Jed Merrill, Producer/Game Designer

Week 15

Monday, November 30, 2015.

Made another six to seven figure pitch today!  (Depending on selected features.)

This would essentially be an advergame (I prefer “brand experience”) that I will design and hire artists and engineers to work on.  While the budget is not set, they bought the vision and will let me know in the next few weeks when their funding is in.

The company is a startup working with some big brands that anyone would recognize.  Even better, if this catches on it could make the world a healthier place!

My Games for Health and Bench 2 Bedside experience may pay off before I finish my thesis!  It has always been my plan to have EAE pay for itself before I graduate, and it just might.  Maybe I can help a few others do the same?

Tuesday, December 1, 2015.

Ahmad is at I/ITSEC, and Eric and I may join him tomorrow, taking a red eye flight.

We upload a new build of B.E.S.T. to IGF.  I put together build notes and get the latest to Brian. Eric and I meet with Brian for about half an hour, mostly discussing what we will have done by EAE Day, ten days from today.  We give Shahbaz and Nidal several options for what to work on while we are away.

In the afternoon, I play test Jon Pardew‘s fantasy war game for Paper Prototyping.  Lots of potential!  We are to play each other’s games four times and note at least five things we would improve.  The exercise is also a good test of the effectiveness of our written rule sets.  What essential elements are in the mind of the creator but not adequately communicated in writing to the player?

contract-sign-clipartWriting rules for games is a LOT like writing a legal contract.  Contracts are just a set of rules to govern a real life relationship, where game rules are a set of rules to govern a play relationship.  In both cases, one has to predict a wide array of possible outcomes and human behaviors, and try to avoid leaving loopholes that lead to relationship breakdowns while maximizing joy to both parties. Both contracts and rule sets can be dry to read through if the drafters don’t remember they are writing for humans.  Both provide a road map to potential rewards for good behavior and potential punishments for non-optimal compliance.  I am sure the similarities don’t end there!  At least game rules are often illustrated!

Emily Post, author of Etiquette, actually says etiquette is just a set of rules for the social game.  She wanted young girls to understand the rules so they could play the social game better.

social-d659a1b80f40b7c390bf6d225cc8dfa5Some of the best social games allow us to test and push the boundaries of etiquette.  Should the success of Cards Against Humanity: A Party Game for Terrible People really surprise us? Grand Theft Auto?  Is it a surprise that testing boundaries is a defining attribute of Millennials raised on games since infancy?

Indie movies and games often intentionally push the boundaries of social rules (The Graduate is an ancient example) and game conventions (Braid or Antichamber.)

Breaking rules does not always make a game or movie, a player or society, better, but it can make a movie or game stand out.  Why do we love surprise endings? Comedy punch lines? They break the rule sets that lead to merely logical, programmed or expected conclusions.  Is it bad that the jokes we remember the most are racist or bathroom humor or pillow talk?  “You might be a redneck if…”  “An American, a Russian, and a Pollock are standing on a cliff…”  “How many Ethiopians does it take to screw in a lightbulb…”  “Two flies decide to have a race across a black man’s lips…”

chicken-crossing-road“Why did the chicken cross the road?” is actually a double cross.  You expect some extraordinary answer, and just get the ordinary: “To get to the other side!”

What does all of this have to do with B.E.S.T.?

B.E.S.T. is a game about what happens when things go wrong, and the beginning of a conversation about how to make things right.

My hope is that we can make the experience memorable, and not just because police shooting civilians and civilians shooting police is a current issue.

Maybe our game, unlike some, will actually make society and some individuals better, more thoughtful, more prepared.

huge.1.5095The system of rules and laws and training that is supposed to protect us is broken, or people wouldn’t be dying on either side.  What can we do to plug the dam?  Or do we need to rebuild a new and better dam, as some suggest?

Part of the problem is this particular dam is made out of people, people who don’t completely trust each other.  B.E.S.T. puts most of the responsibility for behavior and ethics training on officers, but civilians need training, too.  How not to get shot.  How not to make police think you are a danger to them or to others.

A conversation has to happen that is two way and that starts to rebuild trust that at least a few people seem to take great pride in undermining.  B.E.S.T. will be at its best if it helps facilitate such a conversation, if it helps to prove that police are open and engaged in facilitating that conversation, and are training to behave ethically and responsibly when it comes to use of force.

I’ve talked about making six and seven figure pitches Saturday and Monday…  As fun as that has been, with B.E.S.T. we get to make a financial, procedural, and emotional pitch that may well pay off in lives.

Thursday, December 3, 2015.

IMG_3683 (1)Winners!

Ahmad and Eric win first place at I/ITSEC for HealthX, a game they worked on at the GApp Lab!  Ahmad also finds a directory of companies that attended I/ITSEC this year that may come in handy when we are ready to raise money to expand B.E.S.T.

This is the second EAE win in a row, as CyberHeist won last year’s Serious Games Competition at I/ITSEC.

We plan to resubmit B.E.S.T. for next year’s competition when we have more than a rough demo.  The judges were pretty excited about our project this year, but ran into some technical difficulties setting up the Emotiv and RealSense.  Can EAE win the Serious Games Competition three years in a row?

I track down a campus attorney so we can get some answers necessary to raising money for B.E.S.T.  I also have a lunch meeting with a former concept artist from EA.  If I can get a contract going in the next few months, he would like to work with me, and has leads on one or two more.

Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 2.51.34 PMIn the evening, I attend the launch party for a live adventure game called Grailer.  I am invited to join a girl named Connie on one of the first teams in the competition.  She is recruiting someone she knows from Crossfit, and is pretty motivated to win because she wants to use part of the $1,000,000 prize pot to pay for medical school.

Among EAE folk, I’d like to have J.P. join us, given his family’s ownership of Mystery Escape Room and his leadership of the Escape Room Association.  The cost is $249 per person, with each team composed of four people.

Friday, December 4, 2015.

51-zf9uhb5L._SL300_I finish listening to MineCraft: The Unlikely Tale of Markus ‘Notch’ Persson and the Game that Changed Everything.  It is nice to hear the story of someone who also has Scandinavian roots making it big in the game industry.

I also complete Tracy Fullerton‘s Game Design Workshop. 🙂

Saturday, December 5, 2015.

It’s Industry Day!

I attend film industry panels most of the day, followed by UDEN 8 starring Donald Mustard, co-founder of Chair and maker of Shadow Complex and Infinity Blade.  Chad is speaking about Spyjinx, a new game he is collaborating on with J. J. Abrams, director of Star Wars Episode 7 and the two most recent Star Trek films, among other great works.

I also sign up for PA Bootcamp, which requires a separate ticket.  I invite one of my former interns who did script coverage at HFI to attend, and we catch up on games and movies.

Highlights of the day:

1. The PA Bootcamp, the first ever put on by the Utah Film Commission, but hopefully the first of many.

2. A workshop on Post-Production Sound for films.  I would love to have this quality level of sound for games!  The industry is getting there, but has not caught up with film yet.  Thank you to for putting on the workshop.  Later in the day, I meet with three other audio people, including Chance Thomas, Michael Fewkes, and Rachel Robison.  Chance did music for DOTA 2 and is Emmy nominated.  Michael does sound effects, and Rachel is a talented student composer who would like to compose music for both movies and games.  I especially like her track “Nostalgia” on SoundCloud.

3. A panel on film distribution that includes one of my film mentors, Gil Aglaure of Koan, Inc.  I was also impressed with Tyler Measom, a filmmaker who takes selling his films after making them seriously.  He says he makes one film every four years, and should at least spend a year making sure audiences see it!  Too many filmmakers play hot potato or dump truck, and try to leave their art on the doorstep of a distributor so they can move on to their next film.

4. A personal introduction to Marshall Moore, former head of the Utah Film Commission, who today is a liaison for Park City Film Studios.  He invites me on a tour of the facility on December 16th, about a month and a half before UDEN 9 goes on January 29th.  Matt Anderson, my Paper Prototyping professor, may go with me.  We will also tour the new pre-vis studio at UVU.

5. A talk with Ally, the wife in the husband-wife filmmaking duo behind science fiction film 95ers, a prequel to a planned trilogy.  I will likely meet with her husband next week.  I have the t-shirt of their film from the LDS Film Festival in Orem.  Ally just acted in a Hallmark film.

6. Running into about half a dozen people I know from EAE, including Corrinne, AJ, JenJen, Topher, and Tim Cooley, who is actually an MBA who just made a game called StepPets.  Tim was President of the Entrepreneur Club, so JenJen and I know him pretty well.  Topher also collaborated on StepPets.  I promise to connect them with a licensing person who once worked on Batman, Power Rangers, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in case they want to do toys.  I also talk to JenJen about a possible joint venture that would build on one of her EAE rapid prototypes, but can’t say more just yet.

7. Half an hour talking to Donald and Laura Mustard after Donald’s keynote presentation.

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