Jed Merrill, Producer/Game Designer

Week 8

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

All of Cohort 4 and a few representatives of Cohort 3 gather to pitch our thesis prototypes in a dry run for next week’s industry insider pitch.

The first team (no names) is told their pitch was terrible, in part because they pitch their two prototypes as if they were separate teams.  We go second, and are relieved to hear our pitch was “okay.”  We clap and cheer!  Teams three and four also get okays.

Later in the day, I hear a Team Button prototype developer mourn that Professor Amy Adkins says the game has too much in common with Antichamber.  Team Button has renamed the game This is a Test. To me, that sounds like a final exam, a false fire alarm or a test screen on an old TV, and could cause player confusion.  Based on their pitch, I would simply call it Play Test, but its too early to talk final names, since the narrative is likely to change dramatically over the next year if we pursue it over Premonition.

Of course, Premonition is getting stronger by the day.  I put my film industry background to work and share some strong narrative ideas with Kyle.  I think 99% of games fail at narrative, but we forgive them because they are fun and provide an experience movies do not.

Wednesday.

Joseph Bourrie’s class is his best yet this semester.  We focus on “statements of intent” for level design.  The second half of class, we divide into teams of three or four and come up with five ways per team to 1) make a level in a game scarier, 2) have a level give you a sense of peace, and 3) make a level that appeals to children six and under.  The catch is Joseph writes five common answers for each of the three on 8×11″ sheets of paper, and if our team presents one of the five, we lose a point. This leads to some very out of the box thinking.  My team loses 1.5 points out of 15, all on the second round.

We also briefly discuss whether a game should have ups, downs, and plateaus in its intensity graphs (like real life) or just ups and downs (like reality TV).  The question is inspired by the book Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-term Fulfillment by an Aikido master.

Screen Shot 2014-02-27 at 3.15.49 AMI stay up late playing Long Live the Queen on Steam, then watch the 4:30 am Ubisoft Massive Google Hangout for Producers, broadcast from Sweden.

Thursday.

Bob stands in on our team’s standup meeting, after which he and Jose call the Producers to attention and talk to us about one sheets and what we should turn in before the Industry Panel Monday at 5:00. Six or seven studios will have representatives in attendance, from Disney to EA Salt Lake.  We are hoping for representation from Chair as well.  Our one sheets this time should draw attention to the fact each team has two strong prototypes, and we seek their input on which of the two to select for extended development over the next 14 months. The games are meant to appeal to IGF judges and represent innovation rather than commercial potential, which is crazy.  Commercial games naturally reach a larger audience and are therefore more influential than your average indie game. There should be no choice between money and meaning.

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However, we do have limited resources, so we are not going to create a Watchdogs in 14 months with teams of eleven, half of whom are Producers.  We do want to make a game that is talked about, a purple cow, to borrow a term from Seth Godin’s book Purple Cow: Transform Your Business By Being Remarkable.

For next week, we are to investigate level editors from Halo Forge to Bethesda Game Creator to Bethesda Creation Kit to RPG Maker VX Ace and prepare a level design pitch that will help us divide into groups of two likeminded masters students to design our final class projects.

In Corrinne’s Narrative class, we talk Plot for our game books in progress, and turn in two page papers on that aspect of our projects, a week earlier than we have to it turns out.  As with our Setting papers two weeks ago, Corrinne will email us our class’s collective works so we can prepare feedback for our upcoming second writing group.  Character will be phase three, following the same model.

I am tempted to use Articy:Draft to develop my project, but no one else in class has discovered it yet.

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