Thursday, March 29, 2012

Game Design? It's still hard.

Here at the VBC, we are rapidly coming to an end of our semester long process. We have a month to go before our final showcase where we will display to our friends, family, and the community what it is we have been working so hard on. This is a terrifying fact, because we still have so much work that needs to be done. In the past two days, I think we have finally realized just how much remains to be completed for us to have a working game that we can be proud of.

This sprint is the first sprint where we were making visible progress to the game. Up until now, we have been working on backend things: deciding on content to our game, programming the architecture that makes our game run, and trying to compile it all together in a design document that we can all easily reference. So progress, and a lot of it, has been being made throughout. But this is the first time that we've been able to really see it on our computer screens. You can now go to the link and play through the first digital iteration of our game. We were completing tasks on our task board at a much faster rate than we had previously experienced. And while there are some issues with this (in our excitement, some of the verification process was ignored), I'd be lying to say that we weren't all excited about how quickly our ideas were coming into being.

In the past two days, we've been shown where the flaws in our process are. Sheltered as we are within our wonderful space, we are incredibly far removed from the people this game is catered towards. While we've had multiple playtests throughout the process, we did not have our first playtest of the digital version of the game until yesterday. So close to the end, it is scary looking at the feedback we received and what must be changed to accommodate the opinions of the potential players of the game. Certainly, not all of the feedback was scary, but there was an overwhelming sense that somehow, we had gotten off track with our user interface - it was not as intuitive as it can be. Of course, all of us here at the VBC know how to play the game and get through it quite easily, but we were the ones to create it, and we have a significantly biased view towards our "baby".

Our second audience are the officials at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis. They are not our clients, meaning we do not have to cater our game to them, but we went into this project with the goal that we would produce an artifact that would be used on their website. Receiving their feedback is a reminder of why constructive criticism, though helpful, can be tough to hear when you've put so many hours of work into a project. They put our project in scope for us - we were incredibly ambitious with what we wanted to accomplish. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it hit home when we realized what we would have to change and alter, going through the iteration process all over again.

Today was a long day of meetings and discussion. Our weakness throughout the process has been making decisions, we seem to have a love-hate relationship with commitment. Which makes it even more difficult to being forced into a corner where decisions have to be made. The process we used this morning, of using official motions and voting and going with the simple majority, has been one of the most productive decision-making meetings we've had. It remains to be seen where we go with our decisions, as a lot of new ideas need to be generated, but I am looking forward to seeing where we go from here. Good is the enemy of great, and while it might be hard work, it will be well worth it for us to put the time in to figure out which direction we're going to go as we finish up the semester.

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