31 October 2011

A New Challenge -- Week Ending 29 Oct

I am one of three producers who volunteered to try our hands at an alternative project for the new round of prototypes. Of course, I use the term "prototypes" somewhat loosely this time around, because we are supposed to do our best to create a finished game in the 3-4 weeks that we have allotted.

The game is for a new, somewhat desperate client: the new Utah Museum of Natural History. Apparently, they had a game contracted that was supposed to be ready in time for their opening in mid November, but it fell through. They came to us with the emergency, and Roger said we'd accept the challenge.

And a challenge it is. It's overwhelming to think that we're supposed to produce a finished product in 3 weeks--and that if we do, this could be my first published game credit (second or third for some others on my team). Exciting, yet nerve-racking.

As a producer, however, I've felt more suited to the role in this project than any other so far. While I made plans, structure, and game designs on the previous project, this time I've really been involved in directly communicating needs (both ours and theirs) with external clients. It's been kind of fun feeling important enough to talk with the Director of Exhibits and Public Programs, Becky Menlove. Not that previous projects didn't make me feel like a "producer," per se, but this feels a bit more like I imagine it would in the industry.

My specific accomplishments this week are as follows:

- Established communication with Becky Menlove; she knows who I am, and we've exchanged a number of emails regarding the project
- Obtained research from BPI about resource management and water conservation that they conducted for the Museum
- Obtained templates and assets from the old game to ensure that our game aesthetics match those of the Museum in general
- Obtained technical information regarding the Museum's available computers, networks, and the exhibit's visual displays
- Shared all obtained information with my team, our Executive Producer, and the other producers creating games for the Museum
- Designed our game, along with Jesse, based on general concepts from the old game but with simplified, playable mechanics
- Held a meeting to establish how the artists and engineers could start the project for the week, even without a complete task/feature backlog

Like I mentioned, this is new territory for me, and I'm somewhat unsure of how to really get this thing off the ground, but I have confidence in the team I'm working with. I'll do my best, and if anyone can make this game happen, they can.

- Troy

24 October 2011

Coming Together -- Week Ending 22 Oct

The project was successful, as far as I can tell. We got our product finished on time, it had the features necessary to fulfill our assignment from our client, and it had a polished aesthetic (especially for a prototype).

Beyond that, the presentation also turned out about as well as I could have hoped. My "Troy Challenge" was to present the game without the use of text in my slides. By only using images, I was able to free myself from simply describing the features of the game in long-winded fashion. I managed to do a lot more "showing" what the game was than "telling," and that definitely played greatly to the team's benefit. As a team, we were all quite pleased with the results!

My personal tasks for the week (plus Fall Break) were as follows:

- Led the team meetings to ensure we were on track for our deadline
- Updated the Sprints and blogs, as usual
- Designed specifically how the market feature should be implemented to complete the game
- Created the prototype presentation
- Gave the presentation
- Held and compiled the post-mortem
- Collected and archived all assets and pieces of the game to create the wrap kit

I'm almost disappointed that this projects is ending because it has run so smoothly. Kamron, Chris, and Ashley were awesome team members. They were all hard, willing workers, and it was because of each of their efforts that the game came together.

- Troy

08 October 2011

Wrapping Up -- Week Ending 8 Oct

We've reached the final stretch of our game development. With all the pieces and functions pretty much in order, I'm now left to archive and wrap up everything as I prepare for the final presentation. It will be nice to have a slower Fall Break to get this done, but I've still got plenty of work during the coming week.

I want to mention again how well this team has worked together and individually. Everyone has stepped up to the tasks they've claimed, and we've all been working hard to turn out an exceptional prototype. Again, I feel that it's come down to the fantastic communication we've all had with each other.

Here's what I managed to contribute to the group this week:

- Helped research and finally implement the physics to make the game run accurately
- Directed the level designs and gameplay features as the engineers implemented the components
- Continued archiving assets and building the wrap kit
- Maintained the blogs and sprints, as usual
- Provided lunch for the team on Friday--this was the most important job I've done as producer

During Fall Break we're going to finalize the prototype while I prepare the game presentation. We're excited to display our hard work!

- Troy

03 October 2011

Confidence -- Week Ending 1 Oct

The results of the few meetings that we had as a team appear to have paid off. Our communication has been clear and open, and we’re all well aware of where each team member stands in relation to the work in progress. Further, my responsibilities as producer have been well received—task assignments and records have been on track, all four of us have been committed to the backlog and the sprints, and no one has felt like I am micromanaging or overstepping my bounds. With an up-front understanding of what we are all individually responsible for, the process of managing process has been successful and unifying. It’s cool to see.

That’s not to say that everything has been perfect. We’ve certainly run into challenges (personally, researching mechanical engineering physics and coming up with a solid in-game implementation of those concepts has been particularly bothersome) and had trouble keeping exactly on schedule, but I’m much more confident in my ability to “produce” as part of a development team. For this team, it seems that the key to my work boils down to effective communication.

As for my individual contributions this week…

- Continued research on ME physics, including keeping contact with and asking advice from our content area expert
- Managed and updated the blogs and sprints to keep everyone informed and on track
- Created convenient sticky notes for all tasks and established a check-out system that allows simple tracking of who owns each task and how far along the work is
- Found music and sound effects to round out our game experience
- Produced original sound effects for instances that I could not find appropriate free sounds for
- Began the archive of completed assets for the eventual wrap kit
- Worked on the prototype presentation to be given at the completion of the project

That’s a wrap for this week. I’m sure that next week will come with its own challenges (and certainly successes).

- Troy