Monthly Archives: September 2013

New Frontiers

jump-man

This past week has been a huge shift in the way we’re working here in the EAE program and I’m loving it!  Tuesday of this week Roger and Bob talked to us about the different types of prototypes- vertical slice, 1st playable, and white box.

A vertical slice prototype is what most of the teams did in the last cycle, and it’s certainly how we handled Starving Artist; this is a prototype where you try to take one small segment of a game and polish it up nicely.  So for instance we had just one working level on SA, but it looked nice and felt good.  These prototypes are very useful for pitching to clients since they can visualize the game much easier, but they take a lot of work and time to get going.

1st playable prototypes are an approach where you try to get a game in a rudimentary playable state as soon as possible so you can start playing with and telling whether it’s FUN or not.  This is hugely important as a fun idea and a fun game are totally different things.  White box prototypes are similar in this idea, you get the mechanics of the game working well but leave almost all art out.  Sets and characters can be represented very simply, even as “white boxes”, in an effort to focus development on mechanical aspects and make sure you have a satisfying product.

Since most if not all of our teams did vertical slice prototypes last time the professors gave us a new development method for this prototype in order to push us towards 1st playable prototypes and truly rapid development cycles.  We are to take a retro game and improve upon it every week.  So each Tuesday we need to have rebuilt a retro game and added something interesting to it.  Then for the next week we take last weeks product and polish it even more, adding more features and art as we go.

It’s a super exciting way of approaching the development.  My team has decided to build upon the original Donkey Kong game and flip the players’ interaction with the characters on it’s head.  I’ll have more info as we go but we’re very excited with the new direction!

The puns about our new mechanic are abundant in that last paragraph, leave a comment if you think you figured it out (if you don’t already know that is!).  I’m excited to be working with a new team consisting of myself, Christopher Cherrington, Nancy Newren, Swapnil Sawant and James Hulse (you’re ruining the alliterative names James!).  Click the hyperlinks to check out their blogs and their other awesome work.  I’m more and more convinced that everyone in this program is amazing, I’ve yet to meet a teammate that I haven’t been impressed by.  

Thanks for reading, I know a lot of it was just me gushing about how great my teams are again!  I’ve got to get better at this whole blog deal in the future, right?

Starving Artist Postmortem… Or Is It?

What an incredible first prototyping experience.  As of yesterday at about 9:30 AM we pitched Starving Artist to our “clients” and it was such a rush getting prepared for it and going through the actual pitch.

Our prototype underwent a lot of minor changes and one big “pivot” during the development process and it kept us busy with many things to do up to the very day of the pitch.  We had a practice run on Tuesday and got some great feedback, and I’m so happy with how hard my team worked between that day and Thursday to incorporate some of the better ideas into the final pitch.  Owen and I revamped the PowerPoint to be more pleasing and informative, Joe made us a great animation to explain some things that were unclear in the initial game play video, and Siddharth and Peijun kept working hard at improving the code and adding things to the game.

After the pitch we were instructed in the art of performing a postmortem, a practice used by Electronic Arts in reviewing what went right and would could have been improved in the development of a game. Below you’ll see the picture of our postmortem, let me explain the different parts.  The line dividing the top and bottom is a timeline; the three items in boxes are big events that occurred during development; items above the line were things that went well; and below the line are things that needed improvement.

Starving Artist Postmortem

As you can see a lot of our issues arose from the fact that early on we didn’t really set out clear objectives for the game.  I feel that this largely rests on my shoulders as a producer.  We learned about SCRUM methodology and burn-down charts about halfway through this development cycle and were quick to implement them once we were taught how useful they are, but the first week or so of work was done without much direction in mind.

We can chalk this up to growing pains though.  This was the first game I’ve ever worked on, and I believe that to be the same for every member of my team!  Considering that a month ago we hadn’t really done anything of the sort I’m ecstatic with what we were able to do.  Our team communication was excellent and that really helped us work on important things and keep everyone apprised of what needed doing and when.

Oh! Check out our gameplay video!

Now I know you must be thinking “Travis, why are you teasing us with this video?  I want to play too!”  I know, I know. It’s cruel of me.  But worry not, there is some good news.

Starving Artist is not done!

As a team we’ve decided that we have something good here and we don’t want to let Starving Artist remain as just a prototype.  We want everyone to play it.  We’ll be continuing work on the game over the coming months in whatever time we can find in between school, work, and other commitments.  Our goal is to release Starving Artist as a mobile game that anyone can try.  I’ll keep posting updates to the Starving Artist page on this blog, and we’re excited to see what it takes to get the game released on different app stores!

Thanks so much for following us this far!  Let me know in the comments what you think of the video and what you might like to see in the finished game!

who checks all the alt text?

All coming together.

logo

It’s amazing to see the progress that a team of five people who were total strangers 3 weeks ago can make when working hard towards a common goal.  Our prototype for Starving Artist is not only coming together in the time frame that was set out for us but it’s looking incredible I think.  Check out the gallery below with some of the concept work and mockups of the game.

The only things that remain to us is to record a gameplay video, which I’ll shoot for uploading next week.  Owen and I have had a really good time getting ready for the pitch that’s coming up on Tuesday (so soon!) and I think we have a solid basis to go on.  We’ve spent a lot of time on the design of the slides and the handout in order to create a unified feel to every element.  The handout matches the aesthetic of the slides, which in turn match the art style of the game itself.  I think the effort will pay off and I’m excited to see how we do.

I’ve been amazed at the levels of dedication that our team members have shown this past week.  We’ve run into a few engineering problems, animations not behaving like they should and the like, but our rockstar engineering team has been working so hard at fixing them.  I always wish I could help but when they explain the problems to me it feels like they’re explaining calculus to a child.  It’s called to my attention how beneficial it will be for me to take some computer science/engineering classes as electives while I’m here at school.  At least then I may be able to help them think about the issues from a different perspective.

But I’m confident in my teams abilities to work through the new challenges and I think we’ll have a great pitch for Tuesday.  And if nothing else we’ve learned so much from this first prototype that I think we’ll all have a lot of value to bring to future teams we work on.  Check back next week for hopefully a playable version of the game here on the blog!

Settling In and Adapting

Well my second week blog post is a little late.  That’s entirely my fault, but I can attribute it in part to how amazingly busy this past week has been. The work on Starving Artist has been coming along smoothly but as any developer can attest there is always more work to be done.  And rounding out the week was the 1st ever Salt Lake Comic Con!  It was an amazing and entirely exhausting 3 days.  No official attendance numbers have been put out yet but early estimates have as many as 80,000 people attending on Saturday.  So between preparing my costume for the convention, 2 days of amazing convention going, getting ready for a family garage sale and the constant march towards completing our first prototype… I fell behind on my blog.  Oops!

But there’s a lesson in all this.  Having so many different things clamoring for my time and attention is really teaching me to prioritize and make the best use of my time.  I’ve found that I’m more productive now with a thousand things going on at once than I ever would have been over the summer when I had free time in abundance.  I know that if I want to get something done I need to schedule time for it and plan for it or else it will get lost in the mix of things going on.  Planning my days has really been the best thing for my productivity.  Interestingly enough I’m finding the urgency of it all refreshing, at the end of the day I feel satisfied and accomplished.  We’ll see if I sing a different tune when the dreaded “crunch time” is upon us.

I’d like to give a quick shout out to the most amazing piece of software called Todoist that has been an incredible tool for me.   This cross-platform app is a very streamlined to do list that makes it easy to categorize and prioritize the things that you need to do.  The free version is more than sufficient for most needs, and the premium version offers a whole lot of nice features.  Seriously readers, go check out Todoist.  You won’t regret it.

As I mentioned earlier work on Starving Artist is going along nicely.  We received some great input from our Professor Roger Altizer this week that has posed us with a new unique challenge.  He suggested some things that were pretty different from the direction we were heading in, and we only have a little over a week left before this prototype needs to be ready for pitching.  So as a team, we were faced with the challenge of examining the new critiques and deciding what could or should be implemented.  It was fascinating to see how the 5 of us were able to combine our original vision with Roger’s new perspective, and I’m happy with the direction we’re headed in now.  I’ve never pitched a game before, but I think we’ll do great when it comes time to show off our first prototype!

I’ll end the post with a teaser of the new direction Starving Artist is headed in.  On the top row are the new paint balls we’re using.  I love the clean and subtle look in comparison to the harsher glare of the old models.  What do you think of the change?

testfornewballs