For my final blog post of my college career I have been asked to answer a few questions in relation to both my final game, and my time at Champlain as a whole!
It's been one fun ride!
This is a little story of the whirlwind that was last week.
April 26 was fast approaching and our team knew it. We were ready for what can only be described as the 3 craziest hours of our lives. Since the beginning of the semester we were told time and time again that the game needed to be ready by that Wednesday (the 24th). Our goal in the last week of polish was simple: Steal the Show. Arachnotron was good, and not in that “oh it is good” kinda way, it was more like “wait this is a student project”. But the game didn't matter for the show, it was how we presented the game that did. If our trailer wasn't as kickass as our game then the entire team would suffer because we'd basically be doing ourselves a disservice to all the blood sweat and tears that we put into the game.
Thus the two goals of the final week were born.
All in all the final week was insane and super fun. I will upload the video from the show once the VOD becomes available (it'll either be here or on the post mortem post that follows!)
Saturday, March 30th, 2019
The day Arachnotron was at PAX East.
In a sea of video games and cosplay it can be pretty tough to stand out. (Especially at a booth for a college) Showing off Arachnotron to the world was already cool, but at one of the biggest Video Game conventions in North America it was an absolute dream come true. Getting to wear a Pink "Exhibitor" badge (instead of the puke green color they chose for the regular Saturday pass) was also really cool, because it made me feel like I was a part of what makes PAX run, versus just being at PAX.
This was also the first real time we got to interact using the game with people who just play games instead of other gamedevs. It really helped us realize what was working and not working in our levels, and led to us improving them overall for clarity. The biggest of these changes came to our tutorial as it was easily the hardest things for new players (this is no bueno, because if the tutorial is hard people won't want to play the game).
Overall it was an awesome experience to get to show off Arachnotron at PAX East and I would 100% do it again if I ever have the chance.
That first little bit of my personal reel that you saw just now had some of our VR Level sketching in it!
Without doing this form of a sketch the level wouldn't really make any sense. 2D drawings in programs like Photoshop or Illustrator don't give us as designers a level of clarity that we are looking for in Arachnotron. With the level being made in VR it allows us to literally flip our level upside-down or on it's side to make sure the level makes sense for a player entering rooms from that direction. One of the hardest (if not the hardest) things when it comes to working on Arachnotron is visual clarity, we as designers HAVE to make sure the level and space always makes sense. This is super tough due to the fact that players can get lost in a room after jumping 3 times. To counter this we tried to make every wall in a room visually different to give the player a form of awareness.
After Arachnotron I don't honestly see myself ever using 2D drawings for level design docs again (with the exception of if it is a 2D game of course).
It is no secret that I love Quality Assurance, and a major aspect to my love of it is the back-end that my team has established because of it.
Essentally to establish my QA workflow I have this big scary spreadsheet (Like the one pictured above that I made for our polish weeks!). This allows me to track bugs, assign people to fix them and to give details about each bug. It is a nice substitute for programs like Gira or Confluence, because our task managing program (Pineapple Redmine) is not great when it comes to bug tracking as tasks get lost easily.
I love using Conditional formatting to color code the list as well, Red is High Priority and Blue is Low priority. The colors go from warm to cool priority wise.
As to what I am looking for at a QA session, that varies. Sometimes I have a google form if we need to do some weapon fixes and changes, other times I can usually gather information by watching people play. We have actually gotten a good chunk of features in because of QA findings. Arrows in scan-view, cut-scenes when a door opens, and more!
Check out this awesome podcast that our Producer, Nick, hosted that includes all of us designers! We talk about level design and pipeline for Arachnotron.
This week was all about learning Pro-builder in unity. We also brought an updated version of the game to QA, but otherwise not much happened overall. The biggest thing though is we began planning out the train level fully!
This is our Millipede Train that Evan set up, it is pretty cool and I can't wait to see this boss fight evolve over the next few weeks. There are plenty of interesting things about ProBuilder that I learned, one of which being that you can actually change the pivot point of an object in Unity with it. (This would have saved me 4 hours had I known earlier!) I also began to set up a document about making the game more accessible, more on this way later as it will get its own blog post probably sometime in March! Otherwise us Designers are Chugging Along!
Things that got done this week - Documents (Lots of them)
Essentially the entire week was spent getting the team Greenlight for Senior Production. This involved us making a gigantic list of every single thing we humanly think we will need to do for the entire semester, AND put descriptions/risks for every single point. As you can imagine this list is gigantic and took literally the entire week. I am not going to show the list in this blog post because that would spoil the fun of what is coming!
On Wednesday in class we were officially greenlit and everyone was so ready to go that we started going…
FULL STEAM AHEAD
*record scratch* *freeze frame*
That’s the Arachnotron! You are probably wondering why it is here.
Well to explain the whole story again would take to long (Just read the blog posts from my previous game), but let’s just say Capital Vice got killed off in the Thanos snap that is the Senior cuts. I am sad to see it go but I am excited for this semester.
So what is Arachnotron you asked? Well here is a trailer!
My role on Archnotron is a few different things. First and foremost I am a level designer on the team. I am working with the other two designers (Evan and Billy) and our ultimate goal for the semester is to add 3 more levels to the game, and give the current level a coat of fresh paint! My other role on the team has been described as “Quality Assurance Daddy” by many members. Essentially I am taking the game to every QA session possible to ensure that our game is free of bugs (well, minus the robot kind as we need enemies in the game), and to make everyone else's role on the team easier because I am double checking their work in a way. I plan to go into detail on our QA spreadsheet I made in the future when it actually has bugs on it!
This week has been a ton of preplanning to make sure the next 14 weeks are smooth as your favorite brand of butter. Us designers have started going more and more into detail on our level plans, and I have started the documentation for the games second level, the Millipede Train Heist. I have been excited to work on this ever since it was pitched as a concept last semester and I am excited to see how the level evolves over the next few weeks!!!
Well to put it bluntly our team was cut. Feel free to watch our presentation, which is below as I will be referencing parts of it in this Postmortem!
I prefer to start off with what went well for the project, as the good should be highlighted first!
Starting off for the Good of Capital Vice is our use of systems. I think our team really nailed down making our game as easy to expand upon as possible, which if we did end up making it through, would allow the game to grow rapidly in the second semester.
Another thing I think we did incredibly well was Iteration. We used every single QA session possible to rapidly fix bugs and implement new features. Our team was so efficient that we were almost too efficient at some points!
We also handled communication incredibly well. Our slack channel was always lively and every member of the team would constantly be checking it to make sure we could answer any question when needed.
Our game was too complicated for the professors to understand on demo night (hence why we were cut). The game needed to be a bit simpler. While I say this it is important to point out that simplicity was never going to happen with this team.
Our game also was hard to create. We were doing both networking and using a new system (GAS) to make the game. Networking alone takes a ton of time to work with, but GAS was a whole other monster. While Dustin and I learned a ton by using GAS, we also used a ton of time for 2 entire sprints just learning how to use it well for our game. We didn’t even really get to do some cool stuff with it that we had learned because of the need to play it safe with networking.
The Capstone process as a whole was also a bit of a mess. The requirements for each “Phase” were never entirely clear, and the Syllabus for the class was a behemoth. It never seemed like the documents we needed to turn in for class work made sense as actual game documents. I had a huge red flag early on when I learned that a GDD (Game Design Document) was NOT a requirement for the class.
Those are the three things I really wanted to highlight about Capital Vice for good and bad. The presentation days had their ups and downs as well. As for the actual presentation, the picture above is actually all of my notes I had with me while presenting. I had a whopping 18 cards, with the 12 blue ones being just for the 2 minute video on its own! I think we did a pretty good job with the presentation. Some of the faculty were not happy that we didn’t dive into our game very much, but we chose to do this as they would literally be playing the game the next night, and our game did not show off just the ridiculous amount of work we put into setting up our backend. (haha, I just made another unintentional butt joke!)
As for demo night I was actually home in Texas already, with my stomach full of tacos. We actually found out the results for cuts right as we were picking up my mom from the airport later that evening. Not being at demo night has been a weird thing to look back on as I was supposed to be in the room, but I didn’t want to risk flying out of the Burlington Airport the day before Thanksgiving (something always goes wrong in that airport on that day). I can now say without a doubt that me being there would not have changed the outcome. Hell, I probably would actually be more frustrated right now if I was there, because after talking to just about everyone it was not a fun time for any of the teams (even the ones that survived).
After being turned to dust by the faculty’s snap of the Infinity Gauntlet everything went dark for a few days...
Then all of a sudden a Wrong Warp (Games) appeared and pulled me into the next semester!
SAY HELLO TO ARACHNOTRON!!!
I will be working on Arachnotron this spring as a Level Designer and the Quality Assurance Lead!
To be continued in January of 2019