‘Schoolwork’ Category Archives

28
Nov

A Student No Longer

by David McD in General, Schoolwork, The Industry

I walked out of my last class as a college student on Wednesday, November 19 at 12:30pm — art history, a final exam. I gave my thesis defense that evening: an hour-long talk on my topic, the nature and future of serious games. I’ve spent the last week home with my parents for the holiday, and tomorrow I return to Hunt Valley, Maryland, to start work as an associate producer at Firaxis Games.

This post marks a turning point in the life of this blog. I leave behing the conjecture and hypothesis that limits the student, he who can only assume and surmise about what real game development is like. From here on out, I speak as a professional game developer and a pending Master of Fine Arts in game design. I speak as one of the enfranchised, as an insider, an expert. I have broken in — let the new age begin!

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10
Nov

Public Beta is Live

by David McD in Game Design, Schoolwork

I’m launching a public beta test of my thesis game, Wasteworld. In the interest of ensuring a whole experience, I will not describe the game beyond saying that it’s a 4X game for Facebook where you try to build a corporate empire. The rest I’ll leave to the game itselfto explain, since that’s how it should work in an ideal world. Find it here. There is also a Facebook group for the game where you can find updates from the developer (me), bug reports, and design discussions. Enjoy! I hope to have your comments soon :)

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5
Nov

Game Pending

by David McD in Game Design, Schoolwork

My thesis game has been live in closed beta for almost two weeks now, and I’m making a final push this week to clear up the last of the bugs and launch the public beta over the weekend. watch this space for information.

As the first trial run of the game draws to a close, I reflect on the experience it has been. It is an incredible feeling to know that, somewhere on the internet there’s an address that will let people play your game. To have even gotten it this far seems like a massive achievement, and the bubbly feeling of accomplishment is not going away. And to hear people you know and respect talk about your game with enthusiasm, relating how they look forward to the next update so they can continue playing, that is joyful as well. But amazingly, I’ve found that the process of testing and debugging to be one of pure pleasure. Every time a player writes me up to say something isn’t working write, I feel the thrill inside that comes from knowing that this player is actively playing my game, and thinking about it critically, eager to see it become the best it can be. If players did not care about the game or their participation in it, they would not bother to write me. And indeed, some of the players in the game have gone AWOL, unable or unwilling to invest the time to play. And perhaps, once the game’s problems are resolved, they will return with renewed interest. But to the players who have stuck with me as the game has scraped and bumped along, endured the mysterious errors broken systems trusting that I’ll be there in the background to take care of it eventually, I must extend the most sincere thanks. Not just for the bug reports, but for being interested. For caring about my game. For giving me and my work your attention and concern. Here at the home stretch of this process, you’ve made it happen.

I wish more people in my school could program and complete a digital game, so they could know what this feels like. This is how you know when a field is right for you, by the way it makes you feel when everything finally glides into place. I wish beta tests and debugging on all my fellow game design students. May you know the joy of a bumpy beta test filled with enthusiastic critics!

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20
Oct

Crunch

by David McD in Game Design, Schoolwork

I have heard it said that making 80% of a game is easy. It’s that last 20% that’ll kill you. I’ve been crunching all since Thursday on my thesis game, trying to get it live and still have enough time to analyze play and gather data for the paper before the quarter ends. After the grueling burn I’ve just endured, I have infinitely more respect for this 20%. Two weeks ago I was blase, optimistic, boasting I could finish it in a night if I applied myself. Now I see my folly. It was probably much harder for working on it alone — even my roommates were gone, so I was physically isolated as well as isolated by the work. Now I feel terrible… but so proud and eager that the game is literally on the verge of launch. All that stands in my way is making the art assets, and there are only six sprites remaining to paint. This is a feeling like no other… to have made a digital game, a working, playable, digital game! I begin to see what really drives game developers, what makes them endure crunches that last months and defy the 5-year-burnout rule. It’s this :) This moment.

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17
Sep

Back in Action, One Last Time

by David McD in General, Schoolwork

Just returned from my sojourn in northern New Hampshire and my working vacation from all things game-related to my university, SCAD, for one last quarter. When I enrolled as a MFA candidate, I was assigned three preliminary undergraduate courses to complete before I could commence graduate study — this because my undergrad experience featured precious little digital artwork. The addition of these courses offset my program of study by one term, so rather than graduate in the spring with most of my peers, I will complete my studies at the end of this fall. I look forward to it! In the meantime, I am happy to return to the world of game design and to resume regular updates on this blog. Apologies to everyone who saw the content rate droop over the summer — it was simply impossible to devote the time to it, so removed was I in my place in the White Mountains. Three weeks behind on game design and with scarce posts on general topics, I am ashamed I let it slide so far. No more — I am back in action again.

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22
May

With Highest Honor

by David McD in General, Schoolwork

I have occasionally thought that pursuing an advanced degree is a bit like playing a game… a massive, cumbersome, complex game. Maybe that’s a sign I think about games too much :) Recently, I had a rude awakening regarding the structure of this game I’m playing: they changed the rules on me. Rather, the rules did not change, I discovered an assumption I had made about the rules was false, and it changed the nature of my participation significantly. I stopped wanting to play.

American accredited universities have the custom of awarding Latin honors to new graduates: cum laude (meaning “with honor”), magna cum laude (“with great honor”) and summa cum laude (“with highest honor”). Usually these are determined by one’s cumulative GPA upon the date of graduation. For example, when I received my BA from Trinity, I had a 3.77 overall GPA and thus was awarded magna cum laude. I remember it clearly because it was the last semester’s good grades that pushed my GPA over the mark: 3.75 was the designator for magna cum laude, as opposed to cum laude (3.5). At the time I was somewhat preoccupied with this, and I received rebuke and criticism from many of my friends and colleagues for being so “obsessed with grades.” I was offended and hurt by their condemnation. I thought, “I have and achieved a great thing: excellent grades for four years of work, spanning many diverse departments and disciplines, is no easy task. What I have accomplished is noteworthy; it represents hard work, talent, determination, perseverance, and commitment above and beyond what is necessary simply to graduate. By merit of this effort I have earned a place of distinction among my peers. Why should I be blasé about this honor?”

I as mystified why my peers should be so scornful. What is the value of recognizing greatness and distinction among contemporaries? How should we do so? Hierarchical awards are nothing new. Most American universities give honorary degrees to persons of great vision, leadership, talent, or diligence. American high schools have valedictorians and salutatorians for the top achievers in the class. Kindergarten teachers give gold stars to students with exemplary behavior or who produce exemplary work. While it can be rightly said that no person should undertake great work simply for the attention that comes with a prestigious award, it is nevertheless important that such awards exist. Likewise, we do not award such honor in order to make the unrecognized feel less than, but to inspire them by example. When we bestow honor on our best and brightest, we are saying two things: to the honoree, we say, “You have accomplished a great thing. Your work stands as an example of the heights of possibility for human achievement, and you have bettered us all by your effort. For this contribution to the community, we honor you.” And to those in attendance we say, “Give due to this person and note their accomplishment. They have achieved a great thing, and have bettered us all by their effort. They stand as inspiration to all, and an example of the opportunities for and rewards of great endeavor.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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22
May

Nice Save

by David McD in General, Schoolwork

“It’s not a mistake, it’s an iteration. I’m a game designer — everything I say is a prototype.”

- Brenda Brathwaite

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15
May

The Fundamentals

by David McD in Game Criticism, Schoolwork

[Warning: Rant Forthcoming] The extra credit assignment I posted last week was a mysteriously unqualified failure. Not a single student submitted a ruleset. When discussing this with Brenda, we were both scratching our heads to try and understand why no one bothered even to submit a half-assed idea. All I asked for was two typed pages of rules; I can punch out a ruleset that long in fifteen minutes. It was hardly a taxing assignment, nor was it ill-publicized. So why the total apathy?

One theory Brenda hazarded was that students were unfamiliar with the rules of Chess. This concept astonished me. Number one: if anyone doesn’t know the basic rules of Chess (and there are… let me see… twelve. Twelve rules total.) five minutes on Wikipedia would solve your problem. And Number two: what aspiring game designer worth his or her salt doesn’t know how to play Chess?

There are a handful of board and card games termed ‘classic,’ meaning they’ve been around in an established, immutable form for at least a century. These games are not merely games, and they’re not important simply because they are old. They are important because they are forces of history. Chess, Go, Shogi… these are world-changing games. Go has been played in China and Japan in its present-day manifestation for millennia. Emporers and warlords studied it. Treaties have been signed or broken over games of Go. In 1972, American Chess grandmaster Bobby Fischer defeated Russian-French grandmaster Boris Spassky in chess match dubbed “The Match of the Century.” The duel with and subsequent defeat of the Soviet titan was important enough to alter the course of the Cold War. A chess match changed the course of history! When’s the last time you heard of a video game altering world events? Even Pong, progenitor of the video game itself, was nothing but an American fad. It was the computer it ran on that became powerful, not the game.

These games are canon. They are The Fundamentals, the ancient legacy of games as tangible forces of human interaction. No one calling themselves a game designer, aspiring game designer, or game design student can rightly do so without knowing these games. Knowing of them is not the same thing. Games are their rules; they are knowable only through play. “Know your roots” does not mean know the NES. These are your roots. These are the pillars of game design, the ancestral foundation upon which all our modern efforts at game design are built.

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6
May

Game Crit Extra Credit Design Challenge

by David McD in Schoolwork

This challenge is for students in Brenda’s current Game Design Criticism and Analysis class, but if any non-SCAD readers feel particularly inspired, you’re welcome to post your ideas to this topic.

Task: Reinvent Chess

Description: For this project, you must write a ruleset for a new board game that only uses chess paraphernalia. This is not a mod: you may not create a game whose win condition is equal or similar to that of chess, nor may you retain any of the traditional rules of chess (note that this also precludes you from using rules from chess variations). Treat the playing pieces as an arbitrary set and act as if chess does not exist.

Requirements:

  • Game must use only chess paraphernalia. This means the only playing pieces available are those included in a regulation chess set (four rooks, four bishops, four knights, two kings, two queens, sixteen pawns, and one 8×8 black-and-white tile board) — no dice and no cards. However, you may include supplementary paper information, such as ability lists or stat sheets. Note: your design does not need to use all the pieces in a regulation chess set, but it cannot use more those found in one regulation set.
  • Game rules cannot incorporate any of the standard rules of chess. Note that this means you can make rules that are similar: pieces that move, capturing, victory by entrapment, etc., but they cannot be precisely the same as in chess.
  • Game rules must be no longer than two typed pages, single-spaced.
  • Game rules must follow the format of the Simple Sundays designs on this blog. That means you must enumerate number of players, materials, setup procedure, turn procedure, special rules (if applicable), and win condition (see SS page for examples). Additional sections may be added as you see fit, just be sure the rules are complete. You will not have the chance to explain the game! It must be playable as written.

Any questions, please post a comment so others can view the response. Good luck, and have fun!

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11
Apr

Tank, Quisquilian Win Entelechy 2008

by David McD in General, Schoolwork

Hot on the heels of a most successful conference were the awards for Entelechy, SCAD’s annual interactive design and game development departmental showcase and competition. It is open to all students at SCAD to submit their best work in a variety of categories, including: digital game, character modeling, concept art, environment/level design, paper/board game, card game, game mod, game trailer/machinima, installation/net art, web design, rich media content, and digital interface design.

I am pleased and honored to announce I took home two awards from this year’s competition!

The first was in my capacity as programmer and designer for Tank, winner of Best Digital Game. This massive project, while only hinted at thus far on this blog and the internet in general, has occupied the better part of my time for almost eight months now, and has seen me grow from a designer with merely an average understanding of ActionScript to a fully qualified C++ engineer with a deep understanding of game programming from foundational engine code to high-level AI scripting. It has been a hard road to follow and endlessly challenging, but it has also been a ton of fun; the fifteen or so dedicated and talented designers and artists I work with every week have been truly inspiring to me. Tank is an exceptional project by any standard I know, and if we pull it out and finish it by the end of the quarter, it may turn out to be the single greatest achievement of my college years. It has been and remains a pleasure to work on it, and I was eminently proud to see my compatriots take the award.

The second honor I received was no less flattering, as it came from a place I had never expected to yield competition-worthy material. Quisquilian, the 10th game in my Simple Sundays series (and Grandiloquent Game Design subseries) was awarded Best Card Game to my surprise and pleasure! The panel of testers and judges commented several times how much they enjoyed playing it, which is really the best reward a game designer can have. But as if that weren’t enough, Brenda would like me to see about getting it published commercially. If I translate it into a proprietary card deck, she will put it (and me) in front of her professional contacts that can put it on the market. Quite the success for a little game that I just thought up one Sunday!

I don’t know how to express my happiness and gratitude to my peers and professors for the opportunities to do this work and then enter and win at competition with it — such a successful conference and such remarkable honors are all I could have wished for and more for myself and my work. Congratulations to all the winners of Entelechy, and to the Tank team again for all your hard work and dedication, and thank you again, everyone! The pleasure is, I promise, all mine :)

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