April 15, 2008

Week #6?

That's right isn't it? I think that's right. It's all one big blur of work really. Today was an interesting day, sort of scattered in a lot of ways. We had TGP this morning so I was running around doing the whole producer thing and then got into another rather lengthy discussion concerning the HUD. I'm happy with the layout of the design that we finally reached (which is about 80 - 90% of the design we originally pitched), but man it has been a remarkable time sink lately. Constantly going back and forth on the layout and how to display information simply, but precisely. I guess I should consider it a lesson learned.

Given that our teams don't really have a dedicated user interface (UI) designer, we created a small inter-disciplinary team (led by one of the other LDs) tasked with creating all the UI elements. Unfortunately, a few mistakes were made with the organization and management of this team throughout the project. Most notably, we didn't initially have a lead for that small team, we just assumed let each of the members report directly to their department lead. This was a mistake that had two major consequences: 1) in reality, no one had oversight on the UI team, and it wasn't until about week 3 or 4 that we realized it, 2) artists and programmers do not speak the same language, and the communication breakdown was causing the entire team a lot of undue stress. The result was a lot of rework and redesigns, and generally a lot of conflict around the UI, the HUD in particular.

In the future, I will endeavor to ensure that designs of this nature are much less ambiguous before handing them off to another team, and also to ensure more managerial oversight should any problems arise. All in all it's good experience, I just wish I had more time for it. Our level designers are already spread pretty thin (including myself), so taking three of the four of them out of work for 1+ hours isn't exactly helpful to morale. Not a discussion I regret having mind you. I think the UI is one of the most important features of the game because it has a marked effect on the user's ability to "find the fun" and it's one of the few things you know the user is going to see.

The other interesting thing happened during our level design course. The professor actually apologized for what had happened to the curriculum this term. This is the first time that I think anyone on the faculty had actually (sort of) publicly recognized that there was a problem, and that the stress being put on the C9 LDs was unique. Having conversed with the professor in private on this point, I think even I was still taken aback by this turn of events. I'm not sure that it had much of an effect on my classmates, but it made me feel much better to know that the problem was at least recognized and not brushed aside. It may not result in a very substantial change in anything (though some changes have certainly already occurred), but I very much respect the willingness of someone to recognize that mistakes were made and that it was having a negative effect on our education and our well being.

I think that many of the level designers are still carrying a high level of stress from a number of sources. I think that this is a step in the right direction, and I hope it means we are starting to move to a better place. From everything I know, this is the hardest term, and considering how things stacked up against C9 in particular, I imagine it remains true for us as well. There are only a couple more weeks to survive and then it's supposedly all downhill from there. Or something like that ;-). Anyway, I better try to get some work done, I made my schedule for the next week and well...let's just call it dense. Alright, night all!

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