You’ll have to forgive my terrible puns, as usual. It occurred to me that I’ve been answering the question, “What made you want to go to grad school?” a lot lately. The fall semester of our second and final year has officially started, and I’ve had my last ‘first’ day of school for the foreseeable future. So why am I here? What am I doing? What honestly possessed me to do this with my life?
Tut. So many questions. FIRST, though – a huge and warm welcome to the MEAE class of 2016, Cohort 5. It is a class 60 students big, with less producers and more programmers. They’re working out the bugs of the program, you see, and too many producer/designers didn’t seem to do the trick. With any luck, C5 has the magic ratio, but we’ll see. They have taken over the south lab and C4 is currently nestled (snugly, I might add) into the north lab. It’s going to take some getting used to, though I’m sure we’ll manage. If not, well, you might read about the EAE riots of ’14 in a history book someday.
Speaking of C5, we went to see them do their first concept pitches the other day, and it was the strangest experience. We watched them make the same mistakes we had made over and over again in our first year – it was difficult not to blurt out “GET TO YOUR GAME ALREADY” or “WHAT IS GOING ON WITH YOUR POWER POINT” or, well, you know…a zillion other things. It brought a concept into sharp focus though: when you’re pitching your game, you really need to get it down to its essence and be able to present that coherently in any situation. Unfortunately, that’s a lesson we’re still learning. But I’ll get to that, also.
You can read a summary of what the team did with our summer in this blog post. I’m ostensibly in charge of things like that these days as the team’s official community manager, so keep your eyes peeled for more content as our final year progresses. Things are going to get really crazy, really fast. We have a major ship date – the Indie Games Festival – submission deadline is October 31st. The team has some big plans…and big lessons…before that day dawns.
Our first week back has been nothing short of a whirlwind adventure. Spirits were high on the first day and we all settled in to our roles relatively well. I still struggle with the concept of not really being in any creative role that directly impacts the game, but that’s more my personal anxiety than anything. In reality, I am welcomed at design meetings and when I speak my words are processed like all the others. I am still learning design, though, and acknowledge my skill is lesser in this area. I’ll work on side projects to fix that. I know that my role is equally important, especially when playtesting begins in earnest. I will grow more comfortable in time. On our first day, the professors reminded us that our game is really just a line on our resume, and the team and networking are the prizes to serve us down the road. From what I’ve learned over the summer, meeting and speaking to many people, that is so very true.
Bright eyes and bushy tails aside, we had a bit of a stumble, where we forgot to look where we were going. Andrew Witts from Ubisoft, a former alumni, came to visit us at the end of this week. We had a build prepared based on things we’d tinkered with over the summer… but that was about it. We fell on our faces when it came to pitching. Our enthusiasm was somehow lacking, which is unacceptable at this point in development. I know we’re all proud of what we’re making – we just somehow forgot to bring that to the playtest. We know better, now, and I’m glad it happened earlier rather than later. We can’t afford to flag in our efforts at any point over the next eight weeks.
Other than that, classes seem to be interesting. This semester the producers have a class on the business practices for small “indie” devs, as taught by David Wolinksy. He is a fine, upstanding gent and I think it’ll be very useful to hear what he has to say. Additionally, we’re learning art pipeline basics from Craig Cadwell and thus complete the trifecta of production, engineering, and art basics. We’ll theoretically be equipped to communicate in broad term with our teams better, and that’s definitely worth it.
As for why I’m here? Well, duh. Because I want to make things. I want to work with the amazing people in my cohort and watch what they can do. Some of the other stuff that other teams are making…just wow. Keep your eyes on them. I want to join the game community and participate fully – I want to contribute in whatever way I can. What do I want to do with my life? Well. I want to play.