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  • Writer's pictureWalter Hill

Capstone Reflection II: Lessons from the Prototype

This reflection was written for the Champlain College Game Studio Capstone course on 10/4/19. The goal of each of the three reflections is to reflect on the work done, the decisions made, and the challenges were met and overcome, or learned from. The second reflection centers on the lessons learned from building prototypes for our concepts

Earlier this week, my team and I challenged to complete Step 2. There were a number of moments that I felt like helped our team grow individually and collectively over the course of the past month or so.

One of the highlights of the Step 2 process of prototyping and discover was my our collective work on our second prototype R.A.T. It was an idea that felt like it had a lot of promise on its face, and I feel like the team put in the right amount of effort into the idea. Isaac helped solidify the context and art direction, and I worked on showcase a proof of concept of our systems. It was a productive week when we worked on R.A.T. Two days before we were set to present that game in class, we all came to the understanding that this prototype was missing the mark, and in several key ways. The game was much too big for our five man team even this early. Even after our week of exploration, the game still had serious gaps in its design that we hadn’t ironed out even after hours of discussion. The prototype I made showcased the system well enough; it also made clear that the system would require a lot of development time in order to prop it up in such a way as to make it not only fun, but intuitive. And so we said goodbye to R.A.T., in some ways before that ship could even set sail. And that felt like growth to me. Being able to make a rough draft of something and determining that it doesn’t work is just as valuable and important as finding the thing that works like a dream.

Concept sketches by our artist Isaac Mills

Why didn’t R.A.T. work? I believe that we all realized after the week of prototyping that the idea fell outside of our creative pillars, especially our desire to create a game that we could test early and often. R.A.T. would have required significant leg work to get to that point, and we really only discovered that through working on it for a week. Knowing that is exciting and feels like real growth to me. After Step 2, I have discovered personally, that I’d prefer to focus on crafting games on such a scale and scope that they can be prototyped, and judged honestly, in a weeks time. I feel now that if you can present an idea, test it and see the results match the vision within a roughly seven day stretch, then the game is likely a) worth making (not counting outside factors) and b) relatively small and reasonably scoped at least for the alpha period.

Another thing I think we did really well during this Step is being honest about our pace. We decided to take a full week to decide which game we wanted to go through with (we picked Box Voyage) and I think that was another decision that displays our growth and strength as a team. That week allowed us to have a long, honest, two hour discussion about what we wanted to work on for the rest of the semester. We also were able to take a step back and focus a good deal on logistics and backlogs and sketching out a rough timeline for the remainder of the semester. All in all I think taking that week gave us room to breathe, plan, and get ready to dive into our chosen project with energy and with a plan.

One thing we’ve learned over the past few weeks is that our meetings tend to get long in the tooth very easily. We actually just had one of those kinds of meetings a couple of days ago. Sometimes our team can get in the weeds on a detail and waste some time there. I think we’ve gotten a bit better at avoiding this specific pitfall as the semester has gone on. David has been really focused on setting an itinerary for meetings and we all are more conscious of trying to keep things on track. With that said, I believe meetings will be something our team will continue to work on going forward.


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