GDC Postmortem

GDC was this last week and it was very enjoyable. One of my instructors gave me some good advice at the end of the week and told me to do a postmortem of the experience. Think of things that I did during the conference and analyze the good and the bad things. With those in mind, I can make things better and then progress as a developer and a producer. I also thought that it would make a great blog post.

So here’s my list of how my experience was at GDC:

The Good:
– I spoke with more people that I thought I would.

– I met some great people that work on the production side of video game development and got some advice on how to market myself as a producer with programming skills.

– I had the opportunity to pitch my thesis game concept to other students and game dev professionals. Also was able to pitch other games from my cohort when asked if students build games for the Oculus Rift.

– I went to more networking events than I thought I would. I actually made contacts at the event. Usually in large noisy crowds my introvert side takes over but I was able to maintain composure and take to game devs.

The Bad:

– I am going to plan out my week better. I want to attend sessions and talks next year. I also would like to attend more parties and networking events. With a little more scheduling and a better pass I can accomplish this.

– I had a hard time approaching people that weren’t at a booth or at a party. When it came to seeing Game devs from companies I like or seeing names I’m familiar with, I was hesitant to talk to them. I missed several opportunities to speak with Game devs that have been an inspiration to me.

– This is a generic note for me, but I need to have more confidence in who I am and what I can do. I am aware of what I can do and what I can contribute to a studio. Sometimes I’m just a little to hard on myself.

The Ugly:

– The Career Pavilion. Looking for an internship was more of  a distant prayer and finding a job wasn’t a walk in the park either. The only use I saw in the career pavilion was to have professionals look over your resume/ portfolio and give tips.

 

Well there you have it.   I don’t have my time to cover all of my doings while at GDC, but I think this is a good basic overview of some of the things I learned from my GDC experience. Now we start on the Thesis Project. I have Unreal Engine 4 Downloaded and now it’s time to make some magic happen!

Industry Pitch!

The great and dreadful day of the semester is upon us. In a few short hours, We will be presenting our game ideas to a panel of industry professionals. Our team has worked insanely hard to get to this point and both of our games have great potential. Matt is pitching for Button and Tony and Brenton are pitching for Premonition. They have practiced a ton and we have tweaked the powerpoint a million times. Our prototypes are full of art and goodness ready to be seen and judged. I just can’t get over how amazing our team is. So the last week I’ve been sick with a headache, cough, stuffy nose that I’m going to relate to stress because nothing I do seems to get rid of it. So hopefully after today, I’ll be able to relax a little.

I’m excited to get some constructive criticism on our game ideas and I’m ready to narrow it all down to one game. Whether that’s Room 207 or This is a Test, I think they could both be awesome so I’m willing to work on either. Bring on the pitches!

Two weeks and counting

This last week has flown by with everything that needs to be done. My work in the GAPP lab is going well. Meeting have been set and work is proceeding according to schedule. The hardest time has come from our thesis games. It’s been a whirlwind of everything. We spoke with our professors and using their feedback we decided to go in a slightly different direction. The problem with this wasn’t that the direction was but when in fact the direction was probably a good thing. The problem was that we gathered our team to talk about the change and presented what we though the optimal path should be instead of asking the group for other solutions and possibly coming to an even better conclusion. The direction was to stop the full scale design push we had planned and go for a more vertical slice of the game. It has also been brought to our attention that parts of the plans were not communicated properly throughout the group. We came up with the idea for the game and talked about it as a group, but at some point  during our moving forward with the project there was a disconnect between the game’s overall design and everyone’s thoughts about it. We are attempting to get it back on track in the next two weeks so that we have a solid prototype and idea for the pitch, but only time and effort will tell.

 

Whirlwind

So I don’t know what I have or haven’t said here so I’m going to review a bit of what has happened this past week in work. I’m currently working for the University of Utah in the GAPP lab where I’m working as producer on the Nanotubes project. This week I finished up the Game Design Document and submitted it, our schedule, and our Style Guide to our stakeholder Dr. Atwood. It was a lot of work to get it done, and he’s already sent back some feedback.  So I’m fixing it up and getting it back to him as soon as I can.  I’m super excited to be working in the GAPP lab and to be making more videogames!

Also the game that I discussed last time HOMEunculus was reviewed by a popular indie reviewer who had nothing but good things to say. The comments to the video also just lit a fire under that team and we want to pursue making the game bigger.

Now to get down to the thesis project update. Since my last post we had a good talking to by Amy Adkins , our faculty producer, about getting these projects organized. We still only had one and a half ideas for these two prototypes, so directly after that conversation I got to work and laid out a nice schedule with all of our big dates and then divided each week into sprints. With that in place, I wrote out a backlog for the next 4 weeks giving one of our projects a firm start on moving forward. This was the button game that we started for my prototype 3. Along with that Tina, Matt and I wanted to have narration in the prototype to give the feel we wanted for the project when we pitched it to the industry panel. To do this Matt has been assigned to handle the dialog writing and some of the voice acting because he’s had past experience.  With all this in place we had one project moving forward. The second prototype has had it’s moments. We couldn’t come up with a cohesive design and every time there was an attempt to grasp something it seemed to slip through our fingers. The concept of taking off a piece of your character to progress in the game and still give the player meaningful choice and not having the player feel weaker wasn’t happening.

Last thursday, we overhauled the entire game and came up with a game about premonition. Essentially a 2D sidescroller game that has hazards everywhere and the player has the ability to see hazards with use of an energy bar of sorts. The thesis of the game was: “Can we make hints a game.” So we by the end of the last class period we were on our way to making that game.

Life is just getting busier and busier. I can hardly keep up and it’s awesome!

 

Global Game Jam and narrowing to two ideas.

promo2 This last weekend was the Global Game Jam! It was amazing time and it reinforced all my passion for game development. My team was absolutely brilliant. We had Tina Kalinger Producing, Rachel Leiker and Kyle Chittenden doing art, Emily Hulse (my wife 🙂 ) and Ellie Finley doing design, some asset creation, and sound. I took over programming the game and this is what we came up with. Dropbox Link. GameJam Link. The game is a 3d platforming game where you are in a house full of creepy life sizes replicas of yourself. You have to make your way through the house by using a voodoo doll to move the arms, legs, and torsos of all the dolls. As you manipulate the voodoo doll, all of the dolls in the house move giving the game a very eerie feel. I’m super proud of my team and what we were able to accomplish.screenshot-2014-01-26-07.205

The second big thing this past week is our projects class narrowed our teams ideas down to 2 ideas. We are going with the button game and the robot game. I am taking a bigger role on the button prototype though we are all working on both prototypes. We also finally chose a direction for the game! The one thing that really drew us to the first prototype of the button game is the surprise moment when you had to go against what your instincts told you to complete the puzzle. We want to focus all our puzzle ideas on making our audience (indie gamers) go against what they feel is the ‘normal’ course of action. We have ideas about being able to jump farther than the player thinks. creating doors that can be open though they appear to be locked.  One big worry we have with this game idea is that gamers would get frustrated really really quickly with some of the ideas. We want to incorporate a narrator or commentator overhead voice that could help the player without completely holding there hand. This idea will take lots of research and playtests, but we feel like it would give players a fun unconventional game to play.

Well we are off to the races with our prototypes. I’ll update next week on our second idea about robots.

Hard lessons right out of the gate

This last week has been a rollercoaster. To start the week, we had 100+ game ideas as a team and were ready to start narrowing it down. Our professors gave us the challenge Tuesday to spend some time among other cohort members pitching ideas and finding the ideas that spark the most interest. With lots of work, our team had 5 ideas by the end of the class period Tuesday. We were also told that by Thursday we would need 5 documents for each of the 6 ideas. Game Brief, Comparative Analysis, Mood Board, Tech Analysis, Game Scope, and a Game Design Document.

Our deadline was in two days. We only had brief ideas that couldn’t create full documents. Tuesday night was spent with as many of the team as we could get to create some Game Brief documents for each game so that we could start creating the other documents. We were overwhelmed but we went to work on getting some concrete ideas to not only be able to turn in the documents, but to also go through a round of 2 min pitches with these games. By the end of Tuesday our artists had a couple of pictures gathered for the mood boards and we had some basic game ideas. Still nothing that we knew enough to pitch. Wednesday became a day of chaos in the lab with only part of the team being able to spend some time in the lab to flesh out the ideas. The artists got the mood boards done and the engineers got the tech documents done which left 4 more documents to get done Wednesday and also get ready for pitching the ideas. With a full day in the lab and as much communication of ideas and finalized ideas to the team we had the documents done by 1am Thursday morning. This morning we decided who we were going to have pitch which idea and had an hour to go over our small 2 minute pitches. We decided as a team to show our mood boards on the screen instead of a powerpoint or the game document. We watched and listened to the other teams pitch their awesome games. The pitching process was rough. Many pitches were with rough powerpoints and not complete ideas. It was very evident that we were all pushed for time. We were also all nervous because one of these five ideas could potentially be our thesis game that would be a year and a half project. At the end of the pitching the professors took the producers aside to talk to us. Through some talking and some constructive criticism we all starting realizing that though we all took on the challenge given to us it was unrealistic and as producers we should have seen it and probably asked for more time or something. The task wasn’t meant to be realistic, but that’s the way it ended up. As a producer we are the advocate for the games we are organizing. We should always do what is best for the game. Wednesday we all felt that we would not be able to do the game justice with the short amount of time we had and also we knew we couldn’t get the full teams input on the game ideas. (unlike every other team our team tried to get as many member’s input on every idea instead of dividing the games to small groups) Our professors are trying to help us be junior colleague and not be a student checking off task lists.

Also another lesson was about playing to the strengths of when pitching and take every pitch seriously. There was no reason for powerpoint presentations that are 2 minutes long didn’t help us. Our team actually got a minimal note of praise for only using the mood boards in our pitches, though we should have been a lot more enthusiastic about our ideas and be even more concrete on our ideas. One the other side of playing to our strengths, I think I need to find my strengths when it comes to producing and pitching/talking to people about games. I’m not funny and I’m not a very powerful enthusiastic public speaker. So I’m going to be on a never ending hunt for what my strengths are.

Now we are still on the path to the thesis project. Our next steps are to collect ourselves and get communication of the game ideas to be the same among the whole team. Then once we have a cohesive idea for all the games we can pitch the remaining ideas that survive this cutting phase.

Deep breathe and go!

Second Semester is a go

We went to class the first week of school an were immediately told to jump into 4 to 5 teams. Myteam quickly formed grabbing 3 artists, 5 programmers and 6 producers. A little heavy on the producer side, but we do have a producer that doubles as a semi artist and I can double as an engineer so we’re going to make it work. I’m excited for the team we have.

We were told to come up with 100 game ideas that could be submitted to IGF and also to do some research on a couple of years worth of winners of IGF. After looking through two years of winners we could only find one real similarity between all the winners. They all had a clear idea that made the game simple to understand. With that we told our team to come up with 8 or so ideas to come to class on Thursday with those ideas.  Thursday was a giant brainstorming session. We came up with a huge list of ideas and now our job is to narrow down ideas to only a few to really work out. When we get down to two ideas our teams will be parallel developing two projects to see which one is better.

So my hope for the future is to take If Button Pressed to the next level and make it worthy of being a great thesis project. We’ll see over the next week what happens. The future looks bright!