The Push for Polish – Dev Log 5

 

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For the past few weeks, the Disco is Dead group has been constantly aware of the most current and urgent matters that need to be addressed with the game. Each member has taken up a role in polishing various areas of the game. The goal for each week was to realize deadlines (course related and contest related) and adjust the focus of that week to finish more urgent features. My tasks in no order were as such:

  1. Complete the controllers – take test feedback and make final adjustments to get ready for level up
  2. Polish game icons
  3. Cutscenes – create as much art for cutscenes as they are the most tasking in the art department
  4. Complete the subject treatment
  5. Continue macro scheduling for group so that major milestones are met

These tasks corresponded to the milestones that we had set ourselves in the past few weeks. There were some setbacks that interfered with our time on the project (mostly completing subject treatment and course work) but we are still motivated to complete this game for our more major deadline: Level Up! These were our milestones:

  1. Mid semester – playable game start to finish with placeholder art and audio
  2. Ubisoft playtest (March 16) – Initial experience (tutorial levels) played and tested by Ubisoft designers
  3. Gold Master (March 30) – the game is due for the program
  4. Level Up! (April 5) – the game is displayed at a public event to be played and evaluated by audiences of all kinds, including industry professionals and potential employers
  5. Continued Polish – with less rush and less stress, we wish to polish our game so that it is at a professional state so that we can then upload it for people to play on PC.

As the team producer and project manager who is responsible for macro scheduling, I have demanded my team to micro schedule themselves and report to me so that we can accomplish these milestones together.

The Controllers

The controllers are now at a completed stage that they are ready to be taken to Level Up! (minus the glue that is currently drying) But this was not possible without many stressful playtests and many design iterations. I have been constantly updating the design of the controllers over the semester and I have given these considerations above all else:

  1. Sturdiness and durability
  2. Ease of setup
  3. Ease of replacement (in case of disaster)
  4. Cost of materials
  5. My time

Since Level Up! will last for hours, the controllers need to be able to take quite a slapping for a very long time (see what I did there?). All parts need to be able to take a great amount of stress to last this long. This has impacted my decisions to completely fuse all parts together and reduce the number of interchangeable parts. Having interchangeable parts allows for greater ease when something breaks, but this increases the probability that parts or a whole controller will break. Because of this, I have prepared 2 more controllers. Making these ultimately takes up my time (especially the iterations) but since this component is one of the main features that makes this game a success, it is given great priority on my list.  While I will be there at Level Up! to fix them (with my handy dandy tool suit case) all of my team members need to be able to understand a certain level of complexity of the controllers. Lastly, cost was greatly considered because we are not funded by the school.

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Icons

There has been great difficulty with the slap icons since the beginning. This is not because they are difficult to read, rather, they require some teaching to inform players on how to interact with the controller. I am convinced that UX design is one of the most difficult areas for custom designs (in our case, custom controllers) because such designs are not standardized like game controllers or keyboards. So how do we get players to know what to do and do what we want them to do? First of all, after we informed players the way a tutorial would, they understood and played accordingly. I have finalized the icons with some helpful and creative ideas.

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Cutscenes

The story portion of our game relies on cutscenes that are like comic book panels. These are very art intensive. I have joined our art lead in creating these cutscenes so that we can make deadlines. Besides time being a limitation, I have also had to try and mimic the art lead’s style. It has been a focus to match both line style and colouring style. It is planned that the art team will be working on this until Level Up! due to the amount needed.

Scheduling

As the team manager, I have tried my best to consider any errors that will cost us time and set our schedules back. While I have been successful to some extent, there are still some variables that I am learning that I have less or no power over. I am slowly learning the habits and language of my team to lead us to success. There are some areas that I know I have no control over and I have accepted this. I do not wish to become a producer or project manager in the future, but I believe that a time management and scheduling skill is imperative for any person.  What I have learned are these things:

  1. Each person is different in the way that they work. It is the manager’s job to inform but not demand or force anything upon anyone. Each team member must motivate themselves individually.
  2. The manager should be responsible for having a big picture in terms of scheduling and assigning tasks, but it is each member’s responsibilities to provide their own list of tasks. I have not had enough time to micro schedule for everyone, and it is not healthy for members to feel micro managed. There is a fine line between not managing enough and providing just enough for members to know what they need. (I also have development roles too, you know).
  3. Be positive, optimistic and professional about the project. You are the face of the team, don’t let them down.

This has all been a great learning process and experience and I look forward to applying what I’ve learned and learning more working in the industry.