After completing two innovative learning programs, Computer Animation Bachelors and Game Design Master's, I found the Computer Animation attuned to a trade program and the Master’s to be analogous for higher tier careers.
This program was recommended for my next step in education, and my lack of knowledge of Game Design and Development hindered my first months. This affected my leadership ability and production on the first project. During my initial role as a producer, I faced many challenges. I had to familiarize myself with Level Design's basics and the interface of Unity. Knowing this, I was able to guide the level designer and writer inside Unity, so when they came across technical issues, we could fix them swiftly and then move forward. During that week, I used information from chapter six, communication, Communication Skills for Team Meetings. Levi (2018) to communicate between the coders and the level designers to a point where they could share the issues, to each other, about the Unity interface issues. We hit a roadblock due to the lack of assets. I pivoted to Unity Hub to find free assets that our level designer could use. I was unable to find assets needed within a reasonable price range. I then asked a fellow Full Sail student, whose has assisted master’s students in similar situations. He made modular units that the level designer could use to make a pre-alpha layout to give then the coders work on AI and mechanics in Unity. I tried alleviating some of our tech lead's stress by learning how to set up walkable floors in Unity. Those five hours of coding lessons were enjoyable and eye-opening; however, that would be the last time I would be team leader because my decisions threw our team into turmoil. Going forward, I learned more about how to be a game producer in the industry effectively. Then the focus was internal team communication, which was my weakness link. I will never forget that month, not because of the negatives, but for what I learned. I have heard that failure is the most outstanding teacher. I learned a lot from the dynamics. I understand that taking the leap to leadership this early and learning on the fly was a risk, but it was well worth it, despite what can be considered a less successful outcome. I carried these lessons with me on my journey through the master's program and continued to learn.
Initially, I was tasked to make models for background in two games in progress. The prototype our team made in month six was called Fluidity. Fluidity is a side-scrolling puzzle game where the player controls a blob of water that can change its states of matter to get through each level. As a team, we were split into development and design, consisting of six people in each group. In Fluidity, I was responsible for making the trap designs to hinder and assist the player in progress through each level. I put my full effort into working on the 2D trap models. I did add animation to aid the 3D effect and found out that it was not necessary. I had made a total of five usable models consisting of spikes, a fan, heat vent, crusher, and a buzz saw.
My next models were for the game Humanity SaVR and were utilized in the foreground. These were in 3D and utilized in the completed project. We were in school learning and the communication was effective.
My elevator pitch of a Dungeons&Dragons crawl type is that it is a simple way for new players to understand D&D by playing a video game. Building on the skills from the Production Management Principles course, the Game Production Tools Course equipped me with tools used in the processes of software production and project management proved vital for this project. I was familiar with and conducted applied research related to project management software that aids in the management, workflow, and documentation of projects – including Microsoft Project, Visio, asset management systems, defect tracking systems, and much more.
I became Art Lead for Indie in my sixth month, which involves reviewing artwork and matching them to a project and answering peer questions. I was a mentor, interviewer for the shadows and placed them based on their skills. I initiated the protocol to meet with the artists every week.
I was Creative Lead for my game, Roll for Initiative, and managed up to a ten-person team. There have been multiple build fails on the game, and we proceeded to seek guidance and find solutions. Our daily meetings proved to be constructive and successful in deciphering the next passes to fix the bugs.
Next, training the next Art Lead for Indie by mentoring and coaching how to overview art and placement of shadows. Coached how to interview and advised on placement.
Each month as I learned my management style and that I could be more hands-on with concrete solutions to improve the game.
There is a choice of how to be a project manager; you can be versatile or rigid. There is no one methodology to be a good project manager. I learned what worked for me to succeed in the current project.
Initially, my role was creating the broad picture and storyline of Roll for Initiative. As the team grew, I parceled out balancing multiple ideas. Over the month, everyone on the team put forward ideas that were implemented in the level prototype. A team of ten plus members with various backgrounds quickly came together around this idea. As a team, we were cohesive. All ideas were welcomed and never dismissed.
During the development of the entire project, the team had fantastic communication. We had meetings every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. The whole team was part of the discussion about where this project stood and where we want this project to proceed. This was an amazing thing for the project because it helped us flesh out the ideas, call each other out on what is going into the game, and make changes. This was important because there were no bad and pointless mechanics going into the game without the entire team agreeing to it.
We are in full production of my game, and it is technically playable. The bug testing was arduous. We had a problem with some members of our team not properly logging bugs. It was difficult for the Devs to try and fix the bug so that we could not get everything to a working state the first presentation. We could do better by having a set document or program such as Jira, so the Devs and bug testers can work together and not be in their own worlds during production. Overall, the project was a success. Even with the many setbacks the team suffered, the product is operational and adequately portrays what the game is and how it is played. The team proved they could make this type of game and what to avoid. This experience has been beyond amazing. I cannot wait for you to play it!
Our group was a Self-Managing Team because we were all trying to work on all aspects of the game. There was no definitive person for a particular job. This slowed the process down, but we did get projects completed. If we had had enough team member to fulfill one role in every position for the game, we could have been more productive and less frustrated.
I still go to the thought of about creating strong teams can only benefit a company's bottom line. "People like to stay with teams that they enjoy working with; for most employees, it's not just about the money," he explains. "People leave companies because they don't feel valued, and it's much easier for a company to keep a good employee than to replace them. We help to create alignment, and that makes businesses more successful in the long run." Orr, (2018)
Postmortem Reports Gamasutra
The report on the AAA company, Ubisoft, that made Splinter Cell, that started their TDD three months early lead to their production finishing before schedule. They had strong communication and an agile approach to production, and it worked. This surprised me because, in the indie capstone, we did not have much time to make a GDD and worked through the problems while digging into the game. I can see how both can be beneficial, but we lacked the knowledge to fix the issues while digging into our game. Our group found the bugs in our game frustrating but working together to find a fix was very fulfilling. What worked well for us was our constant communication and the competition to solve it. What did not work was lacking any team member with coding strengths. Unlike Splinter Cell, we were running at lightspeed but matched them with excellent communication and agility to pivot.
What Did Not Work
The most glaring issue in my indie capstone was a sense of scope for the majority of projects. As art lead, I knew what each artist assignment was tasked for each game; however, the scope of the game was more extensive than what Indie had the capacity for. We had five artists spread between six games. The artists would then be moved to one game, leaving the other games without artists. Having the studies for class and the lack of artist meant that barely any games were brought to fruition. Completing a game was part of the intrigue of taking this course.
The categories are Scope, Art, Obstacle, and Team. Communication issues and frustration were the results of the obstacles in those categories. I believe that an additional two more months in this program would make a momentous change in fulfillment and appreciation of the process.
Nonlinear narrative is an important aspect of the future development of video games and developing new audiences. The resurgence of VR technology in the context of video games further affirms this idea. Putting the control of game narrative into the hands of the player is an important aspect for the future of video game development.
Immersive narrative enriches the gaming experience. There is documentation that nonlinear narrative will bring newcomers to video games. Recent developments in and the popularity of VR games affirms this idea. Putting players in known environments with a known story that they can expand on, is a new direction for games. From cave paintings to radio broadcasts to VR, storytelling is a way of making sense of the present.
It is possible for games to have a larger impact on a person, if players are given the leeway to become as involved in a story as they would like, or the game designers will allow. Their encouraged emotional connection to a story makes video games more than “Just a game” specifically in the growth of Virtual Reality Games.
The game design master’s program was good because it opened up so many avenues for development, both creative and personal. It provided new artistic challenges and technical skills, but most importantly, it taught me to work together as a team. I learned all aspects of the game development pipeline and the work that goes into each step. I will have graduated from the program with work on several games, a chance to design my own, and made lasting connections that could eventually carry into the game industry.
Points of improvement that I could have benefited from are access to resources provided by the program. The work required Substance and Maya, which was provided in the bachelor’s program; however, students in this program were expected to purchase them. This proved problematic for fellow students who were on limited budgets. The consensus was that this should be provided with tuition. Having evaluation of prior, completed coursework would have been beneficial on this accelerated course. Many grades and comments were sent after that class was finished.
The project-based curriculum helped prepare me for a wide variety of broadly applicable skills, preparing me for careers both inside and outside the games industry.
Thank you for following along on my adventures at Full Sail University!
No more school……. What’s Next?!