Alpha

A lot of preparation went into Alpha, but no matter how much I prepare I always think we could have done better. On my end, my video animatic was okay, but I could have been more detailed with it. I’m disappointed because the footage my friend filmed of us had poor sound quality for our lead designer because the microphone was rubbing against the fabric of her shirt. I’ve asked my sound designer to rent a camera and sound equipment from Champlain so we’ll be able to do another recording as soon as possible. Luckily the final video isn’t due until about a month from now, but I don’t want to delay on it because I know I’ll have to put in the gameplay footage last minute. If I can get the interviews polished early it’ll give me a lot of time to weave the interviews and gameplay footage to make Kanji Samurai an exciting Senior Team reel. For the Alpha stage I had to layout the format of the video. I’m going to start with gameplay footage to provide context, then get into some interviews about the inspirations behind the game and it’s art. I also plan to overlay some relevant images of the artwork, and footage of the gameplay and maybe our team working. I have some footage I included in the animatic of me asking my team “When’s the last time you looked at the project plan” and them all pausing and then some laughing in response. It’s pretty humourous and the class laughed but I haven’t decided if I really want to include it or not.

Our game didn’t have to be feature complete for Alpha stage, but it did have to be able to be played from start to finish. We have planned 10 levels for our game and currently have implemented 4 of them. We have all the Kanji planned out for the levels, but failed to implement them in time for Alpha. My team has reassured me that the remaining levels will be implemented by Wednesday. In our Alpha review, Professor Manly said we need to instill more “juiciness” into our game. He said it felt too static. I knew what he meant. It wasn’t rewarding the player enough for their successes. We had a lot of nice art, but we need more particle effects and small animations to really sell the experience. I’m currently talking to my team about implementing the slash motion for selecting buttons like in Fruit Ninja as Prof. Manly suggested, rather than simply tapping the buttons.

This weekend we are meeting in the labs to discuss how to make our game more juicy. Then the rest of the meeting will be a work session. I hope that by all working in the same location we will be greater motivated to get things done. Last weekend we had a low key meeting at my apartment to make team t-shirts for the Senior Show and reaffirm our goals for Alpha. I think my mistake was not scheduling a meeting between that Saturday and Wednesday’s Alpha milestone. I’m looking forward to working in the game industry full time so I can focus all my energy on game development. It can be challenging to manage our game development capstone alongside our other classes and responsibilities. Working in the same room more frequently will make us more efficient I think. We’ll have instant access to each other for discussion and can collaborate work more effectively. Beta is in two weeks and I intend to lead my team to meeting all our milestones!

Mobile Games Roundtable at GDC

This week at the Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco has been a whirlwind. I’ve collected about 100 business cards and gave out even more. I’ve met amazing fellow students studying to get into the game industry, as well as industry professionals who hopefully can aid me in my journey. It was great to meet up with Champlain Alumni at two of my top companies. Even if I do not get a job immediately even with their help, all the connections I’ve made are still extremely worthwhile as you never know who will turn out to be a great friend, co-worker, or both in the future!

I think my favorite talk at GDC was the roundtable discussion I attended about making mobile games for kids. Although Kanji Samurai’s target audience isn’t children specifically, children 8 and up are part of our demographic and ensuring our game is easy enough for kids to learn Japanese basically guarantees adults should have an easy time learning as well. This session was very enlightening and it was exhilarating to speak in front of professionals in the game industry. The woman leading the discussion, Carla Fisher, asked us to generate 10 topics to discuss. I was the third person she called on! My voice shook slightly as I introduced myself and explained Kanji Samurai’s premise. I said I would like to discuss language learning games so we can improve our own. Like most people I’ve encountered at the conference, the fifty or more people in the room smiled at me and seemed genuinely interested in my game and our mission to teach Japanese!

I got some great resources that I have to look into about other language learning games, and after the discussion several people stuck around to play Kanji Samurai! I got some extremely useful feedback that I am going to organize tonight or tomorrow so I’ll be ready to share it with my team on Wednesday. I’ve got to prioritize it since we may not have time to address all of it. I think the most important feedback we received is we need to convey where the player went wrong when they make errors in the Kanji. We also have to add directional arrows because players had a lot of trouble with the square that is present in a few of the Kanji.                                                                             
Overall, GDC was an amazing experience and to anyone reading this and hoping to break into the games industry, all I can say is GO. It’s a great opportunity to learn a ton about game development and make connections with real professionals in the game industry as well as fellow students who I may work with in the future.