June 30, 2008

The Long Dark

Well, that was an arduous couple days. The challenge really isn't over at this point but it has lessened somewhat. After returning home from Michigan at around 7:00 yesterday, I plopped myself down in front of my computer, put the Fellowship of the Ring in the DVD player, and started my work. Nearly twelve hours and an entire trilogy later, I was forced to submit my work for the next milestone, whatever state it was in. This was, of course, after working through most of Saturday while I was at home. I got a good grade and I at least got to sleep a couple hours so I guess I should complain too much. He also moved back the Art milestone that was supposed to be today until later this week, so I guess I should give him some credit for that.

The end of term is fast approaching and while there's plenty to keep me busy, I don't think there's a lot to overwhelm me, not mega-projects like last term. Just some loose ends to tie up and soon I'll be starting my internship. I'm really excited, and I just can't wait to hear what I'm doing. I'm not sure what particularly excites me, whether its working at a real company on a real game, getting to use an editor that has come out in the last two years, or just getting away from the Guildhall for a while, but regardless, I'm pumped.

The wedding weekend was fun though a bit stressful, and just a tiny bit depressing. The trip home stirred up some old memories that are best left forgotten and took up a lot of time I desperately needed for my LD "mini-level." Still, things are moving forward smoothly on the project and I've got a good amount of time to work on it later this week, so that's good. Now I need to design a couple scenarios for the FPS we are designing in my Special Topics class. We don't intend to actually build it mind you, but we are trying to go through the process of designing a campaign with a design team so that it all flows together. I've been putting it off to work on my level, plus the creative side of my brain has been a bit overtaxed with something like three game designs, two level designs, and a thesis proposal, but now I must get to it. On that note, I bid you all a good night. Later!

June 25, 2008

Sometimes, there is light...

Well we got an extension on the LD assignment, sort of... The gameplay milestone was moved to Monday morning as the last milestone the levels were not "what is expected of a whitebox." Plus, I begged for an extension as my level was especially behind and my personal commitments were going to make it nearly impossible to achieve the next milestone. I say we "sort of" got an extension in that none of the other milestones moved, so we really just compressed the schedule to give us a little more time now and a little less time later. *Shrug* I suppose it's better than having to pull an all nighter tonight. We also got the grades back for the last milestone and I managed a solid B, which is on the higher end of what I think I deserved (based on how well I met the requirements, not effort mind you).

There's certainly enough that needs to be done this weekend that I wouldn't say I'm out the woods yet, but at least I think I am nearing the exit. We got to work more in Gears of War today and I am really falling in love with that editor. Kismet and the new Matinee and Material editors are just brilliant. They make it really easy to script things for coders and non-coders alike. I suppose it still helps to have a coding/logic mindset though, which I can totally appreciate. There are really only two things I don't like about the engine/editor.

The first is that it is so heavily mesh based, that is most of the stuff is created in external 3D modeling software like Max and Maya (and requires textures and unwraps). As such, the BSP editor is sort of secondary and not as powerful as the BSP editor in either Hammer or Radiant. I recognize that as graphics continue to move forward, engine will continue to be more mesh based as even the best BSP editors still aren't as good as Max or Maya. Still, it sure is nice to be able to create cool objects right in the editor without needing a new texture and unwrap. It basically takes some artistic license away from the level designer, which I don't mind professionally, but makes modding harder as I am programmer, designer, and artist all at the same time.

The second thing is that, despite being a mesh based editor, UE3 doesn't have any of the filtering or searching functions that Hammer and Radiant do. For example, if you want to add a chair in Half Life 2 you type in chair and the model viewer shows you all the chairs available in the game (or at least the ones with the word chair in the name). Radiant works in a similar way. UE3 on the other had inherits its legacy from UE2 and it's horribly confusing package system, where every asset is locked away inside some (typically poorly labeled) package. They've improved by moving to universal packages that can hold everything (sounds, actors, models, textures, etc.) as opposed to requiring a unique package for each asset type. UE2 was actually so bad about this that the community created a tool that allowed users to find meshes by keywords, and the tool would tell you where to find what you wanted. A similar tool will probably come out for Gears of War and UT3 at some point (ideally a universal tool that you could download package info from on a per game basis) but I'm not holding my breath. The result is that the designer either needs to know where the exact meshes they want are, or spend a long time searching for them.

That being said, I still love the editor and I look forward to working in it exclusively over the summer. Now, I've got to finish packing and get some shut eye before my flight tomorrow morning. This weekend is sure to be hectic with wedding stuff and work and whatnot, not to mention being out of town so posting may be sporadic. Later!


It's done...all 75+ pages, and that's without half the art...Now, I deserve sleep...

June 24, 2008

Small Things

Sometimes you really just have to savor the little things that go your way. I am currently drowning trying to produce the Dissonance GDD and keep up with my other classwork. The document has taken much longer to produce than expected, probably because this game is so experimental and so different from anything else we've done thus far. At the same time, each of the level designers agreed to design and document one level (once we all settled on the overall designs). Unfortunately, I haven't even had time to start my section since the other sections have take so much time to work through. Luckily, my LDs are awesome and are helping bail me out. Each of them is working up part of the level documentation so we can get in the doc for review tomorrow.

A more cynical person might say it's their job or that their grade is on the line too, but in during a time when we are all pretty much stretched to the breaking point, I tend to feel the action is more generous. It's nice to know my team has got my back, and knowing that can go a long way to making this place feel a lot nicer. It's not doing anything to overcome the ridiculous milestones coming up over the rest of the week, but at least it's something. Now, I've got plenty of work to do and I've blogged long enough, later!

June 23, 2008

Today just kicked my @$$

Wow. I'm not sure really what to make of today, but it feels like I got hit by a freight train. Short of Friday evening, I did nothing but work this entire weekend and I'm still behind on just about everything. We had a milestone for our LD "mini-level," today and I'm pretty sure it completely destroyed me. I got a lot done, the major geometry was finished, a good portion of the gameplay was finished or at least represented in some way, but still. The professor tends to be pretty strict about meeting certain requirements and for all my efforts I just couldn't do it. What's done is done I suppose, and that's not really what I'm worried about. It's more about how on Earth I am going to hit the next milestone on Thursday.

I've still got a lot of work to do on the GDD and I simply have no idea how I am going to put this all together, not mention the time I am missing at the end of this week for my friend's wedding. Not that I mean to cast aspersions or blame in that direction, I most certainly do not, it's just a case of really unfortunate timing. Added to the fact that the Guildhall has once again proven it is oblivious to what reasonable amount of work we can handle. Either they know and they don't care or they just don't know, and I suppose the optimistic side of me presumes the latter. I mean, the professor actually intends for this project to be done mostly in class, but I (and most of the other students) put in plenty of time yesterday and today (probably ~10 hours) to get a "headstart" only to come up short during the five hours we had in class.

I know there's nothing more I can do about this particular milestone, but its damned frustrating. I could not have worked harder this weekend, and while I can try to take solace in that fact, it doesn't mean a better grade, a grade which may deny me the option to use the editor I want for my final project. In truth, I haven't really settled on what editor I want to use, but the principle of the thing just drives me crazy, and I'd certainly like the option. Our current LD professor decided to motivate us by giving us the option to pick our own engine (most notably Unreal 3) for our DFS, but only if we manage to ace this assignment (including the doc). People were pretty universally hosed on the document as far as I heard, so the whole thing seems a bit suspect. Anyway, it's just a big frustrating, tiring mess on top of everything else. Now, I really, really need to get to work if I want to get any sleep this week...

June 22, 2008

It's gonna be one hell of a week...

Well, there's a lot I need to do in the next few days, not to mention tonight, so I'm going to do this bullet point style today...
  • Good news
    • Thesis proposal is finally done. I finished the abstract this morning and barring any catastrophic problems, I shouldn't have to worry about Thesis for the rest of the term.
    • I finished MGS4. Overall very sweet game, I still highly recommend it to just about anyone. The cutscenes are hella long in places though. I finished at around midnight, and I was dozing off by the end of the substantial denouement.
    • I have at least started organizing the Dissonance GDD. There's still a lot to do, but it's better than nothing
    • I'm game designer on an RTS! For what its worth I've really enjoyed designing this game thus far and I look forward to the actual project. I don't think I have yet shared my enthusiasm, so there you go
    • Only two more weeks until my internship! I can't wait to start testing my skills in the real world. It's gonna be awesome!
  • Bad news
    • Lots, lots, more to do on the GDD. Just pulling together everyone's work and reorganizing the information from the expanded concept is taking a lot of time. I'm going to have to invest a lot of time in it over the next few days in order to get it done.
    • Two LD milestones this week. We have blockout due tomorrow which I am just about to start and we have the gameplay pass (all scripting and most art done) due Thursday. On top of that, I'm out of town Thursday and Friday. Yikes!
    • My internship starts in only two weeks and I still need to teach myself most of UE3. One of the professors has been gracious enough to give us a crash course on the editor, but I have no real idea how much Gearbox is expecting or when I will actually find time to teach myself. All nighter before my first day of work?
I think that's about it. Busy, busy, busy. Now I really have to start on my LD level, later!

June 21, 2008

Motivation --> 0

Well, it's 9:00 on Saturday and before the "end of the day" I am supposed to have finished my Thesis proposal and created a level prototype for level design. Then tomorrow I am supposed to write an entire GDD and actually begin work on creating said level. It's not like I haven't been working, I think I've been working a great deal, I probably put in about 20 hours on my LDD alone in only a few days. I clearly haven't been working with the same intensity as I have in the past, which I can only chalk up to a lack of motivation. I think it stems from a number of different sources, but two specifically: long-term weariness and creative burn-out.

The first is pretty obvious, this place is taxing and over time, while you do get used to it, the effects sort of add up. In terms 1 and 2, I could basically get by on optimism and excitement. By term 3, the effects were certainly diminished, but I could push myself when needed. Term 4, I was pretty much at my breaking point, and by the end I was putting the time I had available and accepting my fate. This is probably a healthier perspective than the "work as hard as possible" approach I may have adopted earlier on, at least when you can afford it. This term honestly hasn't been that difficult, overall. Certainly a lot more than your average job or school, but nothing compared to some of our prior terms. Still, after having working weekends for most of a full year, it starts to get to you, and at least for me, my body (or more importantly, my mind) started taking the time off whether I wanted to or not. The term is close to over so I guess there's not a whole lot to really complain about, I mean, there's only so much left that can go wrong (fingers thoroughly crossed).

Of course, literally the day after my last final I start my internship so there isn't really a lot of time to relax. Not that I'm complaining, mind you, I'm really, really looking forward to it, but it means not time less time to recuperate after finals week burnout (a common occurrence here) and it means I have the added stress of trying to teach myself a minimum amount of UE3 during whatever extra time I can scrape together. As I said, really excited, really grateful for the opportunity, just venting a bit of what's been rolling around my head the last couple days. Anyway, the constant low-level of work I should be doing or thinking about takes its toll.

The other piece is the whole creative burnout idea. This term I came up with two unique game ideas (and probably half-concepted a dozen or so that I eventually cut), came up with entirely unique gameplay for another, came up with a Thesis project including a research methodology, and created a new level design for Half Life 2. All this is very cool mind you, I love the creative stuff, but I feel like my brain needs some rest working on the execution before I can continue trying to invent completely new things. At the very least, I feel like I need to see some level of progress on the things I've already invented. Sadly, that doesn't keep the documentation demons at bay. I've got another level to design for Thesis and a GDD due in draft form no later than Tuesday.

I guess the truth is, I know that I am responsible for a lot of my current predicament. I have definitely been taking more time off than I normally do, and my work time has been a bit more unfocused and less productive. As I said, I think my motivation has been sapped by a number of factors, and I've been having trouble getting my head "back in the game." Anyway, that's probably enough of my whining for one post. I've got work to do, so I should probably just pull myself together and get to it. Night!

June 19, 2008

Should I be working?

Man, it's been a long week. It's not really over, either. I mean, it is, in that nothing is actually due tomorrow per se, though it isn't in that my Thesis proposal draft isn't actually finished. It's most of the way done, but I still need to write an abstract for it which will take roughly 4-8 hours. Where I choose to take those hours is really the question. I was going to take a few of them after class today, but that just didn't end up happening. I got home, ate some dinner, and decided it was time to play some Age of Conan and now here I am. I could decide to work on it now for a couple hours until I go to bed, or I could play some MGS4 and put it off until after class tomorrow. Which do you all think is more likely? (Remember, working hard pays off later, but procrastinating pays off right now!) Honestly, I'll probably at least look over the doc when I get done here, but I don't imagine I'll do much work on it tonight.

As I mentioned previously, I'm the game designer on Dissonance which should be pretty exciting. It's definitely an ambitious (and crazy) project, but hey, at least I don't have to manage the schedule! I have to write up the GDD for next week which means getting a draft to the producer by the end of the weekend. Adding that to the abstract I haven't written, the level I need to start working on (based on the doc I spent all week putting together), and various other tasks, this weekend is shaping up to be another busy one. Though maybe if I actually do my work this time, it won't be so bad. A friend of mine is getting married next Friday and I'm in the wedding party so that adds another level as I basically need to get my stuff done in advance, and make sure I remember to submit anything that I have to from home.

Yep, it's busy around here as always, but that didn't keep me from enjoying a nice night of AoC, =). Now, I really should do something productive, so I'm gonna get going. Later!

June 18, 2008


Not sure how this happened, but it feels like I'm behind on basically everything. We got to work with UE3 today, and its badass, so that was pretty cool. It looks like this internship is gonna be awesome. Alright, gotta go write some more, later!

June 17, 2008

It Begins...Again

Well, no time for blog posting as I need to finish my LDD tonight so I can get it in for revisions and work on my Thesis proposal tomorrow night, so that I have time to work on our GDD this weekend. Cripes! Quick update, the games were chosen and I am the Game Designer on Dissonance. The other game selected was Nightmare which wasn't entirely unexpected, so I'm glad I ended up where I did. Dissonance apparently got the top spot in the votes, which is pretty cool, though everyone is still afraid of pulling it off. I'm sure there's a lot more to say about it all, but I just don't have the time right now. Later!

June 16, 2008

What I Do...

I thought this turned out pretty well, so I thought I'd share. This is a prosaic account of the mini-level I intend to produce for level design this term. Enjoy!


As Gordon emerges from the tunnel leading to Ravenholm, he can immediately spot the remains of the lost convoy. The APC once carrying the civilians and supplies to the Resistance base was now a smoking wreck abandoned near the side of the road. In addition to the broken down husk of the APC, Gordon could make out a few small fires casting distinct shadows on the town’s walls, though they did not appear to be coming from the APC itself. Looking more closely, Gordon could see a number of vague silhouettes moving toward the fires. As he moves toward the APC, a flash suddenly lights up the street clearly revealing what Gordon was seeing. The fires were in barrels next to the APC and the flash was the muzzle flash from a machine gun the Resistance squad had mounted onto a hastily constructed barricade around the APC. In addition, the repeated flashes lit up the rest of the scene showing a horde of zombies slowly encroaching on the convoy survivors. Now understanding the situation, Gordon charges into the fray in order to save the convoy members from the encroaching zombie horde.

After dispatching the zombies, Gordon joins up with surviving convoy members behind the barricade, to find only two people present: a Resistance mechanic and a civilian. The mechanic explains that a new combine weapon, exploding headcrabs, attacked the convoy. The initial attack killed two civilians and one of the other Resistance soldiers. The rest of the civilians scattered after the attack and the remaining soldier went out to search for them. He also tells Gordon that he can repair the APC but he will need some spare parts: two tires, a battery, and a gas can. He says he has to protect the APC, as it is their only hope of escaping alive. Gordon agrees and sets out to find the parts and the missing survivors.

Exploring the darkness of Ravenholm, Gordon comes across a couple of the parts needed to repair the APC (a tire and a battery) as well as a couple of the missing survivors: two civilians. Gordon also discovers a shotgun and some ammo, so he picks up the shotgun and gives his pistol to one of the civilians for protection. Continuing to search for the other survivors, Gordon sees the missing resistance soldier firing at some zombies from inside a building. Gordon and his “squad” dispatch the zombies and enter the building. Upon entering, Gordon sees the reason for the soldier’s position: a wounded civilian lying on a couch toward the back of the room. The soldier tells Gordon he needs to get a medkit from the APC and bring it to the civilian so they can make their way back to the APC. Gordon escorts his followers to the APC and leaves them there under the protection of the barricade.

Gordon returns to the injured civilian with the medkit, and after healing her, the soldier tells Gordon he is going to escort her back to the convoy. He also tells Gordon he saw another civilian running toward the building to the north, but he could not leave the other civilian to follow her. As Gordon moves toward the building, the door blows open and a handful of exploding headcrabs and fast zombies run out. After defeating the enemies, Gordon is free to enter the building, which appears to be a small garage. Gordon picks up another tire and a gas can as he makes his way to the back office. As he enters, he finds the last surviving civilian hiding behind a desk. Inside the office, Gordon also finds an SMG, which he gives to the civilian to protect herself. As they make their way back to the convoy, a horde of exploding headcrabs and zombies attack them. By targeting the headcrabs, they easily destroy both groups and continue on their way back to the APC.

Finally arriving with the last survivor and spare parts needed to fix the APC, Gordon gives the parts to the Resistance mechanic. The mechanic says the repairs should only take a couple minutes and then they should finally be able to escape. As the soldier begins his repairs, loud howling begins to resonate throughout the Ravenholm. A horde of zombies, fast zombies, and exploding headcrabs begin charging down the street toward the barricade. Gordon grabs the machine gun and unloads on the advancing horde as does any survivor armed with a weapon. Wave after wave of enemies assaults the survivor’s weak barricade as the mechanic hastily completes the repairs to the APC. Finally finished, the mechanics jumps into the APC and yells at everyone to get in. Once all the survivors are inside the APC, Gordon drops the machine gun and jumps into the vehicle right before it speeds through the advancing enemy horde.

Get in the Game

Mondays suck. Maybe not all of them, but a lot of them. I think Mondays at the Guildhall suck worse than normal. Instead of adjusting to the work week after a nice relaxing we instead adjust to the work week after working thorough most of the weekend. I will apologize in advance for this post as I'm in a pretty sour mood. Not for any reason other than there's a lot due this week and I'm not sure how I can get it done. Probably not the worst week I've had here, but certainly closer to the hardest than the easiest. Also, all the work I have to do this week is more documentation, not really building anything. This can be exciting and I imagine it would be if everything wasn't under the gun, but when you have to come up with the documentation for two complete levels (not to mention the methodology for a Thesis) over the course of a few days it becomes more stressful than anything else. I know that being a Game Designer involves a lot of documenting and virtually no "building" but I imagine it's a bit different than what I am experiencing now. Either way, I suppose I should at least consider it when choosing my career path.

Now I am the first to admit I did less work than I could have (and probably should have) this weekend. In fact, I think I admitted it in my last post. Rick and Sharon seem to think that I made the right choice resting up this weekend instead of working myself silly, and while that may be true it doesn't make my current predicament any easier. There's just a mind boggling amount of writing and "creating" that I have to do over the next few days, and I'm really not sure I can do it all. I'll give it my best try, as always, and I guess what will happen will happen. Not much more I can do than my best. It just keeps getting harder to pull the sort of long hours I did in Term 1 and 2. I mean I think I did like four all-nighters Term 2. I'm not sure if its actually physical exhaustion or a sign that my devotion has somewhat lessened since coming here, but however you want to describe it, I've grown weary of the constant toil and I can't force myself to do it anymore. Like I said, sour mood.

Anyway, things aren't all bad here. We find out our teams and games tomorrow, and we have a sort of UE3 crash course on Wednesday, which should be fun. Outside of that, I've got an LDD and Thesis Proposal draft due Thursday so wish me luck! For now, I'm off!

June 15, 2008

I Guess I Can't Complain...

Or at least I probably shouldn't. Admittedly, I did more work this weekend than most outside of the Guildhall probably did, and yet less than I had intended or probably should have. If this week looks like it does on my calendar there shouldn't be any significant fallout, but the syllabi this term have been less reliable than they normally are. The big piece is that we have a Level Design Document due on Thursday that I probably should have started. Actually, I probably should have tried to get most of it done, but that's beside the point. I haven't even started it yet and looking at it now, that probably wasn't the best idea. I'm not sure why we need to spend a week writing a 20+ page document for a level that we only have two weeks to work on, but that's just me.

Anyway, that being said, today was otherwise productive. I finished writing my Thesis proposal, though I still need to include a level abstract (another documented level design). Which means that will probably still take another night to finish. The LDD shouldn't take more than a couple days provided nothing else gets in the way, but I've probably bought myself at least one long night this week. Documentation is a slow, but unfortunately necessary process.

I guess I feel like I could have done more this weekend, but at the same time, I needed to recover from last week's exertions. It's a vicious cycle. I don't do as much during the weekend because I need to recover from the week, which only leads the next week to be harder, and so on and so forth. Oh well, as I said, I guess I can't complain too much, we're already moving into week six of our eight week term (well, like 8.5 this term). Of course, that just adds more weight to everything I am supposed to get done before then. Still, I've never failed to meet a deadline thus far, so I'm sure I'll get it done. Alright, well, I'm tired and this is going to be another long week, so I better get some rest while I can (and maybe just a tiny bit more MGS4).

June 14, 2008

A Day Of Rest (Mostly)

Well, I've been out of contact for a few days, but with good reason. The last few days of last week were pretty fierce. Trying to coordinate our pitch/mod for Game Design, and trying to write up my proposal outline for my Thesis proved to be complicated tasks. In truth, the thesis outline wasn't that bad and most of the time I spent on it was really trying to figure out what I was actually planning to do for my thesis. Now that that is basically decided I have to actually write up the proposal which is far more time consuming.

The Dissonance pitch went pretty well I think, it probably would have gone better if I'd had more than two hours of sleep, but I guess you can't have everything. We find out Tuesday what the games and teams are, I'd say I'm a bit worried, but it's firmly out of my hands so I'm not sweating it. I'm hoping that in the absolute worst case my professionalism will outweigh my dislike for a particular project. If I don't end up being game designer on one of the projects I'll be pretty upset, but if it means I get to work on one of the projects I'm really passionate about, I'd probably accept it.

Given I was running on two days on nearly no sleep, yesterday was a lot of napping and relaxing (after the pitches of course). I played the crap out of Age of Conan and finally got out of Tortage (the newbie area). I must say that game is really quite enjoyable, it has the sensibilities of singleplayer game for its storytelling (at least as far as I have experienced) and the action oriented combat of a dungeon crawler. Of all the MMOs I've played thus far, if there was one I was going to get deep into, it would be this. I'm still not sure if it will be manage to keep me entertained enough to get all the way to the "end game," but for right now I've been enjoying it very much.

Today I woke up and played a bit more of Age of Conan, watched the Battlestar Galactica mid-season finale, and then finally did some work on my thesis. I revised the Field Review to be more focused on my actual project and started writing up the methodology. Then around 7:00, I decided to go out and reward myself for all the hard work I've been doing lately. I went to Best Buy and bought myself a couple games: Metal Gear Solid 4 and Ninja Gaiden II. I don't really have anything to say about NG2 as I haven't even tried it yet, the reason being that MGS4 is simply fantastic.

I've only played a few hours of it, but it's been amazing thus far. Both the stealth and action gameplay have gotten a significant upgrade (particularly the action). The gunplay is, in fact, so much better that it has turned my Snake into more of a hardcore killer than he usually is. Usually I try to play the game the sneaky "tranquilize everything" way, but with so many different guns that are so fun to use, I couldn't really handle resigning myself to just using the tranquilizer pistol. The story seems very well put together, tying well into the series's long and circuitous history. The graphics are simply mind-blowing, it may simply be the best looking games ever. In real-time the game looks better than the pre-rendered cutscenes you'd see in most other games. Even when you are sitting in a cutscene wondering if you'll ever be allowed to pick up the controller again, you can't help but marvel at the visuals.

I could go on and on about the game (and maybe I will in a future post), but this post is already getting long enough. What I can say is, it's the most fun I think I've had with an MGS and that's saying a lot. If you're a fan of the series, you probably already have it and aren't reading this anyhow, but for everyone else, I'd say this is a title that any PS3 owner should own. The graphics and gameplay are amazing, and the game is polished to a sheen. I think the PS3 finally has its first true system-seller. Anyway, it's late and I have a lot of work to do tomorrow (due in no small part to the extensive resting I've done today), so I'm going to end here. If you own MGS4 you should go play it, and if you don't you should go buy it (and a PS3 if necessary), you won't be disappointed.

June 11, 2008

No Time for Chat

Sorry I missed last night's post and tonight's isn't going to be too stellar either. I'm currently buried in work and I'm just trying to dig my way out. It's not simply grunt work that I just need to invest time in and it will be done, it's creative work like drafting sections of my Thesis Proposal and improving the gameplay section of our pitch for Friday. There's are a lot of thoughts, ideas, concepts, etc. rolling around my head, but I'm having trouble bringing things into focus which is making everything take much longer. We also have another writing quiz tomorrow which I need to study for. Anyway, I desperately need to get to work before my energy completely tanks.

June 9, 2008

Sorry I Missed You

I got wrapped up in the scripting the mod for our demo on Friday and I completely lost track of time. Now, I quickly need to get to sleep so I can wake up bright and shiny for tomorrow's Game Education Summit. Night, all!

June 8, 2008

How is it 10 :00 already?

I'm not sure where today really went. I woke up, played a little Age of Conan and then it was suddenly 10:00. I spent most of the day working on finishing up my scripting assignment which regretfully took much longer than I had anticipated. I also did a few household chores that have been sitting on my to do list for quite some time. That's really about it, nothing really exciting to report on. Apparently my experience over this weekend is it takes somewhere between 10 and 20 times as long to document something as it does to actually just go and do it. I figured out how to set up the scripting for my assignment within probably about an hour, but I took me more than ten hours to document all the steps. Anyway, it's done and the extra time didn't have a huge effect of my schedule so I guess I should be thankful for that. I meant to do more work on setting up some scripted elements for our pitch on Friday but I can start looking at those tomorrow.

Oh, I guess there is one "big thing" coming up this week. There's this big Game Education Summit this week at SMU. All the students have been asked (read: are required) to attend, but most of the sessions seem more geared at educators than students (which makes sense for an education conference. Still there are some good topics that should be interesting, and it gets us out of class (well, one of them) so I can't really complain. Overall things are pretty comfortable, I'm busy but not overwhelmed and I think I have a pretty good handle on everything I'm trying to do, which is pretty amazing considering the term is already half over.

It's actually surprising how quickly (and non-traumatically) things have gone this term. It really does reaffirm my belief that the worst is over. Also, as the internship gets closer I continue to get more excited about actually getting to do some real work. I still need to give myself a crash course in Unreal 3, but given the rate at which we learn engines here, I don't imagine it should be too bad (fingers crossed). Anyway, that's it, off to enjoy what little weekend remains. Later!

June 7, 2008

Saturday Bloodbath

Well, it's been a long day, maybe not in hours I've been conscious, but in hours of grueling labor I've put in today. To be fair, this isn't even close to the hardest Saturday I've had, but that hasn't kept it from feeling particularly grueling. I got a bit of a late start today as I stayed up too late playing with Age of Conan and then after I woke up late I continued to play with it until about 3:00. I am very much enjoying it thus far, and I think the action-oriented combat really adds a lot to the game. I'm still trying to figure out what class I wish to be, so I've played a number of different characters for a couple hours a piece trying to get a feel for their playstyle.

My two current favorites are the Herald of Xotli, a sort of Cthulu inspired spellsword (uses swords and sorcery) and the Tempest of Set, which is a mix between a combat mage, a soldier, and a healer. I've also tried the Necromancer which really didn't suit my tastes, the Dark Templar, which is somewhat interesting, and the Bear Shaman which people say starts off kind of crappy but starts to get pretty awesome once he hits about level 15. I'm still playing around with them and probably won't have it completely figured out until the end of this weekend. The game is beautiful though and my new video card is pretty beast, which is awesome.

Anyway, as I was saying...grueling work. We have this scripting assignment for Level Design which is sort of like our midterm project. We basically had to come up with some sort of scripting challenge or task and then write a step-by-step tutorial of how to do it. While that may not sound like a lot of work (as I thought) apparently writing a step-by-step guide of how to do basically anything is far more time-consuming than I had originally imagined. I'd say I am most of the way to finishing it, but I spent a good seven hours on it today and I'll probably need to invest a few more in it tomorrow as well. Then I've still got some other work to do and I need to prepare to present my scripting tutorial to the class on Monday. Well, I'm done for tonight though so I think I'm going to go bash some Hyborian heads in and let off some steam. I think I've earned it.

June 5, 2008

I almost forgot...

I thought a couple times that I needed to post something, but I kept getting distracted by this, that, and the other. It was a good day, so I can't complain too much. My last level of LD has some weird bugs crop up, so I stayed up later than I should have last night trying to iron them out, but Thesis prep was canceled this morning so that let me make up at least some of the lost sleep. We spent the afternoon critiquing C8s DFSs for LD. On the whole they were very impressive, which is cool. Some people were doing some very interesting stuff with Source, some stuff I didn't even realize it could do (or at least I'm not sure how people did it). I helped a few C8s by being guinea pigs for their Thesis tests and I lent my PS3 to a couple C8s who have upcoming interviews at Insomniac. Apparently I am one of a handful of people at the Guildhall who own one. Anyway, they were very grateful and I figure it couldn't hurt to give a favor to someone who might be employed at Insomniac in the near future ;-).

Other than that I spent tonight organizing my thoughts for tomorrow's concept discussion with the Dissonance team and I've been researching my scripting project for level design. Things are going pretty well right now and maintaining a relatively low level of intensity (relatively is the operative word there). Anyway, I'm gonna work a bit more on my scripting project so I can have some more free time this weekend. Later!

June 4, 2008

Lost in Level Design

Well, I'm finished mourning my lost game and I've gotten back to my happier professional attitude of doing the very best with what I have. I've been soliciting feedback from students and faculty and trying to understand where our initial pitch was weak and how we can improve it. I got my Field Review back and my supervisor had only one sentence I needed to work on so I take that as a pretty good sign. I also got notice that a couple packages are winging their way to me (gifts from me to me). Gears of War should be here in the next couple days and I also ended up buying a new video card. I hadn't really planned on that second one, but a friend here just did and was talking about how the prices on Newegg were really good right now so I had to check it out, ultimately I ended up buying a new 8800 GT. Now I just need something to really push it. Gears should somewhat, but I've been thinking of picking up Age of Conan since I know a bunch of friends at school are playing it, and I can think of worse ways to spend my time. Besides, after a frustrating day of game development I imagine bashing in a few skulls would be pretty relaxing.

Oh yeah, I should probably explain the subject before I have to take off. I have been marveling the last couple days at how much I really do enjoy this work. Right now, I am specifically referring to level design, though I really enjoy all of it. It's hard work with long hours, but at the end of the day I really enjoy it. Even when I tell myself I am going to stop working on my level at a certain time, I always end up running long as I keep trying to improve it and add in little details. I think I ended up overscoping my most recent homework assignment somewhat for that reason. I'm not really sure how it happened as it doesn't seem that complicated of a design, but I know I have spent a significant amount of time on it. It's coming along really well though, so I'm pretty happy with it. I realize I haven't posted screenshots in a while which has probably made the blog a little less exciting so I'll try to get on those over the weekend. Alright, well I've got lots to do, so I better get to it!

June 3, 2008

My Robot is Dead

I sadly mourn the loss of my remaining game idea. I still think that it would have been a really fun game to play as well as to work on, but I guess my classmates, for one reason or another, did not agree. I guess I've been a bit disillusioned with the whole process we've been going through this term to determine our next projects. I'm not entirely sure why, I'm sure that my games not making the cut is a big part of it. I mean, it seems like we aren't really voting on games as much as we seem to keep voting on themes. The games selected tend to have cool themes that still need gameplay defined before they are actually games, and while a cool theme is all well and good, I get more fired up about exciting gameplay. That might be a bit unfair in some cases and surely the pitches from last week helped define a bit more of the gameplay in most cases, but it just seems like its much easier to sell a theme than it is to sell a mechanic, so that's what people are basically doing. As I said, that may be the bitter ranting of a would-be game designer whose idea just got the ax.

In all actuality, I'm probably just tired and things will seem a whole lot better in the morning. We had our interviews for the lead positions today and I think mine went really well, so I think I would be surprised if I wasn't chosen as one of the Game Designers for this project. So that has made me think about the different projects still on the table. I think Dissonance has a lot of potential, but I think it is surrounded by a number of rather large "if"s that would need to be handled correctly. Mostly if we could do the game as it has been described thus far, I think it would be amazing. The real question on everyone's mind is: can we?

To be honest, I'm not sure, I'm torn between being the sort of gung-ho cheerleader for the game and trying to be more realistic about our time and level of expertise. I'd still love to work on the sky pirate game (duh) but beyond that I think my interest level starts to fall off. The next (and final) round of pitches are next Friday and from there the teams and projects will be selected. From that, a large portion of my next two terms will be decided so its a little tense. Not nerve-wracking biting-my-fingernails tension, but more just a feeling of something heavy approaching. Anyway, I am no doubt thinking about things too much, and if I know myself at all (which I ought to), I know I'll be able to get behind pretty much anything I'm on. Right now with things up in the air, its easy to poke holes in things and then be a bit sad that none of our ideas are perfect. Once things are settled, I think it will be much easier for me to get fully invested.

As for right now, I am the main designer on Dissonance for the final pitch, though our team has grown to include the original person who came up with the concept (replacing an artist transferred to a different pitch) and an additional programmer. Now we need to actually try and mock up some very general things in Source (mostly to get the programmers and artists used to the engine) and polish up the concept document/presentation for the final push. It should definitely be interesting. On the whole I think that this process has been at least moderately successful in getting people's creative juices flowing. I mean, most of the concepts that remain have seen rather significant development from their initial concept and some have been drastically revised. As I said, most of my negative energy is probably mourning the loss of My Robot and will dissipate as I get focused on the next project. I'll let you all know how things develop.

June 2, 2008

Calm Before the Storm

Well...not a great deal really happened today. I spent the morning finishing up my Field Review so I could send it into my thesis supervisor (a term I still haven't gotten used to using since we also have a thesis advisor and they fill entirely separate roles) for revisions before it is due on Thursday. We had level design class this afternoon, but it was a work day and the professor had to step out for a doctor's appointment, so it was really just a few of us sitting around working on our levels for Thursday. I went out to get groceries and ordered some stuff from Best Buy. What I really needed was Gears of War for the PC so I could start learning the Unreal 3 editor for the internship, but Best Buy was having like a $10 off deal if you preordered one of a couple PC games (and bought one over $30), so I preordered Spore as well. It said it was coming out in September, though still have my doubts. I also did a little research into my character for the Homestar Runner LARP tonight. Now I'll probably spend a little more time working on my level before I head to bed.

While today wasn't particularly eventful, tomorrow is chocked full of important events. Tomorrow morning we find out the next batch of game design assignments, there's an executive luncheon on learning in games, I have my lead interview for our capstone project, and then right after that I have the Homestar Runner LARP. Somewhere in that big mess I should also try to work on the new game design I've been assigned or attempt to get some work done on my level. Now that the field review is done, I think there's a little bit of a break as far as thesis is concerned. There are milestones for the thesis proposal every week, but the proposal is not so far beyond the field review that it should pose to much trouble. Though I've no doubt jinxed it now so I'm basically screwed ;-). Anyway, that's about it, I should try to get some work done. Later!

June 1, 2008

Academic Writing = :-(

Well, I've been writing for a long time today, and I really don't have nearly enough to show for it. I mean, I guess I haven't been "writing" the entire day, I've been organizing, thinking, occasionally putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard as it were). I think it's coming out pretty well, though the requirements are loosely defined so I hope my advisor doesn't completely tear it apart. It could be worse I suppose, but it's one of those sad things where you have to put in a lot of effort to get remarkably little done, at least that's how it is for me. I'm sure Rick could write this kind of thing in his sleep, but it's just never really been my thing. I'll do the projects, I'll do the research, I'll even do the analysis, but it always takes me forever to do the write-up *shrug*. Anyway, I better get back to it, later all!