• Walter Hill

Listening & Learning - Production II Dev Log

Week one of my Production II course was a whirlwind. From our first three hour-long class meeting to the end of the first sprint and the pitch presentation, the water hose was opened upon my head. And now I have knowledge where just weeks ago I had none at best and mispercieved notions at worst.

Production II is the my first time collaborating on a game with a team for longer than a 48 hour game jam. I've done five game jams since I got to Champlain College with all manner of team sizes from one to a unwieldy eight. None of those experience quite prepared me for my first week on a long term project alongside my fellow student developers.

Production II is exactly as it appears. A team of developers are tasked with producing a game from concept to portfolio-worthy polish. What I didn't realize is how much work and time my team and I would need for all the other things that go into making a game besides the code, digital art, and design docs.

For the first sprint of the semester, our team decided to develop a physical prototype for our match-3 puzzle game. That meant a whole lot of not coding for me. In the absence of coding tasks, I did the next best thing. I set out to learn. I opened up Unreal Engine 4 and dove straight into its C++ documentation and quick start tutorials. I took notes on paper, I typed some test code, and then I took more notes. It wasn't a dynamic experience or necessarily a fun one, but I found myself enjoying it regardless. I was in uncharted territory and I was learning the lay of the land. It was occasionally uncomfortable and relentlessly exciting. I'm here, setting out to make a game in a collaborative, holistic, and correct fashion and I want to soak up every second.

A New Hat

To add more fuel to my trial by fire, I took on the mantle of our team's ostensible producer. That means taking time away from writing code to sit down and write up documentation and business market analysis and technical risk assessments. In my mind, I knew these were aspects of the game making process, but having to undertake them myself has made the realities of that process much more tangible.

This new task meant that I had to spend some time, a lot of time, quietly listening to friends who are producers, soliciting the opinions of my professor, and generally asking more questions and for more help (still a work in progress).

Using My Words

The end of the first sprint meant our team's first prototype pitch presentation. It wasn't my best presentation performance, but it was invaluable even still. The feeling of putting forward a single creative vision from the mind of four different people was exhilarating and more than a little stressful.

I got to watch my peers present their prototypes as well. I learned a lot from that two even as I sat there going over my teams presentation in my head. I saw what a real producer brought to a team in terms of organization and vision. I saw the power of a talented, motivated, and supported programmer illustrate a tactile creative vision. I watched a number of good designer talk their way through design processes and concepts in a way that I didn't realize was possible.

Safe to say the fire hose is still on. And if it has this much to teach me, I'm not sure I want to turn it off quite yet.