Monthly Archives: November 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Due to the holidays I’ll be keeping this post short and sweet.

It’s been a great Thanksgiving week this year, really.  Our prototype team is doing great work even with the holidays on us and losing out on an entire day of class time.  The engineers have each done great work on our player, the enemies and the map, it’s just a matter of getting the pieces assembled.  Shane is working on this sweet concept for the drone character and we’re all really excited to see it in the game.

 

Soon we can start playtesting and changing the design based on feedback and making sure the game is fun to play.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned most in this past month it’s PLAYTEST PLAYTEST PLAYTEST.  Our reading in Game Design 1 this past week had a lot to say about playtesting, and Amy has always stressed the importance of it in our production class as well.  It’s tough sometimes to hear another person say what is bad about your game, but it’s important that we are willing to hear that if we hope to improve the game and rid it of the things that aren’t worthwhile.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, this year I’m thankful for graduate school.  Weird to say since grad school is supposed to be tough, and it absolutely is, but I attend such a great program with such great people.  I took this picture last night at our school Thanksgiving get together-

We all spend so much time in this lab with these people that it’s amazing to see us voluntarily come together to have celebrations outside of school time.  I’m really glad I ended up going this route for grad school and the people I’m in school with are a big part of that.  It’s hard to believe we’re almost at the end of the first semester and I’m excited to see what the next 3 have in store for us!

Insert Clever Title

This week marks the beginning of our 4th and final prototype of the semester, and it’s a very exciting one for us to work on.  Our goal is to make a prototype that we can polish enough to release on the Windows app store.  This is very enticing because for a lot of us, myself included, it will be the first game we actually publish.

I’m working with the fantastic team of Rody Rodriguez, Dayna Stevenson, Saumya Mukul, Shane Sumsion, and Junyuan Zhu.   You’ll notice that we have an extra person on the team and I think we’re all super excited to work on a six person team rather than the usual five.

We’ve been given quite a bit of freedom with this prototype, so we’ve decided to go with a sci-fi theme that was enticing to our entire group.   At it’s core our game will be about stealth and avoiding detection by enemies. We are going to incorporate  an easy control scheme and a non violent protagonist to keep the game friendly to the casual gamers who make up a large portion of the app store clientele.

It’s an exciting opportunity for all of us, but as producers we have a chance to really stretch ourselves and learn new things with this game.  A large part of this project for us will be certification on the app store, which is a process we haven’t had to do in our last teams.  Windows app store certification isn’t nearly as arduous as some other platforms (here’s looking at you Nintendo…) but it will still be a set of standards that we need to adhere to.  We also have the chance to try and market this game and really show off the work that our incredibly talented team works so hard on.

It’s amazing to me the progress that everyone has made in these past 3 months, I expect that all of our prototypes will turn out great this round.  We have the EAE Open House coming up on December 12th that we’re all super excited for and I’m sure we’ll have amazing things to show off.  So come check it out! You won’t regret it!

As always we’re in the early stages of this prototype and deep in the process of shaping what are game will ultimately end up as, so I’ll have more details on the prototype itself next week.  It’s going to be in space though, so whatever it is I’ll be happy.  Thanks for reading and check back next week!

Postmortem 3: Tokyo Drift

Well I apologize in advance for the terrible title of this blog post, but I wanted funny subtitles from movies with the number 3 and Tokyo Drift was the first one that popped into my head.  Hopefully this post will be better than that movie though…

Now that my nonsense is out of the way I get to take a serious retrospective on the last prototype.  I know for people that have followed my blog you’re probably surprised that this prototype is already over as I’ve barely mentioned it on here.  I was so inundated with work over these past two weeks between grading papers, preparing a lecture for our Game Design class (which went fantastic by the way!) and finishing up our game; this blog was one of the things that just kind of fell through the cracks.

But I’ve been scared straight as they say, I got lunch with a  good friend of mine Friday who is also an alumni from EAE Cohort 2.  He’s just a designer at Disney Interactive now no big deal…  He really stressed to me how useful his blog was to him and that it is absolutely a priority.  So I’m learning to prioritize my life and plan time for all the important things, and this blog will from now on remain near the top of that list.

POSTMORTEM

Look at dat handwriting.
The timeline of what went well on the Last Pterodactyl.

So here we have the postmortem board for The Last Pterodactyl.  As always, we set out a timeline of development and we lay out what went well and what went poorly in our process.    Things that went well are on top and things that could have been better are under the line.

Before I get too into detail on the postmortem, here’s a demo video of our final product.  It’s a 2 player game, God versus the Pterodactyl.  The Pterodactyl tries to “evolve”(level up) by eating Bibles, once he’s eaten enough he knocks God off his cloud, which you see at the end of this video.  God uses all his powers, lightning, comets and mountains, to try and hit the Pterodactyl and keep this from happening.  As you can see this is my most complete prototype yet and there are many reasons why.

First off, the good things.  As always, I’ve been privileged to work with some amazing people.  You can see in the upper left of our board that right from the start we realized we had an awesome team and we all really came together to execute the vision of the game.  Tina did an incredible amount of research into other games in our genre and what exactly it meant to be “indie” which helped us a lot going forward.  We had a good asset pipeline which came from establishing an early design document for the whole team to refer to and keeping constant communication open.

Our team was super hard working and we had a first playable prototype just a little over a week into the process, which was an amazing help going forward.  It gave us the time to playtest thoroughly and I can’t stress enough how much that improved our game.  We had ample time to incorporate player feedback and the final product was so much more fun to play.

As producers we learned a lot about pitching games.  Tina made a great powerpoint that got our ideas across, we narrated a gameplay video to walk our audience through what they were seeing, and we really cut out on design elements.  I also made this sell sheet to give to our audience which was very well received by the Professors.  I see it in my own work and in everyone else’s, we’re all learning so fast and the things that we’re producing now are just leagues beyond what we were doing three short months ago.

Last Pterodactyl As always, we had some drawbacks, but they were very mild for our team this time around.  We had a little trouble settling on a theme but a large part of that came from our inexperience with making something feel “indie”.  We had some technology issues but that was just constraints of the program we used, our dynamite engineers found ways to power through and get the work done.  Lastly we had some illness that detracted from productivity, but it’s not really something that came out of neglect. Life just happens sometimes.

I do believe the sickness was a good lesson for us as producers though.  We should try to keep a holistic view of the development process and realize that anything can happen to a team in their personal lives that could effect workflow.  This is something we need to try to prepare for as best as possible, be it through adding some buffer time in our scheduling or ensuring redundancy in our personnel needs on a team.

The Last Pterodactyl was a huge success for me personally and I hope each of my team members feels the same.  It’s a game I’m proud to have worked on and I learned a whole lot during this process that will certainly carry on into future endeavors.

 

Do a Barrel Roll!

I can’t believe I missed a week on my blog!  Things have been so busy in school and I just let it slip past me.  There have been so many good things to come from this time and there’s so much I want to write about I’ll get right to it.

I’ve never doubted the value of this program but I would say that these past two weeks have been the most valuable to me by far.  This is due to 2 very valuable lessons that I’ve learned about game design and personal growth.

The first lesson came to last Tuesday when we were assigned to work on our new prototypes.  I’m working with the amazing team of Tina Kalinger, Cory Haltinner, Binoy Mohanty and Shelwin Cheng.  We have had the entire world opened to us in this new prototype, one of our only constraints being that we try to make our game “indie”.  More on this later…

But that is not to say that our professors left us without any direction.  Roger Altizer taught us about his design box, a tool he uses to guide the creation of a product.  The box basically has us constrain our creativity within four walls- audience, technology, aesthetic, and play.  When creating a game if we strongly define these constraints it helps guide the process and in the end we come out with a better product.

I saw how this worked in action the very same day.  My group came together and immediately got to work on ideas for our new game, but we struggled with defining the audience we wanted to speak to.  Roger himself came over and helped us for a minute, and he asked the question “Is it possible to create a GOOD game without the audience in mind?”  Never lacking for confidence I answered that I thought, yes, if a developer makes a game they are truly passionate about there will always be an audience to appreciate it.  Roger then proceeded to teach me an interesting lesson about game design and Starfox 64.

Fine Peppy relax!

I would imagine that a lot of those who read this blog are familiar with the game Starfox 64, but maybe not with the process by which it was created.  Roger explained how it wasn’t someone’s dream to create a game with animals flying spaceships.  These iconic characters were added to a game that was originally JUST about the spaceships in an effort to better connect with their audience, kids who would be playing the Nintendo 64.

The developers saw that to personalize the game and make the best experience for their players, they needed to add something to their already fun game to tailor the product to those who would be enjoying it.  They had their audience in mind from the beginning and this led them to create what is ultimately a pretty weird game when you think about it. But Starfox 64 was perfect for kids of that age and since the developers kept those kids in mind throughout the development process the final product was a huge success.

Roger’s lesson to me was that I can never forget who I’m making a game for in the process of making it.  Maybe there will be times that I make games for myself, but usually I’ll be making them for someone else.  Keeping their desires in mind is a way to help creative flow and ensure that the product I deliver is one that they will be satisfied with.

I’m grateful that there are talented people here who have learned these lessons and are willing to pass them down to us so I can learn them now rather than later in my career.  The faculty is super helpful and such a great resource.  Now, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily easy to understand exactly what “indie” gamers want… but we’re doing our best to discover what that is.

The lesson of creating games for an audience is substantial enough on it’s own, and the other lesson I learned this week deserves it’s own post as well.  So I’ll leave you with THIS teaser of our new game thanks to the amazing Cory, and I’ll see you all next week!

It's really hard to spell pterodactyl.
It’s really hard to spell pterodactyl.