Back to Work! Starting the Thesis Game.

After GDC and becoming inspired by my contemporaries, I was ready to begin the week. With the long days that preceded our two weeks away from classes, I finally felt fresh to make this final push in my first year in the EAE. Nevertheless, this feeling of being rested assisted in addressing several issues to finally begin the project. Coming into this week we had four important matters that we needed to tackle. These included what engine to use, solidifying the core design, attached a theme to our game, and finally locking down a team name.

The first priority for the week was deciding what engine to use. We built the original prototype using Unity. However, after GDC and seeing what other engine could bring to our game, we wanted to explore both the Cry Engine and Unreal 4. We decided to take a couple of days to research each engine. After researching the two engines and determining how they could impact our game, the team decided to go forward with Unreal 4. The reasoning for this was the simplicity as to potentially designing levels for our game. Nonetheless, one of the biggest challenges for our thesis game is creating the circular walls that rotate in which people would be able to walk on the walls. At GDC, one of our team’s engineers overheard that being able to utilize the circular design, and especially walking on walls, could be problematic. Taking this information, we decided to go into our weekly sprint determining whether Unreal 4 would be suffice for our game and if not, we would fall back on using Unity.

This week we wanted to solidify the game’s basic design. Going into our break after finally picking our thesis game, I began to notice that our game’s scope might need to be tuned to compensate for summer months. This occurred after playing many hours of Battlefield 4 and Titanfall. What I noticed was the problems both games had with lag. Since our game is a multiplayer game with direct combat, as the game’s creative lead, I was a bit frightened with the thought that if developers with abundant resources can’t get the netcode correct, this will be a challenge for a ragtag bunch of student gamers. As a result, I began contemplating ways to address this problem. One way is to use indirect combat to attack other players. This would allow us to possibly overcome problems with lag since it would be less noticeable. Indirect combat hence became an important aspect going forward.

Also, with the thought of potentially showing our game off to IGF and others at GDC next year, the idea of multiplayer became a bane in my mind. I thought, how are people going to experience our game without playing against other people? One solution proposed is that we could use “bots” that are A.I. controlled NPCs. But bots in my experience take away some of the fun from multiplayer games – which is one of the critiques of Titanfall. This forced caused me to think of ways we could explore using A.I. players, but at the same time make the game feel compelling. Using this idea I began to look into games such as Monday Night Combat and SMITE in addition to Titanfall to see how mechanics from MOBAs could aid in our game’s design so as to make the game feel like a chaotic battlefield. With that in mind, the AI could be used to attack while being used as a resource for the player. Thus, we are looking into how we can make the multiplayer element feel exciting even with a limited amount of players rather than merely playing against dumb bots. 

One of the biggest challenges we have faced has been attaching a “juicy” theme to our game. Since we began the idea for the game centered on the game’s mechanic, a theme was developed from it. This led to our now famous rotating, circular environment. However, our professors were not too happy with our parallel universe thematic approach. They felt it appeared like “Space Marines” reminiscent of Halo rather than something provocative and memorable.

Because of their perspective, we have had to revisit our game’s theme. But since since many people on our team come from different walks of life, different countries, and political stances, finding a controversial topic can be difficult. One of the ideas our professors proposed was to use our mechanics to reflect ideas of religion in a humorous manner. However, some people on our team do not desire to address religious themes and thus people were not too thrilled to pursue it. So as a team we have done our best to find a theme we would all be motivated to pursue, but at the same time would be interesting. And as a producer, I want my team to feel motivated to work on the game. Thus, if we can’t find the juiciest theme I know I can live with that as long as my team is motivated to make an enjoyable game for our audience. The theme nevertheless is still in progress. So stay tuned!

The last priority to tackle this week was to finally lock down a team name. Luckily, coming up with a name was smooth and easy. After a quick discussion, since our game is now using indirect combat, we thought this somehow could be used as a name. As of this week therefore our team is officially called “Indirect Games”. This will be the name we will carry forever as we make our way into the industry.

It is exciting to be at this point. For me the future is whatever we make of it. Good times ahead and as much as we have faced challenges, I know this will be a memorable experience. Tallyho!

Taking Inspiration from My Time at GDC

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GDC this year provided me with just as much inspiration as in my first year I was there. Last year my time at GDC inspired me to apply for the EAE program. And this year it has inspired me to create the most compelling thesis game we can make. Whether walking around the GDC Expo Hall, working the EAE booth, watching the GDC Awards show, or speaking with industry professionals, the enthusiasm for the thesis game grew exponentially. In this brief post, I will note specific moments that rejuvenated my passion to create a great thesis game.

On Tuesday I awoke excited to receive my pass for this year’s event. As a result, I went to the Mascone Center. It was an exciting moment picking up my expo pass and seeing my name on it, especially since I was finally coming here as part of the EAE program. Now I would be here as a video game producer rather than as an academic.

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Wednesday also brought forth more GDC inspiration. I began by first walking around the expo hall and afterwards working the EAE booth. The EAE booth was located near the IGF showcase games. It was great being able to meet various people in the industry and showing off our wonderful games. It was further great witnessing some of the featured games for this year’s conference. Seeing them made me feel anxious to see our games there. And knowing that one of our own was among the mix caused me to want to continue working on our game. Later that day, we went to the GDC awards ceremony. It was great observing all the games and seeing what other indie developers were doing. It was an honor seeing the game Papers, Please winning many awards. I became inspired by the game’s message which addresses ideas of immigration. I’m glad that others embrace the game’s rhetorical message.

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Thursday was in full swing. Since I wanted to gauge potential internship opportunities for a lowly producer/game designer, I hit the careers area hard. Even though there were little openings for internships, I luckily met some great people who provided some insightful advice and even may have found a possible internship position for the summer.

In the evening, many of us went to the Intel Student Games Competition. Here, our very own Cyber Heist, which was also an IGF student showcase winner, was competing against other student games. What I found captivating was witnessing my contemporaries’ games. Some of them were amazing and really polished – in spite of the evening being filled with technical problems from the hardware and audio provided by Intel, the games still shined. These games included Kraven Manor, Hymn of the Sands, Plushy Knight, Maestros, and Museum of Simulation Technology. They were amazing to witness and in the end is motivating me to create a compelling and an enjoyable thesis game.

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For me, the paramount aspect of the entire GDC experience was spending time with people from my cohort outside of our work. It is great adventuring with others and sharing this experience together. In these moments one can only grow closer and I feel much prouder of our program and our work.

Well there you have it. I am now ready for the end of this semester and seeing where we can take our thesis game. I am very much learning from my time at GDC. It is nice to be able to escape the bubble of our studio and become a part of the larger community, and thus create an avenue in which I am better able to see what we are achieving and how we can further iterate on our ideas. Stay tuned…

 

The Thesis Game Begins

The past two weeks were amazingly intense. Through several 12+ hour days that included several sleepless nights; we experienced the highs and lows of presenting our final two prototypes to the industry board. And as of this week, we are finally down to one. In this post, I will recount in my lingering haze some of the important events of the past two weeks. It was wild, while at the same time physically and mentally taxing experience, but we are finally through the wormhole and beginning our thesis game. So I hope you enjoy the journey, or at least can make sense of my incoherent post. I am still in a lucid state, but I am happy to be moving forward.

Last week, we were tasked with presenting our mock presentations to the industry panel. The main reason why we were tasked with giving these presentations were to gauge which game we should choose to be the framework for our thesis game. My fellow producers and I put a lot of work into the presentation. Sadly, when we presented it on Tuesday, we were greeted by Murphy and failed to capture our audience. When Topher and I gave the presentation for re:Genesis, we were bit in the behind by Murphy for the reason that our gameplay video did not play. Since I taught public speaking for six years, this faux pas should have not been an issue because I know to always backup the backup. Yet, through the stress, I dropped the ball on this one and failed not to let Murphy come to visit.

Our second game, Hostile Territory, also experienced a poor showing. The presentation, although the video functioned to perfection, since we had little time to prepare the presentation to coincide with the video, it did not fair much better. As a result, we had to go back to the drawing board and really focus on how to make more compelling presentations.HT one sheet

In addition to composing new presentations, we were finalizing our prototypes. Luckily, we were merely polishing what we had. Given that we focused on white-boxing both prototypes and then present our concept art, we had the freedom to display our mechanics to show our game’s potential. For HT, we focused on the ideas of territorial control and a dynamically changing environment and thus worked to have this ready in the game’s prototype. On re:Genesis, we attempted to show the games exploring and digging mechanics. We thus worked hard to tune the mechanics within the games in order to better emphasize them for our final presentations.

For the industry board presentation, I moved over to presenting HT since the team felt I would be able to communicate the ideas behind the game more efficiently because I was the game’s lead designer. Taking this role, I formulated a PowerPoint presentation centering on the game’s core rules and then prepared a scripted gameplay video for it. My fellow producers and I spent all day and night Saturday putting together both gameplay videos. Our engineers, Sam and Triston, also helped out by tuning HT for the video.

After spending all Sunday writing code for my homework assignment in our engineering class for producers and practicing for the presentation, Monday finally was here. When I awoke to go to work at The GAPP Lab, I was very much hyped for the presentation. I was excited and happy we would be the first to address the industry panel. My fellow producers met earlier in the day to ensure that this time we would keep Murphy at bay.

Regenesis one pageOur presentations to the industry panel began. I started by presenting the team and thanking the industry board for their time, and afterward gave the time over to Topher. Topher gave a great presentation on re:Genesis. Topher has learned to become a capable public speaker and I am proud of his hard work to hone his skills, especially in presenting to a room full of industry professionals, previous cohorts, our professors and classmates. It was a great showing by him.

Now it was my turn. After two months of my team giving their blood, sweat, and tears to our work, we were finally at the moment of truth. And I was ready!

The time presenting flew by. The five minutes I spoke seemed like no more than 10-seconds. I definitely enjoyed the experience. It is not everyday you get to speak to a panel of professionals. It was fun and an exciting moment in my life! Afterward, all of our team’s producers stood in front of the panel and were poised ready for questions and comments. For a moment, the fear and uncertainty of what they would say rattled in my head. To my relief, the questions and comments were great. They were not pedantic or convoluted, but to the point and fair. Every word they uttered was accurate and definitely reflected the prototypes we presented. Their suggestions were also valuable to helping us making a decision as to what game to move forward with. The panel seemed eager to help and it was definitely noted through their observations.

At the conclusion of our time, I was elated. All my anxieties and fears proved incorrect and the feedback we gained from the experienced helped us to choose HT as the game that would be the framework for our thesis game. Although it will definitely evolve over time, we are finally on our way to creating our thesis game. And that is a start! Tally ho!