Computer Simulation & Gaming
This first week has been all about getting my bearings and getting plugged in. In CSG110 our initial project is to set up a gaming company. The class was split into 2 teams. Our team was selected for us with a balance of designers, programmers and animators. In class we established a name (Infinity Horizons) and set up our corporate management. I selected CMO because I have real world experience in marketing. The team allowed me to create the logo which I started in the first day and finalized a version the team liked in our first out of class meeting which was on Wednesday. We all met online and came to agreement regarding our homework to find 3 companies we would like to emulate. Activision/Blizzard, Nintendo and Square Enix. I had researched the 3 companies prior and had their mission statements and notes explaining my rational before the meeting. I have shared this with the team but have gone on to expand on my thoughts here on my website. I’ve laid out the main design of my website as a tool I will use in various ways to catalog and promote my work in the gaming industry.
Additional information learned
Local Milwaukee Game Developers: Guild Software, Digital Iris
Project Management taught is Agile and Lean startup methods.
Recommended books: Black Swan, Machiavellian Game Theory
Today we watched the movie Indi Game. The movie dove into the mind of the independent game developer. Revealing their struggles which where personal, legal and technical. It was a real wakeup call and reveled real challenges in game development. One point that stuck with me was that mechanics should be reused and enjoyed 3 to 4 different ways. I loved the innovation of the game FEZ that was introduced. The creative 2D/3D concept was very innovative and offered some new game world manipulation. The story about the development of Super Meat Boy showed how a stupid game name and premise simply doesn’t matter. Great Game play and game mechanics is everything. The game Braid also offered some unique game mechanics. From the little that was shown, the fast forward, rewind and overall manipulation of time looked like it would create unique puzzles and strategies for game play. After the movie we talk as a team and discussed our mission statement. We decided on something short. (Dedicated to be being the best of the (Fill in the blank) community.)
No class but while on vacation I went to an amusement park. How can I apply what I experienced to level design?
I once heard a level designer say that everything he learned about level design he learned from Disneyland. It was this phrase that I kept thinking about while enjoying an amazing park called Holiday World, located in Santa Clause Indiana. Before going and dropping $40+ per ticket for my fiancé and stepdaughter. We did a little research and went to their website. My preconceived notions about this park was that it would be some lame wannabe park ran by hillbillies in the middle of a cornfield. The website looked good and the benefits they promoted seemed too good to be true. Free drinks and suntan lotion? What corner would they have to cut? I thought they must certainly be offing these benefits to make up for their shortcomings as an amusement park. I couldn’t have been more wrong. This was a first class park with first class rides, located in Santa Clause In, run by hillbillies in the middle of an old cornfield. And they did it right! They had exceptional rides while blending the best of a thrilling waterpark and amusement park. And the name of the park Holiday World was a theme throughout. Separating the park into holidays, Halloween, Thanksgiving, 4th of July and so on. And this is where I go back to the statement “Everything I learned about Level Design I learned from Disneyland”. Looking at well organized amusement park layout serves the same purpose as a well laid out game. Their are clear and separate areas that hold memorable points of interest. But there are also markers that let you know from a distance whats going on in areas that are far away. The park guides you and gives you markers that let you know how to navigate from area to area. It also is set up to protect you with free sunscreen and quench your thirst no matter where you are. I never felt like I was more than a stones throw from a drink station. It was like they dotted the park with both protection and health. Much like a game will provide a shield and health.
Here’s the Level Designer I’ve been referencing:
Today while watching Video Games the Movie I felt like I was visiting old friends. Seeing all of the games of my childhood reminded me how much I’ve forgotten and also how much I remember. I had completely forgotten the disappointment I experienced when I played Pacman for the first time on my Atari 2600. After all, I was expecting Pacman, how hard could it be, it was such an iconic game that there was no way they would screw it up. But they did. It did’t even feel like I was playing Pacman. gobbling up has marks vs dots, Pacman was always facing the same direction, the colors where faded and wrong and the sound was terrible. It was like the wanted create a Pacman “Like” game but didn’t want to pay royalties, so they made enough changes and make it different enough to be a different game. At the end of the day Atari should have waited until their tech could handle the needs of the game and not for their terrible Pacman simulation experience on us just to make a profit. But they could back then, it was a different time. They didn’t have any real competition other than Intellivision. I will say that Atari did a much better job with Pacman on the 7200. I remember when I got that system, it was amazing and Pacman, Although not exactly like the arcade version, was atlas respectable.
It’s all about the Lean Canvas. Getting our assumptions down so that they can be reinforced or we pivot. Today our team spent the first hour and a half watching the Udacity videos. I have found that these videos give us the blueprint of what we need to do. We where very productive as a team and I think that Lizzie being promoted to the CEO position was a good move. She is well organized and is good at taking the lead when it comes to moving a process forward. Four of us where assigned to fill out business model. Knowing that we will be making a lot of assumptions the goal is to fill in the Lean canvas so we can test our theories. Lidura and I have been assigned the task of creating a survey to gather research information. This survey will be a key component to determine who are customer is and what features they like, don’t like and what gives them the most pain. I have about a half an hour of Udacity videos left to watch.
Today was pretty rough. I can feel our teams frustration more than ever. We where very divided as a group and just could’t agree on the games direction. I can see more clearly who is going to be rigid and inflexible to new ideas and those that just don’t seem to care about whats going on and want the rest of us to figure it out. Gauging on what I’m hearing from the other team, they are having better luck at being productive. I wonder even if we had the better idea how good our execution would be. In retrospect I can she how we could have done things differently. I guess I’m just use to working with self motivated people, people that don’t need or want to be told what to do. They just work through it and figure it out. If I could go back to the beginning I would defiantly do things differently. We are now at risk of failing our task. We don’t have a game idea, we have a story but no game concept. The only way I can see us getting the job done is if we meet outside of class and work until the job is done. One hour on Wednesday is simply not going to cut it. I don’t expect many people to be open to putting the kind of time in that will be required. When I look around I see too many people that are more than happy to let everyone else do the work. I just hope I can get a few onboard that care about what’s happening here.
Concern turns to excitement. It is Wednesday morning and for the last 2 days I have not been able to think about anything other than our project and presentation next week. I am so grateful to have had some of our team rally with me to figure out our game last Friday. I am proud of what we came up, the research that got us there and the innovation we where able to explore for our game. But on Monday when I pitched our idea to the rest of the team, the lack of enthusiasm was unfortunate. I feel like for some, this project cant be over fast enough and they want the rest of us to get it done so that they can just move on from it. No one wants to be the one to pitch the game but that’s ok. I feel like I want to win more than anyone else so I probably should be the pitchman. To be fair there are people on the team that care about winning and do believe in our game. they just don’t feel comfortable pitching it. Ok… so I’ve hit all of the negatives that I’ve dealt with, here’s the excitement. I’ve had some forward thinking marketing strategies for our product that I’m including in my presentation, but I had a magical idea that hit me at 4a this morning. I couldn’t go back to bed for fear of loosing the flavor of it all, I have been writing for the last 2 hours. I feel so good, so confident about our product and marketing approach that I now feel a tremendous sense of relief.
Tomorrow we have our presentation and I believe we have a better than average chance that we can win the challenge. Unless the other competing teams have come up with something absolutely revolutionary, I don’t think that they will beat us. I believe we have an outstanding game with an innovative business model and advertising campaign. I’ve worked very hard on this and I have not gotten much sleep. I’ve been continually refining, innovating and building something that is very different than anything else I’ve found. That is the point, be innovate, be creative. Just don’t give B.S numbers, we have to be realistic. I’ve gotten the presentation to a point that I am proud of, and I just hope I can present it as eloquently as I can see all of my ideas explained in my own mind’s eye. Through this process my eyes have been opened to new opportunities of revenue. There is a hole in the industry that I want to fill. I am going to move forward with starting a not for profit 501(c)(3) game development studio. It can take a few years to get everything approved through the IRS and grants to be issued. That’s why I’m going to get it started now. Win or loose, I have won where it matters most.
The War room. We have decided to break off from the class to develop our game in a meeting room. Because we are competing with the team in the same room with us that it didn’t make sense to develop our revised presentation with them listening in. It turned out to be a good move. It really woke everyone up. We had a whiteboard and where very productive at refining our game and presentation. Our team has lost another but I feel like each time that happens, our core becomes stronger. I’m doing a lot more posting to the various community sites. It seems like that is something both welcomed and appreciated. So I will continue to post videos I think are either helpful or relevant. I guess that I’ve taken it for granted that I love to learn as much as I can about the things in life that I’m passionate about. I can understand not why Emil has been pointing this out to everyone. There just seems to be too little interest for many students to seek out and learn on their own. I guess that is partially why so many fail.
Working outside the class has allowed our team to have a lot of fun and bond as a team. It’s been a productive work experience for everyone. I think everyone feels a little more at ease being able to joke around while we work. This has open up a greater exchange of ideas in a way that we never would have done in class. This week I went to a few stores and finally found everything I need to show off our gameplay in an interactive way during our presentation. This will also come in handy when I play test other games that I work on as well. I’ve also been reading up on ARPU/DARPU and have shared a few links with the team so we will have numbers to show in our final presentation. Peter and I have been talking outside of class independent of the others. Starting next week we will be learning Agile and won’t have time to discuss our presentation in class. This will make it more important than ever to talk outside of class.
We have just started to learn about Agile project management. Our team seems to be loosing steam and their is a lack of focus for our project. I’ve decided to use Psyberfire to track our progress as we finish the second half of our semester. This is a great opportunity to parallel the skills we are learning with Agile along side the completion of our presentation. Someone needs to keep everyone on task and be aware of where our project is in it’s development. I don’t see anyone else taking a leadership roll so I am stepping up to ensure our projects completion. I am not getting much response from my team regarding what needs to be done to complete our presentation. I think that for the most part that without a defined goal, they have a hard time getting their head around what needs to be done next. This is all so foreign to me, I have been self reliant and worked with others that are self reliant for so many years I really don’t know how to respond. I just hope I can get this figured out so we don’t look like a bunch of idiots.
I’ve been working on a simulation for our game and it’s almost compete. We’ve refined our design to a smart, single screen layout. We offer a forward thinking marketing approach that leverages 2 of the most popular games genres as a mechanism to raise money for a variety of non profit causes. Our business strategy offers a unique opportunity for business to increase their marketing effectiveness by diverting a percentage of their marketing budget to a cause related marketing campaign and promote fundraising for a cause that is important to that company or that companies clients. Our research has shown that people will be more willing to repeatedly donate to a cause during game play in the form of a micro transaction versus paying simply for the benefit to play. Between the non intrusive advertising before game play and the halo effect received from broadcast and online advertising, the added benefit of diverting a percentage a companies marketing raises the benefit of every dollar spent.
3 more weeks. I just keep telling myself, 3 more weeks. I feel like no one wants to be in this class, including myself. Their is little care or motivation. No one knows what to do or why. If this class was designed to vet out students that don’t care, half or more should be gone by the end of the semester. We have moment of coming together as a team and moments when as a team we forget or don’t care about the end game. I think it’s the drawn out nature of the class that has some people confused. And in the end, our marketing strategy and game is better than the other teams. I know this based on feedback I’ve received. Our marketing and investment model falls outside the scope of what is traditionally expected. I see this as the type of forward thinking that should be expected, yet I don’t think anyone knows enough about the amazing benefits of CRM. I will not back down, I will do my best to explain but in the end our pitch my not be suitable for their investment model.
I finally had an opportunity to talk to a couple of not for profits and have started my marketing flyby concepts. So far I’ve talked to the People at Race for a Cure and Harley Davidson regarding the MDA’s Black and Blue Ball. The interest the have is phenomenal. The marketing director at Race for a Cure was blown away about the idea. We are coordinating our schedules but she is very interested. She told me that they are regularly approached with fundraising ideas but has never hear of something like this. Harley was also very interested. I’ve helped them with the Black and Blue Ball in the past and they would like to get together in first quarter.
Excited to get my new laptop and download Unreal 4 game engine. It is the best game engine that I’ve seen for a variety of reasons and just excited to get to the same level of proficiency that I’ve reached with Unity. Our presentation was this week and it didn’t go well. Although Emil liked my marketing model he did not think our game was a unique enough of an Idea to be developed. I disagree with that assessment and after seeing the other teams game on demo day that won, I’m further perplexed at the decision. I have decided that I’m going to give myself a C in the class for not better developing a better game idea in the presentation. We simply did not put fourth the winning effort required. If we would have, we would of put more effort into our game. I feel like I’ve somehow completely missed the point of this class. This is my only class that I feel like I failed.
Looking back at the semester I’m happy with what I’ve learned and what my teams have been able to accomplish in most classes. Unfortunately I can’t say that about CSG110. I really wish that the class put all of it’s focus on Agile PM training. I believe that if it did, it would have effectively set the foundation for an effective development workflow. Instead, it felt more like an afterthought that we spent a lot of time with, but each team did not effectively implement. This is also apparent in my Advanced Design class, where 2nd year students still aren’t following Agile ceremony and protocol. I see the importance of following the Agile methodology, I think it really needs to be the focus of CSG110 and instructed how to implement more effectively. If it was, I think that the resulting outcome of everyones presentation would have been significantly better. I do believe in a sink or swim approach, but I also believe that needs to be tempered with showing people how to tread water first.