Jed Merrill, Producer/Game Designer

Week 16

Tuesday, December 8, 2015.

We start the day with an end of semester Team Postmortem with Jose and Brian.  Jose wrote out a basic timeline of the semester across three white boards.  We told him what we thought were the major events and key decisions of the last few months.  We then talked about what went well, what went poorly, and how each event affected us as a team and individually, including morale and productivity.  Overall, the meeting was very positive, and we feel especially good about having kept the same vision since January with relatively minor need for iteration that is confined to gameplay, key narrative, and inputs.  Every other team has shifted focus dramatically, and not everyone is happy about it.

After the meeting, we have a five minute stand up meeting, then enjoy the texture work that Shahbaz has put into the garage and hallways in the last few days!  The art side of the project has seemed to crawl all semester, something I chalked up to having only one artist on the team vs three engineers, but that is because Shahbaz has been building 100+ objects in 3D that are only now finding permanent homes in the hallways and garage epicenter of Scenario 2.  It is now evident how much he has done, and I feel like we are actually in a place to impress judges in competitions like IGF and I/ITSEC, not to mention investors!  A lucky few will get their first textured look at B.E.S.T. at EAE Day this Friday!

Shahbaz enlists my help in finding a vintage, royalty free poster for a garage wall.  We laugh at a few we find.  I also suggest we put the man, his daughter, and wife in a family photo in the hallway.  Right now, there is no wife modeled for the game, as the wife (spoiler alert) is dead, so we joke about putting in a Hamlet-like skull for the third family face. 🙂

The stage is set for a much stronger IGF video, which I am working on.  Eric is working on a public facing one for EAE Day, and maybe we will merge the best elements of both?  I have gathered b-roll for the production throughout the semester, but am not satisfied with the in game footage until now.

I hear that Mark and Brian will be our faculty for Projects 3 in my final semester at EAE, starting in January!  Hallie says I have the option to do Experimental Games as an extra elective next term, but it depends on the status of my studio.  The class could provide some innovative prototypes that I could see making it into future games, but will also be a lot of work that could compete with my other plans.  I had enough credits to graduate already last semester, but had to finish a thesis project.

In the evening, I enjoy my last Paper Prototyping class of the semester.  Thanks Matt!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015.

41LmTF24BIL._SX442_BO1,204,203,200_61-ze-WfixL._SX403_BO1,204,203,200_I work on the latest iteration of the IGF video.  I also download the Kindle version of Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals (recommended by Matt as extra reading) and A Theory of Fun for Game Design, a book I saw on a table at my first GDC.  I start to read both and finish A Theory of Fun around midnight.

I also follow up with two contacts from Saturday’s UDEN 8 meeting. 🙂

11261784_10153889366999101_6621164288683689877_oI get a text from a friend who wants to meet with me about funding a comic book deal on Monday.  I’ve been involved with funding and promoting movies and music in the past, but this will be my first comic book proposal.  He just inked a volume of The Phantom with Sal Velluto.

Thursday, December 10, 2015.

Last day of class before EAE Day!  We spend the day polishing Scenario 2 and making videos.  I upload one more build to IGF.

Taylor brings us breakfast!  Thanks Taylor!

We also track down A.J. so we can get the high end headphones with mic that should improve the voice tone readings in a crowded room.

See you at the open house?

Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 9.53.18 AM

Update:  At 6 pm, I ask Jeff Peters if I can sit in on the Game Business class everyone has been talking about.  It is the last week, so everyone presents their final projects, including Eric who shares a vision for the future of B.E.S.T. that we will talk about over the next few weeks.

jeff_peters_attack_from_mars_smallAfter the presentations were over, Jeff asks the class if there is anything else they would like to discuss before the class ends. Sculptured Software comes up, and it turns out Jeff was the person that I pitched my first game to when I was 15 years old!  He had a pony tail at the time and had recently moved to Utah from California.  I had written Sculptured Software a letter saying I was a 15 year old game designer, and one day he called me up and asked if I would like to tour the studio.  Since I was still fifteen, my mother drove me to the studio, and I pitched him a game that can best be described as Shadow Complex before Chair.  This is not the first time I’ve seen Jeff since joining EAE, but now it feels like I’ve discovered a long lost uncle.  That phone call and pitch were a defining moment of my teenage years and trajectory toward game design!  Thank you, Jeff!  And thank you, EAE, for an early Christmas present!

After the class, I stick around the North Lab until 1:15 am with the rest of the team, when the build is pronounced complete!  We take a team selfie to celebrate. 🙂

Friday, December 11, 2015.

It’s EAE Day!

Charlie and I arrive at EAE West early to set up three computers and a projector to show off B.E.S.T.  The whole team presents the game, except for Ahmad who is showing off a GApp Lab project elsewhere on the floor.  We have lines of people waiting to see B.E.S.T., and I end up setting up a sign up spreadsheet so people don’t get discouraged and walk away without trying it.  If people leave their phone number, I text them three to five minutes before their turn so they can keep walking around the floor.

Our guest of honor is Lt. Wade Breur, our POC (that’s military for Point of Contact) at Peace Officer Standards and Training in Utah.  I take a few short video clips of him playing the game to include in our next IGF video iteration.

Among other higher profile visitors, I talk with a representative of Disney Avalanche who has a strong interest in VR.  Josh Jones of IGDA Salt Lake tries out the game, and three visitors from Freedom VR stop by at least twice.  They recognize me from the Salt Lake VR event a month ago featuring Kevin Williams.

Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 8.49.48 PMOne person asks about investing in B.E.S.T.  The amount it will take to make B.E.S.T. a full fledged product is a bit more than he can do himself, but it is good to have interest already!  I plan to meet with investors next weekend in Las Vegas, and we will continue to entertain people until the project is fully funded.  Charlie is back in town from Seattle, and says he wants to continue to work on B.E.S.T. when we are funded, even though he is pretty popular where he works in Redmond!  Even though he is in and out of town, he has been integral to our project and is fantastic to work with!

A VR focused blogger says he wants to interview each member of Team B.E.S.T. individually sometime in the next month or two.

Each year there is a traditional “glorious” cake at EAE Day.  2014 featured a Space Invaders/Pac-Man/Mario cake.  In 2013, it was MineCraft.  I am told 2012 featured a Pong machine cake.  This year it is BB-8!  Before long, the cake is BB-Eaten…

Some of the best feedback of the day comes from a girl who attends East High School.  She is in a class, Techniques for Tough Times, that emphasizes de-escalation and crucial conversations, and gives us the name of her teacher, Leigh.  I’d love to get her thoughts on B.E.S.T.

We finish the night happy and united as a team.

The latest build is uploaded to IGF.  There is still a lot to do, but we feel good about our direction and momentum.  There is real hope that B.E.S.T. will become more than a thesis project.