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Week 11 – Game Developers Conference, best food on the planet, and paradigm shifts.

I’m just going to preface this with the most important thing I learned at GDC this year:

If I do nothing, then nothing will happen.

-Alexander Bruce, Anitchamber

I had three goals for GDC this year – Get a copy of Unreal 4 to play with for our game, make sure the U’s booth is the most popular, visible and exciting place to be besides the IGF pavilion, and to go to as many panels and workshops as humanly possible. I succeeded in all of those things, but not in the ways I expected.

Epic announced at GDC this year that Unreal 4 would be available that week and for $20 a month for schools. So that was cool and saved me from having to cry at their booth. Kidding, I had this elaborate pitch to give them about the U and UDK and how exciting we are, blah blah. Unnecessary, but it is still awesome to be able to use the new version and it’s features.

The University of Utah booth was one of the highest traffic booths around the IGF pavilion, much to the chagrin of the other schools at the event. Our booth was vibrant, colorful, bright, and teeming with activity, mostly due to Cyber Heist and their IGF Student Showcase win. We had a steady flow and the students were great and handled the people like pros. I didn’t have to be there much, and actually mostly stopped by to grab people for lunch or other events, then took off. So congrats to my cohort, the Cyber Heist team, and a big thanks to Corrinne and Hallie for letting me come and go during the expo.

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I was able to attend pretty much every panel and presentation I wanted to, I went to a bunch on design and the indie scene, a couple art ones, and of course, Roger’s Panel:

Photo Mar 18, 10 58 56 AM

 

Probably the most important presentation I attended was by Alexander Bruce, the developer of Antichamber (and the quote above). The presentation was about how Antichamber had been in the making for about 9 years and almost killed him. He described how many conferences and competitions he went to, the people he talked to, the feedback he received, the iterations, the madness, and the reward. There were times when Bruce became very emotional about the process but it just showed how invested he is in the game and the community. It was very moving and very motivating. I’m going to make my team watch the full presentation when I get back.

The main point that I got from the talk was the phrase that kept coming up – If I do nothing, then nothing will happen. It was kind of like a light shattered in my head (I know that is a mixed metaphor, but that is kind of what happened). Ever since I was diagnosed with chronic illness way back when, I’ve had a different outlook on life, but this was something different. I’d been looking at having a life without fear, hence the major life changes I’ve made including coming to grad school to make games. But that phrase added a new component to my motivations – Life is about action, not just overcoming fear. I don’t have to overcome something in order to do something. It may seem pretty obvious to some people, but it was kind of revolutionary to me. No more reaction, only action!

So that was a cool moment. Other highlights from GDC was the IGF awards, where Cyber Heist was up for best student game.

 

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I thought I was going to pop I was so excited. And then I vowed that I would be in that same place next year with my team. Even though the team didn’t win, they still had a great time and it was amazing to even be nominated.

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Many shenanigans were had, people chatted with, parties attended, drinks consumed (so many drinks), meetings, meetings, meetings, and risks taken. End of story? I did something, and everything happened.

Now here’s a picture of Roger looking epic:Photo Mar 20, 12 09 36 AM

 

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Supplemental – Global Game Jam and HOMEunculus

Global Game Jam is a 48 hour game development activity that takes place around the world. Anyone can participate and it’s just kind of a cool thing to do. This year, EAE hosted it’s own GGJ site with amazing results. We had grads and undergrads, and some most excellent folks from the Gamecraft club. Photo Jan 26, 10 33 43 AM (1)

Friday night we received the jam theme:

We do not see things as they are,

we see things as we are.

We watched a presentation put together by the GGJ organizers then broke out into teams. My team consisted of the lovely Tina, James, and Kyle, who I worked with before in class, and Emily, James’ wife, and I randomly pulled in a person I believed to be an undergrad, Ellie. Turns out Ellie has a degree in mathematics, is wicked smart, and fun as hell, but more on that later.

So we brain burped all over some white boards trying to find an interesting game to develop for the jam. There was everything from a game about dog perception to body pillow rpg (it’s still a thing!) to QWOP yoga. We landed on an idea proposed by Ellie where the player has to manipulate the environment by manipulating the body.

We had to leave for the night to get some rest, but we rolled in early to hit the ground running. James began looking at the code for manipulating rigs, Kyle started taking a stock model he had on hand and reducing the polycount, while Emily, Ellie, and I worked on the levels. We basically just thought of ways to contort the body into interesting shapes and environments and went from there:

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There you can see some of the rough stick figure poses and the level layouts for the rooms. From there, Ellie and I did some physical prototyping:

Screenshot 2014-02-17 23.12.07

While Ellie and I were screwing around, James and Kyle were working on the rig for the model and seeing if that was going to work. We were all in something of a holding pattern until then, since the entirety of the game depended on if the rig worked or not. Thankfully, after about two hours of finessing it, the model worked and real development began.

Working in Unity, I built the levels minus the models. James worked on the non-model code, Emily, Tina, and Ellie worked on posing and placing the dolls. The physical prototyping actually helped a lot! Kyle worked on a brilliant little voodoo doll, which is what we were using as the controller for the dolls.

Around 1:30, I pooped out and went to catch some zzz’s. After about three hours in my comfy sleeping bag, I got back up to check on the team. It’s amazing what can be accomplished in  such little time. They had all the dolls placed and working within the level, all that was left was textures, lighting, bug fixes, and a bit of polish. So I got to work on the doll and environmental textures. The rig for the doll model messed up the textures in Unity, so I had to use a tiled texture instead. It actually worked out, the models looks great even without the detailed texture. Since that didn’t work, I did a little more work on two wall and floor textures:

wall2  wall1  floor

Creepy yeah? I love them. If you look closely at the floor you’ll find it’s made out of figures as well. After texturing, I went to work putting in some great creepy lighting and building start and end screens.

 

 

From there, with most of the polish done,  and about three hours to go before the jam ended, we had the opportunity to playtest and get feedback. People really liked it, it seemed interesting, appropriately creepy, and experimental. At the end of the jam, we ended up winning the audience award, which was great. There were a lot of great games that came out of the game jam, and I’m so happy to have been able to participate in it with everyone!

Ninja Edit:

A week after the jam we appeared on Youtube! Three times! And we have an article on Indie Game Enthusiast as well! The team will be meeting sometime before GDC to talk about further plans, so stay tuned for more updates! You can keep track of the game at http://www.homeunculus.com/ or @HOMEunculus on Twitter

Oh yeah, and download the game here (PC only, Mac coming soon!)