Jed Merrill, Producer/Game Designer

Week 4

Monday, January 27, 2014.

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Today I start a free, extracurricular course on Coursera called Gamification by Kevin Werbach of the University of Pennsylvania.  Gamification is the application of game design principles to real world problems.  You can also get a certificate if you complete every aspect of the course and pay $49.  Recommended!

Tuesday.

In Projects I, we brainstorm team names so we can start our social media campaign early.  My vote out of twenty current suggestions is “If Button Pressed Entertainment”, but “Funky Software 95” has the vote of at least one team member and is our default for a few days.

I am on Team Robot, which is half of our thesis game team, working on one of two prototypes for next month.  The other team is Team Button.

Tony and Brenton set up a backlog for Team Robot Tuesday.  I’ve tried to listen in on major decisions on both teams, in hopes of contributing to selection of a project most likely to 1) be a contender for the 2015 IGF contest and 2) appeal to a broad audience so we can make a profit.  In my book, a game developer should always both make a profit and be innovative.  Failing to do both is lazy game development and leads to company shut downs…but more time to play games for everyone!

Some argue that schools are a great place to take creative risks, and I agree, but not at the price of picking up poor commercial habits.  Every prototype is the seed of either a successful or unsuccessful game.  Responsibility for profits starts day zero.

Wednesday.

I attend lunch with a Wealth Management advisor from Morgan Stanley, who says he has private contacts interested in things like game development.  He is part of a growing list of contacts who I expect will play a part in my bright future.

At 2 pm, I attend the opening salvo of the GameCraft Club.  I am the only Producer present, and will help to Produce a game for the Games 4 Health competition coming up in March.  I was on a committee that organized Games 4 Health, but am free to participate since I will not be judging in any way.  I expect to enter three different titles, one relating to ADHD (not yet named), one PTSD (Baby vs Zombies!), and one we will decide on as the GameCraft Club.  Two of the three are also entrants in Bench to Bedside.

Following the meeting, I set up an audience with EAE Program Director and Calorie Crawl Saga creator Roger Altizer, for mentoring next Tuesday.

At 6 pm, I attend Joseph Bourrie’s Virtual Worlds class.  We talk about what goes into a level design one page and a level design document (LDD):

One Page:

Title
Level Size
Setting Overview
Game Flow
What Makes the Level Cool? (About three highlights.)
Potential Missions

LDD:

Level Summary
Details
Major Dramatic Question (MDQ)
Level Environment / Atmosphere / Mood
Major Areas / Visual Themes
Story Details
Gameplay
Enemy List
Gameplay Mechanics
Level Progression Chart
Primary Play—Through Description
Missions Branching Paths
Pick-ups – Collectibles – Unlockables
Maps
Complete Map
Detail Maps
Cinematics
IGC/Unique Camera Work/Unique Cameos
Script

Thursday.

This morning we work more on our prototypes.  After apologizing to a teammate for being stubborn (in the interest of the game, not sufficiently for the team) on our third prototype, I suggest a powerful, unifying theme and environment that seems to fit well with what Rachel Leiker, one of our great artists, has in mind for our robot hero.  The theme may not make it into our prototype, but hopefully will if we spend the next sixteen months on this title!  We have stiff competition from Button, but Robot is emerging with a life of its own.

In the afternoon, I attend Corrinne’s and Amy’s Narrative class.  We discuss game narratives that have influenced us (everything from Zork to Starfox 64), whether Journey really has a story, and discuss future game writing and playing assignments.  Corrinne would like us to play To the Moon (great game), Limbo, Braid, and recently released Broken Age, among others.

At 5:30, I attend the Entrepreneur Club to watch eleven pitches, one of which is video game related.  I think I may apply to pitch in February.  After the event, I talk to a student named Peter who wants to start a non-profit that involves an airship with a hot tub that helps countries devastated by disasters.  We share game ideas.  Artist Mark Jarman and Producer JenJen Francis also attend the club.

images-2Friday.

In the morning I finish the Level Design textbook for Virtual Worlds.

Later, I gather resources to submit our fourth prototype to Microsoft’s Imagine Cup Fund.

I also spend a few hours listening to bonus lectures from Learning Game Design: As a Job or a Hobby by Lewis Pulsipher on Udemy.

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