28 August 2012

Back at It -- Week Ending 25 Aug

Summer was fantastic; I worked on a few independent game projects (quite extensively, actually--can't wait to show them publicly!), did some professional web development and site maintenance, and enjoyed my first anniversary with my wife. (We celebrated by going to Disneyland for my first time. It was incredible!) However nice it was, I'm ready now to get back into action on our thesis game, Last March of the Dodos.

To be honest, I even worked on the game during the summer in the form of running testing sessions with various youth summer camp groups that visited our studio. I got a lot of great feedback from them, and much of what they suggested or had problems with is already on our backlog to be addressed. We've got two months to whip this thing into shape for the Independent Games Festival (IGF), so we definitely have our work cut out for us.

 I won't lie: I feel a bit overwhelmed. We keep getting all sorts of feedback, suggestions, and "this would be so awesome!"s, so it's been difficult to know when to draw the line for our backlog. We've done a lot to try to suppress feature creep, but when we feel like these ideas are important for the design as a whole, it's difficult to know exactly when to say "no." Or even just "we simply don't have time." I want my team to all have confidence in the group and in themselves, so I don't want to dash lofty goals, but I understand the need to be realistic. Now I just have to figure out how to really put it into practice without anybody feeling like their contributions and ideas are not valued on the team.

So that's where we stand. We have a functional game that is far from polished in gameplay feel, art, or engineering. I do have confidence in our project and our team, so I'm going to work like crazy to do anything and everything I can to help our team come out on top and with a real sense of accomplishment, success, and a freakin' sweet game.

That said, here's what I've done this week:

- (Summertime) Led test sessions with various youth summer camp groups and recorded their reactions, feedback, and other suggestions
- Got the team up to speed via meetings so that we could plan our next few weeks and months of action
- Assisted the engineers in re-constructing the remaining backlog and sprint breakdowns for tech issues
- Helped our team lead (Jesse) organize and put together the official presentation of our game for next week (where we are, what our plan is, etc.)
- Re-evaluated our game design and laid out a few last features that we believe will push our game from "interesting and fun for 10 minutes" to truly engaging and enduringly fun
- Designed new levels with our new level design goals in mind
- Met with and initiated a potential outsource artist; brought her up to speed on the team's work and helped establish our game's art style with her and our art team
- Communicated team notes, details, suggestions, and goals via emails and meetings as necessary

I think we've hit the ground running this semester, and if I keep up this pace for the next two months, I really believe we'll have a stand-out game to submit to the IGF.

- Troy