Capstone is what I would refer to as the big class. It spans 2 semesters and has traditionally been the opportunity for students to prove what we’ve learned by making a single game with 2 semesters to get it done. But this year we are doing something different. We are working with Kidscom.com to create multiple mini games for their website. At first I wasn’t not sure I liked the idea, but the more I thought about it, the more I like it. It will give us completed and shipped games that we can put in our portfolio. And… I think it’s great to be able to say that I helped make games for the longest running kids gaming website. Once again I said that I wouldn’t jump into a leadership position and once again I did it anyway. I came up with the idea to do the rocket lander so I jumped in as PO.
We spent much of the class talking about the game play and Peter already has many of the games components working. I’ve been playing on on Kidscom to get a sense of how their site is laid out. My biggest concern is how our build will talk to their system. It doesn’t seem like anyone knows how that will work yest but I’m confident that we will get it figured out. We where given some great ideas from Jori to make the game more educational. I found a rocket lander game on their website but found that it did not have any educational value. ours will be significantly better. I have accounted for the fact that programmers may run out of things to do and addressing Joris desire to offer a high level of replay value. When we get to that point I’m going to have them collect more facts about the planets. My current goal is to have over 200.
We’ve spent the class planning our sprint and poker planning. I wish that I would have kept up with my agile skills over the summer because I i feel like I’ve forgotten quite a bit from last year. I felt fortunate that Noah had a 0 sprint check list that we used to get the sprint going. I feel confident that we will get this project done well and within our planned 7 weeks. Everyone has something to do and we are all slowly settling into our roles. My only concern with this project is the art. i think that we may need to tap into some outside resources to get it done. With that said, I think that Noah has done an outstanding job with the art and art direction. We will be using a retro 1950 art style which I think will mesh well with Kidscom.com.
So far so good. Everyone is on task and seemingly on target with the exception of art/music. I think Noah is good but he’s not producing art on schedule. We finished our sprint with only art and music not finishing all the tasks for the sprint. Almost no one is working on the game outside of class. And I’m fine with that if we are on track to make our sprint. But unfortunately that is not the case. I think that so many people in this program think that asking once then waiting for something to happen is how to get things done. Actually what I really believe is that so many of these students are lazy. Not exactly an attribute that will get them a job in the industry. My other concern is that Jori “The owner of Kidscom” does not understand the process of game development and has asked for changes and additions to our games after we have already started. Because this is not a very big game it’s not going to make a significant impact. But she is talking about having kids play test so the game can be adjusted to what the kids like. That is fine but needs to be done when the game is ready for play testing when the sprint is done. If she wants us to make adjustments to the game based on user feedback I’m ok with that. But she will need to understand that it may impact the time available for the next game.
My biggest impediment this semester has been my preparations for the Maker Faire. Now that it’s over I feel like I can put 100% of my energy into my school work. I was pretty pissed off this week when I listened to the meeting that Devon recorded. Devon reassigned Noah to a different art task which took him off what he was working on and Anthony said our game was out of scope. Total bullshit. Our games where absolutely in scope, the problem is that most people aren’t working on the game outside of class. I posted something to the community page to address this and have called all of the leads to voice my concerns. The good news is that it is not too late. Everyone needs to step up and help get it done. We have enough time and failure is not an option. I’ve liked being PO for this project but I’m also having to do work that should be getting picked up by the team. I am going to be stepping in this week and helping get the art done. I think that is Noah would have worked on it outside of class more he could have gotten it done. Either way, I’ve given him and others a chance to shine but I do feel let down. This was not a hard game but it did require some good work ethic and dedication outside of the class.
Its amazing how for some people, the possibility of sharing work motivates them to get so much done. I talked to 5 artists that said that they would help with our art. I let Noah know at the beginning of class that I had reached out to other art students to help him get all of the art done. By the end of class Noah had finished almost all of the art needed for the game. He created the art for more planets in one day than he did over the course of weeks. This was a huge game changer and has shown members of the team who thought we where out scope that our real problem was motivation. In Noah’s case, his motivation was the fear to loose creative control of the project or perhaps that someone else would come in and offer ideas that might be liked better. Regardless Noah got the job done.
Our client Jori was in this week. Since the beginning of our semester she has not been very responsive or engaged with us. We had the understanding that we would have the autonomy to make a game that she approved. Following basic goals of course. Today I had enough, and challenged Jori’s involvement. This mainly came about because shes wanting to make more changes to the game that I don’t agree with. She has also not been responsive to our questions and didn’t even know my name. She admitted this when she tried to find my email, she didn’t know who to look for. The game has already been changed to something I did not want as product owner but I implemented her ideas to make her happy. She believes that because she’s been working on her kids website that it has given her 20 years of game design experience which it does not. I’m not sure yet how I’m going to deal with this. She is coming in at the 11th hour wanting to make changes that will effect our ability to finish on schedule. But I guess I shouldn’t be too worried about schedules anymore. If she is the real life client and wants to add to the scope then she should be able to. She just needs to understand how that impacts our ability to develop other games for her.
After thinking about the situation and talking to Mike. I’ve decided to just give her anything and everything Jori wants. Since we don’t have real time constraints for the project we will just make any change she requests. Also after talking to Peter who has been in contact with Jori’s technical adviser I’ve decided to focus the teams efforts on a deliverable that can actually be implemented with her current and future website. She is not getting very good advice from her adviser regarding the implementation of games, he admitted not having any knowledge about Unity. But i find it strange that he would be her adviser regarding game implementation with no experience. He suggested that we just give him an executable which is not what Jori wants nor is it the way that website is meant to work. So instead of giving her what her adviser suggests we are going to give her what she needs. This will also be beneficial to the Capstone class because we will all learn how to create a web build. The class was pretty hesitant at the idea but by the end of class we already had a basic working build which I hosted on my GoDaddy Server.
Things have started to become more heated between Jori and Chris. Our relationship is not very good with her. I believe that it’s because she has not engaged the Capstone class with the appropriate respect or listen to the designers. She has taken the firm position that she knows what kids want and that it is. Which goes counter to everything we’ve been taught. We where taught to test assumptions and she believes that she has all of the answers. After Jori said that she has made millions with kidscom, I decided to do a little digging into her company. What I found was no mention that they where a not for profit organization. So i asked her directly in class and she confirmed that she was in fact a for profit company. This creates a significant legal and ethical issue that I will address with the appropriate people.
We had a visit form the School Dean as direct response to my concerns about our relationship with Kidscom.com. he basically did what I thought he would do which was circle the wagons and deny any wrongdoing. But then in the same breath say that we won’t be working on that project anymore and we need to delete all assets from Kidscom.com. His assertions that he could go back and retroactively charge for licensing fees as professional services while using student software was also incorrect. I also learned that Jori was on the board for the program and that Emil and Mike thought that kidscom was a not for profit organization. That would have at least made what we where doing legal. I think that we all felt that the Deans speech was a sham. He defended the decision for us to work with kidscom, then went on to say that we wont be working with them and to delete all reference to kidscom from our computers. If there was noting work with what we where doing, why stop and why would we have to delete anything.
The new game we will be making was proposed by Peter, It’s a game that uses angles much like pool. The game is called Charged and the object is to fire a projectile that has been aimed in a way that it uses objects that push and pull it so that it ends up in the appropriate finished location. The mood in class feels pretty good, I think that although people felt a bit stressed about the conflict there is a seemingly high level of relief. I think that this new project is getting off on the right foot and everyone seems to be approaching the planning a bit more cautiously as well. I’m happy that I will be able to work on the art side of a game. I miss being able to be creative in that way and hope that I can use what I’ve learned in 3ds max and Substance painter in this game.
Since Noah and I will be producing all of the art, we are going to need to settle on an art style which I think will pose some difficulties because our methods and style are so different. What I’m suggesting is that I create the objects in 3d then flatten them to 2d for him to texture. So far our initial test with the ground looks pretty good and i think that we may have a viable workflow. My pitch to Peter was that we design this as a mad scientist lab and the particle that is shot starts up the machines for a Frankenstein creature to reanimate. I don’t feel like we have a solid road map for the game and I feel that it feels difficult to see where we are going and the end without one. I felt like that was something that I did pretty well for our rocket lander game. Anyone could look at my road map and see what needs to get done while tracking our progress.
After a lot of experimentation and the development of the pushing and pulling machines that I animated, we are going to shift our art style to something that resembles tron. A more futuristic look than we had initially started with. Noah has been creating he animated sprites and I’m adding the textures from a new piece of software that I’m learning called Substance. After showing our product owner a new material effect call emissive materials which appear to glow. He agreed that the look that it gives off will be a visual benefit to the game and also help create an overall art look that works. I’m loving the emissive materials, I want to use them on everything. One thing that it’s taught me is that you can use this technique to make individual materials look like they are self lit without the expense of using real time lighting or go through the process of baking light maps in certain instances. I was out of class this week which was disappointing. i had a perfect attendance since I started school but unfortunately it was unavoidable. The pain in my leg is so severe I cant walk without excruciating pain. I need to stay off of it so it can heal.
This week I had fun making blockers for the game. I decided to make objects that look like CPUs and other computer chips that could link together. I came up with a few ideas and our product owner liked the first one the best. All three of the blockers I created where used and I thought the third one actually looked the best. This week taught me how to use more of the features found in the Substance program. For example, the first blocker that looks like a CPU appears to have geometry cut into the top of it, in actuality the top is flat. I use a trick of light called a normal map to fake the indented appearance. This is an extremely important skill to master because it significantly saves on unnecessary polygons. This feature alone with it’s level of detail would take thousands of polygons, but with the technique I used it is just the 2 polygons that make up the square.
After creating several backgrounds for the game that Pete didn’t like I finally created one that he liked. In retrospect I’m glad he did’t approve my first idea because I think the background he chose looks much better. I was a little disappointed that my background did not make it into the build for demo day. But at least the game presented well. I think that people had some good questions about the game and I think we had equally good answers. I really wish that we could have worked on just this game over the course of the semester. We could have really created a fully polished game with some depth and unique game play that people would have enjoyed. This was only my second demo day but it was surprising how many people didn’t show up. Last year I think that there where two to three times the amount of people. It seems like more of an option than a requirement.
This is my final blog of the semester and i’m writing it the week before it happens. I can do this because I have unique powers of prophesy. I also know what game we will be creating next semester in capstone because of my powerful prophetic abilities as well. Next week I predict that there will be some tension. I think that a number of the team members will not be able to contain their disapproval with one team member. If no one is dropped this semester I further predict that it won’t happen next semester because it will be a tighter ship and accountability will have an even higher importance. Everyone is very excited about next semester and working for Mike as PO. Actually everyone is excited about making the 4 player tank game. The programmers feel that it is extremely out of scope, but I for one am excited to be able to do some 3D modeling. There are defiantly some some different art styles so I hope that Mike allows us to merge these different ideas in a way that offers players different visual playing options.