Category Archives: Prototyping

On Iteration and Embracing Change

I think that when work on the Americana project is all said and done and we take a look back at the process, this will be remembered as one of the most important weeks for our game.

Farmville 3D

We finished our first build on Tuesday of this week and so subsequently had our first build review, where I took the screenshot above.  This review was HUGELY helpful and has only convinced me more of how important it is to do build reviews early and often.  We celebrated as a team the fact that we had essentially rebuilt our game in 2 weeks, and what we saw was already more impressive to us than what we built in Mannequin last semester.  It was nice for each of our 16 members to be able to look at the scene and see something that they contributed, and putting on the Oculus Rift and walking around in the world we’ve built is always a good time.

But we did notice something potentially alarming.  Our lead artist Christopher played through the level, and we noticed that for the majority of his time he was just walking.  He was enjoying the experience but he was just.. walking.  It was very passive.  The scarecrow was chasing him as intended, but the world was so big and open that he was just easily running past it and it didn’t seem to have much interaction at all.

For those of you following this blog you know that the mechanic of Mannequin was similar to the childhood game Red Light Green Light, or the behavior of the Weeping Angels if any readers are Dr. Who fans.  In Mannequin it worked well because there were many mannequins, and you were confined in a mall having to avoid them and keep an eye on them all at once.  In Americana, there is just one scarecrow behaving this way, and the field is so open that it was easy to just keep an eye on him and never really have to get up close and personal.  It didn’t give the same effect.

We went to lunch with a large part of the team to discuss possible solutions, and this lunch was a very productive time for us.  John said something about “letting the game speak for itself” (I’m sure I’m butchering the quote) and it really resonated.  We needed to not be hung up on what Mannequin WAS and instead focus on what Americana is BECOMING.

So lunch turned into a long discussion about solutions specific to the game and ways to engage the player more actively.  And after hours of brainstorming we think we have it figured out.  I won’t hint to it this week cause I’d rather just show the change in the blog next week, but I can honestly say that I think the change is going to make the game great.

As a producer, an iterative change like this MIGHT be scary, but I think we’ve done well in planning time for things like this to come up.  We’ve set our date to lock features on September 30th, so we’re not technically behind until that date.  If after then we’re talking about radically changing things, then I’ve done something wrong.  I’m excited that we’re using this time to truly iterate rather than just steamrolling ahead to build the thing we originally had in mind, even if that thing is no longer appropriate.

So, I truly believe that whatever Americana becomes, this week was certainly an imporant one.  I’m glad to be with such creative people that are willing to respond well when things aren’t necessarily going perfectly.  The team has seen where we’re lacking and is making steps toward correcting our course.  I’m excited to see where we go next.

Poor unconscious Luigi...


So that Donkey Kong game I mentioned last week is shaping up to be SO cool.  Our demo of the first prototype went alright, but was plagued by some bugs in the code we had taken to give us a headstart.  However, we had some great ideas for new the next iteration, and Bob and Roger really helped us give the ideas some shape.

Our game now asks the question, what if Luigi tried to rescue Pauline from Donkey Kong’s tower rather than Jumpman(Mario basically)?  Well, clearly he’d fail and pass out… he is Luigi after all.  So the new goal of our game is that Pauline has to carry Luigi to the exit, get him out the door before the building collapses.  The game mechanic is super cool.  When you’re not carrying Luigi you’ll be able to jump over barrels, move unimpeded and everything just like the original game.  But when you’ve got the useless plumber holding you down you can’t jump and you run slower.

Just… look at this art.  I’m so excited.

Christopher did a great job and I’m super happy with how the look of the game is shaping up.  Our Engineering team is doing awesome at getting rid of the bugs and making the game feel smooth, we will have almost a full week to play around with Luigi and throwing him around which will be super fun for the players!

We have to be done with this project next Thursday though!  Our Professors moved our deadline up so we don’t have to fret about a project over Fall break, but man that Thursday is coming quick.  Since this game is being made in flash it should be easy to upload online and make available for other people to play.  So check back here next week with news on how to ACTUALLY PLAY OUR GAME!

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?


Drinking from a Firehose

How did I get here?

This is the question I’ve been asking myself as the first AMAZING week of graduate school is behind me.  Like, what did I do to deserve this?  Why do I deserve to work with such great people in the #1 program of it’s type in the nation?  It’s hard to believe that just a year ago I was planning on going into social work- a noble endeavor, yes, but not one that I was super excited about- and here I am today making video games.

I can  honestly say we’re making video games even after just this first week.  The first day of class had us go through about an hour of introduction and then we were split up into teams, given parameters for a project and basically told to “get to it”.  Safe to say it was a little overwhelming that first day, but I couldn’t have asked for a better start.

My team is working on a puzzle game called Starving Artist.  The idea is really one that every member of the team contributed to and it’s really exciting to see how 5 people can come together and get more work done in 48 hours than I would have thought possible.  Between 9am Tuesday and 9am Thursday we were able to get a great idea, concept art and even solid foundations of coding ready to pitch the game idea to our peers.  The pitch went fantastic.

I don’t want to make this first post too long, so I’ll finish by saying I’m super excited to be in this place.  Also, I’d like to say how happy I am with my team for this first project, I couldn’t have asked for a better start.  Anyway, here is some concept art that Joe did for us and then some in game footage that our amazing engineers Siddarth and Peijun already put together.

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