Going into next semester we better hit the ground running. We know what we need to get done and now we just need to do it.
I’ve learned that this semester. That if you expect something to be done, 98% of the time YOU are the one that is going to have to do it. You can’t really rely on anyone else to do it. You may claim that was very naive of me to think that way but hear me out. For me what it has been is I have put in a lot of work, hoping that it’ll be noticed or that someone will see and want to jump in and help out. NO. That does not happen. That’s why I had to jump into the code, despite my engineers wishes to get some things done. We are here to act and not be acted upon.
So moving forward here’s the game plan. Each week when we have a build up and ready, everyone on the team is going to play it so they know the current state of the game. Many times people assumed their stuff was in and that it was working when it wasn’t. Or that even though their stuff isn’t quite in it’s not that big of a deal, when in reality it’s kinda a big deal that enemy health bars aren’t in… 😉
I am going to take it upon myself to stress the importance of polish for our game. Our engineers really want to add new things. All. The. Time… and that needs to stop because we’re past the point of adding any significant changes. I’m going to try and paint a picture of what we can realistically accomplish next semester and stress our priorities of polishing our game. I want all the particles! I want better sound effects, visual flourishes, more dynamic music, solid consistency/stability, basic player expectations met. These are the things that we need to focus on in order to get good press and to have people want to actually play our game when no ones looking.
This was kinda sprung on us, though in the programs defense, we TOTALLY should have seen it coming. That being said, we had to scramble to get a decent build ready for it.
Here was a problem that we suffered. We have yet to have a stable build post IGF that we could use to update the game… Let that sink in. We done goofed. Instead of adding on top of what we have, we ripped things apart in attempts to have better code. Yes, we’re making progress but at a severe cost of updates. Our code is better and more manageable, but our game is always in a state of perpetual unsteadiness. Hind sight being 20/20, shouldn’t have done that. But it’s too late now. But here’s a catch 22 that I find happening. We have to somehow strike this balance between engineering something that is easy, but not best for our game and something that is hard/time consuming but not the best for the game. Somethings NEED to be done right, and others not so much. But figuring out what makes the cut and what doesn’t is extremely difficult to determine. Sometimes, things that seem super difficult actually turn out to be super easy and unfortunately the vise versa is also true.
The big accomplishment here is that fact that we have a game plan for our entire game! By that I mean, we have defined a beginning middle and end. We know exactly what we have to get done going into next semester. So it’s up to Paul and I to try and road map out the last semester of our game. If we’re going to make it and publish it the whole team needs to know where we’re headed and that falls on mine and Paul’s shoulders.
Despite hitting a slump after IGF submissions our team went to work on designing the next phase of our game. We have the basic loop in, now it’s just time to flesh it out.
Here’s the problem that I see. We have put together this initial area of our game, it explains the stat grid, and the offerings, and your Aumakua but it does a poor job of being a fun game… It’s starting to sink in that we really should have built the puzzles of the stat grid first and have this whole intro thing later. But we didn’t do that and we have what we have to work with. Our designers, Sean, Paul and Aqeel have done a good job coming up with the God trials and designing puzzles to utilize our mechanics. As is the case with additional features, it’s terrifyingly easy to talk a big game and have these grand visions of what it could be. During the initial talks, I did have to be the wet towel and make sure we scope it appropriately for our skill level. We’re just baby developers…:)
But that doesn’t mean what we have isn’t good. In fact, I’m really happy in the fact that our game is something different from the other thesis games. We’re trying to tell/teach this story and culture and not merely a cool mechanic. I’m starting to see more and more that our game can truly BE something that is worth sharing and can have perpetual legs as a student project. If we get it into the right hands and have the right amount of Hawaiian culture that we teach, this is something that will go on and on. That excites me. That this game will not go on to be forgotten. That’s what we all really want when you stop and think about it. We want to create something that other people will talk about and other people will want to see. We want to make a difference in a positive way.
Well, we hit our IGF submission deadline and that was great! We made it in by the skin of our teeth.
That being said, we worked so hard to make it that immediately afterwards the team crashed… Paul and I dropped the ball and didn’t really think about our plan of attack post IGF. It’s really come to bite us in the butt. We go from a million miles an hour to almost a complete stop and that literally kills any and all of our team momentum.
So, the lesson here for producers is to try to be a couple steps ahead of you current schedule. You may be thinking, “well duh.” But it’s so easy to see these big dead lines and think to yourself that it’s the only thing that matters. That once you hit that it’ll be clear sailing from there. NOPE. That is a solid way to deceive yourself. The problem is that it’s just so easy to do so. What ends up happening is if you start to mention something that will come after the deadline, in our case IGF, everyone, including yourself, will tell you to stop worrying about it and that you’ll deal with it later. So you push it off until you hit your deadline. YAY! But then you realize you have no idea what to do next and it takes a week or two to ramp back up to meaningful work.
So right now I’m going to be thinking about that. Our next big mile stone is GDC. To have a nearly finished build by GDC to those of us that end up going will have something great to show with confidence to people. But then after that we have to publish and we better have our campaign up and running by then.
Game development is odd. It’s so amazing yet at the same time dreary that it’s hard to find a happy middle. As developers I feel we’re constantly looking for the next thing to push us forward. The next thing to get team buy in. The next thing to motivate. Because as it turns out, no matter how good your idea is, you and your team will burn out at some point. How fast and how bad it happens I think is dependent on how good your current idea you’re working on is.
Maui and everything that it is is a fantastic idea! But it only lasted us about a month before we started to see us as developers get stuck in a holding pattern. We weren’t making as much progress as we would have liked and we started to slow waaay down. It all came to a head when we had a internal play test of our game, and to I think literally no ones surprise, our game was TERRIBLE. Just awful. The feedback that we received reflected that and it served as a harsh reality that we’ve got to do something.
So, I took it upon my self to talk to as many as I could on the team one on one to touch base with them. To ask them what was and what wasn’t working for them when it came to the development of the game. I also took advantage of the situation and use a little tough love. When we as team members say something isn’t working, it’s not personal, we just want the game to be better. We’re saying NOTHING about the person. I was able to talk individually with them and point out some trouble spots that we’re noticing though and in the process gain some true understanding as to what is going on in their life, giving me the why to the way they’re working.
So. As a team we had a meeting and we openly discussed our shortcomings and how we can fix them. We came up with a new idea as to what we’re going to submit to IGF. It’s a fantastic idea. But I already know that in about a month we’re going to be in a similar situation. Better than where we were before but still in the same spot. If we can take what we have and find and iterative solution to our problem instead of an entire pivot (our team is a little too pivot happy) then we’ll see ourselves making significant progress. I’m really excited to see what we can add between now and the end of the program. We have a whole other semester to just add to this game and make it amazing. I think we’re in a good spot.
Well our team has been hard at work for a month now. The game is progressing nicely and we even have a team name, Kokua Games! We’ve only had a couple of chances to show people the game yet we have received some crucial feedback. Our game suffers from the fact that we don’t have a main game loop. Meaning, we NEED the game to play from start screen, game, win/lose state, start over. So for the past couple of weeks that’s what we’ve been focused on.
Which as a note, I’ve come to understand whey this is so important. When you show someone your game you don’t want to have to be there to “babysit” them. If you have to be there always having to get it started for them, explain everything to them or in general be there while they play it, you have a problem. We are aware of this and are working towards having the stand alone experience. It’s harder than originally thought though.
One thing that we’re knocking out of the park though is that our team is working well together. We all just want to work on the game, have a nice product and have fun while we’re at it. Team dynamic is critical and we seem to be doing alright in that department. I’m not worried that won’t publish the game. We’re going to make it and it’s going to be an awesome ride.
So with this “new” game that my team is creating I’ve found that when it comes to game development you really need to have a sense of ownership. I’m struggling with that. The game has changed so much that I seem to just be an innocent bystander. It’s an odd feeling. So, in order to really help my team, I need to take ownership. I do a good job of sharing my opinions which is important on any team. We’ve all had the team mates, friends, or family member that you ask them anything and they reply with a, “don’t care…” Which is a LIE!! I digress. My potential career is all wrapped up in this game, and I need to take it seriously. If not I will be wasting my time here in the EAE program. You get out what you put in right?
The next personal development hurdle I face is, how can I be an effective producer for my team? Where are we lacking, what can I take upon myself? What problems aren’t being addressed or thought about? These things are easier said than done that’s for sure. I can easily identify things that haven’t been done or need to be done, but that either I or my team don’t have the necessary skills or resources to do. And then the dreaded analysis paralysis sets in. I find myself sitting there worrying about everything and nothing all at the same time. Is this the life a producer? I sure hope not.
Which comes down to my potential solution. It’s all about an attitude adjustment. Let’s think about it for just one second shall we? We’re making games! Video games! The things we all love. I get to focus my efforts on creating something new, an experience that somebody and sit and enjoy. I’m in the entertainment business, I’m here to make some else’s life happier. How awesome is that?! I need to keep that in mind when I find my self wallowing in my own self pity. I’m living the dream. Not everyone gets to do what I’m doing. 🙂 It’s amazing how a simple attitude adjustment can solve so many problems.
Maui is just as much my project as anybody else’s on the team. My name is going to be on this, so I must do as much as I can to make it as good as possible. For my sake and for my team’s sake, they deserve it WAY more than I do. The simple logistics producer.
It’s been a long and fairly productive summer. In the middle of all of it we, the team, learned that our development tool, Mateio was bought out by Apple and we now longer were going to be able to use it. Cool eh?
Long story short we ended up settling on MaxstAR which is just another augmented reality development tool. So, because of this our team to advantage of the shake up and started to rethink our whole idea. It was becoming quickly apparent that our creative choice to do a game like Ochre and Utah’s native culture was proving troublesome. Nobody was really all that happy about it, and we lacked the key driving force to any successful game, desire.
With that our game took a drastic shift in art/gameplay and we now have settled on a Hawaiian culture game. For a couple reasons; One, we have Sean. A native Hawaiian who knows his stuff. And two, it’s not as culturally charged as was the Ute and Navajo tribes. So with this new focus it seemed that our team got a HUGE shot of motivation to make this new game. The game is still using AR but now you must think, Hawaiian Zelda with AR boss trials.
The take away from all of this is that when your team is all lacking any kind of real desire or motivation you have to find something to shake it up. It’s usually something that was fundamentally stinking about the game that no ones was willing to bring up. The whole, Emperor’s new clothes mentality. We finally called it as we saw it and pivoted and refocused. Whether or not this will work out for us in the end, only time will tell.
Summer time is upon us and we need to figure out how we’re going to handle that so that we’re not behind in development when we come back from summer break.
Our team had a post-mortem and talked about a lot of good things that we want and how we’re going to get them. The engineers have each taken it upon them selves to take a mechanic and build up mock levels that will prove or disprove a certain mechanic. The artists have decided to workshop a number of different art styles so that our game not only plays cool but looks cool while doing it. 🙂
Paul and I are going to be thinking about puzzles and the over flow of the game.
Now, what are some life lessons that I learned from this past semester? Well, it turns out that our team suffered what people call “thrashing” that is, you rapidly come up with new ideas and say is that fun? Then a new idea, is that fun? Never really iterating on what we have and just taking shot after shot after shot in the dark hoping one will stick. That doesn’t work unfortunately. The problem is then how do you pull out of that? Eventually someone just has to say enough is enough and to put their foot down on something and force the team to work on it till something “fun” pops out.
It’s not a perfect system but it’s all we could do. And that’s what we did for our EAE fest build. And it was a good thing we did, and that it was something that was semi stable. This game’s goal is to be a narrative driven card playing adventure game. Sounds pretty sweet right? In order for that to happen we as a team have to take initiative and decide that we’re going to work on it over the summer. And a large part of that is going to be how well Paul and I, the producers stay on top of things and remind others of our obligations and goals.
Are game is finally starting to take shape! Check out the trailer below.
The past few weeks have been a rush. We as a team figured out what we wanted to show at the EAE fest and we got there. EAE fest was a big deal because it was there that we were either going to prove or disprove the whole idea of the camera and whether or not it was worth pursuing.
I am pleased to announce that we were able to miraculously get a prime location for showing our game and we were able to get A LOT of people to try our game. That was a God send because we needed to hear genuine feedback for our game. In general the feedback was, hey this is kinda cool, a little hard to control but it isn’t bad. People liked the art style and seemed to get what we were going for.
For the whole team this was good to hear and to get validation on all the work we’ve been putting into the game. Are things perfect? No. BUT we have a direction and it renewed a lot of team spirit to work on the game. Everyone now sees that we have to use the camera, because without it we’re nothing.