Thanksgiving Leftovers: Taking Something Old & Making it Taste New

As I write this, I am digesting the amazing food I enjoyed from our Thanksgiving festivities. In spite of being stuffed larger than the bird we cooked, I am still looking forward to a weekend full of turkey leftovers. What I find interesting about leftovers is that we reimagine our Thanksgiving dinner and turn it into all sorts of new dishes. We take what we have and make new creations such as turkey sandwiches, fried turkey chunks, and even turkey soup. Thus, we make new creations with the original design.

Like leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner, as a team we are reheating the leftovers and making something new. Specifically, we are taking the IGF build of our game and using what we have to make something novel and hopefully better. The holiday theme expressed above seems to resonate with our recent work and how we are approaching this holiday weekend.

Will these leftovers taste as good as when it was first cooked? Only time will tell. We have a solid foundation of the hard work we did to create this Thanksgiving dinner. But what we do to make these leftovers taste better than the original dinner is what will define the rest of our time in the EAE master’s program. That is where we are headed. Hopefully what we cook up for the EAE Open House will taste even better than the original. But until then, enjoy the rest of the Thanksgiving weekend.

New Iterations Brings New Fun for Our Team & Game

Latest iteration of our game’s poster

As noted in my last post, this past week we tasked ourselves with developing several prototypes. We hoped by creating these prototypes we would define the final direction for our game. Our goal was to take what we have already done and make a more fun experience for the player. To get to this objective, we set a deadline for Tuesday to complete the various prototypes (mine was in “paper” form) and determine which of these iterations we would continue to develop for the EAE Open House this December. As a result, last Tuesday our prototypes were ready to go, and in order to determine which prototype moved forward, we would playtest each idea as a team as well as utilize our faculty’s feedback.

After playtesting the prototypes we developed over the weekend, two of them stood out, and were thus clear winners from both our team and the faculty. The first of these two prototypes was very akin to our EAE Day build back in April. To be more specific, the one aspect of our EAE build people enjoyed was the mechanic of destroying tiles and using them to defeat the other player. Likewise, one of these prototypes used lobbying the minions as a means for destroying tiles. But unlike this previous iteration, the player is given the choice as to when they’d like to “detonate” the minion so as to destroy the tile. This created a game in which the player is trying to avoid falling to their death while trying to strategize to have their opponent fall to their own.

What made this idea popular with the team is that it simplifies the design so that the player is not tasked with tracking too many elements such as was the case in our IGF build. It also clearly shows progression in the game. In other words, the player is able to know what is going on in the level clearly. In our IGF build, one of the critiques we received is that it wasn’t clear what the player needed to do to be successful in our game. As I wrote in a previous blog, we have had communication problems with our design. Thus, this prototype enables us better to communicate our game’s core mechanics.

The second prototype similarly destroys the environment, but also allows the player an opportunity to rebuild it. The “lights on, lights off” iteration, as we call it, allows the player to capture territory and at the same time, allow them to decide if they want it to be destroyed or rebuilt, which can be cycled at the player’s convenience. This idea ultimately permits the player to choose how they want to use the environment in order to find the best strategy for defeating their opponent. Players will need to find ways to use the territory to their advantage, but don’t make a mistake and destroy the environment you’re crossing.

The opportunity to prototype created a new enthusiasm for our team. And now that we have chosen a specific direction, we are now excited once again to move forward with our game. In the coming weeks we refine these iterations. I hope that you will be at the EAE Open House on December 12th to see how well we executed these new ideas. Stay tuned!

Here We Go Again: Prototyping

This week, our team decided that before we move forward with our game, we should explore new ideas so that we could iterate on the design. Some people expressed that in order to find what’s fun, we should prototype new ideas. As a result, several ideas are being developed as I write this post.

I am also working on my own iteration. This iteration brings us back to the original design and brings to the forefront what I feel has become the star of our game. My idea centers on maximizing the minions in our game. The minions are featured on our poster, website imagery and in our trailer. And people love the minions from their cute sounds to their tail flapping in the air.

Taking this idea into account, my idea centers on having the player capturing specific regions on the map in order to spawn minions. Once spawned, these minions would seek out the player’s opponent in order to attack them. Furthermore, the longer the territory is captured, more dangerous minions will spawned. This would also be sped up if the territory that spawns minions are connected to one another. The first player to die at the hands of the attacking minions loses the match.

In order to create more strategy, players will have limited “ammo” and would need to go to specific areas to replenish their ammo. This area would also have places where power-ups would spawn to help balance the game if a player is behind.

In a nutshell, that is what I am currently working on. Hopefully, during this time of iteration, we will be able to come to a consensus as to what direction to take our game. The next coming weeks are going to determine what will be seen in the final game. Stay tuned!

Don’t Pivot, Just Polish!

This past week it seemed most teams in our cohort were suffering from a post-IGF submission hangover. Since we all worked tirelessly to make a build to submit to the competition, this week many of us came down from this hectic time and began reflecting on our games and what we wanted to do with the time remaining. I know some teams wanted not just to iterate on their submitted build, but also make a pivot. In other words, many of us wanted to revisit our game’s fundamental design to see how we could change it to make it better.

However, thank God Amy came in to speak with us producers last Thursday. Her brief lecture focused on the importance of utilizing the time we have left to complete and publish our games. Specifically, she wanted us to know we shouldn’t make any pivots, but rather iterate and ultimately polish our games. To make her point, she drew on a white board the timeline for our games from start to finish. She then roughly marked where we were all currently at in the development process. What she emphasized from this timeline is the lack of time left we have to complete our game. And because of this, we should focus on iterating on our design and polishing our games.

What I’ve learned from Amy from my time as a student and working for her as a producer is that she notes the importance of polishing. She contends that the true quality of the game doesn’t come from constant iteration, but spending a significant time polishing. Amy feels that most student games spend little time polishing but instead iterate until the day they are published. To stand out, polishing the game helps to make it standout and play much better than trying to come up with a new killer feature or mechanic.

Thus, what we need to focus on moving forward isn’t changing the overall design but spending the majority of our resources polishing the heck out of our game. This will prevent us from pivoting too far away from the original design therefore causing us to publish late. Instead if we spend time polishing so we can make the best game we can in the little time we have left while at the same time meeting our milestones.

I thank Amy for her time. Her words were the cure for the hangover we were all feeling.