UX Lab Quest, Part 11

Par for the course…

This past Thursday was the due date for mission 8, and we failed to deliver, unfortunately,  Issues with the build persisted well into the night, and not only was an all-nighter pulled, but I personally stuck around until 3:00 PM, where I finally went home to force myself to stay awake, simply because I did not want to ruin my sleep patterns,.

To top that all off, the producers came for several additional hours on Saturday.  The good news is that the mission is done, but unfortunately, I can feel the all-nighter still affecting my body.  Despite getting a solid 8+ hours of sleep last night, I’m feeling really tired at the moment.  Unfortunately, I have a feeling this tiredness will affect me for the next couple of days.

C’est la vie, I suppose.

I mentioned in my previous UX lab post that I’ve picked up some additional responsibilities.  We had 11 new artists join the team, and though in essence all the producers manage them, in terms of assigning art assets to create, tracking their work hours, and updating documentation with regards to these hours; that will all be mine to handle.  Fun times…

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Game Industry Quest, Part 10

Could this be one of the greatest years of gaming ever?

There have been so many strong, fun games released this past year, especially in the Fall months.  Last week, Batman: Arkham City took the gaming world by storm.  The game package sits pretty in my apartment, unopened due to excessive amounts of work.

But I digress…

Battlefield 3 has released today, and it will be interesting to see how it does against Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.

Battlefield 3 for PC, XBox 360, and PS3

Showcasing the DICE game engine, I present to thee: Battlefield 3!

I must admit that among my first-person shooter (FPS) tendencies, I prefer a Halo to a Call of Duty or Battlefield.  Not that the latter games are bad; in fact, I fully recognize that in some areas both games achieve excellence: multiplayer experience, gameplay, immersive story, etc.  With all that said, Battlefield 3 falls more in the: “pick up when it costs ~ $20 or less” category for me.  Chalk it up to personal preference.  Case in point, my friend Brian has held off on Batman: Akrham City and Gears of War 3 all for Battlefield 3.  Heck, he was at the midnight release last night.  Myself, I pre-ordered the latter and will hold off on the former.

Then again, it is smarter of Brian to spend less than I, especially in this economy.  Oh well; c’est la vie.

Onto other news that caught my eye a mere half-an-hour ago, according to kotaku, Rockstar will be unveiling Grand Theft Auto V onto an unsuspecting world.

GTA 5

Which emo protaganist skilled in the art of carjacking, piloting all man-made vehicles, and operating all man-made weaponry will capture our imaginations next?

Unless something new comes up, I’ll touch on this sandbox game and the idea of playing in a sandbox next week.

UX Lab Quest, Part 10

It’s been a good beginning to the work week thus far.  We’ll be adding a whopping 14 new artists to the team beginning tomorrow.  I’ve added to my responsibilities in that I’ll track their hours, update the artist schedule and artist burndowns.  I’m able to add to my plate in this manner as my final class (marketing) ended last Thursday.

We’ve got a deliverable, mission 8, due this coming Thursday.  I’ve already started the curriculum Powerpoint for that, which is good as today I was somewhat sidetracked with a different assignment.  With other producers busy designing missions, I’ve compiled a list of assets for our new, incoming artists, quickly looking over landmarks for six different American cities: St. Louis, Tampa, New Orleans, Charleston, Seattle, and San Diego.

This actually is part of a larger theme I emphasized in a required presentation I had to give last Friday.  My classmate and fellow producer in the UX lab, Brian, had to give our month 3 presentation.  We will have an additional month 5 presentation, when the internship ends for us both.  I spent an entire slide talking about change, and how it is not only inevitable, but being a producer will test one’s ability to display adaptability and handle change.  Tying change into today, I had planned to work on curriculum all day, but instead I acquired some additional responsibilities, which I welcome.

For now…

UX Lab Quest, Part 09

There are a couple of things to cover.  Firstly, the deliverable for mission 7 was easily our most polished mission to date, due in no small part to the hard work and dedication of Peter Thompson, TEQGames newest employee.  I had to hustle to get the curriculum done for the mission since it was actually completed early, and had to take away time from class assignments to do so.  Nevertheless, the work was completed.  This marks the first time a deliverable was completed where I nor the other producers / designers had to stay up until the wee hours of the morning, and that makes me doubly happy.

In terms of school related work, the good news is that all the responsibilities to my last class end tonight at the Orlando chapter International Game Developers Association (IGDA) meeting, of which I am a student member and where I am tasked to work the room to the best of my ability for my marketing class.  The good news is that as the class is over, I can focus all my energies and time into the internship and fixing my thesis.  The bad news is that for the past three weeks the class has taken away from my capacity to perform optimally in other activities.

Still life goes on, and life is good.

Game Industry Quest, Part 09

Two days ago, Batman: Arkham City was released to an unsuspecting world.

Batman Arkham City Collector's Edition

The Batman Arkham City Collector's Edition, for those that love swag. Did I mention that I love swag?

Actually, it was released to a world dying for the follow-up iteration to Batman: Arkham Asylum, which was both shocking in its high-quality gameplay and production values.  I think the Arkham Asylum was shocking in that prior to that game, there was no great Batman game.  There have been good and bad Batman games, but nothing great until Arkham Asylum came around.

Sadly, the Collector’s Edition arrived at my apartment, and went into my closet as I’m simply too busy with school work to play at the moment.  Still, the statue looks amazing, and I’ve heard that it’s very pointy to boot.  One great piece of news for Rocksteady is the incredible metacritic score Arkham City has received, 95 out of 100 for XBox 360 and 96 out of 100 for PS3, as of today’s date.  Supposedly, these are the highest metacritic scored video games of 2011 thus far.  Impressive to say the least.  Kudos to Rocksteady and their immensely talented and dedicated development team and staff for the amazing accomplishment.

UX Lab Quest, Part 08

Par for the course, the mission 6 deliverable was completed at 4:30 AM last Friday.  Doing late to all-nighters on a 1 1/2 week basis is admittedly becoming tiresome and frustrating.  The good news is that our mission 7 deliverable, due next Monday, is already close to completion.  In theory this will build up a lead time, but because producers are assigned to design missions as opposed to all producers working on one mission at a time, I find myself questioning exactly how much lead time this will actually create.

Due to having a class simultaneously with internship, things have been quite busy.  After not playing games for weeks, I did break down and play quite a bit this past weekend.  I question the wisdom in doing so, as I have much work to do, but c’est la vie.

Looking forward to the week though.  I only have four my class sessions remaining before my final class of the program is complete.  It’s been a really good class.  Marketing seems like common sense, but there’s more to it then people think and like many things it comes down to practice and execution.

Game Industry Quest, Part 08

While it was not my original intention to stay up late writing a blog post before hitting the sack, there’s really no reason for me not to write a post at this point.  Besides, there’s something I’ve been meaning to write about for days now, and now is as good a time as any to get it off my chest.

Before I go diving into what I wanted to talk about, I have to mention Steve Jobs.  I talked about him stepping down from Apple many blog posts ago, but his death this past week has shocked me.  I knew his health had deteriorated over the years, but not to the point that it had.  His obvious influence on Apple and  technology is well documented and there’s nothing I could add to that particular thought process.  Interestingly enough, I wish I had to opportunity to speak with him.  I have to imagine a conversation with him would be fascinating.  At least to me it would, just to see how he thinks and what makes him tick, beyond what’s been written about him.  After all, who knows Steve Jobs better than Steve Jobs (maybe his family?)

I also wanted to talk about a game that came out this past Tuesday: Dark Souls for XBox 360 and PS3.

Dark Souls

I'm shocked there's no counter telling you how many times you've died playing through the game.

The spiritual successor to Demon’s Souls, both games have a distinct reputation of being amazingly difficult.  Despite my excessive workload, I decided to try the game out this past weekend, and was treated to a difficult boss battle during the tutorial.  The gameplay is both punishing and rewarding at the same time, and the more you play, the more I realize that somehow, someway it taps into the defiant part of your psyche where despite the challenging obstacles presented, with the right tools, observation, proper timing and patience you can be successful.  The developer’s should be proud of themselves for creating a game so enticing as it is difficult.

This leads to the topic I wanted to talk about, which is brand loyalty.  A long time ago, when I was a mere lad, I watched my first basketball game on television between the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls.  A young Michael Jordan played for the Bulls at the time, and he was certainly and impressive athlete.  However, the player that caught my eye was not #23, but rather #33 on the opposing team.  Larry Bird was past his prime, could not jump and appeared almost awkward in his appearance.  But everything else he did was quite simply, poetry in motion.  A dynamic scorer, a virtuoso passer, someone with a complete game and made everyone around him better.  It was at that moment that I became a lifelong Boston Celtics fan.  Larry Bird was the reason for that.  Heck, he’s the reason I’m even a basketball fan.

Larry Bird vs. Michael Jordan

Conventional wisdom tells me to bet on Jordan, but I'll bet on Bird every time. Does this make me a loyal fan or a fool?

The reason I bring up Bird is that 2K Sports announced three cover athletes for this year’s edition of NBA 2K12: Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird.  My usual method of operation regarding sports games is to buy one every 3-5 years, or so.  I bought NBA 2K11 last year, and was not planning to buy this years edition.  However, when they made this announcement, I immediately decided that I had to buy NBA 2K12 with Larry Bird on the cover, even though it’s the exact same game regardless of who’s on the cover.

NBA 2K12 with Larry BIrd on the cover

Bird for the game...YES!!! CELTICS WIN! CELTICS WIN!

I’m not sure what to think of this, except that by making this decision, 2K Sports immediately appealed to longtime fans of basketball, who grew up watching the rivalry between Magic and Bird, as well as the aerial majesty of Michael Jordan.  Brand loyalty can be a powerful thing to tap into, and considering the increasing likelihood that an NBA lockout may occur for the year, 2K Sports very smartly did just that.

The question in my mind is how do others create such loyalty in the video game industry?  It’s an interesting question with no easy answer, but with that said I’m not sure looking at how sports games operate will yield any answer.  It’s different for sports titles, as it taps into two distinct fans: those that love sports, and those that love video games.  Hence, we have sports gamers that have no intention of purchasing a Gears of War or Uncharted, but will buy Madden and NBA 2K every year.  Longtime sports fans with strong memories of attending a Super Bowl or NBA Championship may be moved to buy a game that would allow them to experience that excitement once more.  For other video games and other genres however, establishing and building that quality intellectual property and its’ history, as opposed to having that history already built into the fan will require hard work, dedication, and being transparent to the fans.  At least in my opinion; then again, I’ve been wrong before.  One could go into much greater depth with the qualities I mentioned, but this blog post is long enough, and I could use some rest.

Beat LA!

Larry Bird vs. Magic Johnson

Both were awesome, but personally, Larry Legend FTW!