. 🙂

The assignment was to take a toy from the dollar store and use it as inspiration for a game. We (Team 4) randomly chose these little Halloween rubber spider, bat and rat decorations. From this we had a brainstorming session which was a 5 out of 10.

(Quick aside. Brainstorming. If you were to get honest answers from people I’m pretty sure everyone would agree it never really works in its current form. )

From this session we succumbed to the temptation of “Low Hanging Fruit.” We decided to do a 2D world exploration game using the sonar to expose the world around you. We wanted to have multiple bats with different sonar patterns and multiple locations. We ended up scoping it down to one bat and one location for the sake of the prototype.

Well, the next lab, the following Thursday I gave the initial pitch. To which Roger proceeded to explain to us that when he first started this program one of the first, if not the first  game they made was of Marvin the bat. Who explored a 2D world and used sonar to see the area around him….

Well, instead of going with something new and innovative, we decided to play it safe.  We went ahead and kept our initial idea. Afterall, this was the first time WE’D done a bat sim right?

Right…

 

 

My First Blog/Post

overwhelmed

Alright let’s talk about this.

So I know that this is my first post…Ever… and that it’s late… But as they say, rather late than never right?

So, I want to give some context to the this. EAE is a wonderfully difficult program. Yet, I don’t mean that as in the actual course load is difficult. But rather learning how to handle the schedules, the homework, the lab sessions, the critiques, and all of your side projects to boot.

If you don’t know something, IE wordpress and blog posting, you have to take it upon yourself to do so. This program is 90% based on SELF motivation. If you want good results, good games and good teams you’ve gotta want it.

The best advice I ever heard from a producer from Cohort 3 I happened to run into at a wedding once was, “treat it like a job and you’ll be fine. If you treat it like anything less you’ll drown and look like crap.”

Amen Brother!