Submitted and moving forward.

This week has been crazy! Last weekend my whole team spent most of the weekend pushing hard to get the game in a good place for IGF. We put art in levels, Fixed bugs, made cool particles, put together cinematic for our trailer, added end matinees for each level. Fixed how our enemy worked a couple times to make it fit our theme and our gameplay.  During the week we continued to push on all fronts to have a fully playable 5 level game that we could be proud to submit for judges. We worked really hard and got down to Oct 30 the day before the deadline and we made a build to submit only to find that after a couple levels the games fps dropped horrifically and became unplayable. Most of the team had left the lab for the day assuming that all we had to do was build the game and submit. So Tony and Sidd called me from home to get on to skype and look at a bunch of null errors that were being thrown from my boss and from a couple other parts of the game. My confusion of what was happening grew as we started to dive into the problem. We found a couple of null checks I was missing, but they didn’t seem to matter when we put them in.

We came down to loading and unloading levels. For some reason the boss wasn’t unloading from the previous level and was still trying to find references to the other parts of the level causing lots of null errors. We didn’t know how to change the unload level funcitonality of Unreal so we did the next best thing and on our trigger to go to the next level we did and delete of all the things that were bugging out. It worked and we got rid of the errors, but we still would like to find a better solution.  In the end we had a complete build of 404sight that shows off our mechanics and a small taste of our theme attached.

The next weeks are going to be improving our build and involving our theme more into the game.

My next task is to  create an interactive loading page that could potentially teach our mechanic in an unorthodox way. We’ll see what I can come up with.

One Week and Counting

We are one week away from the IGF deadline and things are getting crazy among the members of Cohort 4. We are all working hard and spending extra hours in the lab to get things up and running for next weeks submission. Our team has been working hard getting the final touches on our game. We are adding art, effects, cutscenes everything we hoped would be in the game. The most recent addition to the game is adding the Boss that I’ve been working on and iterating on for the pass couple of weeks. We had a good change to the levels taking out all the slow tiles. We had lots of feedback that the normal tiles felt enough like slow tiles. With that change, we changed the boss to change Fast Tiles and Normal tiles to slow tiles.  To make the boss actually affect the game, I had to do another pass on how the boss works. So I wrote an algorithm that will search for spots further ahead in the level according the speed of the player and it will launch bomb attacks to change tiles to impede your progress.

This actually went really well with the theme of net neutrality. The boss or the big cable companies are trying to control and slow down the connection of the once free running user. So instead of trying to kill the player the boss is trying to convert everything to their slow throttled internet.

Another feature I had to add was that the player could convert the tiles back. We are still in discussion on how this is to exactly work, but the boss/enemy has added a great level of depth to our game.

It’s been a great week for 404sight.

Next post will be: IGF submitted…now what O_O

Less than a month, Running to the finish line!

This last week has zoomed by. My personal tasks were iterating on the boss a couple times. I did probably 3 or 4 iterations on the boss mechanics and I feel like it’s in a good spot to get us some fun gameplay, but the easy setting for the boss is going to need some tuning. Our team has been hard at work making levels and adding everything in the game. We started playing through all the levels as a whole and we’ve started putting art, lighting and backgrounds into the levels. These tweaks made our levels come to life!

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Here’s a sneak peek at what we have. We need a little more life to the level, but it’s coming along! Another big event that happened this week was a big playtest that the whole cohort participated. Our team got a lot of positive feedback about our game and had a lot of good suggestions on how to fix our game. We left the playtest feeling really good about where the state of our pre-alpha Alpha was. I’m excited to work this week and take our game to the next level!

Hitting the ground running to IGF

And we’re back with another awesome year in the Graduate EAE program! During the summer recap: I worked in the GApp lab again during the summer running three project: Oppy Animation, Oppy Runner, and Nanotubes v2. They went really well and it was a super intense summer, but we pulled through and delivered our games. Also during the summer we worked on our Thesis game. We didn’t put as much time as we would have hoped, but we still got stuff done and we narrowed down our theme for the game and some of the mechanics. We narrowed down to our premonition mechanic, a different camera mechanic, and our death tiles. We basically had all of the code done for those during the summer and we have spent the first week of school getting them into the game. We now have to play test it and start really playing in the space that we created. We know that the game is missing something to really make it wow and stand out. Over lunch today our producers were able to bounce ideas around, and next week we are going to start the week with a Design meeting to continue bouncing ideas around the whole team. The goal of the meeting it to end in a place that we can iterate and play with new stuff in the game. We don’t want to add a million mechanics, just find a couple more that work super well with what we have. On the Gapp lab side of things, we are changing things up in the Gapp lab and are going to be doing a total of 5 project in the Gapp lab. The project I am running will be a game helping teenagers understand the importance of taking care of the air quality of Utah. I have a great team and I hope just praying that the new approach we are doing in the gapp lab will be successful. I’m going to be there with a bunch of awesome student developers that have created some awesome stuff. We are going to push for greatness! As we push ahead in the thesis project, We are looking toward an Oct 31 deadline for submission to IGF. It’s a huge goal, but not impossible. We keep moving forward. More details to come as the semester progresses and more on my position in the team as a producer/engineer.

Finding the Game Design

One of the biggest struggles I believe our team has had is really nailing down the question, “What is our game?” We have had several design meetings that we’ve covered the topic and team members have thrown out ideas, but So far what we are doing is recreating our hall scenario from the pitch. We’ve centered around a Comic book Cell Shaded art style which gives us lots of liberties with the mechanic. Meaning that we could make the mechanic a super power or a paranormal feature. So far we still haven’t found the fun of our game. Because of the excess of producers on my team I have taken to prototyping different ideas that have come up during meetings. My hope in doing this is to find and show what can and can’t be fun with our mechanic.

On a different note, The GApp lab project that I’ve been producing is in crunch right now getting ready for a harsh alpha review this coming Monday. We have one big feature to get in tomorrow then bug testing for the rest of the week. I’m nervous and excited to see this project moving forward. I’ve been learning a lot in The GApp lab about how to be a good producer. I still have a long way to go, I’m still learning things everyday from Zac and Zeph (the Lead Producers of The GApp lab). One of the big things I learned this week was how to go about planning crunch. I was just going to sit down with my team and tell them, “Look we have a lot to do we are going to have to put a lot of hours in this week to get it done.” In the team meeting, I starting running over all that we needed to do. Zac then led a discussion on how we could get everything done. He laid out a couple options. The team responded with a couple options. We then analyzed our options and chose a direction to go. I was shocked at how easy the discussion when and then took some time to think of how I could use that to be a better producer. I’m hoping that one day it will all just click, but until then I’m going to keep working and trying to get to being a good producer.

And then there was one.

Monday’s pitch to the Industry panel went better than expected. We had a lot of positive feedback from the panel on both games, and the producers that pitched our games did a great job at getting to the point of what our games were so that the panel could riff off of our ideas and give us some good suggestions. After the pitch, it didn’t seem obvious to which game we should pick. The Tuesday after the pitch we had a long discussion in class as a full cohort. Even after the discussion with the cohort and the faculty it didn’t seem obvious what we were going to choose. Yesterday I was still unsure on whether we were going to chose the button game or the premonition game. Both have tons of potential. Both have flaws that need to be worked out. I have seen button since it was a small idea and prototype from our first semester and kept with it up to the point of becoming a pitch and second prototype to the industry panel.  The premonition idea was a good idea that our team has crunched on for 2 weeks and have made a great prototype of the idea. They both really could be great games, but the professors gave us until today to make a decision: Choose a game, keep prototyping both ideas, disband the team. I did not want to get to today and decided to keep prototyping two ideas. It was completely dividing our team and I wanted a cohesive idea that we could all get behind. With a lot of contemplation and some good advice from a c3 producer, I made a decision about which game I was going to fight for. I weighed the options and chose to NOT vote for the button game though I was attached to it. I thought that the only way I would have wanted to choose the button game was too completely change it, which wasn’t good for the team. I went to class this morning ready to face a team divided on the issue. We gathered for our stand up and started with: “Maybe we should just list pros and cons of each game.” Then It was mentioned, “Let’s just do a vote.” It was agreed and the team got ready for a vote.

“How many want to do the button game.”

Not a single person raised their hand. I was shocked and also very happy that the entire team got behind one game to move forward. Finally with a game, we set out on a long 2 week break which will give us time to think about our decision and get ready to start working on our thesis project! The first decision we are making is what Engine to use. WE are trying to make a quick decision to start the learning process, but we’ll see how quick it happens. Also we are going to try to do something really risky and rewarding, We are going to try to get access to the Unreal Engine 4 which isn’t out for public use. It really is a shot in the dark, but why not try at least right?! So that’s the current project. I can’t wait to see what the future brings for our group!

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!

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!