Week 14 – Polish, bug fixes, defense, and pizza. Lots of pizza.

It’s the last full week of classes! This is something that hasn’t really sunk in yet because there’s still do much damn work to do.

We collected and crunched the feedback about the game from the weekend, which is actually pretty consistent so that’s nice. The feedback included needing a way to change screen resolution, fix a bug that doesn’t fit the screen properly, some achievements weren’t working, and some other minor things.

We ended the week with 86,000 downloads and some new press from KUED, Des-News, and The Daily Utah Chronicle.

The thesis defense dry run was not what we expected… We didn’t really know what to put together for the presentation, so we kind of focused on the individual contributions, which were very thorough, but not what the faculty were expecting I guess. So that made the team a little cranky and we spent the week (and weekend) coming up with a new outline and thesis defense “story”. The basic gist of our new defense is that the game really and truly was a team effort and the format of the presentation reflects that.

The rest of the cohort’s games are published now, which is really fun! There is definitely a calmer energy in the lab now that the race to publish is done for everyone.

So we have two last hurdles, EAE Day, which isn’t so much a hurdle for the team as it is for me (so SO much to do), and the defense. I’m sure it’ll hit me at the end of next week that this whole thing is pretty much done, but for now there’s just too much to do. 🙂

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Week 13 – I have a game on Steam

I have a game on steam…. That’s so weird. But in every good way possible.

The last week was hard, but it was rewarding as hell. Lots still had to be done to prepare for the game’s release. Thankfully, we only had a couple late nights, and everyone had a good attitude throughout. We were doing last minute bug fixes, getting the narrative bookends in, and lots and lots of playtesting.

On April 16, we launched. We hit the publish button after class, then went out to celebrate. After 24 hours, we had reached 20,000 downloads. Yeah, 20,000. Reviews were pouring in, the majority of them were very positive. We were getting press. Lots of press, from major outlets like Vice and The Verge. We were also on the Popular New Releases on Steam, just shy of Mortal Kombat X and GTA V (!). By the weekend, we had 60,000 downloads and 250 reviews, still hanging in there at around 85% positive reviews. Here are some of my favorites:

Screenshot 2015-04-25 16.58.56Screenshot 2015-04-25 16.58.10

That pushed us up onto the main Steam homepage slider, right next to AAA games, IGF winners, and everything else. It’s very surreal seeing a game you worked on in that context. Today we are sitting pretty at around 75,000 downloads, still positive reviews, and just about 200 new Let’s Play videos. In terms of successful games, I’d say we did it!

This week we’ll be looking at the player feedback and making a list of bugs to fix and minor tweeks to features. We are also preparing for our thesis defense, in which we’ll get up in front of our committee (basically all the faculty except Bob who will be in China). We basically talk about the game, our process, individual contributions, and what we learned. So that will be fun. We’re doing the dry run on Tuesday so we’ll see how that goes.

Weeks 11 and 12 – Polish, polish, polish, and watermelon

This was a rough couple of weeks. I got seriously ill last week so my productivity was below what it should have been. I also missed out on going to a very cool competition with Tina called Different Games. I was really looking forward to it too. 🙁

What I was able to accomplish was more little stuff like fixing menus and getting the narrative bookends built and implemented (those are actually still in progress).  My biggest challenge has been getting the tutorial level built, it originally started as a project for Virtual Worlds class, but when no one else really wanted to do the tutorial level I jumped at the chance.

404Sight_Tutorial-01    Screenshot 2015-04-08 16.34.28

Getting that just right took a little time, mostly because of the jumps, the rest is pretty straightforward. I’ll be playtesting it like crazy to make sure it conveys the right information at the right time. The biggest problem I’ve seen in the previous playtests is that players have a hard time distinguishing the manual jumps from the launches, so a big part of this level is teaching and reinforcing when to expect the manual jump vs a launch pad (spoiler, it has to do with verticality).

We have so many levels now, it’s crazy. The whole game will have 14-16 levels, for a total play time of around 20 minutes, which is awesome and exactly what we were planning on. All these levels need to be dressed and tested about a billion times, so that’s what the team will be doing this weekend.

There’s a lot happening and it’s all happening really fast. We are absolutely dedicated to getting this thing out on the 16th no matter what, and that’s going to mean a couple late nights this week. I’m grateful that we don’t crunch very much, and when we do, it’s generally really short, and pretty fun.

 

Week 9 and 10 – Spring break, a time for reflection, and macaroni and cheese burgers.

It’s so weird. It’s so unequivocally weird. I will have a game on Steam. It took me a while to kind of internalize that whole thing with everything going on, but over spring break I had a little time to just kind of sit and think it through and talk it over. I still get tingly just thinking about it. But it didn’t stop there

We were awarded a grant from Unreal. For $13,000. $13,000. That’s a lot of money. We didn’t expect that at all when we applied for the grant. We thought we’d be so lucky to get even like $100 for our dinky student game, but someone somewhere believed in us and the game enough to give us a lot of money.

It’s weird. I keep saying that I know, but it’s just weird. It’s crazy to have outside approval of the game, and in such glorious amounts. Seriously though, it means we have something special, which is a really good feeling.

Know was else is a good feeling? Being number one in the world. The rankings for EAE were just released to the public, and we are the #1 Graduate and #2 Undergraduate program in the world! I’m kind of feeling really fulfilled right now, which is something I’ve been struggling with for a while. The program is doing well, I like to think I had a small part to play in that, and the game is doing really well!

We have a hard launch date now, of April 16th. It seems so far away, but it’s really in like 3 weeks. There’s still so sosososososo much to do, so the next few weeks will be rough, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, however dim it might be.

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Week 7 and 8 – GDC, Intel presentation, and Beard Papa.

Holy crap. I am so tired. Exhausted might be a good word for it too.

This was maybe the best and worst GDC I’ve attended yet. It was insanely hard this year to juggle around my staff duties vs my game duties, the stress from the Intel thing, there was so much to see and do this year that I couldn’t participate in, and on top of all that the family dog Kona died while I was there. In the pluses column, Andrew came out to support me, the Intel presentation went really well, many connections were made, and the response to the game was really good.

PR-IntelFirst up, the Intel presentation. Big room, around 600 people, 5 minutes. Tina and I practiced every spare minute of the day when I wasn’t at the booth and she didn’t have Conference Associate duties. This was both good and bad, we got to have a pretty good rhythm with the presentation info, but it meant that we didn’t get a lot of time to actually experience GDC, which is kind of a bummer. The presentation day came, and it all went really really well. James played the game while we talked, we answered questions from the judges like pros, and the response to the game was favorable, even though we didn’t win. We also made some friends from Drexel, they too had blue shirts and a Cory on their team, so naturally we became bffs.

404Sight at the EAE booth was at first a disaster. Apparently us pulling quotes from the internet for the opening of the game meant that we had to have internet connection or the whole thing would crash. We found this out the morning the Expo floor opened, so yay? Thankfully everyone rallied and we were able to fix the problem in 10 minutes and then we could show off the game. The rest of the time it worked beautifully and we were able to get some really useful player data. The new levels are a really good testing ground for what needs to happen in later levels. We also desperately need a tutorial level…

All in all it was a good GDC, I’m a little bummed I didn’t get to go to many of the talks, but hey, that’s what the vault is for I guess, and I only went to one party, but it was a really good, really chill party where I got a lot of contacts.

The week after GDC was kind of a bust. We had some meetings about what we learned and next steps, but the big news is we did a soft launch of our Steam Greenlight campaign. I say soft launch because we just threw up the stuff on the greenlight page, but we haven’t officially announced it on all the social networks just yet. We wanted to wait until after GDC to really get going so we don’t get buried in all the GDC stuff.

Welp, turns out we didn’t even get to the full launch. We were Greenlit in six days. SIX days, without exploiting Tina or Tony’s networks. It’s… mind blowing actually. I really can only attribute it to two things – it’s a free game (we were very explicit about that) and our new trailer is really cool:

So yeah, I’m going to have a game on Steam. That is a really weird thing to say. I haven’t really been able to process it quite yet. I’m sure once it gets closer it’ll be more real, but for now I’m just too tired.

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Week 6 – Trailer, skybox, madness, and lasagne

There’s so much going on.

Final stretch to GDC and we are making the most of it. Extra work days, late hours in the lab, everyone doing all they can to get this thing at a showable level before GDC and the Intel presentation. I was mostly working on the trailer with Brenton, I was in charge of dressing the level, textures, and getting it properly lit.

Aside from that it’s lighting levels when they’re ready, getting the new UI in (bandwidth meter!) I’m helping out wherever and whenever I can. This is one of those points in the semester where things get really really complicated for me as I’m pulling double duty between being a student and being a staff member for EAE. But, this is what I signed up for, so here we go!

 

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Week 5 – playtests, explosions, speed bursts, and green tea.

I am so tired.

We got a bunch of stuff done this week, the new inhibitor is in and looking pretty sweet.

Some new FX stuff was implemented (this particular one indicates when Ada has full bandwidth)

We had a cohort-wide playtest which was difficult to manage since the new decal system kind of broke everything, so most of the playtest was spent apologizing for stuff not working. One of the big things I did make note of was people not knowing when to anticipate a launch tile vs a manual jump. I think more rules need to be set regarding these two things to help the player expect these options. Like jump tiles need to be obviously shorter in distance than launch tiles. I’ll talk to the design team about it.

I got some new fast and slow tiles implemented, Joe wanted to go with something that would tile well and be less linear-looking as our old arrows looked. so the fast and slow lanes became these respectively:

FS2-01 V2-03

 

Slow lanes look like stop signs LOL

So two weeks till GDC. Brenton is working hard on a brand new trailer for us, so far it’s a modified version of the old trailer, but with about 100% more awesomeness. Keaton is working out the score right now, I can’t wait to hear it. Art team is working hard arting new levels, the engineers keep everything running, and we’re all just truckin’ along.

We decided to order t-shirts for the team, so Cory game up with a super cool design:

So I’m coordinating getting those ordered. I’m also doing stickers and temporary tattoos for the team, we have a lot of ground to cover this year between the EAE and Intel booths, so we are investing in some pretty decent swag.

Two weeks to go, but I’m off to take a short break, it is my birthday afterall. 🙂

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Week 3 – decals, drill bits, and duck confit

Short post this week, not much to report.

The biggest thing was we were chosen to represent the U at the Intel University Games Showcase at GDC this year. Cyber Heist had the honor last year, so I’m super stoked that we were chosen to be there this year. It’s a little nerve racking, since this just adds to the massive list of things to do (both for the game and for EAE) but it still seems perfectly manageable.

Inhibitor concept art was narrowed down and the final was chosen:

inhibitorV3

I did a multiple view version for Cory to model (which is good because that would have taken me forever)

Joe was able to get the decal system working, which is amazing! We don’t have to use the tile system anymore, which will cut level creation time by at least half, AND it means we can mess with the geometry way more than in the previous system. We can have curves, acute and obtuse angles, ramps, all kinds of interesting stuff. Which is really great because the levels need all the help they can get. So we’re approximately one month away from GDC, there’s still a lot to do and not a lot of time to do it.

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Spring 2015 Week 2 – Commitment, complications, and sriracha BBQ sauce.

Well, we didn’t get into IGF. It would be inaccurate to say the team and I aren’t a little disappointed, but honestly, we aren’t making the kind of game that IGF is interested in. The blow was dampened a bit by the insane amounts of press we’ve been getting this week, as well as the other competitions we are in the running for right now. IGF would have been amazing, but not being a finalist in no way has dampened our spirits or commitment to making this game amazing.

Implementing the new hotness is being a bit of a bear. Joe was able to figure out a new decal shader that pretty much removed our need for the ground level of our game to be tile-based. It’s a brilliant bit of tech that Joe figured out, however it did completely break the level metrics. There was some discussion then about adjusting current levels or creating new ones to match the metrics, we’ll probably have to figure the new numbers first and then make that call.

We had a visit from a potential new professor to the U by the name of Nick Montfort. He came by projects and gave some very interesting feedback about the game mostly in the form of visuals and looking to the experience of the internet to help inform the art style. Cool stuff, definitely good feedback.

I also did a final for the inhibitor model, we’ll wait to see what the team says about the final version.

inhibitorV3