At the beginning of this week we met with the faculty so they could see the newest iteration of our games. When we showed RagWheel, we had them race each other, hopefully showing off the newly added Ghost feature. Sadly, one of them wasn’t quite as good as the other, so neither of them was able to experience the Ghost feature to its fullest. Based on this experience and experiences with other games that day, the faculty came to the conclusion that our teams were not organized in a very effective way because the second iteration lacked the qualities necessary to assess where the game stands and make changes accordingly. While I think that our game got a bad rap, I also think they had some excellent points about group organization when it comes to game design and prototyping. One thing they mentioned was that they felt most of the groups were trying to make every decision as a group and therefore the focus of the game and organization of the team was lost. Essentially there were too many cooks in the kitchen. Looking at our group and all the other groups, I agree with this assessment. From the beginning of this project, everything has been done as a collective. We did our IGF research together, we presented that research to the cohort together, we thought of our 100 game ideas together and we narrowed them down to the final 2 together while at the same time solidifying the designs of each together. The whole semester has been a half inspiring, half frustrating example of team dynamics and groupthink. In response to this criticism, we have changed the organization of our group slightly, or rather, we have clarified its organization. We were beginning to naturally fill roles in the group but there was still some ambiguity in exactly who was responsible for what and therefore we began to have some overlap in our duties and other times, duties were ignored or forgotten because they were never specifically assigned to anyone. We decided that the natural roles that were forming fell into 3 categories, Design, Market research, and Logistics. I fell into the design position, Brad DeDea took on the market research and Ryan Butcher is now over logistics. Making this decision and saying it out loud seemed to give us permission to do things within our individual role that we felt uncomfortable doing when no role was established. It also gives our group experts in each area that the team can go to with questions or suggestions instead of just grabbing the nearest producer who may or may not be the best person to answer those questions. I think it’s funny that when all of us believed that we had everything on our plate, we had a hard time figuring out what to do, but once we narrowed the focus and defined each role, we suddenly have plenty to do and a direction for the team. I am definitely glad our wonderful faculty made that suggestion. I think that our team became stronger almost immediately after the specializing was established.
Got some pictures for you this week. As we were trying to design levels for RagWheel, we were having some trouble expressing to the other members of the team exactly what the tracks might look like since the mechanics kind of lend themselves to a more complex three dimensional design. We tried to use a white board and draw a top-down view and a side view, but that really only worked for the most simple track designs. As soon as we started making the tracks more complex, we started to realize the problem we have put ourselves in. As a solution, I went shopping. I bought some poster board and tape, cut the poster board into strips, and started to make 3D models out of the paper. Below you will see several pictures of one of the designs. It isn’t quite finished yet, but it certainly helped to see the designs in this form in order to get a better idea of exactly how these mechanics will work when we finally start making the full version of the game.
That track is, of course, not going to be the prototype track (unless we have a whole lot of extra time). The track we are going to use for the prototype is this one.
This is the simplest version of the track we could think of in order to adequately test all the desired features for the game all in one place. It includes both types of under the road turns (Flip turns and barrel turns), multiple paths to test the ghosts and ghost drafting, and a corkscrew and loop to test gravity. It’s nothing fancy, but I think we will learn a ton from it.
Everyone says that RagWheel is a good, solid game. It is clearly defined and easy to understand almost immediately what it might be like to play. As it turns out, simplicity in design doesn’t always turn into simplicity in execution. RagWheel is going to require an exotic collection of complex algorithms to produce. Since we are making the prototype in Unity, our engineers are working hard to fight against some of the basic features found in Unity, like gravity. When you drive on both sides of the road, where does the gravity come from? What about flip-turns? If the player is going too fast and the platform is going too slow, the car might end up being shot into the air on the underside of the track. Also, as the top side of the road turns into the bottom side of the road, how would the car stick if the direction of gravity is based on which side of the road you are on? And how about the ghosts? How will they be calculated? How does the game choose which path is the shortest? What about path finding, or AI for the other cars, or any number of other things? Luckily we have some pretty amazing engineers who have some pretty amazing math credentials under their belts, but this is still not going to be very easy. Our artist cranked out a white box track and car on Tuesday of this week and the engineers will get those implemented by next week. That’s the easy part. The real fun begins next Tuesday when they start working on the ghost mechanic. This should get really interesting really quickly.