Man what a ride that was. I’m still exhausted… wait maybe that’s just finals. Anyway, time to reflect.
Still hard for me to imagine we’re developing what I still refer to as my weird amalgamation of systems and narrative ideas pulling from so many different game, film, and artistic influences. All of this in Virtual Reality I might add. Gill is good for often spitting the first exciting idea that comes to her mind. So when my question of “horror game?” was responded to with “in VR” by her in Montreal, I wasn’t about to guess that meant a large chunk the same year I’d be developing for the Vive.
Thinking back to the beginning of the semester, once everyone on the team was okay with the game’s concept (Much faster than I expected), almost all of our thoughts and concerns we’re on this hardware. We knew there were limited examples out there and new frontier of design and yadda-yadda, so a lot of our focus was just problem solving how we were to create our experience within this space. It was a LOT of our early development, but all seriously impacted the direction and success of the game. Content-shmontent, if we didn’t spend the time to establish how and why we needed our teleport the way we have it, they game wouldn’t be nearly as engaging as it is now. This as well as all the real early art meetings with Brian, establishing direction but more importantly going over with him what we could and couldn’t do within VR. How the black and white was a major short-cut for the tone we needed as well as technically with the post-process shading. The Vive certainly had it’s jumps needed to be made for us to get ANYWHERE. Though really looking back it never felt like any arduous task to LEARN VR DEVELOPMENT… at least from my lowly designer perspective. My impression of all of us (as a team) was that once we knew our boundaries and had our minds wrapped entirely around this new interaction-space, most decisions were being made as second nature.
All this prototype theory creation and experimenting of course was taking place along-side my diligent designing of the whoooooole game. Or at least pulling a lot of the high concept ideas into on-paper elements which could be implemented. This entire project is an interesting reflection for me as a designer in particular because I believe it’s the first time I’ve been the major creative driving force for a game I’ve worked on. Past years I’ve often attributed myself as a co-designer who would take someone else’s ideas and ground them, keep on track, or simply expand upon. I never felt nearly as confident in my own game ideas as I did in those of others. Though this project idea budded, grew, and eventually just spilled out of my artist/designer mind. I was happy and excited with it all and apparently so was the rest of the team so the momentum let me keep spilling it. Thing is my feeling of being “new” as a creative director type role along with just HOW high concept a lot of the game was eventually started pelting me with doubts of it all going to suck/I’d be crushed under these concepts that wouldn’t translate to paper. The majority of gameplay/puzzle design I started fleshing out that early on was that of the piano, my triangle symbols cipher, and how to build puzzles around them while teaching the player appropriately. I started that work just after initial concepts and so had the time to iterate on it enough that I knew it was attainable. Thing is it was still only one puzzle type out of a large handful of still high concept ideas worrying me they would never work/be gotten to. The funny truth is I worried less and less about that list of ideas because so many other elements of the game and current puzzle needed tending that I simply didn’t have the time for them. Thinking about that list now, I’m actually not nearly as worried because now the game’s foundation is so solid and I have other designers to support me. With those I feel comfortable and even excited to continue developing, testing, and implementing these additional puzzle types. Beyond the first puzzles, my attention was split among the system developments for the movement, contextual object interactions, puzzle wiring, and cellphone. These along with informing the artistic direction with feedback, but also assets needing to populate the rooms and level design with Brian to best set the stage to seem appropriate while still fitting our game play purposes. The interspersed work towards writing our narrative and researching audio for our direction of music and tone. All this design work has been tended to relatively evenly throughout the semester, though another element that I believe weighed me real early on in the semester was that of my team management tendency.
Coming from a Production II where I ended up needing to be the major line of communication across discipline leads and our producer. I fell quite naturally back into it with this team, probably even more so with there being only four of us, two of which I worked with on that Production II. Only thing is on a small like this, a lot of this management work would be up the single team producer. We were all acquainted with JC and every early meeting of me explaining the game he was there listening. Though the first few weeks apparently some part of me had recognized his efforts to communicate with team members, set weekly tasks, send meeting reminders, and take imitative at meetings as too slow, because I was more often than not making a point of all of these and more. He was always part of the conversation and still holding up his producer work due, Though at a point, I had to realize that my stepping over producer duties of team organizing/management was not doing well. Predominately because I constantly felt stretched thin as a team member, but also because these were the things he could and should be doing. Eventually a nice balance of this was held throughout the entire team, I actually believe largely because Brian and Gill are such strong leads for their departments. If I saw something pull apart teams quite consistently this semester, it was having a weak or undecided lead. I completely believe I got too lucky with these two. Not only being interested/enthused by my weird risky design ideas, but managing to understand/communicate with me effectively about them as well as completely holding up their discipline with the room in competence to theorize, experiment, iterate, and implement unique systems and features. I’m entirely sure this project wouldn’t have gone anywhere with either of them gone, and I know it’d be VERY screwed without them continuing to direct there departments in the spring.
All and all I’m still kind of just amazed and impressed with what we’ve been able to accomplish this semster. I’m all kinds of proud and excited to continue working on Dissonance into 2017, especially with Cosmic Tonic all newly expanded and getting ready to handle the full scope of our game. I really can’t wait to get started with it all. That was a blatant lie I am going to sleep so much, but the sentiment was there.