Jed Merrill, Producer/Game Designer

Week 10

Monday, October 28, 2013


The Digital Medical Therapeutics conference takes place today at 4 pm in the Eccles Auditorium of the Huntsman Center, showcasing TED-like talks about video games transforming medical technology. Because I am involved in both Games For Health (Design Committee) and Bench to Bedside (participant), I arrange to attend.

Due to work, I catch only the tail end, but learn from Megan where videos of the conference talks will be posted in the next two days.


header_292x136We start the morning with stand up meetings, then sit down with Roger for a follow up discussion on the four sides of the design box: Tech, Aesthetic, Play/Theory, and Audience.  Roger shares several examples, including indie toy (game?) Proteus and Super Columbine Massacre RPG.  My sister-in-law Mary Ann attended Columbine at the time of the actual massacre, knew the people involved, and will have strong feelings about this game when we have lunch tomorrow.  Roger concludes with his and Bob’s hope that our future design decisions will be grounded in game theory, creative but informed and intentional.


We are now treated to a presentation about the University’s entrepreneurial support resources by a representative of the Lassonde Center, whose generous sponsors include Pierre Lassonde and Zion’s Bank. Programs the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute sponsors include Bench to Bedside, social entrepreneurship pilot projects in Ghana and India, the Utah Entrepreneur Series, the Utah Entrepreneur ChallengeTech Titans, Opportunity Quest, and Foundry Utah.  Collectively, Lassonde offers over one million dollars in annual funding to student projects and entrepreneurial scholarships.  They are also building a brand new facility that will house 400 entrepreneurs and their early stage ventures. The vast building project will be complete in 2015 or 2016. The representative invites us to contribute ideas to maximize its use.

I believe the ability to raise capital is the American birthright.  More schools should teach and honor capital skills.

Adriana Jones and the Kiss of DeathIn Amy’s Producer class, we describe our latest prototypes, the challenges and opportunities our teams currently face, and discuss whether “indie” better references a demographic or a psychographic audience. The class loves Mark Jarman’s Adriana Jones artwork, and I do my best to dissect what about our project is indie and what commercial.

Afterward, we play test Cohort 3’s big game Cyber Heist.


Jake, a member of the Cyber Heist team, wears a very authentic Luigi costume.  At the time of this writing, no brick buildings appear to be harmed. Plumbing is in order, but Princesses are nowhere to be found.  I must report this to whoever is in charge of school diversity… If Halloween doesn’t solve the issue, will Amy or Corrinne volunteer for the role?  I demand at least one Princess, even if the U has to import her from BYU and she pays tuition in golden coins.  Will 99 coins cover it or can she get change for a 1-UP?


In Jose’s class, we discuss three readings:  Taylor’s “Raising the Stakes”, Castronova’s “Synthetic Worlds”, and Morningstar and Farmer’s “Lessons from Lucasfilm’s Habitat.”  One group presents on eSports, a second on Virtual Worlds.  Jose adds his own thoughts and research following each discussion.

I ask how long it will be before the EAE:MGS has an eSports track!  [Roger, this is the future.]  An eSports track would include recreational management elements (how to host eSports) together with what already makes EAE:MGS the best game design school in the nation.  We’d have to have official eSports teams to compete nationally, who would continue to raise the visibility of our program and attract the top students.  We’ll also have to build a bigger stadium, based on how popular eSports are in Korea.  “EAE Sports.  We’re in the game!”

They mention five eSports documentaries that look worth watching: The Race to World First, State of Play, Free to Play, The King of Kong, and The Smash Brothers, an eSports documentary web series.

The Virtual Worlds team highlights the importance of giving players at least some freedom to shape the worlds they inhabit.  Such freedom and inclusion of friends gives people a reason to stay in our worlds, and pay for the privilege.  “Don’t be a dictator!”  These days we don’t often think of creativity as play, but what is Play Doh?  Legos?  Minecraft is the most successful virtual world toy because it inspires and unleashes player creativity.


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Team 1 presents a first iteration prototype of our third game to our Rapid Prototyping instructors. Afterward, we all read the current two page design document and commit to follow it.  Our artist, Mark, brings in a card game called Incan Gold, thinking it might give us added inspiration.  The game is fun and shares thematic commonalities with our game, but it is likely too late to change major mechanics given the schedule of one of our engineers.  I use Concepts: Smarter Sketching to better communicate our agreed upon level design to our other engineer.  My brother created the app, which is now featured by Apple as highlighting the capabilities of the newly announced iPad Air.

After class, we enjoy a Bench to Bedside team meeting and a healthy serving of Kimchi Fries from the local Bento food truck, then head for the EAE Halloween party at Master Games Studio North.

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Over a rootbeer, I tell Roger I’ll join his eSports team if he gets me an athletic scholarship.  I didn’t participate in the Nintendo World Championships for nothing!  VGHS gives scholarships, Roger…

Roger refers me to the campus StarCraft II club to practice for the Collegiate StarLeague.  But seriously, our program could use an eSports track, and I’m willing to design it.


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