Jed Merrill, Producer/Game Designer

Week 12

10955137_1614474688765652_547242337_nSunday, November 8, 2015.

I enjoy a private concert with musician Madison Williams, who I may start helping with my entertainment business background.  Some of the same principles that apply to games also apply to movies and music, so it should help both of us.  No formal contract, just fun.

Games, after all, are a confluence of many mediums, including music.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015.

Snow.  Lots of snow!

The highlight and subsequent drama of the morning is finally having our police belt in, complete with sim gun and sim taser.  After a team member holds the sim gun to his own head, I start to think maybe Team B.E.S.T. needs psych evaluations and weapons training…  Sim guns can actually be dangerous at close range.  They hold soap rounds similar to paint balls that paint a soapy X on one who is shot. Fortunately, we have no rounds.  This sim weapon will also not hold regular rounds, but has the weight and feel of an official police firearm.  The body is light blue to help observers distinguish it from a real firearm.  The sim taser is just plastic.

The updated Trello system also looks good.

We invest in an already rigged, customizable 3D model of a girl who will be the daughter of the primary suspect in Scenario 2.  The model of the suspect himself is created in house.

Screen Shot 2015-11-11 at 11.37.31 AMAhmad reminds us that it is our last chance to register for I/ITSEC at an early bird price. Because I own a media company, I qualify for a free pass, and sign up for the optional Serious Game Design Tutorial on December 4th.  I will primarily be there for business development purposes for B.E.S.T., however.  I get a kick out of the optional I/ITSEC 5K Run/Walk/Roll.  They offer three charity supporting options, an actual 5K race for $35, a $5 snooze button, or a $35 virtual race.  I am tempted to try out the virtual 5K.

Screen Shot 2015-11-11 at 11.35.02 AMI check into what it might cost to buy  Only $12,000,000!  Not in our budget yet, but maybe we can get Roger to cover it?

I talk with Eric about having the Anger meter display the dominant emotion of the suspect.  Is 10% Anger really anger?  Nidal also has a shadow effect working.  I wonder if we should give the shadow an Anger meter, too?  A tense standoff with one’s own shadow would be entertaining and maybe cause one to reflect on what it feels like to have a weapon pointed at oneself.  Would this support the life and death training mission of a place like POST?  Maybe not.

Screen Shot 2015-11-11 at 11.30.02 AMTuesday night, I attend Salt Lake IGDA sponsored Final Burn 2015 at Legends Grill.  Ninja Bee sponsors the food for everyone and we all get in some great networking.  The competition is between ten Utah published games from 2015.  I do not have a game on the list this year, so I am mostly here to support industry friends.  The list includes Disney Infinity 3.0 (the Star Wars update) by Disney Interactive, Minions Paradise by EA, Wild Works: Animal Jam (winner), Loose Cannons (short of first by one vote), Crashnauts, and a handful of others.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015.

It’s Labor Day!

I spend the day working on an interactive portfolio of my game design and game production work while at EAE.  I pull videos, screenshots, one sheets, game design documents, project pitches, level designs, and a lot more and connect them to the many games I’ve been privileged to work on at EAE and before EAE.  I could probably continue this process for a week!  It makes my day to see some of the level designs again.  It’s also nice to dig up the list of 100 game ideas I came up with for Jose’s Game Design 1 course.  (The 100 ideas we had to put on notecards that were mostly discarded as an object lesson about the value of game ideas…  I’m glad I had a backup!  I may also have fished my cards out of the trash after everyone left the building.)

I also update my resume for the React! Games internship Matt says he can help me get.  It was mostly put together, but every company and position deserves some customization.  Thank you to A.J. Dimick for his workshop a few weeks ago on effective resume design for game developers!

In the evening I work on the All Hands Meeting presentation for tomorrow.

imgresI sign up for an All Access Pass for GDC in March 2016.  (Thank you to EAE and Corrinne for covering more than half!)  The pass covers (my highlights bolded):

“All Main Conference Sessions, All Summits, Tutorials, & Bootcamps, VR Developers Conference sessions, GDC General Session, All Advocacy Track sessions, Game Career Seminar, GDC Play, IGF Pavilion, GDC Expo Floor & Career Center, Business Center, IGF & Choice Award Shows, GDC Business Matchmaking, GDC Mobile App, GDC Expo Floor Happy Hour, All GDC Mixers, GDC Vault Access, and GDC Sponsored Events and Parties.”

Finally, throughout the day I listen to presentations from the 2015 IGDA Leadership Summit that Brianne Christensen let me know are now available online.  (Brianne, Jen Jen Francis, and I attended the Summit in Seattle in September!)

Thursday, November 12, 2015.

One on ones with Jose precipitate another great design meeting.  Eric says he wants to get together and make sure everyone is okay with each other after any peer review feedback Jose may have included with his own and Brian’s observations, and we have a chance to talk about the role of Producers in a way that is empowering to the whole team instead of empowering to the Producer.

Personally my goal is to better balance day to day production with big picture production, something I discussed two weeks ago with Nidal.

We also talk about why we have not been back to The Void yet, and make a list of features that we think should be present before we go back…next week.  I suggest we write a number of minutes (even if it is 240 minutes in some cases) for each task so we can prioritize with our limited resources, especially when it comes to art, and Ahmad brings up other pipeline issues.  We also agree to have a publicly visible white board saying what we are all doing each week, over and beyond the more detailed assignments we have on Trello.  The white board mentions one to three of our primary goals for the team for the next week, any major events the following week, and the top three to five things each of us is responsible for.

Afterward, we go to lunch at Cedars of Lebanon, which has supplanted The Crimson Room as our official lunch venue of late.  Charlie is with us, and we also have a guest from another team who used to do coverage as an intern for Joel Silver, a film Producer.  It is interesting to compare his film experience to my own at HFI.  At one point I had three interns doing coverage for me, and have read innumerable scripts myself.  He explains the difference between a First Look deal and an Overhead deal to the group.  (Compare five types of development deals in music.)  The convergence of film and games has been a topic for decades, but it is interesting to see Chair’s Donald Mustard announcing a deal with J.J. Abrams this week.  I am meeting with a director myself on Monday about film and game projects.

51l98hNDiQL._SX305_BO1,204,203,200_In the evening I am happy to receive my Deck of Lenses: Second Edition (by Jesse Schell) in the mail.  A first edition deck helped us come up with the triangulation mechanic for Adriana Jones and the Incan Escape in Rapid Prototyping.  We may start discussing B.E.S.T. from the perspective of some of the lenses in design meetings.


Friday, November 13, 2015.

It is gaming philosophy/ethics day.  Question:

“If no one is there to play your game, does it even exist?”

I think the piece the most people forget in any game design is the player.  A game is not complete without a player.  (Play testing is therefore where physical rubber first meets digital road.)

As Luke was not a Jedi until he faced his father, with the best training in seven star systems, a game is not a game until someone has a controller in his or her hand.

I’ve been listening to Masters of Doom, and there is a quote that I think is really important.  Paraphrased:  “To understand the player is to understand the game.”

The thing about that is, every player is different.

Games are a profoundly psychological experience.  VR, according to one person at IGDA Leadership Summit this year, goes a step further, giving game designers/programmers/artists, etc. “direct access to the emotional centers of the brain.”  Have a fear of heights in real life?  It may not trigger when you cross a bridge as Link on your TV, but it will in VR.  Think those zombies are disgusting from five feet away?  Wait until you are in their living room!
The very first film class I ever took at age 17 was called Power of the Director.  The professor showed us the opening sequence of Groundhog Day with two different kinds of music and then no music, and it changed everything.  “At the core of the movie making experience is trust,” he said.

200429986-001-e13427097726641“You are inviting someone into a dark room and connecting with them in an intimate way for about two hours.”

I think the most basic qualification for a maker of games, especially in the future, may be to love the player.  To respect the player.  To not hurt the player (PTSD may be possible in VR, though VR can also help treat it), but to empower and enrich and entertain him or her.  (Maybe more her than him, now that more women play games than men!)

As the democratization of media to social media has taught us, to make and to share media is power.  As Sony says through Spider-Man, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

APP11304I’m not sure I buy that games make players violent, but I do think in the future it will be possible for games to do violence to people.  Sword Art Online, anyone?  Our upcoming variations on “NerveGear” don’t have to connect physically to our nervous system to do harm.  They will connect to our eyes, ears, and eventually smell and touch, as at The Void, and in a way that circumvents many of our “personal space” defenses.

348906-7-tips-for-high-scores-on-flappy-birdI also feel some responsibility to make games that don’t waste player time.  When you hear that hundreds of millions of hours have already been logged playing GTA V, how many human lifetimes is that?  This literally drove the Flappy Bird’s creator Dong Nguyen to take his game offline, forgoing enormous daily revenue.  (About $50,000 a day.)

In summary, it is my intention and hope that I can make games that entertain and inspire the player, that allow her/him to experience new worlds, while protecting them to some degree from what might do lasting harm, and above all, to add meaning and light and happiness to player lives, both the real one and the 1UP kind.  Maybe not every game will do that, but it is part of my design philosophy, a philosophy always in process.

Hopefully B.E.S.T. does a little good.  Steve Jobs is famous for saying he wanted to make a dent in the universe.  With B.E.S.T., we hope to fix one.