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.

Brushing it up for end of semester.

 

Our team is getting ready for the end of our first year in grad school. Our game of premonitions has three levels or iterations. We have a hallway run through while everything is exploding  and the floor is falling(the premonition ability shows the player what floor tiles are going to give out), a small room that lasers that run through the room in sequences (the premonition ability allows the player to see the laser patterns before they activate),   the last is a stairway that has spikes in the floor that are traps (the premonitions will show the player where along the stairway he will die).

I’ve been working on the stairway iteration and making sure that the mechanic will function in the level. I’ve set up the design, traps, and coding of the level. The part I’m not working on is the base premonition mechanic. Below is part of one Blueprint I created in Unreal 4 for the stairway level.

MYBLUEPRINT

Our game has a semi-theme and style. We are going for a more Cartoony, comic book style or art, and we are thinking of using a super hero theme. Our professors tell us that we have a good start, but because we are a student game, we need to have something to stand out. Like super heroes fighting obesity or something like that. Taking a topic that people know about and use the game medium to get people thinking about it. We haven’t found that piece yet, but we’ll get there.

As far as normal producer tasks, I have been getting more of that experience from The GApp lab. My team just got approval on our Alpha and we are now working hard for the next month to get a polished awesome beta. I’m super excited for another year of learning and growing!

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.

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!