Jed Merrill, Producer/Game Designer

Week 6

February 17 and 19, 2015.

From the syllabus:  “Winning games are selected by faculty with industry panel guidance. Final teams are created.”

This week may be our most dramatic of the semester. While I knew already on Thursday that we were an instructor favorite, thanks to a classmate who overheard them talking, the whole class was nervous about which five of the ten projects the cohort has been working on would be cut. Bob held off telling us for as long as possible, and our project, B.E.S.T., was announced fourth out of five that made the cut.

They did say the industry panel was split on our project, and there was a high standard deviation in how they ranked us. Some gave us a very high score, while others said what we had in mind was impossible. Ultimately Bob and Roger decided that we had proven through our presentation, research, and prototype that we could do what some thought was out of scope, and believed that our project would reflect well on the program and help the community.

Of course, the announcement about the “standard of deviation” being high rankled some of the class members who wondered if we had been chosen in spite of the industry panel, perhaps over one of their games? It was also secretly whispered that we were “Team Overscope”, and no one wanted to be part of such a challenging project. Three of our own team members left for less challenging projects by Thursday, and a major concern was whether a serious game would be fun to work on.

We are ultimately successful at finding three and a half new people for the team to replace them. Nidal, Charlie, and Shahbaz join by Thursday, and Avinash, a Technical Artist, says he will work on our project part time while continuing to work on Plato’s Cave, another great project that makes the cut.

We meet with Bob and Roger, who ask us to pitch how we will finish the project with seven people when other teams have ten to as many as fifteen! A rubber band dart challenge cements our opportunity when it flies twice as far as Roger says is necessary to convince him. They reaffirm their confidence in us, and have noticeably less constructive feedback for us than for other teams who are less clear on their visions. We also show them our new mascot, a toy NYPD police car I picked up Tuesday afternoon to prove our “serious game” team can have fun, too.

By the end of morning class, other teams see our motivation and cohesion and start to look a bit jealous.

After class, our team has lunch at the Crimson Room with Mark, an Engineering/CS instructor at EAE, who says ours is one of two projects he would personally like to work on. I ask what he would bring to the project, and he says donuts. 🙂

We return to the lab and have our first stand up meeting as an upgraded team. I add the new people to our secret Facebook group, Slack, and Trello to make communication and progress tracking easier. We agree to always have stand up meetings at 9 on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and five of us will come in Saturday to get a head start on the first post-industry panel sprint!

Morale goes from high to low and challenging this week, but we battle through it, and now feel on top of the world.

Saturday, Nidal, Ahmad, and I come in to work on the project. I manage the backlog, gather detailed contact information for everyone on the team, and research new technologies to see which will best fit our project.

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