Jed Merrill, Producer/Game Designer

Week 15

Monday, April 18, 2016.

Today is my follow up day for contacts I made at the Utah Governor’s Economic Summit.

k2-_020d82a9-434e-471a-a7da-9de76ddac281.v1I also receive three 4K displays that I will use when showing off game prototypes to investors and clients after I no longer have access to the EAE lab, and spend a few hours getting them set up.

Eric has the World Semifinals video ready for Microsoft. It came in at 9 minutes 30 seconds, about 30 seconds shy of the ten minute limit.  Like the five minute US Semifinals video, it had to be a single take with no edits, but we did have to combine sound from a professional mic with the video recording.  Eric, Shahbaz, Ahmad, and I shot it Friday night in three takes, then settled on the second take.  We all feel pretty good about it.  Will B.E.S.T. go on to World Finals?

maxresdefaultIn the evening, I work on my seventh and final Experimental Gameplay prototype, which is loosely based on Nintendo’s 8-bit classic Excitebike, but with a “Sacred” twist, since that is the theme for XG7.  I call it Missionary Excitebike.  A young missionary has to keep up with his companion if they are to get to their appointment and teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ on time.  (I was a missionary in Houston, Texas once upon a time.)

Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 11.41.37 PMSince B.E.S.T. is a “serious game” and I was not able to take Roger’s Serious Games class this semester, I also find time to sign up for a six week Serious Games course on Coursera sponsored by Erasmus University Rotterdam, and complete the first week’s lesson.  A highlight of the lesson is playing Darfur is Dying, a game about refugees from Sudan made in 2006. Finding ways to help Syrian refugees is a popular topic in Utah right now.

hand_printsFor an assignment, I also play and review That Dragon, Cancer, a serious game I saw at GDC this year.  The game is beautiful and hopeful, but frustrating to me as a certified nutritionist.  If you or anyone you know has cancer, I suggest listening to the audiobook Never Fear Cancer Again and watching the TED talk Can We Eat to Starve Cancer by William Li, which is about anti-angiogenesis, basically using certain foods to break down the chaotic blood vessels that support cancer cells larger than a pinhead. I’ve read elsewhere that it takes about a pound and a half a day of freeze dried strawberries to have the desired effect (for some cancers, not all), something not clear in the video.  Still see a doctor, but go informed and empowered.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016.

logoI am in!  I reported nine weeks ago that I was accepted into Royal Business Academy in Prague for one month this summer.  The acceptance was technically for Phase I, an online phase, after which a decision is made as to whether I go on to Phase II.  This morning I got an email saying I am officially invited for Phase II!

The dates are July 11th to August 5th, and will probably conflict with the week of Imagine Cup World Finals, in which case I will come back for the week.  I am thinking I will take an extra few days to visit my brother and sister-in-law in Finland, if it is not too disruptive of business at home.

I am definitely excited to get out of the country for a month after three years of EAE.  This will be my first trip to Prague and #8 to Europe.  (Maybe I can look into how B.E.S.T. would fare globally while I am there?)

Finishing August 5th should also get me home in time for the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program, if my game studio is accepted.

Get-Seeded-logo-standard-centered-092215More good news! Thursday night at the Utah Governor’s Economic Summit VIP event, I met with the outgoing President of the Entrepreneur Club.  He encouraged B.E.S.T. to apply for seed funding at the final event of the semester.  The deadline was midnight that night, so Shahbaz and Eric put together a list of assets we need and I filled out the application. This morning we received an email saying we are accepted into the next round, which means I have a presentation to put together and a three minute pitch to deliver Thursday at 5 pm.  10 of 15 selected teams will move on to the finals the following Monday, where pretty much all remaining teams get some funding.  A total of 47 teams applied this month.

I look forward to adding Get Seeded to our “already invested” list, even though the Entrepreneur Club does not take any ownership for their investment.  Get Seeded is sponsored by Zions Bank through the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute.

In Experimental Games I show off my prototype.  I ended up not finishing the Missionary Excitebike project, instead focusing on a game I call Five Faiths, One World.  I won’t go into too much detail, but the idea is to create curiosity about world religions.  As an undergrad at BYU, I was part of a club called the BYU Faith and Fellowship Club.  Each week, we invited a speaker from a different faith to come and talk to us about their faith, practices, and beliefs, from Pentacostals to Baha’i.  The idea was not to engage in some contentious debate over religion, but to gain understanding that would lead us to be better neighbors and better friends.  I think it also helped us better understand our own beliefs in the context of world religion.  The game taps into these ideas and is very cooperative in focus.  To be clear, I am not in favor of a one world, new order government at all, as the One World part of the title could be construed.  I consider centralized government to be a danger to our liberties and humanity.  I do believe in becoming better friends and neighbors in a way that is only possible if we better understand the context of our beliefs.  Maybe I will just call the game Five Faiths, referencing Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism.

IMG_0142Following showing off our games, we attend a talk about Games, Art Games, Art and Artist Games by a visiting professor from Parsons, John Sharp.  He says at Parsons they don’t use the term games at all, only play and playful experiences.

In a Q&A afterward, John also notes that art and business have always been together, yet to some degree at odds.  He notes that Leonardo Da Vinci was never “art for the sake of art.”  All of his paintings are essentially paid propaganda pieces or paid client work.  Part of his genius is art, part business dealings.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016.

Three big events today:

CaptureA Skype meeting with Shaina, Randy, and Brady from Imagine Cup, preparing us for World Semifinals.

Submit our presentation slides for tomorrow’s Get Seeded event.

IMG_0308And UDEN 10, the tenth Utah Digital Entertainment Network meeting, this time held at the Natural History Museum near the University of Utah.  Roger is the keynote speaker and talks about how to build and make use of a #1 game program like EAE.  He gives a brief shoutout to B.E.S.T. for “winning awards.”

One of the best parts of UDEN meetings is networking, and I get to see a lot of old friends and meet new ones.

Danielle Powers of Capstone (EAE undergrad senior projects) shows off the beautiful Dive: StarPath on an iPad Mini.

how-well-live-on-mars-9781476784762_hrI meet a filmmaker who is helping with the Mars One project and invites me to be his co-pilot tomorrow while filming a dance party at Sky with a drone.  Maybe I can also find some way into a Mars One event?  (Last week I read How We’ll Live on Mars, a book published by TED.)

I get to see Brenton Walker, possibly my favorite co-Producer from my days working on 404Sight prototypes.

I meet Samantha, Roger’s wife, who I recognize from countless social media posts including Miitomo avatars.

I even manage to break through the crowd and tell Roger that he “almost convinced me to join the EAE program.”  (The one I am finishing in two weeks.)  He laughs and says I will go far and do great things.

IMG_0355Several of us enjoy the sunset view from the Natural History Museum rooftop, then walk outside just as it gets dark.  A “sidewalk astronomer” sets up shop outside the building and shows us Jupiter and four of her moons. I capture a less than clear picture of what I saw through the lens with my iPad Pro.

As Jupiter’s moons are aligned, so the stars seem to be aligning for us all tonight.

Thursday, April 21, 2016.

Today is the Get Seeded competition!

A Get Seeded pitch consists of five slides delivered in three minutes, not counting the title slide:

  1. TitleBusiness Idea and Problem That it Solves
  2. Customer Validation
  3. Competitive Analysis
  4. 30 Day Milestone
  5. Funding Request

Our team is asking for $2,500 to purchase shaders, a Daz3D model with clothing, and a variety of set dressing items to shave time off of our production pipeline.  The amount is small compared to what it will cost to complete B.E.S.T. as a commercial product, but it should make the overall experience more polished at a time when we are presenting to investors, media, customers, and Microsoft.  It is also another name we can add to our investor / validation list, even though Get Seeded does not ask for any equity.

Ten out of fifteen groups who present tonight are likely to get funding, so we are already more than half way there.  It is important that we present in a way that those present believe this is the logical next step for the project.

If we make the cut, we will present one more time on Monday and should get a check two to three weeks after.  Wish us luck!

Slack for iOS Upload.png…Another happy ending!  Not just for us, but for every team tonight.  Instead of accepting ten and cutting five, the new leadership of the Entrepreneur Club decided to “break the bank” and approve everyone in the final fifteen to move on to the final, public round Monday from 5 to 6, a round where pretty much everyone gets funded.

The best news for B.E.S.T.?  We came in first in the rankings!  The President of the Entrepreneur Club and of Get Seeded plans to introduce us to the Park City Angels.

Friday, April 22, 2016.

Today was one of the most productive Fridays I think I have ever had.  Unfortunately, I can’t talk about it yet.

One highlight was an email back from my faculty advisor Brian Salisbury, after I told him about our finish last night:  “You guys are going to leave a legacy and an example for future cohorts to follow!  Great job!”  I am adding that to my References page on this blog.

Tomorrow I will be on standby as a backup state delegate, representing my part of Summit County, Utah in the serious game we call a Democratic Republic.  The official delegate is very sick right now, but it is his birthday tomorrow, so hopefully he is able to perform his duties.  If not, I will be close by in Salt Lake, just in case.  We were elected as delegate and backup delegate during the Utah Caucuses March 22nd. This may be the only elected office I ever hold, so I am taking it seriously. 🙂