Jed Merrill, Producer/Game Designer

Week 7

Tuesday, October 8, 2013.

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Amy immediately asks who is having the worst experience with their team this week, and no Producer takes credit. Instead, she asks who is frustrated with something their team is doing, and we discuss three or four scenarios for half an hour. The theme of the class emerges: Communicate expectations clearly and develop strong backlogs the entire team is behind.

While engineers and artists certainly contribute to a project being on time and on budget, it is really our job as Producers, and our response should be like muscle memory, automatic and strong, when something is on track to go wrong. Communicate expectations, be supportive, but hold team members accountable, as ultimately, you as Producer are accountable.

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[Week Eight Update:  What is the short term cost to Ubisoft of being six months late to market with Watchdogs and The Crew?  32% of its market cap!  Will a six months better product help their shares bounce back?]

We share one perceived self-identified strength and one weakness, then supplement with three imaginary, post it note team members (producer, artist, engineer) with one strength and one weakness each. We formulate five element game plans for how to succeed with such a team and share with the class.

I suggest capitalizing on strengths, but dealing with weaknesses head on. Producers can facilitate team members identifying their issues (shyness, narrow focus, etc) and coming up with solutions, understanding the impact of those problems on the team and project, and holding them to a solution.

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A Producer in this context is a bit like the Wizard of Oz. The Wizard did not grant brains or a heart to the lion or the tin man, but he did help them see they had courage and smarts where they saw none.The weak link of a game may reflect the weak links of the team. We should have sympathy, but low tolerance of ongoing weaknesses, rewarding positive progress.

We are to choose our next prototype teams by Tuesday, the first time we choose for ourselves. We finish class by picking a Producer partner and trade contact info. I get Artists and Engineers we will,choose Thursday after class.

Wednesday.

We discuss Games as Art and Procedural Rhetoric.  Before class, I write a one page summary of our readings that I won’t repeat here.

Thursday.

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We present the final iterations of our second major Rapid Prototyping projects to Roger, Bob, and our Game Design and Game Art instructors.

Roger suggests my team continue to develop Jedi Ninja Lightcycles for commercial sale, though Disney gets final say on the name.  An Engineer from my prior team loves the game, and says it is the best he’s played so far in the class, though not every team has presented when he says it.  Others call our game compelling and addictive.

Screen Shot 2013-10-15 at 1.09.14 PMI personally admire one team’s Asteroids remake with pirate ships, Bounty Blast.  I also like the art style of Gentleman’s Hell (Q-Bert with a Dante’s Inferno twist) and the game about the chickens who never make it to the other side of the road.

Roger forbids any team from making future games with ninjas, robots, zombies, pirates or half a dozen other near universal themes, but seems to miss the catered fudge experience we brought to the table last month, saying fudge is okay again.

Friday.

magic_logoJose goes to great expense to put on a $15 per player workshop to teach game design principles based on Magic: The Gathering, a popular card game.  For our entry fee, we each receive three booster packs, to which we add a starter pack (I choose white) and any of about a dozen gift packs handed out as prizes throughout the workshop.

I played the game years ago with my game designing elementary school friend Robert Goodwin, but am impressed with the workmanship that goes not only into the cards but the multi-metalic colored foil packaging.  Everything about these cards says, “Play me, collect me, touch me. Pay up to $10,000 for me!”  Two rare cards really do sell for $10,000.  Have you ever received a business card that you can’t help but experience and touch because of the card stock it is made from?  That is a Magic card.

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Magic is a game of rules, with collectable cards that break those rules.

After the workshop, Jose invites us to read a paper by the creator of the game, Richard Garfield, and write a one page paper on what we learn.

Next up:  Fall break!

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