November 6

We got out IGF submission finished, and everything went as well as we had hoped.  The faculty did some review of the game and seem impressed, especially with the improvements we had made since the beginning of the semester.

Our team had a meeting and decided that we should switch team leads, and I was voted as the new art lead.  It’s going to be a new experience for me, but I’m confident we can get everything done that we need to do.  There has been some complaints about the level of art in the game, and one of my major concerns is going to be restoring confidence in the art levels for the game.  I will have to work very hard to make sure that the art quality is as high as possible.

 

October 30

It’s the big day.  We’re submitting “All is Dust” to IGF.  I worked on doing some start and ending screens and the art team is just working hard to get things finished before we submit.  The game is coming along really well, and I’m proud of how well our art team has worked.

I’ve learned several important things about working on a team from this experience.  The first is that if I really feel strongly about something I should speak up.  For instance, I didn’t like the name of our main character, Muley.  But I didn’t think it was worth bringing up, and I didn’t want to waste time arguing about it.  Then I showed another team member and he also disliked the name, and immediately went to the design lead to talk about it.  To my surprise, the design lead didn’t even really care and it was changed immediately.  Next time I should consider bringing up problems earlier in the process, and trust that team members won’t be offended if I’m mature and professional about it.

October 9

Progress has gone well on the game this week.  We had several meetings where people discussed feelings honestly, and we went over the player feedback.  The biggest problem we encountered was a lock of fear experienced by most players, despite the fact that we want fear to be our major point in the game.  So we sat down and had a really good discussion and people gave some really good ideas.  Fortunately people are working harder and more focused because our deadline is approaching.

I spent some time doing research into different horror franchises and tried to figure out how they created tension without removing it immediately, which is what we seemed to be doing.  One secret is that many horror story monsters were not that “dangerous” and took a long time to kill anyone.  This meant a great deal of tension because there were long moments between when the monster killed people and when they killed again.  Often, it was very obvious when the monster was going to kill someone.

Week 5 September 22

Work is still progressing well, although we are starting to encounter design problems that are distracting from our work.  Today we had a short meeting to discuss design problems, and that went reasonably well.  People expressed honest opinions about their doubts with the game, specifically that they feel there is a lack of focus and direction.  The discussion was passionate but not heated, and hopefully these issues get resolved before people become more frustrated.

For our part, we’re trying to stay focused on our work, making the assets that are necessary for the game.  Sherry is continuing to make higher quality assets for the house, and Jing has been making textures that can be put on the assets.  We tested the textures today and they worked well, and we were able to see how they interact with the lighting inside the house.  The lighting is very strong and bright, so it effects the textures and we’ll have to discuss that on our next art meeting.

Week 4 September 18

We’ve made more progress on our game and fixed the problems we were having with the assets.  It was a major effort, as we sat down and hashed out each of the major problems one at a time.  It was a good learning moment for everyone, and we got all 50 assets finished and given to the engineers.  We also made a list of who built which asset so the engineers would know who to contact when they have a problem with any of them.

We’ve also talked about making a new type of house.  Our gameplay mechanic is being chased and hiding in a house, so the suggest was the try making the house a little larger so there would be more space for that.  I think that would be a good idea, so over the weekend I’ll work to get that done and make sure the house works well.  Chris is doing a good job of making the theme for the art, and Jing and Sherry are working hard on the assets.  I think we’re making good progress, and ready to start shifting towards making textures.  It’s going to be a big step, and I hope we have enough time and effort to do a good job on the textures.

Week 3 September 11

Progress on the game is continuing well.  Assets are being made, textures are being built, and the design of the game is not making obstacles for the art.  The art team is passionate and working hard and making good progress.  I’m working on the house interior and placing the art assets inside so that the levels designers can make wiser decisions as they continue working.

We just had a story meeting because the art team was facing some major obstacles.  Without a set story, were were struggling to create assets that would visually reflect the characters inside the game.  Our story meeting went very well and we’ve made some great progress with the story, and the leads have given me the freedom to make story changes that help the art team.  So that obstacle has been removed.

We are also working on our color pallets, going through what colors we want to include and how to use that to help the story.  Because of the setting during a dust storm, our pallet is going to include a lot of reds, browns, and oranges, which should give the game a warm, dirty look.  Our current main obstacles is to make sure certain objects stick out from their surroundings.  We’ll continue to work through that next week.

September 4

Well, we’re making good progress on the game so far.  The art team has been really productive, and Sherry and Jing have made all 50 assets already and moved on the other things.  I’ve built the house and the engineers are already walking around inside it.  I’m glad I was able to make it so quickly because it has allowed other teams to do other things, and removed any obstacles for level design.  Also, by finishing the house so quickly we avoided bogging down in design.

We still deciding some design issues, but fortunately we’re moving so fast many of the design decisions are made kind of by force.  Because we have so little time we only spend time on the decisions that need time spent on, which is how it should be.  And once a few of us start being very productive it’s much easier for everyone else to be productive.

We’re also working on the general art design, like the color pallet and the general design decisions.  I think we have a good general idea, but things still need to be crystallized.  Fortunately, these are things we don’t need to worry about specifically, and we can make the decisions when we get to them, as opposed to spending a lot of time “designing.”

August 25 Start of New Year

Well, we’ve started a new school year, with a new game idea.  I like Americana for several reasons, one being that it is similar enough to Mannequin that we can use a lot of the assets and algorithms that we spent so much time building before.  It is also a simple and easy to understand idea, meaning that we’ve already started running on design and art because we have a really sure idea of what the vision is.

It’s also a very visually stimulating environment, an old dusty farm from the 1930’s.  It’s a chance to to make a lot of older, dirty items that I wouldn’t have a chance to make.  We’ve started designing things and constructing assets, and so far we’ve not had any major problems.

Jing and Sherry have started making small assets, Chris is working on the cornfield and scarecrow, and I’m making the farmhouse.  We’re working with the engineers that are making the levels so that we don’t waste time, and right now we’re making the house super simple so if there’s any design changes it won’t take much time.

Final Blog

Well, the semester is over.  We just had our big EAE day and that was a big success.  We got some really good feedback for our game and got a chance to see what everyone else was working on.  It felt really good to share all of our hard work, and especially to see the reaction of people to the different games.

The feedback for our game was both positive and helpful.  Many people experienced a high level of fear just from playing through a single room of our game.  So I think we definitely have a good fear factor going there, but need to work hard to increase the atmosphere and quality of the assets in the game.

There was some feedback about feeling lost in the world and not knowing the best way to go.  I think there are several reasons for that, and we need to make a concerted effort to solve them.  First, the texture of the environment is nearly a solid gray, and the lighting is very uniform.  This makes the entire world feel very similar, and it is easy to feel lost.  Adding even simple things such as posters on the wall, different colored lights and textures, and other things can help the game feel a lot better.  Also having simple maps, or building the architecture in such a way to direct the players around can be really helpful

April 22 Last Class

Today is the last class of the year.  I can’t believe that my first year of graduate school is over as far as the classes are concerned.  We’ve had such a good time working on our Mannequin, and overcome many obstacles.  I’ve learned a lot from the experience and hope that next year can be just as good as this year.

Looking back way in review, there are several important things that I could have done better.  The first and most important would be to disconnect my own personal feelings from projects.  Often my passion and work level were connected to my personal feelings about a project, and once I became discourage on a project I had a difficult time working hard on it.  I’ve been trying very hard to continue working on a project even if I’m not really excited about it, and I feel like I’ve made improvements.  But I still have a lot of work to do.

Also, I feel that I might have spent too much time working on long term project, and not enough time iterating things for the game.  I think I need to focus on doing small things and doing a little more each time, as opposed to working on really large project that take multiple weeks to finish.  I also need to do more “pretty” things.  Many of the things, although useful for the game, were difficult to show off or use to get people excited about the project.  In the future I’m going to try to work on things that are smaller and get people excited about things.

The biggest thing is I think I need to focus more on the story of the game.  I’ve kind of been waiting for other team members to come up with cool ideas, but I think that I need to grab the bull by the horns and come up with my own ideas.  We’ve had some good discussions with the faculty and I am going to have a productive summer coming up with good ideas for the game.