28 November 2011

Unity -- Week Ending 26 Nov

Once again, clear and open communication is key to achieving unity in a team of different-minded people. With deliberate pre-production and a dash of fun team-building, the newest team that I'm a member of has easily arrived at a defined goal for our final prototype. Planning ahead as a group and being open and honest made the process quick and easy, and now we're off to the races.

We are all excited to see what we can do with the skin-stretch haptic technology we've been charged with implementing. It certainly helps the process when each member is curious and invested in making the project work, so I'm glad that I've ended up with such open-minded, cheerful people. Besides that, they're all hard workers, and they're fun to be around. In other words, this should be a smooth ride to finish out the semester (knock on wood!).

My personal tasks for the week were as follows:

- Firmly established Derek as the game designer, then facilitated him in that role by organizing and holding design meetings (like the Cabal) wherein he had final say on suggestions and backlog additions from team members
- Created and gave the project pitch based on Derek's X, hook, and one-pager design doc
- Led the team meetings to create unity, get an understanding of everyone's expectations of each other, and establish a clear release backlog
- Researched critter types and offered suggestions on enemy designs
- Created the Scrum sheet and broke down the sprints
- Created the team developer blog, updating it as necessary with team goals and achievements
- Researched haptic technology and potential code solutions for the engineers

In addition to this project, I've also continued communication with Becky Menlove, our Utah Museum of Natural History contact. I've set up appointments with her and the Museum IT team to officially install the latest builds of our Museum games. Once they're all up and running properly (the appointment is this Wednesday), the Museum will rotate through the three or four programs from day to day. I'm stoked that we'll have a public game under our belts in just a couple of days!

- Troy

18 November 2011

Stressful yet Successful -- Week Ending 19 Nov

We did it. We managed to complete our game on time and present it to the Museum staff. Despite some initial struggles in getting the game to run properly, we managed to overcome the obstacles, and we ran the game on their system. As it turns out, they're interested in running both teams' games in the installation, and we're thrilled at the prospect of having publicly available projects to our credit.

Of course, they only came together after insane hours of work, with many of our team members working in the studio until 4 in the morning. Tension has been high as we tried to pull it all together, but everybody's incredible work ethic combined to get the job done. I'm honored to have worked with such a great group.

My own contributions this week are as follows:

- Solidified last-minute design decisions as dictated by tech and time constraints
- Updated the development/production blog to give credit to each individual team member
- Guided iterations of specific feature functionality
- Worked with engineers to come up with bug fixes and optimized algorithms
- Worked with tech support to get new fonts to work properly
- Set up appointments for presentation to our client at the Museum
- Managed communication pathways between team members
- Provided dinner and breakfast for team members who put in extra late and early hours
- Animated the title screen of the game to convey a strong invitation to play
- Wrote (along with layout and graphic design) the one-page for the game presentation

All in all, this was a great experience, as difficult and stressful as it was. It has been an eye-opening opportunity to work with professionals for such a prestigious space in the Utah Museum of Natural History.

Many thanks to everyone I've worked with over the past month!

- Troy

14 November 2011

Headaches and Successes Alike -- Week Ending 12 Nov

Let's just say that I've learned my lesson. Pre-production, or "extensive planning" as some may call the process, is imperative. It's hard to get anywhere without a little planning. It's hard to get anywhere good without a lot of planning. That's exactly what we've found over the course of this game's development. With all the confusion over groups combining and needing a finished product (rather than just a prototype) in only four weeks, we failed to plan as effectively as we should have. We did just enough planning to get every team member a task to work on, but we did not have a unified vision of the finished product to all work toward. This really crippled our process, and things would have gone much more smoothly had we taken the extra bit of time in the planning stages to get everyone on exactly the same page. In short, we're still working on cleaning up after our mess--and I will be the first to admit that I was key in letting the mess happen in the first place. Harumph.

That said, we've fought through it all to produce a game that's now nearly finished. Every member of our team has really stepped it up to get their tasks done the best that we could, and the project is in its final stages of development. While I will try to keep this from happening the same way in the future, I am pleased with how it's turned out, regardless of the difficulties and setbacks we've had along the way.

Here's what I accomplished this week:

- Acted as the main communication line with our client; obtained information and assets from them, scheduled and kept appointments for installation testing, etc.
- Wrote instructional, menu, and game state text/copy for in-game implementation
- Iterated and hammered out further game flow details, along with adjusting design elements as necessary
- Handled needs for both the engineers and the artists, including pipeline management, communication systems, asset transfers, and the providing of food :)
- Updated the developer blog
- Began work on the final game presentation

I'll let you know my final feelings on this project next week. Once again, wish us luck!

- Troy

06 November 2011

New Phase of Challenges -- Week Ending 5 Nov

I've found it a bit difficult this week to determine exactly the different jobs that Jesse and I (the two producers) are expected to do. It's not that we keep stepping on each other's toes or anything, but occasionally it's been a struggle to decide which tasks we need to completely take over versus on which we meet half-way. The other difficult thing is that because we both ended up as primary designers in our own groups before combining, we've had some trouble establishing what to keep and what to throw out from each of our old ideas. Without establishing a single creative director, our game has gotten fairly ambitious, considering the fact that we only have about eight days of development left.

One other difficulty has been unifying the art style between our two artists. I've taken the helm for the art side of things generally, and it's been a challenge to get two artists of greatly differing experience and ability to produce a unified aesthetic for our game. I've researched appropriate games and styles for a target to match, selected and distributed a strong style, and communicated that vision with the artists, but it still feels like there's a disconnection between the goal and the product.

Frustrations aside, the game is coming along, and a lot of work has been effectively done.

My personal accomplishments this week are as follows:

- Held group meetings to determine the necessary tasks, communication, and workflow
- Kept email and phone communication with our clients to obtain technical information, city images, etc.
- Further nailed down game design, flow, and functionality with Jesse
- Researched, selected, and communicated a target art vision with our artists
- Managed the artists' pipeline and how they work together
- Created and updated the art portions of the Scrum/sprints
- Worked on the new production blog (though Jesse helmed and created the actual blog space)
- Updated my own existing production blog (the one that I had already established for our joint group--though, Jesse's new one is flashier and more exciting) for completeness and continuity's sake

One more full week of development left... Like I've said before, if anyone can make this work, my talented team members can. Wish us luck!

- Troy