28 January 2012

Career Prep -- Week Ending 28 Jan

It's been a grueling week--definitely productive and often fun, but grueling just the same. Outside of our official schoolwork, I've been focusing on getting a solid online presence--a website, a dedicated and up-to-date portfolio, and some extra work polishing these blogs. Hopefully I'll be able to make a good impression if potential employers seek out my credentials now.

In addition, I've been meeting with a couple other guys in the MGS, and we're narrowing down designs to determine a game that we'll be developing on our own. We've been tasked with independently bolstering our experience, portfolios, and professional endeavors, and I think this should do the trick.

In other news, our prototype is coming along. I've been working a ton on refining our development process and creating tools for everyone to track our progress efficiently, and we're on schedule for now. Besides that, I've been designing traps and levels for the game--definitely more fun than managing spreadsheets. It's great to be hands-on with the actual content of the game, and I hope that I'll be in a position to continue doing so once we move into full production on our elected theses.

Here's what I've done over the past seven days:

- Organized and led team meetings to hammer out process, design, and game flow details
- Contacted outside help to compose and produce music for the game (we're in negotiations right now)
- Researched, obtained, and played games with similar themes to learn what works and what doesn't for our game style; followed that research up with my own level and trap/tool designs
- Updated the game blog for aesthetics and content
- Updated the Scrum sheet continually and kept the team informed about our progress
- Researched Unity tools and scripts to help the engineers overcome some engine obstacles
- Created a sticky-note checkout system so team members can have physical tokens of their current tasks
- Designed (with documentation) traps/tools and levels to be implemented into the prototype
- Created signs with our slogan and game goal to post on all our team members' computers

It's been fun this week, and I feel like I've accomplished a great deal, both personally and as a member of an awesome team. Here's to a successful run next week!

- Troy

24 January 2012

Support Experience -- Week Ending 21 Jan

This week has been full of learning experiences--some harder to swallow than others. First off, my thesis game design pitch was not one of the seven picked to move forward into prototyping. I refined the idea over several iterations until the concept was something I was really happy with, paper prototyped it to get a feel for layout and visual experience, and put nearly twenty hours into the documentation. The end result: nothing. Shot down. Canned. Left behind in a period of restructuring. Well, that's how it felt for a few minutes, anyway.

I quickly realized the opportunities this opened up for me. In my opinion, the idea is still a great concept and design, and now I have the option of developing it without the legal issues of fifteen other people being involved in the process. I can iterate on it to my heart's content until it's at a level of quality that I want, regardless of the schedules and deadlines of others. And I have the opportunity to work on another fantastic project that holds great promise; Last March of the Dodos is going to be a blast, and I'm honored to be involved in the development of Kamron Egan's concept.

Regardless of who originally came up with the concept, the thesis games belong to all of us, and I'm dedicated to producing the best thesis project our team can develop. As a member of a team, I've learned to support the group and the decisions that we make together. This is an amazing opportunity, and I'm stoked to be a part of it.

Besides, as it turns out, I've had a chance to do a fair bit of design on our game already, which was the point of my pitching an original concept in the first place. I couldn't be happier.

Here's what I did this week:

- Organized pre-production meetings with the team to get everyone on the same page
- Sat down with individual team members to create our release (well, prototype release) backlog and figure out the labor investments required for each task
- Created the Scrum document and divided the tasks into sprints for our future month of development
- Completed further Unity tutorials so that I can assist in managing the tools if other team members run into snags with the engine
- Designed in-game traps and tools (here's the fun stuff)
- Designed level layouts, including game spaces, challenges, solutions, and playground-esque elements

The game is already feeling like it will be tons of fun to play, and I'm excited to be a part of it. During the next week, I plan on playing some similar games to help inspire more trap and level design ideas (design work), as well as creating a sticky-note task checkout system that I've previously had positive results with (production work). I'll let you know how it all goes!

- Troy

16 January 2012

Thesis on the Horizon -- Week Ending 14 Jan

The time has finally arrived for us to start the long and exciting process of developing our thesis games. This week was spent individually creating, refining, and pitching our own unique ideas to the faculty. Once they've considered all the ideas, they'll pick six to move forward into the prototyping phase. After a few weeks of prototyping, we'll make final pitches of what we've got to the faculty, the cohort, and a panel of industry professionals. Based on the feedback from all those groups (if I understand correctly), our faculty/committees will decided which two of the six are to become our official thesis projects. We'll be divided into two groups, and full production will begin!

Since I am bent on being a designer in some capacity on one of the games (my professional goal is to eventually become creative director of a studio), I spent a great deal of this week working on my own game pitch. Based on feedback from Roger, the implementation of my original idea changed fairly dramatically (I still like it, but I think my new one is a better fit for this project), but the core of the experience remains. Besides just refining the game design, I then spent a good chunk of time working on the one-page, AKA the pitch document. I deliberated for quite some time over how much specific information I wanted on it, how much art, what the layout should be, etc. In the end, I feel like it came out nicely, and I'm excited to see what the other students have done!

We'll find out during the coming week which six will become prototypes, but in the meantime, here are the relevant tasks I completed this week:

- As previously mentioned, I refined my game design with heavy emphasis on the concepts we discussed in design class last semester
- Created the one-page of that design for submission
- Worked through a number of tutorials on using Unity to understand its pipeline functions and get a better handle on how I can help both artists and engineers when using that engine
- Continued work on other game design projects for my personal portfolio and possibly later introduction to the cohort

I'm excited to see what the coming week brings. While I certainly hope that my design moves on to the next phase, I just can't wait to start work on our thesis. Game development is a blast!

- Troy