Well, we’re three weeks into our pro-life game and I can rightly say we’ve entered into our own little development hell. Let me explain.
Our first feedback was a little bit of a chastisement for trying to create an art game. Meaning that instead of trying to solve and existing problem, we wanted to express our own thoughts and opinions to the world through this game.
That was not the point of this prototype…
So we refocused and decided to solve the problem that women just don’t know about the alternatives to abortion and we want to inform them of their options… Sure.
Unfortunately there have been very interesting comments and remakes made, both good and bad, about our game and why we would chose it. All of which are valid comments and questions, but had the unseen side effect of causing apathy and disappointment within the team.
I had decided, when the prototype started, that I was going to support it as the producer and really give it my all even if I thought it was a little off the wall. I find it difficult to inspire motivation in the team when all the wind has been taken out of our sails. The game is progressing painstakingly slow, and our EPs (Bob and Roger) are breathing down our necks to create excellence.
The only thing that I’ve personally decided to do is laugh it off. Life is too short to get hung up on these things, so just have fun with it. It is here, in this class, that it is safe to fail, and it is fair to say that we haven’t exactly succeed with this one. Then again, we still have a week to make it work… LOLZ…
We have been tasked with our 3rd prototype. As the title may allude, this game is a game with a purpose… A serious game. I yet again have a great team that I have full confidence in.
So far though the challenge has been with what the game is going to be exactly. Roger gave a lecture on “The Design Box,” which is a methodology that is to help us brainstorm better. The long and short of it is, you have 4 walls. Your technology wall, audience wall, your problem wall and your aesthetic wall. Once you, as a team, have defined those walls, it is then and only then you are allowed to pitch an idea.
Now, it is hard to come to terms with the idea that ideas are cheep. We think that once we have an idea that it’s the great thing in the world. WRONG. They’re cheap and you have to learn to let go. Personally, at first that was a struggle but now I’ve come to terms with it.
So after all day of this approach we had nothing. Absolutely nothing. We could come up with an idea to save our lives. So we met the next day with a commitment to come with an idea. I pitched the idea of a game, dumb ways to die, highlighting the stupid ways people die by not doing simple things. And Earl, our artist, pitched a game taking a stand for pro-life abortion. It turns out that the team was more on board to make that game and that what we’re going with. Ironically one of our guys is a pro choice guy, but he claims he’s just fine working on this game.
I’m pleased to announce that Icehole Narwal, the game that Zaxxon built, was a success.
Yes, there were some ups and downs. There was some drama with the distribution of tasks for our engineers and some frantic coding near the end. Which, always seems to be the case I’ve noticed, no matter where I’m working or what I’m working on. Something I’m going to work on with my next group.
During the pitches, everyone seemed to really liking the game and there were great comments and feedback. We were told that all we needed was a background and we could possibly publish this. Talking with Omey our engineer he wants to get it up on some flash and browser game sites. Which I think would be awesome.
So 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.
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 wow 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.
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.
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.
Behold! 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.
(my second prototype)
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.
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.
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?
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.”