Jed Merrill, Producer/Game Designer

Week 10 – IGF Submission

Monday, October 26, 2015.

logo_igfToday is the IGF deadline!

Our engineers and tech artist work overtime, and I put together a video to represent B.E.S.T. to judges.  Eric is in California for the week.

Once we have a final IGF deadline build, I pay the entry fee and submit!

While today at midnight PST is the deadline for entry, we will continue to update our IGF build weekly until the judges look at it sometime in December or January.  That means I will update the video and screen shots often as well.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015.

The EAE North lab is practically empty this morning.  People are worn out, and most take the day off, or at least arrive late.  Hallie brings in fruit and vegetable trays, pastries, and bagels, and I contribute two bottles of sparkling white grape juice to celebrate with my team.  Brian, our faculty advisor, joins us in a toast.

Gear VRI bring in a Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition.  IGN Deals tipped me off that they were half off on Amazon this weekend.  Now I just need a Samsung S6 to make use of it!  I am considering getting my Utah Indie Game Jam team back together to port The Wishing Well to the Gear VR.

I spend a few minutes writing down post mortem notes, but we decide as a team to wait until Eric is back to do a formal one.

Rockwell_Collins_Logo_2At 11:00, about twenty-five members of Cohorts 5 and 6 head over to Rockwell Collins, for a first and in some cases second look at the aircraft simulator’s operations.  (Rockwell is one of six big players in this space.)  We receive security badges and are escorted through the building to a cafeteria where we enjoy a catered barbecue benefitting The United Way and show off our top projects.

I sit with three employees of Rockwell, and compare notes between their simulator and ours.  Rockwell Collins likes to have EAE input on their projects, as simulators are inevitably compared to modern games.  One person talks about having met Steve Jobs and Stephen Hawking, highlights of his 30 plus year career.  He was also once asked by Microsoft for advice on what features should go into Excel.  We also talk about security clearances.  They sometimes need one to work on projects in classified installations.  As a Veteran who was in a Military Intelligence battalion, I also was once issued a Top Secret clearance (TS/SCI), but it expired after five years.  I would love to renew it someday.

I decide against applying for a Rockwell Collins internship, but was very impressed by some of their demos, especially one in a cockpit that uses mirrors to significantly enhance realism.  It was like VR without the glasses!  Rockwell says they considered VR at one point, but pilots do not like headsets over their heads, as it is essential to see their hands as they interact with complex instruments.

After the barbecue, I talk about the experience with Nidal and Ahmad, then head to POST to shoot some B-roll that can enhance future versions of our IGF trailer.

In the evening, I attend Paper Prototyping where we discuss game balancing, play test, and work on final projects.  Matt says he is confident my project will be successful, and it is now time to design lots of levels.  I plan to make a paper prototype for class, but the game will ultimately be digital.
Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 1.02.03 PMGreg and I have a great conversation about how to deal with and eliminate politics and ego in our EAE teams.  My team has suffered the least from politics and ego, in part because we are a smaller team (six instead of twelve), but also because we made a no politics, no drama rule when we first got together that we can refer to if we start to forget.  (Team Retro Yeti was at times all politics, so I tried to inoculate my team early.)  It is possible to communicate without ego.

Team B.E.S.T.’s biggest issue this semester is having two Producers, which means Eric and I have to communicate enough to always be on the same page.  That is not always easy and has taken some iteration and practice.  Greg’s elegant solution is to not just have game design meetings, but team design meetings.  Both solutions are the cultural equivalent of setting up articles of organization, as when setting up an LLC.

Matt says in the industry, ego can be less of an issue because people are kept in line pretty well by reliance on a paycheck.

Fire v Flow AlignmentAt EAE, personal interests often flare up, and it is the work of a Producer (and ideally everyone on the team) to align such interests.  Following stormy first year lessons at EAE, I have often said it is my mission as a Producer to produce a Team that produces a Game, rather than produce a Game directly.  A team enflamed in drama and politics is not in flow, and probably is not thinking enough about the needs and experience of the player, client or studio.

Proper alignment, which begins with communication and healthy guidelines, tends to extinguish ego and improve communication, a virtuous circle conducive to optimal and enjoyable game development.

Thursday, October 29, 2015.

It is 12:30 am and I just got back from attending the first day of the two day Peery Film Festival sponsored by the social entrepreneurship focused Ballard Center at BYU.  I am on their list thanks to TEDxBYU, which I volunteered at two years ago and hope to speak at one day.

home-splashAfter touring a dozen or so booths at the Changemaker Fair, I make it into the film screening for The Abolitionists, a documentary about a group of mercenaries working to end child sex trafficking.  The film is made by three filmmakers I know from my past life in the film industry.

The closing credits remind the audience that 58 children were freed during the filming of the documentary, and a total of 350 are free so far in the ongoing effort, which goes under the name Operation Underground Railroad.  The operations also have a chilling effect on the sex trade in associated countries, which range from Columbia to Mexico to Haiti.  I am so moved by the film that I nearly volunteer to participate in one of their “jump” operations next summer.  It would put my former military skills to use for a good cause…  For now, I buy the $15 t-shirt.

Afterward, I catch up with one of the three filmmakers, Darrin, who is counseling a filmmaker who has chosen to become homeless for the last 18 months in an investigative capacity.  The man, Daniel, plans to produce an as yet untitled film or TV series about homeless life.  Daniel offers to let us try a two day “homeless experience” with him to see what life is really like on the streets, and says a city councilman has agreed to the challenge.  (I think I prefer the two day billionaire experience!)  Maybe he should run for city council himself, given his inside knowledge of this important human and city issue?  The one homeless trait Daniel admits he has not experienced is substance abuse, as he does not drink, smoke or do drugs of any kind.

The Abolitionists filmmaker Darrin is happy to see me again, and says there is currently a game in production to support Operation Underground Railroad.  Apple will highlight the game on the App Store when it comes out.  The game is titled Rescue Me, and is in development by a studio I recently visited.

We decide we should sit down and discuss future business opportunities in the next few weeks.  As meaningful as Darrin’s current project is, he could use a break from some of the material he is editing.  The Abolitionists is on track to be at least a thirteen part TV series.  As a family man, he would like to work on lighter fare, at least some of the time.  The two biggest projects on his slate would make great games, and I know an award winning EAE Producer who can make them happen.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween!  (Or Dreadfall if you play Dragons: Rise of Berk.)



As a Halloween trick / treat for you, I update my Play / Read page with some great new games and books…  Candy doesn’t translate well to blogs.