Jed Merrill, Producer/Game Designer

Level 5

Tuesday, August 25, 2015.

Welcome back!

Semester four ended strong, with a solid “A” in Projects, so I hope to start strong in semester five!

This is my first time actually having a computer in the North EAE lab, which makes me feel like an upperclassman, except this is not my first graduate degree, so it is vaguely familiar.  Until now, we have been in the South EAE lab, which has more of a startup company look and feel.

Team B.E.S.T. has our own wall, and my Windows PC and Mac Laptop are directly below the Angry Birds poster, tangentially appropriate since half of my family comes from Finland, where Angry Birds creator Rovio is based.  My brother also recently moved to Finland with his family after selling his second business,, to Endurance Hosting.  He is developing the top sketching and design app for the iPad from there, but recently raised a round of funding in San Francisco that values his early stage company at $5,000,000.

It is good to be back with the team.  I bring in a RoboQuad robot for people to toy with, one of three I bought over the summer.  I think it is relevant to our project because it reacts “emotionally” to people around it, and our simulator is emotion based. In a way, every animated character in any game is a robot, however human or animal or fantasy it may appear.

My initial sense is that communications have gone sideways during the summer.  Some on our team were full time committed to internships, while others had more time to spend developing and refocusing B.E.S.T.

We’ve actually done a lot in the last four months, meeting with groups like POST and one other we can’t announce yet publicly…  Eric also made an appearance at an edutainment conference in Pennsylvania.  One team member went overseas for the first few weeks of the summer and got engaged, but we met as often as we could given our diverse schedules, often at 10 or 11 at night or even later at Denny’s.

Also, not everyone stayed connected to Slack during the summer, so we have a lot of catching up to do and getting on the same page.  Fortunately, we have two Producers to get the job done this year, as Eric Allen is transitioning from a 3D Artist/Engineer to Producer.  I was the sole Producer last semester.  On its face, this also presents a challenge.  How do we make sure we both get the full Producer challenge and experience this year instead of one person becoming a marketing and social media producer and one more of a line producer?  It will take communication and sometimes trading off roles, and I look forward to it.  Of course, I was previously on a team that had four Producers, which makes this dilemma relatively simple to walk around.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015.

Screen Shot 2015-09-12 at 5.13.20 PMNo class today, but I stopped by the DMV to have my Hyundai Sonata Hybrid license plate personalized to read BEST, reflecting our project and team name.  Its the closest I think I am going to come to tattooing the project name on myself, and hopefully builds team morale and leads to opportunities to talk about the game/simulation. Worth the $99 investment?  Your call.

I also work on our application in response to the Microsoft Hololens RFP (request for proposal.)  It’s a long shot, but I think we have a project worthy of the award and opportunity.  The due date is September 5th.

In other news, I learn that I am to be a recipient of the Edna F. Pass Memorial Scholarship!  I am BEYOND honored, and hope that her gift will make a difference in many lives, not just my own.

I also start to assemble my game design toolbox for Paper Prototyping, my elective this semester.

Thursday, August 27, 2015.

We start the day with a five minute standup meeting, then meet with Jose Zagal and Brian Salisbury, our faculty advisors for Fall 2015.  Both give us great feedback and ask some tough questions about what we really want.  Jose says we should not just do what POST wants, as the customer does not always know best.  If Apple had asked a customer what they wanted in a phone before unveiling the iPhone, the answer might have been a flip phone with a keyboard, but flip phones practically went extinct when iPhone came out.  Today every phone is a smart phone.

I believe our project should focus on solving the deeper societal problem(s) behind police shootings rather than simply trying to replace or replicate what POST and other training organizations do presently.

Jose also wants us to submit something to IGF, even if the tech requirements of our simulation make judging difficult for some judges.  The IGF deadline for the 2016 competition is October 26, 2015. The award show is at GDC on March 16, 2016.

I start to investigate the criteria in greater detail and consider what our presentation needs to look like to have a chance to win, or at least capture the imagination, admiration, and a healthy mindshare of judges.

But should IGF be our focus?  No.  We have a product in development that can save lives, and we’d give up awards and an opportunity for awards if it saves one officer or civilian life.  No contest.


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