Week One

This is the first reflective summary for the development of my Final Major Project. This week marked the beginning of my final semester at university, this frightening fact left me with a sense of melancholy all throughout this week. As my time at university ends, I am starting to reflect on my time here and trying to prepare for what’s ahead. Although, I can’t waste too much time looking longingly into the past, I do have a game to make after all.

My time this week was primarily spent preparing myself for the development of my FMP, I began by doing the essentials; I downloaded and set up a new Unity project and ordered a new set of sketchbooks and pens. I also organised a new backup system so that I wouldn’t have to worry about losing my work should the worst happen. I have always backed up my work in the past, but only via Dropbox. For this semester, I am again using Dropbox, but I’m also going to back up my work on my laptop’s hard drive, an external hard drive, and my PC. This means I have four redundancies, three using physical storage and one in the cloud. I was also contemplating using a version control system like GitHub for my project, but because I’m working on my own I don’t really see the benefit. It’s nice to be able to roll back to a previous version, but I backup my project in a way which allows me to do this manually any way.

Aside from these practical considerations and preparations, I also watched a few videos which were recommended by Adam to inflame my imagination. The first was Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World a documentary about the internet by Werner Herzog. I found it fascinating to see how the development of the internet began and how much of our global industry and infrastructure is now dependant on the internet to function properly. The fragility of the internet was also a surprise to me. In the final parts of the documentary the threat that massive solar flares pose to us with their potential to disrupt global communications was examined. These solar flares bring with them a doomsday scenario which isn’t as unprecedented as you might think and could do irreparable damage to our way of life, however, it’s best to not think about it too long.

The second video recommended by Adam was this talk by Jonathan Blow at PAX East 2016. In the break between semesters I had started to play The Witness, a puzzle game designed by Jonathan Blow. I had really enjoyed my time with the game so I was eager to hear his thoughts. Thankfully, his talk didn’t disappoint and I absolutely loved it, the entire thing was essentially just him geeking out about his favourite games and analysing the design decisions that make them his favourites. There’s a common thread which connects the games he enjoys and that is an emphasis by the developer to respect the player’s intelligence. I also love this approach to game design and hope to replicate this in my FMP.

After watching Jonathan Blow’s presentation, YouTube recommended a classic game post-mortem on Diablo from the Game Developers Conference. This video started me down an endless YouTube hole of other classic game post-mortems including Marble Madness, Populous and Pitfall. I found these to be really enlightening and in many ways reassuring. It was nice to hear about the blunders and terrible design decisions that respected game developers had made during the creation of some of their most highly regarded games. These talks also serve as a warning to other developers not to make the same mistakes. However, what I think they emphasised most for me was just how lucky I am to have access to the tools available to modern day game designers. Despite how difficult creating a game can still be, it’s orders of magnitude more simple than it used to be. Primarily thanks to game developers of classic games like these.

In terms of my project, I didn’t want to dive into development right away because I still have a bunch of design work to do. However, I have created a save and load system along with a persistent scene structure in Unity which will allow me to access scripts more easily in any level of my game. Essentially what this means is that I don’t have to worry about including the necessary scripts and game objects on every level. Instead they can exist persistently across levels once the game has loaded and then I can access them from any level. This is good practise generally and something which I should have been doing already, another thing which I should have been doing is commenting my code. Comments are useful when revisiting old code and saves lots of time overall, I’m not quite sure why I wasn’t doing this on previous projects, however, for this project I’m sure that my persistent Unity objects and code comments will make the development of my FMP go a lot smoother.

The week culminated with a rundown on the structure of this semester and a workshop on brand. Essentially, the second semester will be broken down into phases much like the first, however, the length of these phases will depend on the nature of each team’s project. Adhering to this structure isn’t necessary, but a good starting point. I’m not sure whether I will follow the structure as strictly as I did in the first semester, it all depends how the development goes.

Once we had the semester structure clarified we began the brand workshop. We were joined by Derek Yates, programme lead of the Graphic Arts course who along with Adam ran the workshop. Derek gave a short presentation about brand and what that term could mean for our projects, having already read a chapter of his book on brand during the last semester, I felt like I had a good grasp of what he was saying. We were first tasked with breaking our project down into six words that defined the premise of our game. We then had to use these words to create a toolkit which would influence the brand and aesthetics of our project in a cohesive framework. Personally, I found this workshop quite difficult because I couldn’t grasp how to transform the six words into a toolkit. However, Adam and Derek both helped me to understand more clearly and I ended up with a few ideas. I think my brain just happened to be useless on Friday, I’m not sure why but I just couldn’t concentrate on anything. The studio environment bombards my senses and I just can’t seem to focus when lots of people are talking. This inability to concentrate in the studio combined with my already mushy state of mind was not a recipe for success. Despite this I feel like I got some valuable feedback from both Derek and Adam on what I should focus on when thinking about the brand for my FMP.

Once the workshop was finished, the moment everyone was waiting for arrived. At the start of this week we were told that our results for the first semester would be available to us on Friday. A side effect of possessing this knowledge was a huge sense of anticipation which accompanied every waking moment of the week. It’s partly because of this anticipation that I found it quite hard to get started with anything related to my FMP until I got my results. Thankfully, I had managed to achieve my highest grade at university so far which is something I’m hugely proud of and grateful for. The nature of this result means that I’m likely to leave university with a first-class degree. However, I’m not celebrating too early because now the hard work begins. There is still a lot of work that needs to be done, but it’s nice to know that I don’t have to worry about my grade, instead I can focus on what really matters and that is making something worthwhile.

My plan next week is to begin working on the brand for my project. I’m going to be using some of the techniques from the workshop to come up with a new name and logo. I had planned to keep the name SleepClear, but last semester I was struggling to come up with a logo and I think this is partly because the name doesn’t quite reflect the project. By next week I want to have a new name and cohesive brand identity.

Week Two